It’s been three years now that I started my professional venture into woodworking. What was once a hobby is now my full time job and so far it’s paying the bills. The goal was to sell small runs of custom furniture, not one-offs, but limited editions. For the area I live I don’t feel there is the customer base for bespoke pieces designed and created for one customer alone. I do think there is room for small runs, enabling me to make jigs in order to speed up the production process but not making such huge numbers that it becomes mind numbing.
Where am I going with all this? Good question. When I started I decided the best route to get me to my furniture goals was to start with small items, cutting boards, bird houses, wood toys, etc. These items can be fun to design and make, and selling them at craft shows definitely spreads the word about who I am and what I do. I also ended up in many shops selling my products wholesale. This was even better as the sales were guaranteed and much less time me being a salesman (something I hate) and more time me actually making things (something I love).
The only issue is you end up making what you make. By this I mean if you always make cutting boards, you’re always going to make cutting boards. Sometimes you need to throw yourself out there and start new projects, projects that might not pay, might not work, but new things. Making salad servers or iPad stands is a good way to help pay the bills, but I can’t say I’m fulfilled at the end of a day making these items.
To this end I’ve not signed up for any craft shows this year. I’m doing one last big show in Toronto (One of a Kind) and that’s it. I’ll still work on wholesaling to shops, custom canoe paddles, and I might try an art show in the fall, but for now I’m going to take some time, time where I won’t be making money, and start building the furniture in my many notebooks. I have a lot of designs that have never left the pages of my books, and it’s about time I get started on them. Will they sell? Who knows, but they definitely won’t if I don’t make them!
Just before Christmas I had an email from an Executive Chef down in Florida. He was opening up a new restaurant and was searching for flatbread boards. He liked some of my other products and we worked together to come up with these 10×14″ walnut boards. The chartreuse edge was requested in order to match some of the same colour accents in the restaurant. They’ll be adding some rubber feet to the boards to keep them secure on the tables.
If you’re in Delray Beach, Florida, head over to Apeiro and grab a bite to eat on one of these boards! Remember that we’re always keen to work on custom orders no matter how big or small.
A month ago I ordered a custom brand from Heavy Industry. I found them on Etsy where I also have a shop. They were absolutely awesome to work with. I sent them my logo in jpg format, asked about what size would work best for the font, and presto, here’s my awesome new brand. I splurged for the electric branding iron, didn’t want to have to mess around with a propane torch trying to get it to the right temperature. I’m really pleased with the brand, and I think it helps developing an identity, plus it looks pretty cool. I’ve put it on a few items so far, including the business card holder seen above.
Last week I finished off this coffee cart for Patisserie la Toque. They wanted a modern looking coffee cart with a bit of an industrial feel. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to try my hand at a concrete counter top! The cart is 3/4″ Baltic Birch plywood and a 2″ thick concrete top. I put it all on casters so they can move it around for cleaning purposes. The cart + coffee maker must weigh in at around 200 lbs. so it’s quite sturdy. Already they have had lots of comments from their customers and it might lead to a few outdoor concrete table orders.
I took a great paddle making class a few years ago, but haven’t had the time since to make another one. My 4 year old keeps growing so she was due for another paddle. She is in love with the colour purple so I grabbed a bit of purple heart along with some poplar and walnut and made her a little paddle for our adventures.
The second paddle was a present to my wife, after many years she was still using some junky old paddle lying around the garage. Her’s is also in the picture above, it’s made from walnut and butternut and is very light. Mainly used hand tools to plane down the blades and shape the shafts, worked out great. Both paddles were finished with spar varnish, wasn’t happy with the product and it smelt awful. I’ve read many people say that poly is better as it is harder, and you don’t really need the uv protection for the limited amount of time it is outside, so on the next one I’ll use some poly instead.
Up next I’m making a paddle for a local kids charity to use for their silent auction. Hopefully it brings in some big bucks for the organization, it will be auctioned off at a canoe fundraiser so hopefully it’s a good fit.
I had another post planned, then the above picture happened…. The guy with the huge smile on his face is greeting one of his team mates at the finish line of world Championships. They have just won a silver medal in the relay, a huge feat considering the competition! He raced using one of my custom rifle stocks, the design was a collaboration between what he liked and what I felt was best for him. Very excited for him and his team mates, they really deserved this win after a long season of hard work! Alex also had a 5th place individual finish earlier in the week shooting 17/20, his best International result to date! Here is a link to the post about his stock.
While I said last post that I was cleaning the shop and setting up some new to me tools, I ended up finishing one last project… It was quite the year for custom rifle stocks! I’ve made many over the last few years, but 8 in one year is a new record for sure.
