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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator
An aggregate of many different woodworking blog feeds from across the 'net all in one place! These are my favorite blogs that I read everyday...
There was a time when nearly even adult male in the United States owned a Stanley #4 smooth plane. The one I have was passed down to me by my dad (a chemical engineer) who got it from his dad (a tool and die maker). When I was a kid, dad dragged the thing out every few years, sharpened it on a Norton oil stone and had at the edge […]
On the day, Stan arrived with his detecting kit and ran me through the basics before he let me loose. I'll be honest, I have never given metal detectors much thought before and had no idea just how accurate and sensitive these things were.
They can not only tell you whether what's in the ground is most likely rubbish or valuable but they also sound a differing tone for more precious metals and a whole host of other indicators to put you in touch with what lies beneath.
So after about 40mins of scratching around a large pile of dirt that had been excavated from around the house, I decided that I'd have a look around the footings on the North side of the house. Within 30 seconds the machine starting beeping furiously. Not the dull tones associated with scrap steel or rubbish but a higher pitched beep. A scratch with a small mattock and a single coin rolled out of the dirt.
Last year I found an 1876 One Penny piece about 2 metres away inside the building and my first thoughts were that it was another penny. But when I picked it up, it was nothing that I recognised. Got to love Google. So when I entered '1 Sen piece' into the search engine, I quickly found out that I had an 1873 Japanese coin in my hand.
Yes, I know it's not gold, but it was a pretty damn good find in my books. Question is how did it get there? I knew that there was a large Chinese population in Victoria during the gold rush, but I've not heard much about Japanese being in the area at that time. Question is, was it dropped there over a hundred years ago or was it more likely that it was a WWII souvenir, bought back by a returned serviceman? I guess I'll never know.
Amongst the other 'stuff' we turned up that morning before the heat beat us, the oil cover off a stationary engine, the tire valve cover off a vintage car, a toy tractor, three old axe heads that had been used as wedges and a couple of horse shoes. No Welcome Stranger nuggets, but the Japanese coin was gold to me. Thanks Stan.
A while back I was up in Maine to take part in a program at Bowdoin College Museum of Art. Huh? I hear you ask – why is Follansbee at Bowdoin? Because their collection is mecca to the study of Thomas Dennis’ carved oak furniture.
They have not one, not two, not three – but four pieces of oak furniture THAT DESCENDED FROM THOMAS DENNIS’ FAMILY.
This time, my focus was on the box with drawer in the collection. I had seen it published many times – but the text was always about the family history of the box, never about its construction. I had never seen good enough views of it opened to understand the format.
Here’s Bowdoin’s excellent photo of the box:
Bowdoin’s credit line runs thus:
William Searle (School of Thomas Dennis); Carved Box with Drawer, 1665-1700
oak; 14 3/16 in. x 25 9/16 in. (36 cm. x 65 cm.)
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, bequest of H. Ray Dennis; 1989.42
(the box is currently on view in their galleries in the exhibition “The Object Show: Discoveries in Bowdoin Collections,” through June 1, 2014.)
First thing I wanted to see is the drawer construction. The drawer sides are fitted to the inside of the drawer front with a sliding dovetail. The drawer front then overhangs the carcass of the box. There are no drawer pulls set into the drawer front, but two “glyphs” glued onto the end grain of the drawer front that act as pulls. Why these are still intact is beyond me.
The drawer bottom is made up of two riven oak boards running side-to-side.
Here is the detail that shows the sliding dovetail, the overhang and the glyph on the end grain.
As you see in the overall photo, the box sits on turned feet. These are tenoned into oak slats that run front-to-back and are nailed to the box’s bottom. I made a couple of rough sketches/notes = the piece is on display in the gallery; and time was short. I had a mini-lecture to give & cheese & crackers to eat! I hope to get back there to see the box in detail some time this year.
One great surprise is that the box lid is made not of oak but of the wood we Americans call sycamore. This one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platanus_occidentalis
I had this photo from Rob Tarule & Ted Curtin years ago, but never really looked at the lid’s species – until I saw it in the flesh. Sycamore’s radial flecking is more pronounced than oak’s…it’s really amazing. Click the photo & see for yourself.
