This wall hanging, open face cabinet is for the stylish seamstress. Maple and Walnut. Plenty of room for spools of thread, ribbons, and pull out boxes for notions. About 3′ tall by 2′ 10″ wide.
I’m always a bit fascinated by what some people can do with what others would consider “junk” or “run of the mill” or ordinary. When someone can take something considered a throw-away, and make it much more than it was, so called “up-cycling” like this guy does on Etsy, using…forks. You can get forks for just about free at a garage sale, or new ones at the dollar stores. He has take materials, probably less than $4 worth, and with a little imagination and welding, turned it into something he can sell for almost $30. That is pretty cool.
Well, forks aren’t my thing, but wood is.
Now, the rage these days are furniture, or furnishings, from wood pallets – again, overlooked utilitarian wood. Usually trashed or used again and again. You can see examples of what can be done with wood pallets on my Pinterest page. There is also reclaimed lumber being used for flooring and furniture as well. My take is it’s just a passing fade. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for recycling and using materials in different ways, but I just don’t see the staying power of pallet furniture.
So, as a little intellectual challenge to myself, I was wondering, what could I make out of ONE lumber yard 2″x4″x8′ – the common stud you’d find in any home’s wall?
So over I went to my local Home Depot, and found a 2×4, the straights, knot-less one I could, a premium fir stud, for about $3. It was actually quite pretty, with a cream color, and growth rings of a pale red.
Now, what to make with this? I had my eye on this plant stand by Limbert out of oak and ebony:
So, I set about trying to re-create it in Sketchup. Problem was, there was just not enough material in a 2×4 to do it (incidentally, a 2×4 is not actually 2″ x 4″; it’s 1.5″ x 3.5″). I took into account waste from the kerf of the saw, and tried every which way to make it happen.
BUT, I was able to make it work when I did it at 3/4 size.
After flattening the board, taking off the rounded edges, and just making a plain piece of lumber, I lost about an 1/8″, and took those dimensions into account in my Sketchup drawing. The project would take precision cutting, and there was no room for error – not even a 1/16″.
I had a little bit of scrap left over, a few little blocks, and I guess if I did it over, I would have tried to work those in somehow, so I had virtually NO waste, save the sawdust…
But anyway, here’s how it came out….
I ended up painting it a brown color with a black top, because staining pine is a nightmare!
I don’t need to tell you that mistakes happen in life, and the shop is no exception. We try to avoid them, but here’s some good reasons why you should look to make mistakes in the shop. I’m not advocating for making mistakes in the shop – rather, looking for where or how mistakes could be made, and taking steps to stop or avoid them.
The shop is a dangerous place. Machines that can tear through flesh like a chainsaw can through butter, or hurl heavy objects at a good speed – or little ones at ballistic speeds – constitutes a dangerous environment. A little mistake you make in the shop can have terrible consequences. For example, I had my riving knife off on my table saw; it was’nt working right ( I think it was bent, map-adjusted, something like that), and of course I thought if I’d just be careful, everything would be fine. Nope. I was cutting off a small piece of scrap – probably a piece about the size of a cigarette lighter – and went to flick it off the table. I mis-flicked it, and it caught the back of the blade, sending the piece right towards my face. I had no time to react. the piece barely grazed my cheek, but hit my ear protection headphones, knocking them clear off my head. Talk about dodging a bullet. Had that caught my cheekbone, it might have broke it. I always wear eye protection, but who knows what that may have done to my eye area, even with protection.
In other incident, an unparalleled saw fence was to blame, catching a small piece of 1/4″ plywood, and hurling it into my gut, like a karate master delivering a chop! Let a black and blue mark for days.
Therefore, you need to be constantly on the look out for a possible safety issue that could occur. I caught one yesterday, when I happened to notice that the belt on my stationary belt sander was ripping apart at the seam that connects the two ends. That stitch coming apart could make for some interesting action!