This one was for another local athlete. It’s made from Walnut and has some green accents (as per the athlete’s request). On this one I ended up making all the adjustable parts as well, which takes a bit of extra time but ends up working out nicer in the end.
The finish on this stock is boiled linseed oil, it’s cheap, easy, and looks great. The other 7 I did this year have all been exposed to some harsh weather and still look like the day they left my workshop.
I doubt 2014 will bring quite as many stock requests, which is fine, I wouldn’t mind spending time on some other projects I have in my head. All the cut offs from this stock (and my other stocks) get used in many of the items for sale in my Etsy Shop.
Cutsom stock #2 is now finished and off to a happy customer. This one was also made of walnut but had a slightly different design as requested by the client. Once again I’m really happy with the finish on these rifles and will use it more often on my other work.
Now that these two are done I can get to work on my backlog of projects! It’s great to be busy but it would be nice if my list would get shorter and not longer once in awhile…
52 Create – my weekly creative output for 2011! Bamboo is certainly getting more and more popular in North America as a construction material, although it has so far been relegated to flooring and cutting boards. The other day while at my favourite local wood shop, I saw a few boards of bamboo. Boards you say? But I thought bamboo was grown in shoots? Well it’s engineered bamboo, they take thin strips of bamboo and laminate them into boards that are 7/8″x6″x8′. The perfect width for a biathlon rifle stock (well almost, needed a small amount of planing). After chatting with the staff, they admitted that it was a brand new product and they unfortunately knew little about it. It was priced around the same as hard maple (which is what I would normally use for a rifle stock) so I went for it.
I got home and did some internet research on working with “carmalized bamboo”…… and found nothing. There are a few companies making bamboo rifle stocks, but the only info on working with bamboo was the odd woodworker who had some left over flooring that they had attempted to use to build some small furniture piece. So I went into the project a bit blind, but I was fortunate that the athlete wanting the rifle was quite trusting and keen to go with my idea.
This bamboo weighed about halfway between walnut and maple, but was as strong if not stronger than the bamboo, which means you could use much less of it in the stock (hence making it far lighter!). It’s fairly easy to work with as long as you’re using sharp tools, and oddly enough, it smells like shreddies when you sand/drill it out. My one caution to anyone working with bamboo is that it has a lot of splinters, and they are very sharp, and very fine (and very painful) so be careful when working with it. I used a few pieces of walnut as accent pieces, and finished it with some spar varnish (waterproof and UV resistant). The greatest accomplishment is that the stock with all the attachments was 500 grams (1 lb.) lighter than her old version, a decrease of 30% which is huge when you consider this athlete has to carry this on her back over 15km!!!
If anyone out there is looking at using this bamboo as a construction material feel free to contact me with questions, it’s great to use and I highly recommend it.
52 Create, my weekly creative outlet for 2011. While I’m super busy with biathlon stock building, it’s hard not to make a little something for my daughter once in awhile… I had some left over maple and walnut from last week’s cutting board (which were made from left overs themselves…) So using the same lamination procedure, I glued them up and ended up with a nice little paddle, custom sized for my daughter (hopefully she doesn’t grow too much by the summer…) I’ll finish it with some left over polyuerethane, spar varnish would be better but I’m trying to use up old stuff, and she’s not going to be putting serious hours of canoeing with this thing. Can’t wait for her to try it out in a canoe, but for now I guess a chair will have to do…
52 Create, my weekly creative outlet for 2011… Well, this one’s going to seem a little out of left field. In past weeks I’ve made everything from toy cameras to flat pack rocking chairs, and then suddenly a rifle stock? Let me explain… In a former career I was a biathlon coach. What’s biathlon? Well it’s a crazy winter sport dreamt up by the scandinavians that combines cross-country skiing and target shooting. While coaching I ended up repairing a lot of rifle stocks as they are carried on the athlete’s back while skiing, so needless to say, people at some point crash, and the wooden stock generally breaks in half. Somewhere along the line, repairing turned into building, and then we get to the present day. While I’ve been out of coaching for a while now, I do keep in close contact with my former athletes and a few have recently approached me about making them custom stocks. When you are unemployed, and dreaming of being employed as a woodworker, you jump at any chance to get paid to do what you love!
That being said, I’ve had several requests, so the next few weeks of 52 create are likely to revolve around these stocks in their various iterations. The trick to building these is that you want them to be strong, yet light, and these two are not always related…. The stock in the picture is made of maple and has been hollowed out everywhere possible to try and shave off every possible gram.