It’s here!

The CNC arrived this week, and am I ever glad I had it shipped.  It was very heavy, very awkward to lift, and the drive alone would have taken 8 hours each way.  After unpacking there was a bit of damage as it hadn’t been crated so a few little issues, most likely due to us loading it off the truck.  Luckily two switches were easily reattached and a new drag train is on order for minimal cost.  Honestly I didn’t see the machine in person so maybe these were issues before, who knows.IMG_1634

After a day of set up, I was pretty surprised how fast it was up and running.  The drive computer has Cut 2D on it, so I’ve been using that for now, although I plan to get Vectric Pro when funds allow.  I now need to build a table for it to get it up off the floor.  I’ll make something with casters on it so I can move it around if need be since it’s currently blocking the loading door of my shop.  The door isn’t used that much but it may in the future so having the ability to move a 330+ lb. machine would be nice.IMG_1635

Lots of future plans now as I begin to learn all the potential of this machine.

CNC at last…

I’ve been in love with CNC routers ever since I first heard about them over 10 years ago now.  I’m generally fairly impulsive, but for some reason this time I waited, and waited, and waited.

Over the years I bought a “how to build your own CNC” book, I’ve read countless web pages, and almost bought an X-carve from inventables last year.  But as the years went by my interest turned from hobby to business, and so my needs changed.  I have very little free time, and I can’t justify spending work hours to build a machine when I need to be making things to make money.  I know you can argue that building this machine would help me make money later on, but I’m not convinced the savings would work out in the end.  Another issue is I’m pretty impatient, and I might not follow every step, or complete each operation, and chances are the machine might not be perfect, and that will lead to less than perfect cutting, which will drive me crazy.  The Inventables option seemed better, but not so sure if it would put up with commercial work.

So last week I figured I had enough money in the business account, and there was an ok deal on a CNC.  After several days of emails I had just about bought the machine but started to get a funny feeling from the private seller, and was getting frustrated with his communications, so called it off.  The next day I found another machine, slightly different size, slightly more money, but still a decent deal.  Then today looking at old Kijiji listings, I saw a CNC for sale but I was sure it was long gone.  I contacted the owner in the off chance it was still for sale, and it was!  The price was better than the other two machines, and while a bit further from me, I agreed to purchase it.

Due to the distance from me, it’d take me 2 days to go there and back to get it, plus cost me a rental van, gas, food, accommodation, etc.  So I hired a shipping company, that way it gets to my door and I can spend those days catching up on projects that have fallen behind a bit lately.  We’ve had so much snow this week that I’ve spent more time shovelling that woodworking it seems.

Hopefully I’ll have the machine by the end of next week, then I have to figure out how to use it!

A new direction…

CCLP 2

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!

Stay tuned, this could be an exciting year…

To CNC or not to CNC…. That is the question…

I’ve been dreaming of a CNC for years… I once bought a book on how to make your own CNC and even had some money set aside for the parts, but things got busy in life, we moved a fair bit and lugging around a piece of equipment that size just didn’t seem practical.  Now that we’re settled a bit more, and my woodworking/design business is growing, my thoughts have been led back to the idea of a CNC.

doll crib cnc inventables

I make a lot products that require precise repetitive cuts.  To this point I’ve done this mostly by hand, drawing the parts out, cutting close with the bandsaw, and sanding to the line.  For some items I’ve rigged up a jig for my router, but all of these would be simpler with a CNC.  Some products have tested the limits of my current tools, while others just aren’t worth making due to the amount of time it takes vs. how much people are willing to pay.  While a CNC would have an upfront cost, it would allow me to start it running and then work on other projects while it cut out parts.  Three things have been stalling my purchase so far: 1-cost, 2-know how, 3-man vs. machine.

cnc carved dish walnut1- Cost: Fairly obvious one, these machines aren’t cheap.  I’m used to powerful woodworking tools that have had little change in the last 50 years, meaning my 40 year old Unisaw is the same product as one bought today, except mine costs 1/10 of the price and all parts are metal instead of practice.  There aren’t many used CNC’s around, and they are getting better all the time so newer IS better.

2- Know How: While I was once a computer geek, writing computer programs as a kid, I haven’t done as much of this recently, and it’s a bit overwhelming to figure out where to start, how to use the software, and which one to use.  I see lots of people saying it’s pretty simple and you’ll learn fast, but I’m not convinced so far.