Better results, less waste. It’s not just about equipment or technique safety either – though obviously that is the most important reason to look for possible mistakes. Look for possible mistakes you could make that could really set you back on your project. Common mistakes:
…and a million other little things.
The upshot here is to look for these little things that could cost you time, money and quality, but more importantly compromise your safety, and being proactive in avoiding them, making your shop experience more productive and safe.
Tools. Without them, we’d be sunk as woodworkers – and so many other trades. I don’t know about you, but motor tools are the way to go, usually! If you’re a purist, or a Roy Underhill, and you think that’s the way woodworking should be done, that’s cool and all, but not this boy. More pow-ah!
But like anything, you can buy the right and wrong tools; and again, just about like anything, you get what you pay for, as a general rule. If you put Harbor Freight tools (the majority of which come from China) up against a Festool or Fein (German), I think we know which the better tool is. “Better” meaning better built, better results, longer lasting.
Then again, the better tools cost more – usually a lot more.
Some guys aren’t willing – or able – to pay top dollar for top tools. I get it. I’ve been so poor in my younger days, the rainbows in my neighborhood were in black and white. I’m not slamming the less affluent.
What this post is about is re-thinking about the best – and worst – tools.
I do woodworking professionally, and doing pretty well, I might add, for a one-man shop. Tools are my make-or-break factor; if they fail, I could be dead in the water, trying to explain to customer why they aren’t going to get something when I promised them they would. But, there is more to it then that.
I’m starting to buy better and better tools – that is reasonable for my shop and price point, that is. I don’t need a 36″, 220 volt, closed end belt sander. Would I like one? Hell yes. But I don’t have the room, money, or need to justify it – and that’s where I’m going with all this, justifying better, more expensive tools. I actually have a criteria list I go through to justify a new tool purchase:
So I hope this helps you in selecting your next tool; you should never be afraid to buy the very best – you’ll never be dissapointed.
In the on-going saga of convincing woodworkers (and general craftspeople alike) to raise their prices, I have cobbled together some great reasons to do so, as seen below. In my opinion, you need to get beyond the idea that you are competing on price with a big box retailer; they can always make a product, and buy it, cheaper then you can.
But that’s not a disadvantage, so stop thinking it is. You have to present a different narrative to the customer – one in which value, uniqueness and enjoyment have worth beyond the price. Your customer is not looking for a low price, but a unique, custom-made piece that is gorgeous and solid.
You make more money. If you were paid $250 for that mantle clock a year ago, and today, you’re getting $500 for it, obviously, you’ve made more money on the same labor and materials. I don’t know about you, but that’s a good thing.
You make less to make more. Ever heard that saying….something about a fast nickel, or a slow dime? The lesson from it is that it’s better to make more money, and it taking longer, then to make less money sooner. For example, in the previous clock example – would you rather build two clocks for the same profit, or one? Obviously, one. Less wear and tear on YOU, your machinery, supplies, time, etc.
You raise the public’s expectation on price. Some people are going to snicker at your price; why, $1,000 for a kitchen table! I can go to (insert name of any national furniture retailer) and get it for half that! They try to make you look like a hapless chump. This is where education and salesmanship comes into play. You have to educate the client about the quality of work and materials that go into the piece, and how it’s made just for you. Custom kitchen cabinetry is a great example. Go into a Home Depot or Lowes, and take a look at their boxed kitchen cabinetry – the carcase being something like MDF with what amounts to a photo of a piece of wood stuck to the side. The joinery is terrible, usually done with staples, and pieces of plastic. The door is made of real wood, yes, but the fit and finish is usually terrible. The finish is very muddy and dull – but what can you expect from mass, spray-on “finish”? Then show the potential client one of YOUR cabinets, and how it will help the resale value of the home, not to mention your own personal enjoyment while you still own the home. Also, all the cabinetry is custom to your needs – not shoe-horned in from off the shelf junk at the store. Educate and sell. Once people know the better value, they won’t balk as much (if at all) paying for it. Not only that, but you are helping out other craftsman’s bottom line as well, since the customer understands why you pay more to get more.