The box mixes riven oak with flatsawn oak (on the sides in the view above) and the millsawn sycamore as well. The box sides are glued-up of two boards, with an applied molding covering the seam. There’s an abandoned carving pattern scribed & partially cut on the inside face of the box front. I love that stuff. I can still mess them up myself, so I’m glad to see it’s not just me.
In the meantime, once I get set up & working oak again, the first box I make is going to have a drawer and turned tootsies.
Thanks to all the staff at Bowdoin who were so accommodating to me during my too-brief visit. Here’s a link to a blog post they did about the evening’s program – sorry I’m so late in getting this up here. If you’re in the area, the museum is well worth a visit. http://research.bowdoin.edu/a-world-of-objects/remembering-almost-forgotten-crafts/
The William Searle/Thomas Dennis story is terribly long. Here’s a partial bibliography that discusses their works:
Jonathan L. Fairbanks and Robert F. Trent, eds., New England Begins: The Seventeenth-Century 3 vols. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1982)
Brock Jobe and Myrna Kaye, New England Furniture: the Colonial Era (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1984)
Irving P. Lyon, series of six articles, “The Oak Furniture of Ipswich, Massachusetts” that originally appeared in Antiques in 1937-38. These are all collected in Robert F. Trent, ed., Pilgrim Century Furniture: An Historical Survey (New York: Main Street/Universe Books, 1976) pp. 55-78.
Robert Tarule, The Artisan of Ipswich: Craftsmanship and Community in Colonial New England (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004)
Discovering Dennis: The Search for Thomas Dennis among the Artisans of Exeter, Paul Fitzsimmons, Robert Tarule, and Donald P. White III; review by Peter Follansbee in American Furniture, ed. Luke Beckerdite, (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2010)
I thought it might be interesting to do a Q & A type podcast episode. Project podcasts are fun, but they can take a lot of time to put together, because, well, I have to complete the project. Technique videos are great too, but I have covered quite a few of those already as well. I’m not saying that I won’t be doing any more project or technique videos in the future. However, I don’t have any immediate projects that I’m working on for the podcast and I’m not sure what techniques folks would like to see demonstrated that haven’t already been done on the podcast. So I’m turning to you for ideas. What do you want to see? What woodworking questions do you have that you’d like to see on a Q & A type show? I think this could be a fun format for an episode, or maybe even a series of episodes if I get enough questions. So ask away and we’ll see where this goes.
This month we have another great issue of The Highland Woodturner, our online publication dedicated solely to woodturning. If you aren’t currently subscribed to The Highland Woodturner, you can easily do so HERE, and you will only receive our monthly publication, no sale gimmicks or anything else!
Issue #35 includes:
A Visit to the Kansas City Turning Club: This month Curtis shares his recent visit to the Kansas City Woodturners, and the fun and welcoming experience he had. Curtis gives us a brief tour of the club headquarters, and shows us pictures of the wooden tobacco pipe he saw being turned while he was there.
Easy Wood Tools: A Few Good Rules for Success: In this classic blog entry our frequent blog contributor, Terry Chapman, gives us a review of several Easy Wood Tools, a great line of turning tools that help make woodturning easier!
Show Us Your Woodturning: February features the segmented woodturning of Paul Bucca, who created an elaborate segmented bowl made up of 685 different pieces. The bowl depicts a variety of animals, all made out of naturally colored woods.
Phil’s Woodturning Tip: This month Phil has a tip on using Howard Feed-n-Wax and how it can bring back the luster to your woodturning projects.
All of this and more in our February issue of The Highland Woodturner!
The post Just released: The February 2014 Issue of The Highland Woodturner appeared first on Woodworking Blog.
This now-out-of-print book is for completists only, it’s from an exhibition at the Heritage (MA) Museum – back in the mid-1990s. Our friends Rob Tarule & Ted Curtin made the furniture and the period room installation. After the exhibit closed, the room came to a local living history museum where it was installed as an accent piece in the gift shop for about 18 years.
