Mid-life crisis, who knows, but big news anyway

So I consider myself a pretty decent semi-professional furniture maker. I make the pieces I want to make and have been very fortunate to have a great following of customers who also like the furniture I make. But there are a few things I’ve noticed over the last few years that just bug me.

One is I have a lot of really great designs I can picture in my head, but just don’t have the skills to get those ideas on paper in a manner that I can use, which is really frustrating at times. I’m pretty skilled at sketch up, but I want the ability to draw it out on paper quickly first before I lose the ideas. Another thing is that I always second guess myself on how I approach the production process. I know there are things I could be doing differently to be more efficient in how I work and still make a beautiful piece of art. Efficiency when working equals a greater bottom line, I mean this is a business after all!

There are many more things I could go on and on about, but I’m sure I’ve droned on long enough. I have big news I want to pass on! Earlier this week in the twitterverse I alluded to the fact I had some life changing news in the works but I didn’t want to jinx it by letting anyone in on it until I had the major pieces in place. However, I am no good at keeping secrets, so here it is…

For a while I have been looking at taking a leave of absence from my full time day job and actually learning more about my craft. Well the time has come. At the beginning of this week I officially enrolled in the February 2013 twelve week intensive course at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine. I know right?!

I cannot put into words how really excited I am about this, but I need to keep it in check. The reason is, there are three major pieces that need to be fulfilled before I can go. First is to reserve a spot in the class. Second is to get approval from work to take a four month leave of absence. And third is to find the funds to not only pay for the course, but also all the associated expenses and in addition to making up for the loss in pay I’ll have. If any one of those things fall through then this doesn’t work. Well, the first one is done. I have sent my deposit money and I am reserved in the class. I have also approached my work about the leave and have a meeting scheduled next week to discuss further with my bosses. The third piece is going to be a little more difficult, but I have faith that this too will also come through. This is going to be expensive, but I need to do this, if nothing more than to keep my sanity. Anyways, I’ll post more as I get more information, but as of now that’s my plan! Oh, and for my title for this post, the class ends five days before my 40th birthday! 🙂

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Don’t Be a Square Man Pt 2

In my last post I mentioned that we had taken a steam bending and bent laminations class from Seth Rolland at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. My friend Vic Hubbard recently posted his blog about the class, which you can find here. I could write a great deal about the class, but I won’t, as Vic did a great job giving a thorough synopsis. What I will say is that if you get a chance and you are interested in learning new techniques to improve or to add to your woodworking knowledge you need instruction from those with that experience. PTSW is a great place to learn. I consider myself a pretty decent professional furniture maker and see the instructors as peers, yet every time I take a class there I end up leaving with some new tidbit to help make me better at what I do. This class is one of those times. I’ve always been hesitant to add curved work to my designs, because, at least for me, the learning curve was too great to go out and just muddle through it. The old time versus cost issue. It’s more cost efficient for me to build what I know and am comfortable with, than it is to spend time trying, failing, guessing, re-trying, re-failing, etc. If you are trying to make it as a professional, you have to be cognizant of your labor costs and try to minimize time wasted. Taking a class is not cheap, but in the long term, this cost is not only negated, I actually find that most times it is an investment that pays dividends.

As for the class…I took about 80 photos and 15 short video snippets covering many of the aspects of the class using my older Sony cybershot DSC-w200. The pictures aren’t great and the video quality isn’t the best but at least you can get an idea of what went on. What can I say; I’m a woodworker not a photographer, that’s why they get the big bucks! Any way I’ve decided that instead of posting all the photos and video to this blog, I am going to provide a link to my Photoshop page. I don’t like driving traffic away from my blog and I apologize for not knowing how to imbed the gallery into the blog, but this is the easiest way for me to load over a gigabyte worth of photos and videos to the web. Actually Photoshop does it for me, so that’s nice. If you click on the following photo it will take you to my page. You can go through each of the folders. I broke them down by activity. The photo is of Seth doing what Seth does, which is smiling. He brought such an easy going, creative and positive energy to the class. One of the best instructors I’ve ever learned from and a genuinely good person. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the photos!

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Don’t be such a square man!