Perceived value can increase. “Perceived value” is what the person believes the piece is “worth” to them. For example, a ring from a great grandmother may have little commercial value, but it might be worth a lot to the family. Likewise, a piece made just for a customer, with design input from them, for a special occasion, etc, increases the perceived value of the piece. When the perceived value increases, the likelihood of the customer paying more does as well.
Some people just aren’t going to pay your price, no matter what it is. Some might feel a bit jaded or afraid of working with a person, because they are an unknown factor, as opposed to an established retailer. My wife and I are constantly amazed at how much money people will send me – a stranger – for an unmade product. She’ll often be amazed at my reply when she asks, “What did you get for that?” – incredulous at my price. When you think about it though, this kind of customer has expendable income. They know what they want, and they’ll pay for it, as long as you give them what they want, and wow them. Often times, these people are self-made; they may have been a lone entrepreneur like yourself, and can identify with you.
That’s the kind of customer I want.
Related Blog Posts:
We call it “WD-40”. Originally, it was called “Water Displacement, 40th formula”, and it was developed 1953 by Dr. Norm Larsen, founder of the Rocket Chemical Company, attempting to create a formula to prevent corrosion in nuclear missiles, by displacing the standing water that causes it.
It’s really quite an amazingly diverse product, and it can be a heck of a good tool in the shop too. I thought I’d share what this cheap can of lubricant can do for you in the shop.
• Lubricate and Protect. This is, of course, it’s main function. There’s usually a good amount of cast iron in every shop, and if you get water on it, even for several minutes, it can leave a rust stain. Spray WD-40 on cast iron regularly not only to displace moisture (it’s in the name!) but to also lubricate – as in joiner beds and fences and table saw tops. You won’t believe how much easier (and safer) it is to push a piece of stock through a jointer once you’ve lubricated it with WD-40 by spraying some on the bed and fence, and wiping it off with a paper towel. Try it. You have to do it fairly often, but it’s worth it, believe me. And no, it’s not going to stain or otherwise interfere with a finish on your wood – that comes from me, and a test by Fine Woodworking.
• Removing glue. I haven’t tried this yet, but supposedly you can clean dried glue from virtually any hard surface with ease: Simply spray WD-40 onto the spot, wait at least 30 seconds, and wipe clean with a damp cloth.
• Degreasing your hands. When you’re done working on the car and your hands are greasy and blackened with grime, use WD-40 to help get them clean. Spray a small amount of WD-40 into your hands and rub them together for a few seconds, then wipe with a paper towel and wash with soap and water. The grease and grime will wash right off.
• Lubricating, part 2: Try WD-40 on the end of a screw you are about to drive to make it easier to turn; coat on files or rasps to keep sawdust from building up; spray onto drill and forstner bit flutes so wood doesn’t build up in them.
I’m guessing there are many more – if you know of any more uses of WD-40 in the shop, please let me know and I’ll it here!
So on the eighth day, God saw that he needed a special person to take the natural resources he gave the Earth and fashion it into things that people would need in their lives, both practical and beautiful, so he made the craftsman.
He said, “I need someone willing to be passionate, ready to fail, will overcome being told that it won’t work, won’t be useful, will be ugly, and is a waste of time, yet will still persist to bring to fruition what he cannot see but knows is there, and will be beautiful and useful.” So he made the craftsman.
“These craftsman will have to be, above all, creative, resourceful, patient, talented and passionate; they won’t cut corners, but will strive for perfection. They would need to be part architect, part engineer, part artist. They would be have to willing to fail, willing to sweat, strain and even possibly hurt themselves in doing so”…so he made the craftsman.
“I will give them the ability to breathe life into their work, to be able to leave a part of them in everything they make, as I have done with everything I have made. They will find great satisfaction in that which their hands wrought, and what they craft will outlive them.”…so he made the craftsman.