Brian Cullity’s book has a couple of shots of period houses that were the partial inspiration for the paint scheme, this frame’s most obvious feature:
Now that they are ready to tear into the building my shop was in, I got wind last week that the room was headed for the dumpster – so when that happens there’s only one thing to do. Go see Michael. As in Michael Burrey, local restoration carpentry guru, and the quiet, behind-the-scenes figure in the popular blog Blue Oak - http://blueoakblog.wordpress.com/
You folks have read the Blue Oak for a while – and most of those guys used to work at the museum. One by one they shifted over to MLB Restorations. They put ‘em up, they take ‘em down. Michael worked on the original installation, doing plaster work and other duties, then took it down the first time, then put it up at Plimoth, and now he & I started taking it down this past weekend. I got some shots of what he was doing, but from time to time he needed me to put down the camera & lift, heave & shift.
This shot shows the frame with its polka-dot ceiling; I had already removed the pine paneling on the facing wall. It has several runs of ogee-molded decoration; and ship-lapped joints.
You start where it ended, taking off the ceiling boards. Here’s Michael gently prying to test how they were fitted.
He ran around & numbered each board first…
Then I removed nails & screws (it’s a gift-shop installation – not necessarily period-correct, remember) – and stashed the boards out of the way.
Then down came the red oak joists.
These got numbered and stashed as well.
This was about the end of my camera work – here you see the end view of the summer beam; about 12″ tall, x I forget what thick. Godawful heavy is what it is. MLB estimated 600 lbs. So at this point, we set up staging to pry the summer up, then shifted it onto blocking on the staging. Then quit for the day. Took the frame down around the staging/summer beam elephant in the middle of the room. And waited for help.
This AM Michael, Justin and Rick & I started bit by bit easing the summer beam down onto blocking. No photos, I had a short shift because I bugged out to take the kids to the MFA & left the MLB/Blue Oak-ers to finish the task. We’ll see what happened.
The room is 18′ x 20′, would be a great addition to some enthusiast’s home. If someone’s interested, I can put them in touch with MLB. Then we can figure out how it goes back together.
Michael says these rescue demo jobs always have a desperate last-minute feature to them. As it happened, this one tied me up so I mostly missed a great winter storm. I would have loved to sit by the window & carve spoons again, but there’ll be other times, & this frame is now safe from the dumpster. Meanwhile I bumped into this hermit thrush right outside the shop on the 2nd morning – picking around the snowbank.
* the title to this post alludes to some moronic American movie that I fortunately never saw; but could not avoid the tagline after hearing it repeated endlessly. It’s applicable here, Michael gets calls whenever there’s an old frame that needs restoration, rescue or just plain ol’ examination. Remember this wood shop?
That was Michael-
Just around two weeks ago I got sick; I don’t like being sick. I missed a week of work and generally felt like death warmed over. In the meanwhile, our frigid winter has continued and with it we’ve gotten lots of snow. In fact, in just over a weeks time we’ve gotten more than 3 feet. It has not been a friendly environment for woodworking. I still do not feel great, my garage is freezing, and even when I’ve managed to feel somewhat normal I’ve not had a place to woodwork. The main problem right now is the snow. My wife is parked in the garage, and I am parked in the driveway. My street has 5 feet of snow piled on either side and my little town more resembles Alaska rather than Pennsylvania. But today I caught a bit of a break. I had off from work and my wife did not, and that meant that I had a place to park along with an empty garage. So at long last I had the space and an hour of free time to get my Dutch Tool Box put back together.
In essence, this project was finished more than two weeks ago. Just before I got really sick, I took it apart and painted it. So all I really did this morning was put it all back together. I did end up adding an ogee to the lid, and for the record the lid still is not attached, but that is only because I decided on another coat of paint for added protection, which I did just a few hours ago. Other than that, I attached the handles and bottom cleats, and added my own little personal touch to the chest.
I had been on the lookout for a decorative touch to add to the front panel of the tool box. While the cut nails do a little to break up the flat black paint, it still is somewhat boring. I had many ideas, from inlaying a coin, to a flag, to Captain America’s shield, but I couldn’t find a suitable item that would fit the bill. Just as I was about to give up, I looked into having something made, and discovered a web site: plaquemaker.com. I only needed to submit a design/drawing and they could convert it to a plaque sized to my choice. So I decided to submit my own design/logo rather than using a pre-made image, and I felt that “The Slightly Confused Woodworker” was as good a choice as any for my tool box. The company was easy to deal with, the plaque was inexpensive, and they also keep the image on file for future ordering, so If I like I can install my “logo” on future projects.
