Wednesday, July 29, 2009


So, there's been a small whirlwind of activity lately. Things at the shop were very slow. Blame my inexperience as a business owner, lack of ability to market appropriately, or anything else you like, the truth is, the shop was struggling as an enterprise. And I needed to find a way to bridge the financial gap, so to speak.

Three weeks ago Tuesday, I found an ad on craigslist for a job that sounded interesting. I emailed, not really sure what I thought of the idea. Wednesday I heard back. Thursday I interviewed, and Friday I agreed to start the following Monday. The job is work with composite materials, building a prototype of some new green power generation equipment in a nearby shop that's part of a boatbuilding company. I don't know what I'm allowed to say, if anything, about who's who, what's what, etc, though I'll have to ask about that if I'm going to be able to say anything about it moving forward. The work is interesting at times, and not at others. It's kinda like woodworking in that regard. There's a lot of work cutting fiberglass cloth, which is itchy work. There's the layup, which is done dry in our case. And then the whole thing is vacuum bagged, and infused with resin. I'd done some vacuum bag work in school, but never anything like this, so I was intrigued. And I'm hoping that some of it will be useful in my furniture.

The work day at the boatyard starts at 6 and runs until 2:30 in the afternoon, which gives me enough time to go home, shower off the itchies, and bomb out to my shop before the rush hour crowd arrives to park their cars on the highway. So I have the time to work in the shop. For now, I'm trying to figure out what that means. Lacking the ability to gauge my schedule at the moment, I've utterly thrown out the idea of commission work. I don't like open-ended schedules, and I don't like to commit myself to a project if I don't know when it'll be delivered. So, I'm pondering thoughts of working on things for myself, and/or small production run projects, so I can work both on production techniques, and on sales.

One of the other nice things about the boatyard job, the current project is a prototype, and assuming all goes well, we'll be moving into a larger scale production phase in due time, so I'll get to help set things up and get them going. I'll be part of a production machine that does require a human hand. And I'll get to learn a lot about composite work in the meantime. And hopefully some of that experience will transfer over to the furniture shop, too.

So, that's what's been going on with me. There are still projects in the works, but they'll be slow-moving for now. I have the occasional afternoon for the foreseeable future, since my weekends have all been occupied with various things for the next month or so. Once my girlfriend is back in school full time, I expect my schedule will loosen up a bit. But for now, I'll be taking my time, and trying to get things re-positioned in my life while I adapt to the current arrangement.

Thanks for reading so far, and I'll try to keep things coming at a reasonable enough rate that the blog is still interesting, and readable. I know there have been some long interludes in the past while I got things moved around, but I want to keep things in the shop going a lot more, I'm sure, than you want to read about them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Last Wednesday and Thursday I got going on finishing this table. last Friday I brought it home. I got lucky, it turned out to be as cool as I'd hoped when I set out, and the black finish on the legs worked the way I thought it would. It was one of those cases where I knew it had the possibility of going either way, and still went with my gut instinct. So it's reassuring to know my instinct worked out on this one.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coffee table base

The crazy joint that holds everything together was a real head scratcher, as I said before. Getting it all laid out and cut was an adventure, too, but it turned out pretty well. When the cross pieces supporting the top slide into place, it locks everything up nicely, which made for a pretty simple assembly in the end.

I hand-planed the pieces for the base this morning, so they're ready for staining, and got the last of the joinery fitted and glued up this afternoon. All things considered, it went really smoothly.

Next step is to work out the points where the top will be attached to the base, and then I can start staining and finishing. I'm not 100% sold on the proportions as it is, but I still have yet to stain the base, and put the finish on everything, and that can really change the way something looks... So I have hope that things will unfold well.

A topic that's near and dear to my heart

So, this weekend I got an email from a message board that I haven't heard from in a long time, that deals with pocket knives. I used to be a knife nut, I have several, and I use them daily, for perfectly legal and useful purposes. As a woodworker, I think they're really useful. As a human being, I think they're one of our most fundamental tools, and I think, philosophically speaking, one of the most important.

The email that I got explained that Customs, in their infinite wisdom, is trying to classify any pocket knife that can be opened with one hand (which is 80% of the knife market) as a switchblade knife... making millions of knife carrying people into criminals.

I hate to be one of those guys who puts their politics front and center. I figure everyone has an opinion, and a thinking mind of their own, so it's not for me to try to shape how they think and feel. It feels obnoxious.

But this is a real issue for me. I realize that many people view knives as scary things, and I think it's sad. A pocket knife used to be the hallmark of a good scout, or a competent person who used his hands. Knives are tools, first and foremost, and I generally think that everyone should at least learn how to use one. Learning to use something that demands caution or forethought is something that I think is a really important part of being a modern day human... let alone part of a democracy.

Then again, it seems to be considered a basic human right these days for people to be able to drive a large automobile while texting on their cell phone. So I'm not so sure that I'm on the same page as the rest of society.

I know that some people perceive knives to be dangerous weapons. But I genuinely believe this to be one of those 'eye of the beholder' type things. I think that, in the hands of an angry human, that just about anything is a dangerous weapon... or can be. To my eye, it's the intent that defines a weapon... not it's physical form. I've had a few conversations with people to this effect. Chairs, table legs, shoelaces, extension cords, kitchen implements of many kinds, wrenches, screwdrivers, pointy sticks, broken glass in any form, belts with big buckles, sports equipment of various kinds, belts with small buckles... any of these can be used to cause injury, or death. I'm sure that, lacking anything else, a person could be strangled with a few sheets of twisted up newspaper, like the daily metro. Not what they had in mind when the phrase "power of the press," was coined, I'm sure. We don't perceive these things to be threatening. Nor should we... it's the guy with the bloodshot eyes who's trying to kill someone that's threatening. Not the granny with the knitting needles.

This isn't the "guns don't kill people, people kill people," argument. Or, it's not meant to be. But the truth is that knives are much more easy to use in a positive, constructive, helpful way, than a gun is. I'm not a gun nut. I do believe in the second amendment, but I really believe that this is a whole other class of offense. I don't think that outlawing such a broad range of pocket knives is at all rational or useful... but they're trying to do it anyway.

I don't expect that I'll change people's minds with my ranting and raving here. I can hope, but I'm sure there are people who wouldn't mind if pocket knives were made illegal. That said, if there are any of you who find this concept distasteful, I beg, I implore you... look at the link posted above. Write a couple of emails. It's not a lot of time out of your day, and it's really worth doing.