Last weekend, Elizabeth and I attended a class taught by furnituremaker Seth Rolland at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking.  It was called Steam bending and bent laminations, but we went into much more than that.  Seth is an awesome teacher and just a great person to talk to.  He has a way of drawing out your creativity, even if you thought you didn’t have any!  It was also a treat for me because in the class was a friend of mine from the twitterverse, Vic Hubbard (@Tumblewood).  Vic and his wife Sylvia are awesome people and it was really nice getting to have a conversation face to face.  My only complaint was that we didn’t get more of an opportunity to talk about things not class related.  🙂 We really enjoyed meeting a couple of other new people that were really nice. Hopefully it will be the start of new friendships.  In my next post I’ll talk more about the class and throw in some photos and maybe a video or two!  If you have specific questions about the class please let me know and I will try to answer them!  Thanks for reading!

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Obligatory shop photos!

Please bear with me as I get going with this blog thing. I’ve found it’s like woodworking; you have to practice in order to get better at it. So I thought I would start with some basic stuff, first off being my shop. Some background information, it is a 21 x 30 foot three car garage. I am using less than that for my shop area because, as you’ll see, I still have all the crap a garage normally has! The first picture is the first thing you see when you walk out of the house onto the landing. This gives a pretty good overview of the shop. I’ve played with the layout several times and finally found one that really works for my needs.

The next shot is taken down by the clamp rack looking back towards the landing. You can definitely see why this is a one person shop! It’s hard to imagine that I was building cabinetry in it for a while.

As you walk down the stairs the first corner is my cabinet making machines and is also where I store my sandpaper. I still use the Kreg machine, and only occasionally the multi-spindle boring machine. Even my mortising machine has seen little usage since I got the Festool Domino and it will see even less when I get the XL June 1st!

Next stop is my miter saw and drill press area. The miter saw stand is kind of weird, but it works. The dresser was left by the previous owners (who also left a dumpster full of trash behind, spread throughout the house!) Anyways, it works for my needs and it has a lot of storage, so I keep it. You may not notice, but behind it are my air compressor, dust collector and Super dust deputy from Oneida (which was a great investment by the way!)

Next to that is my newest purchase and is quickly becoming a shop favorite, Grizzly 21″ Band saw. This thing is a beast! Behind it is my two welders (TIG and MIG), as I was a school trained welder and I used to weld on rocket handling equipment for Lockheed Martin. On top of the MIG welder is my old Makita planer. And next to it is my sanding station and the 14″ band saw. I keep a ÂĽ” blade on it for quick cuts and tight radius curves. Finally is my clamp rack (although I have clamps spread throughout the shop!) and work table. Also you can see that my ceilings are 14 feet tall which is super nice especially for my lumber storage. You can also see my western red cedar workbench I made a few years ago, which has survived amazingly well, considering it is a soft wood.

Next you can see my 6″ jointer (I added an aftermarket carbide spiral cutting head) and over on the far countertop is my sharpening station and general crap collecting area. The “island” is where I get a lot accomplished. On the far side of the island is my router table. The table saw may not be the best out there, but for me, works perfectly. I see no sense in replacing it with something “new” or “safer” just because. My own personal feeling is that more horsepower is not always better, sometimes small horsepower can be a safety mechanism as well!

To the left of the island is my planer (with helix blade that I bought at an auction) and oscillating drum sander (Which I bought at a trade show the day they went on sell!)

Behind the island is my festool corner. Yes I am a festool junkie! If you work for Festool and are reading this, have your people call my people and we’ll do lunch! J I would be a great spokesperson! I’ve really bought into the “work smarter, faster” mantra. Simply fantastic tools! (What you can’t see under the work table is stuffed with systainers; everything outside of it is overflow. Also, I have a CT26 with boom arm hooked up to a dust deputy and a midi vacuum.)

Finally as we come to the end of the tour, this is my hand tool area. The tool chest is stuffed with my hand planes and chisels and various accoutrements (maybe I’ll save that for another post!) and my saw till, which I tweeted about. Last, but certainly not least is my workbench. Sjoberg did a run of benches in 2003 or 2004 for Jet tools, and I happened to get one. I originally got it to take to shows with me, as I liked it better than a plastic table to display things! But I found myself using it more and more so I just decided to keep it in the shop. Is it a great table, well no, but it does work for what I need and if you hadn’t noticed I’m pretty packed in here. I have plans for a shop in the near future and will get a “proper” work bench when that happens (another topic for the future, bought versus built). But until then I love my little table!