So now that this project is finished I’m not sure what is up next. I want to make a blanket chest for my wife, and I also want to make some new tools, and while I’m at it a new workbench might be on the horizon. But for now I am not doing anything. I still don’t feel all that great, there is still a massive amount of snow on the ground, and the cold weather is not expected to break any time soon. I don’t want to make any decisions until I feel better, and maybe more importantly, until I actually have a place to woodwork. At that, this winter cannot end soon enough, because until it does I will not start another woodworking project.
I enjoy a trip to an art museum. It’s more than a chance to examine great furniture on display, but to see the interplay between art, architecture, and furniture. There is a craft element of art that applies directly to furniture building – GOOD WORK IS NO ACCIDENT. Painter Robert Genn offers timeless advise to an aspiring artist about what he really needs in his tool kit. You can read the whole thing here in his excellent art resources website The Painters Keys. I’ve included parts of it below because it applies directly to our craft. My meager thoughts are added in bold font.
“I told him he needed six items in his kit: time, space, series, media, books and desire. This is how I laid it out for him:
Time: Set aside a time every day. It should be at least an hour, preferably a lot more. Include weekends and statutory holidays. No substitutes for just doing it. Whether it’s learning to execute solid joinery or developing your designers eye.
Space: Find a space that is always yours–where you can set up and work in continuity. It need not be large, but it ought to be yours. Splurge and make it a secret garden, even if you have to shoehorn it between the washer and furnace.
Series: Do a series of explorations toward tangible goals–say 100 pieces of work in one direction or another. Then start another series. In woodworking your series may be dovetails, or shellac – working the series till you reach a goal of proficiency. Or for design it could be an exploration of a familiar form while experimenting with curves.
Media: Choose a medium that intrigues you. Realize that the potential of all media is going to be greater than at first realized. Be prepared for frustration. Select a wood species like quarter sawn white oak, figured cherry, or maple and explore it until you fully grasp it’s potential.
Books: “How-to” and art-history books are better than ever. They are your best teachers and friends. With books, you can grow at your own speed and in your own direction. There’s never been a better time than now when it comes learning resources. Books, videos, on-line and in person workshops. Give yourself a boost (Shameless Plug).
Desire: Know that desire is more important than any other factor. Desire comes from process. Process reinforces desire and desire becomes love. You need love in your kit. Swim in the shear joy shaping wood with your hands.
George R. Walker
I was suppose to make the three-hour drive to Lafayette, Indiana on Friday night, but a clipper snowstorm changed my plans. Instead, I left home at 4:50AM Saturday morning only to arrive at 8:20AM. Then there was another 20 minute ride out to the shop where the presentation took place. A conflict that pits me against Mother Nature is nothing new when meeting with the Wabash Valley Woodworker’s Club. The last time I visited with them, I made it up on Friday, but an overnight snow storm made morning travel a bit dicey. I pleaded that the next invitation be sometime in late July or early August. (The gentleman pictured is Tapper – his shop was the meeting place for the day.)
You may wonder why I would fight a snow storm to talk with this group. Just take a look at the club’s logo (at right). Notice the figured hardwood? There’s something that draws me in, and the fact that Dave Redlin is very persuasive.
I had a great time talking with these guys. There is a lot of interest in woodworking, and they’re all quick to share stories, which keeps the meetings lively. We talked about small box joinery and decoration. I shared a couple of jigs to add a little punch to dovetail joinery, used a small router extensively and demonstrated differences between power tools and hand tools when producing line & berry work. And we walked through the steps to make a sand-shaded fan. We worked at a band saw, table saw and spindle sander to make the inlay for the spice box I first built for Popular Woodworking Magazine back in December 2001 and February 2002.
If you live near Lafayette and are a woodworker or thinking about woodworking as a hobby, you should get in touch with the Wabash Valley Woodworker’s club. I might see you there if I’m asked back. And if so, bring your swimming trunks – the river in front of the shop would be a nice way to cool off and I’m hoping it will be hot.
Build Something Great!
When woven well, rush seating makes for a strong, comfortable and good looking seat on a chair, but as with so many traditional trades, crafts and skills these days, few people remain who are able to effectively work with this raw product. Fortunately Carol is one of those few, as she was taught by Dickie whilst working with him.