“They will take what I have created – metal, wood, glass, leather, stone, gem and clay and fashion into beautiful objects to enhance man’s lives – an engagement ring for a young couple; a piece of furniture to recline on; a ceramic vessel for wine, a stained glass window in a house of worship…or a coffin for a young child.” So he made the craftsman.
“I cannot promise him riches, a high station in life, or an easy time of it; but I can assure him satisfaction, respect from others, and even awe from some that only wish that they could do what he does, this craftsman I need.”
So if today you look around you and you see something not made by a soul-less machine, not merely a copy of a copy of a copy, something useful and beautiful, an object with personality and charm that seems to have in it, in some intangible way, a piece of another person, think of the craftsman that created it, that used he or she’s years, if not decades of experience, who has an abiding passion for their craft, to custom make that piece so that your life would be enriched.
I hate to ship my pieces. Hate it! I’d rather sand by hand – heck, by cabinet scraper.
I hate trying to find a box the right size, correct packing material, wrapping the item – ugh!
Rant = over.
Shipping is part of this game of being a professional woodworker, if you are making pieces to be sent all over the United States. We’re lucky that we have such a large audience; 20 years ago, before e-commerce became mainstream, you’d either be doing local only work, or taking out ads in national print media. Today, we can literally have a customer anywhere there is an internet connection, a shipping address, and a buyer. We’re blessed in that regard.
Shipping is a devil we have to deal with. However, not only is there the physical issue of shipping – the boxing up, the shipper, and so on – but the cost associated with shipping and the potential buyer. Maybe you never though about it that much, but shipping cost can make or break a sale.
Let’s role play here a little bit. Let’s say you are interested in buying the exact same table from either guy A or guy B. Guy A’s price for the table is $900, and his shipping charge is $100. Guy B’s price is $750 for the table and $250 for shipping. Assume that both tables would be coming from just about the same distance, and using the same shipper and shipping time. Just based on a quick gut reaction, which guy do you think you’d go with?
I’m guessing guy A – the table is $900, and his shipping charge is $100. Was I right? If I was (and I bet I was) why was I right?
Because you didn’t want to pay more for shipping – which you really feel little perceived value from. People don’t want to pay anything for shipping – or very little. How many times have you been tempted to buy a product because there was free, or cheap, shipping? That’s why you chose guy A, because you wanted to pay the least amount for shipping – even the total price you’d pay either guy would have been the same – $1000.
The take-away here is don’t charge for actual shipping price (in most cases). Especially if you are making bigger pieces like a coffee table, or larger. Once you box or crate that puppy up, you’ll be charged by dimensional weight, used in shipping and freight, which is a billing technique which takes into account the length, width, and height of a package. Weight has little to do with it. Don’t believe me? Look up rates for a 40 pound package going from NY to LA, ground rate. Never mind I did it for you! A one foot square box would cost about $65; a box 43x33x23 would cost $281!
So what to do then? Build the cost of the shipping in – at least in part. Guy A above has it about right, in my estimation, 10% of the price of the piece. It’s fuzzy math, to be sure, and other things must be taken into account – the cost of the piece, the size of it, actual shipping cost – but what you don’t want to do is scare off a customer to a sale because of a high shipping cost. People understand that for furniture, it’s going to cost some coin to ship it; but they will get turned off to the idea of buying from you if shipping – a low perceived value service – is too high.
Final word – build in a large part of the shipping cost into the price of your work, and charge a lower shipping price.
I came across this technique from Woodworking for Mere Mortals – how to print a graphic on wood! Here’s the great thing – you don’t need anything all that special to do it!
So what do you need? An inkjet printer, a non-porous surface (such as the left-over glossy piece of paper left behind from an address label sheet) a piece of wood (preferably light in color, such as maple or holly), and some lacquer to protect the image once transferred.
You can see the YouTube video below….
We finally have a catalog to offer, and a pretty darn nice one at that! To get it (in PDF format), click here.