3- Man vs. Machine: I work with both hand tools and machines.  I’m not partial to either, although hand tools are quite and generally make less sawdust which is always nice.  I use the best tool for the job, and the reality is that often that is a machine because time is money, and this isn’t a hobby for me.  But the other day I heard someone saying that if it’s made by a CNC, it takes away from the artistry of it.  It’s an interesting comment, but if we look at painters, no one criticizes them for selling prints of their work instead of one off works of art.  I see a lot of product descriptions of makers stating things are “hand carved”, “hand dipped”, “hand made”, etc.  What is interesting is my wife runs a bakery, one of her best selling products are Macaron.  In order to make these, you whip egg whites, which she does with a commercial mixer.  Would people pay more if she whipped them by hand? Likely not, she’d probably just get huge biceps and a case of tendonitis.  The truth is, my products cut by a CNC would be more accurate than me cutting them, so resulting in a higher quality item for my customer, so it seems like everyone should be happy with this?

x-carve CNC inventible

Where am I going with all this?  Well last night I stumbled across the Inventables website, they just came out with a new product called the X-Carve which is a CNC that you assemble yourself.  They’ve really put some thought into this machine, enabling you to customize size, motors, and spindle all to your liking (and budget).  There are reviews starting to come out across the net and they are very positive.  It’s great to see so many actual woodworkers reviewing this product as it gives confidence to someone like me that I’m just as capable to make great use with this CNC.

It also addresses my issues….  The price is very affordable, especially since you can configure it to your needs, and the testimony from other woodworkers has really helped me to believe this is something I can handle and learn fairly quickly.  As for the Man vs. Machine debate, the more woodworkers I see using this CNC, the more I feel it’s just another tool in my shop, one that has infinite possibilities for my woodworking business.

So am I buying one?  Not sure on this.  While it’s affordable, it’s still a fair chunk of change, and once it arrives I still need to assemble it and start learning how to use it.  This might be a great summer project as my shop is not air conditioned and it gets really hot and humid here, so tinkering is much nicer than sweating buckets while making things.  Summer is generally slower for my shop, so a great time to learn new things.

cnc rocking chair kids

One other thought I’ve had is my 5 year old (seen above when much younger) loves to make things with me.  I think this could be a real fun item for Sunday mornings, she can dream up something, sketch it on the computer, and head out the shop to make it.  Just for that purpose it would be worth it in my books.  I’ll keep you posted what I end up doing…

One of a Kind Wrap up and more Blog Love…

Last week I did my first One of a Kind Show in Toronto.  It’s the biggest show I’ve ever sold at and it was quite exciting to meet so many new great vendors and customers.  Over the five day show I talked to thousands of people and got lots of great feedback about my products as well as learnt many tips and tricks from other vendors.  All in all it was a great success and I’ll be applying to be back for the Christmas edition.

Over the week I got some great publicity, including this spot of Breakfast TV.  I also got some blog love at Design Maze and the Recreational Decorator who even did a design talk at the show on how to bring Spring into your home.

Finally, I’d like to highlight a couple of great friends I made in the Etsy section over the show.

Pikelet Workshop

Pikelet workshop sells wonderful kids plush toys.  My little one was particularly smitten with a tooth fairy pillow as she recently got her first lose tooth.

Route 401Next is Route 401 who makes awesome art out of vintage license plates.  I’ve got a few in the back of my studio that I’ll have to find and send him.

Hopefully this week I get around to my studio clean up.  Many plans to move things around but never enough time to deal with it all.

Back on track…

Been a while….  After a busy spring with many different projects, I spent the summer doing non-woodworking work, mainly looking after my daughter.  She’s now in school so I’m afforded more time to get my woodworking business up and running.  I’m getting my stuff into some local stores and I’ll be entering in a few Christmas craft fairs (more details to follow).  Right now I’m focusing on smaller items like cutting boards and such, but furniture is in the future.

 

This week I am putting the finishing touches on a room divider which has taken far too long to be done.  As I assemble everything I’m becoming aware of how inaccurate my table saw is.  I’ve tried tuning it up numerous times but it won’t stay.  On top of all the adjustments, I believe the fence has a bow in it as well.  Luckily I found a replacement saw on kijiji this past week.  I’m still in the midst of cleaning it up, but hopefully it will be up and running in the shop by next week (pics to follow!).

 

I have added a few new items to my Etsy store, more to follow next week:

 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/craftcollective?ref=si_shop

 

 

I’m Back…. and Stuff is selling on Etsy!

Been gone the last while as I’ve been up to my ears in house reno’s, followed by getting a job which seems to take up almost all of my free time.  Last night after working all day, then shovelling off the roof (because I haven’t reno’d it yet and it leaks) and then shovelling the driveway, I decided to head out to the workshop and build a quick melamine box for the microwave.  After an hour, I had wasted several sheets of melamine, and had a pile of sawdust and screws to show for all my work.  Went to bed very discouraged, how could I not make a simple box?  Luckily in the morning, a surprise couple of Etsy sales came to the rescue.  Nothing like someone liking your stuff enough to pay for it to get you out of the dumps.

 

I went back in tonight finished the box, plus some signs I needed to do, and even got started on another cutting board as my Etsy listings are running a little low lately.  I feel a million times better tonight, hopefully more time opens up this weekend for me to continue working on projects.  I find the more time I take off woodworking the more I forget how to do, and the longer it takes me to get back in the grove.

 

Next week, something with pictures! Enjoy your weekends…