Last year Carol, Larry and I agreed that come summer we would find a suitable dam full of the stuff and cut a pile of it for weaving rush seats. So about a month ago, Carol let me know that she had found a suitable dam full of rush just out of Ravenswood, near Bendigo. A day was arranged and the 3 of us headed out with sickles in hand and cut enough to fill the tray of my ute and Carol and Larry's trailer.
Not just a case of wading in and cutting what ever is in front of you, Carol was very specific about the width and thickness of the rush and selected rush that was both suitable for large and small chairs. Bull rush ( with the flower head in tact ) was rejected as unsuitable due to it's size and thickness.
Laid out properly and turned everyday the rush dried enough over 3 days to be bundled up and stood inside ready for use.
The best part about the whole process? Carol will be one of over 25 tradespeople, artisans and crafters who will showcasing their skills at the Lost Trades Fair here in Kyneton on the 15th and 16th of March. So if you would like to watch how a traditional rush seat is woven, come along on that weekend and see Carol practising this skill along side a …...Cooper, Blacksmith, Shoemaker, Gunsmith, Locksmith, Stone Mason, Dry Stone Waller, Whip maker, Weavers and Spinners, Saddler, Tool Maker, Knife Maker, Chair maker ( yes that's me ), Potter, French Polisher, Fletcher, Hedge Layer, Letterpress typographer, Coach Builder, Harp Maker and Guitar and Ukelele Maker, plus a few more to boot.
It promises to be a great weekend and we believe the start of something very special for the region and for the future of these trades.
One thing I really, really wish I could find was a miter bar that didn't have any slop. The miter sled I've made for the table saw gets the joints to be really, really close, but not quite 45 degrees. The fences are right on the money, but the store-bought miter bar is one of the 'adjustable' variety that are good for a while, but not really reliable in a long-term sort of way. I've seen some with expanding plastic washers (Incra) and some with plastic set screws (Kreg) but what I have in mind is something that I'm probably going to have to fabricate myself. Anyway, for now, I have to adjust the miters the old-fashioned way. Not that it's really a problem.
To save time, I tried making shooting boards with no track, just a mitered piece of MDF, where the plane just rides the outside. I've taken a similar approach when shooting joints on veneer, for a parquet surface, but I hadn't tried it with solid wood. What I've discovered is that they're just too much work this way. You have to push the plane through the wood, while also holding it tight against the shooting board, in a way you don't have to with veneer. It works, but it's a lot more effort... next go around, I'll use a track that captures the plane.
On Wednesday I got the first production run of the three new models of polissoirs that have been in development for many months. Here is a picture of the whole team, with the original polissoir on the left.
Next to the Original model is the new, Full-Sized Roubo Model polissoir, a full 2-inches in diameter as Roubo first described. It is definitely a handfull. You can get an idea of the comparative size by viewing the 2-inch in my mitt, and the 1-inch in the same place.
The third player in the line-up is the polissoir made especially for burnishing intricate high-relief carving. This 1-inch diameter polissoir has 1-inch long bristles from the raw end of the broom straw stalk. I was so enamored with my prototype that I ordered these to include in my inventory, rather than just keeping the prototype in my tool box as a whim. With these new polissoirs I found it simple to trim and shape the tip to any desired profile with a pair of scissors. I like to round them a bit more than they are when they arrive.
The final addition, the polissoir on the right, is identical to the Original model on the left except that it has bristles of 1/4″ length rather than 1/8″. This innovation allows you to sculpt the business end to whatever configuration you want. I find this model especially useful for burnishing the insides of concave surfaces and the corners of panels.
The first step for this is to submerge the tip into molten beeswax until it is fully saturated then withdraw it and allow it to cool.
Once the wax is cool and hard you can shape it however you want with chisels and a float. Using images of my prototype, you can see the domed tip, for burnishing the insides of concave surfaces, or the flat square tip for getting into the corners of panels.
Until The Barn store is up and running, which I think will be very, very soon as I sent Jason one last piece of information for the Shopping Cart this morning, you can order these direct from my with PayPal at my firstname.lastname@example.org eddress.
The two new 1-inch models are $24 like the Original, and the full sized 2-inch unit is $42. Just let me know if you want The Original, the Full-Sized, the Carver’s Polissoir, or the 1/4″ Bristle Polissoir.