I could go into great detail on everything, but really don’t want to bore you any further. If you have questions, comments or would like to see more or something specific, let me know! Thanks for taking the time to read this. I would really appreciate feed back!

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About time!

Okay, I finally sat down and actually filled in my about page!  I know, I know, but I’m just not as punctual about doing non-woodworking things!  I am also tweaking the blog layout a little, so let me know what you think!  Also fun fact, I actually took the picture on my home screen.  It was taken at a campground we stayed at out by ruby beach on the coast of Washington.  Also wish me luck, tomorrow my wife and I have to jury for an art show!

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Uh-oh…I may need a little help!

I can definitely see that I am not so good at keeping this updated. So if you have ideas or suggestions on starting and maintaining a blog or how you go about finding time to take notes/photos while your working, please let me know. I find that I am good at woodworking, but I’m bad at social media. It must be one of those skills you have to learn or acquire through other means. How do you do it?

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Begin at the beginning

A lot of people have blogs these days. Why not me? I have been tossing around the notion of a blog for a while now, and decided there’s no time like the present. But what should it be about? Would anyone want to read it? Is it worth the time investment? A bunch of good questions with no good answers. So I have decided to just give it a go and see what sticks.

So what do I write about? My passions are God, my family and of course woodworking. Sometimes not necessarily in that order, but pretty close (although my wife might argue that). On my father’s side of the family I recently learned that I am a fourth (Possibly fifth) generation woodworker (I had always known I was a second for sure) so needless to say it’s in my blood. However I still consider me “self-taught.” I am a semi-professional furniture-maker located in Bremerton, Washington, although I grew up in Kansas. I say semi-professional because I still have a full time non-woodworking job, yet I’m in the shop producing new pieces at almost a full time pace, and I sell at local art shows and galleries throughout the year. Even with the success I’ve had, I’m not at the point I am comfortable taking that next big step. A majority of the money I earn goes right back into the business, mostly to new tools, as I am a tool junkie! I try to use a mix of hand and power tools, although I have a full regimen of Festools, so it’s hard not to use them. I love my Lie-Nielsen planes. I should, I have almost the entire collection! I have an “artist statement” that I use, although I won’t bore you with it here. It gives my basic philosophy on how I got where I’m at. Short version is I love working wood, and I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing. It is my passion. Even if I never sold another piece and had to get rid of almost all my tools and lived in my car, I would still be woodworking.

Why start a blog now? Great question. I hope this blog to be about my woodworking experience, but I think it will contain other things I think are important to me as well. I am fairly new to social media (just look at my followers on facebook, twitter and Google+, not many!) But I do follow a bunch of fellow woodworkers on these platforms, some at the start of the path I am currently on. But what a fantastic bunch of guys and gals! The free flowing of information is great and sometimes almost instantaneous. I don’t give my opinion on things I know a lot about, because I am still hesitant to jump in the digital stream, although I am trying to get better at it. But I do follow some really knowledgeable people, and also those with a thirst for that knowledge! This week the blog world is hosting “get woodworking week” hopefully to get people to try this wonderful hobby. So this is my little contribution to their great idea. It’s also a great reason to start this blog! If you’ve never tried woodworking I would encourage you to find other woodworkers in your area to share their enthusiasm and hopefully to push you to just do it, you won’t regret it. The ability to start with an idea and to work that through to a completed project is like no other feeling. I can’t put into words the sense of pride you get. Also the self-discipline, self-confidence and sense of accomplishment it gives you are immeasurable. I think it is one of the things that is greatly missed in today’s schools, and I am saddened that “intellectuals” in the education system would fail to see that as they cut these types of programs out of their districts. (I’ll get off of my soapbox now). I started woodworking because “necessity is the mother of invention”. As a newly married couple, we didn’t have the money for furniture, so I bought or borrowed some basic woodworking tools and away I went. It doesn’t take a lot to get started, mostly just the desire to learn and to try something new. Don’t think about it, just do it. Go now, quit reading, start woodworking! So hopefully I find myself with the extra time to continue this blog. For those of you who, by some miracle, do find yourself reading this, I would really appreciate if you would give me feedback; good, bad or indifferent. I thank you for reading.

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