I think these would make a great belated Valentine’s Day gift, don’t you?
Most everyone is familiar with the saying “When the editor is away the other staff members will play” (or you’re familiar with a similar saying). Late last week and early this week, our editor was away for a short vacation down south. The other staff members, two of whom were legitimately working on upcoming projects for the magazine, were in the shop doing what we do. I was out there […]
One great aspect of being senior editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine is I get to meet people from all over the world who have the same warped (pun intended) sense of humor as I. So, naturally, when I got an email from John Madden (who is a Laguna representative “down under”…check out Gregory Machinery‘s web site for more info) letting me know that Laguna Australia is running a contest called The Laguna […]
The recent convergence of editing the section of Roubo attendant to Plate 18 combined with assembling additional doors for the book cabinets of the library made me reflect on the nature of the humble pipe clamp, particularly in the ability to make pipe clamps any length necessary for the particular task at hand.
As part o the descriptive text for Plate 18 Roubo waxes enthusiastically about both bar clamps and the devices he calls “clamp extenders” to allow any particular clamp to have its capacity increased.
Here is the device Roubo illustrated for this purpose.
Such a concept is not unknown to modern woodworkers especially in the use or even the fabrication of bar clamps with wooden bars, which could be made to nearly any length.
This brings me to the pipe clamp. Like almost every woodworker and handyman in the Western world I have pipe clamps, even several of them. Since my strategy for clamp acquisition revolves around the number “4” (the number of clamps needed for a pair in both x and y axes) I have in my collection of clamps 16 of the pipe variety. For interchangeability all of my clamps are for ½” n.p.t pipes, common enough from the local hardware store.
The down side is that for longer applications, ever longer pipes are needed. And, have you priced threaded pipe lately? Holy cow.
Being a cheapskate who really enjoys finding solutions to problems, while visiting my favorite hardware store and balking at the prospect of spending $50 for four 5-foot sections of threaded black pipe, I instead spent some time browsing the aisles of the hardware store, one of my all-time favorite activities. (every year I spend literally dozens of seconds shopping for clothes, but I can spend practically an entire day examining products at a good hardware store).
There in the shelf in the plumbing section was the 79-cent solution to the problem – a double female-thread pipe coupling. I grabbed a handful and headed home. Sure enough, they filled the bill. Perfectly. For less than a buck I could take two pieces of pipe, one 24″ and the other 36″, with a 5-foot clamp as the result.
As an additional enhancement for the new, longer vise configuration, I grabbed a scrap of pipe insulation and cut rings to place on the pipe and provide protection to the wood surface from the abrasions of the coupling fitting.
I’d like to think that had they been widely available at the time, we would see elegant engravings of pipe clamps in L’Art du Menuisier.
I’ve written this post before, I know. But with so many new folks, I can get away with it. I was telling my kids about Henry David Thoreau the other day. And I always think of him when I hear a Great Horned Owl – here is one of his many writings that mention the “cat owl”
December 9, 1856 From a little east of Wyman’s I look over the pond westward. The sun is near setting, away beyond Fair Haven. A bewitching stillness reigns through all the woodland and over the snow‑clad landscape. Indeed, the winter day in the woods or fields has commonly the stillness of twilight. The pond is perfectly smooth and full of light. I hear only the strokes of a lingering Woodchopper at a distance, and the melodious hooting of an owl, which is as common and marked a sound as the axe or the locomotive whistle. Yet where does the ubiquitous hooter sit, and who sees him? In whose wood‑lot is he to be found? Few eyes have rested on him hooting; few on him silent on his perch even. Yet cut away the woods never so much year after year, though the Chopper has not seen him and only a grove or two is left, still his aboriginal voice is heard indefinitely far and sweet, mingled oft, in strange harmony, with the newly invented din of trade, like a sentence Allegri sounded in our streets,‑hooting from invisible perch at foes the woodchoppers, who are invading his domains. As the earth only a few inches beneath the surface is undisturbed and what is was anciently, so are heard still some primeval sounds in the air. Some of my townsmen I never see, and of a great proportion I do not hear the voices in a year, though they live within my horizon; but every week almost I hear the loud voice of the hooting owl, though I do not see the bird more than once in ten years.
The owl above I found at work, I knew where we had heard them calling a lot lately; back & forth in the mid-to-late afternoon. I took a chance & went to see if I could find one. Just stood near the spot & scanned all the white pines for 15 minutes. Then, all of a sudden, I noticed this one right near me.
Later in the day, the owl had turned to face the sun:
Other birds were out & about – some I often just pass by – the blue jay being one of these. I always think that if people had never seen one, or if they were not so conspicuous, folks would travel miles to see such a bird:
Then I was looking for the golden crowned kinglet again, but found a chickadee instead, here then gone.
While I was in Sarasota, Fla., for a short vacation/mini family reunion last weekend, much of my time was spent in family activities (and listening to my 4-year-old niece sing Katy Perry’s “Roar”), but I did have a few woodworking sightings in my travels. My mother and I took advantage of Monday free admission to the Ringling Museum of Art and walked the grounds of Ca’ D’ Zan (pictured above). […]
This will sound like a commercial and in a way it is, but I think it should be told.
My kids are now parents of our grandchildren who are out in the world working, going to college, and the youngest is in High School. At Christmas time we send checks to all of them so they can shop for themselves. My oldest daughter asks me every year what gift she can get for me and I respond by sending a list of tools etc. currently on my shopping list, and insist that she surprise me with what she selects. This past Christmas things took an unusual turn.
One of the items on the list was an Earlex Steam Generator needed for bending wood. I had provided her with a listing from The Highland Woodworking catalog because I have always had a good relationship with them and their price was competitive. And sure enough it arrived and was in perfect condition. As it is my practice to bring my new acquisitions to my woodworking club to show new and interesting items to club members, I brought the steam generator along with several other items. The next morning I was unloading my truck and the bag with the generator slipped out my hand and crashed to the concrete floor. When I unpacked the bag I found the plastic case in hundreds of pieces. Ouch!
OK, I’ll call the Earlex factory and order replacement parts to repair it. I cut all the connecting components from the plastic case ready to reinstall on a new case. And then I called the factory and they said they did not have the plastic case and if I wanted a new one I would have to buy a whole new unit. Ouch again. Then I sent them a polite letter expressing my opinion that a company should backup their products with needed parts. I got no response so I ordered an army surplus first aid box with a good rubber gasket around the top and planned to install the parts on it.
In the meantime I sent an email to Chris Bagby, the owner of the Highland Woodworking store with whom I had previously found to be a very helpful guy. I retold the story to him, not really expecting him to do anything but be aware that a supplier was not backing up his merchandise. Chris replied that he would look into it. About the same time the first aid box arrived I got word that a new Earlex steam generator was on the way to me. And it arrived a few days later. I finally had the courage to send a thank you note to my daughter telling her the story and how much I appreciated the gift. At the next club meeting I will take the broken box, all the component parts, and the first aid box, and offer it to anyone in the club if they will pay for the first aid box. A win win conclusion.
For years I have verbally plugged Highland Woodworking as a great place to buy anything you need for your workshop. Their catalog is extremely well written to explain how the products shown work for you and why they are needed in your shop. I can assure anyone who reads this that there is no better place in the world to buy woodworking tools and supplies. The care! And their newsletter on the internet fantastic.
“Somebody wants me to make them something. How much should I charge for it?”
“I’m going to my first craft fair. How should I set prices for my work?”
“I’d like to start selling some of the things I make, but how do I know what they’re worth?”
On woodworking forums and blogs, I run across questions like these a lot.
If you ask a successful professional, you will get a pretty standard series of calculations that take into account raw materials, production costs, insurance premiums, and a host of other factors to arrive at prices that maintain a satisfactory profit margin. Such calculations are essential for a professional or semi-professional woodworker, but what about the hobbyist who sells only a few small pieces each year? The discussions that professional craftspeople have with each other about shop rates, overhead, and markups are very important, but most of those factors are irrelevant to hobbyists working out of their home shops.
I found myself in this position a couple years ago. I’ve had been doing spoon carving and other woodwork as a hobby for several years. I had done it and still do it primarily for myself and my family–plus, when I need to attend a wedding or a housewarming party, a set of handmade wooden spoons makes an excellent gift. It costs me little more than time and a chunk of wood from the scrap bin. But when I first began to sell my work, I couldn’t make any of the Business 101 calculations work for me. I wasn’t trying to make a living on my woodwork. My shop costs, such as water and electricity, are the same as my housing costs. Many of my materials are picked up for free on the side of the road. Wear-and-tear on my tools is so small as to be unmeasurable.
After reading through a lot of forum threads and blogs on the topic, I had to step back from the conversations between the pros and think about what I wanted to get out of my woodwork. First, I wanted to find an outlet for some of my better work, since occasionally my supply of wooden items outstrips my family’s demand for them. (The wooden spoon drawer is chock full now, and my wife frowns on pipe smoking.) Second, I wanted to earn some spare cash for new tools here and there. I didn’t need a steady cash flow, but I did want to make my hobby less of a drain on the household economy. Ideally, I wanted to make my woodwork self-sustaining.
As I thought about the matter and did a little more reading, I discovered that there were two simple methods that I thought a hobbyist like me could use to set reasonable prices for his or her work.
1. Materials + Hourly Rate = Price
Let’s say a well-to-do friend asks you to make a picture frame. You have a pretty good idea what the materials will cost, and because you’ve done some work like this before, you have a ballpark idea of how long it will take you to complete the project from start to finish. Very well. What is the going wage for skilled labor in your neck of the woods? What would you expect, say, an electrician, a plumber, or a welder to make per hour? Multiply a reasonable hourly rate for skilled labor by the number of hours you take on the project, add the materials cost, and you have a reasonable price to ask for the picture frame.
This is not a foolproof method, and there can be hidden variables, such as wear-and-tear on your tools (do you charge extra if you break a bandsaw blade in the process?), availability of materials (do you charge for materials you already have left over from another project?), and the wait-time between coats of finish. But the equation may help you establish a base price for your work.
This method is simple, but I chose not to use it. First, my materials are sometimes scavenged rather than purchased, and it is hard for me to clock myself in the shop. So I did what I normally do when in a bind: I did more research.
2. Look at prices for comparable products in your market.
What worked for me was taking an honest look at what other people were charging for work that I thought was similar to mine. I looked at a lot of price tags, both in person and online. I did not bother looking at prices on mass-produced items, nor did I look at prices on items sold by major retailers. They don’t sell to my market. I went to craft fairs, gift shops at craft villages, and websites like Etsy where I could see items being sold by small, independent makers to customers who are willing to pay a premium for unique, high-quality items.
Naturally, I saw a few prices online that I thought were either embarrassingly low or fantastically high, but I also saw a lot of price tags that tended to clump around a narrow price range. That gave me a pretty firm idea of where my work fit into the market. So I settled on prices that were just a little bit below what I honestly thought were comparable products on the market.
This has worked reasonably well for me. The products sell at a rate I can keep up with, and they remain affordable for regular, working people who would like to spend a little extra on something handmade. A few items remain unsold, but that means I can keep a small stock of products on hand for those weeks and even months when I have little time for woodwork.
The Price Tag Caveat
Most people know the danger of setting prices too high–only a few people, if any, will purchase your work. (On the other hand, there is a certain allure to an exorbitant price tag, and some craftspeople have learned to exploit it. Customers who are not price-sensitive often assume that they are getting something extra-special just because they are paying a higher price.) Additionally, when an upstart craftsperson asks too high a price, it is likely to draw the ire of established makers: “Just who does this guy think he is, asking the same price for his entry-level work that we ask for our professional work?” If possible, I try to stay on good terms with other makers.
There is an equal danger, too, in setting prices too low. Not only are you liable to have more demand than you can meet and still make little money, but you also tend to devalue your work in the eyes of your customers. In fact, too low a price can scare away potential customers:”That woodwork looks kind of nice, but it’s priced really low. There must be something wrong with it.” Plus, when you deeply undercut other makers in the market, you may ultimately drag down the price that even experienced professionals can charge. We all know about the “Walmart Effect” on local businesses, and most decent people deplore it.
There is no standard, easy method by which a hobbyist craftsperson can price his or her work. When it comes down to writing a dollar amount on a price tag, the difference between $24.99 and $27.49 may be arbitrary. But the way you decide between charging $20 for one piece and $200 for another is not. There are simple ways for hobbyists to set reasonable prices for their work, but they are not the calculations that the professionals use.
Tagged: business, etsy, overhead, price tag, prices, setting prices