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March 29, 2010

My New Leather Apron

I am trying to get my new leather apron dirty and more worn. I am considering tying it to the back of my truck and dragging it down a dirt road for a bit. I may leave it on the floor of the shop and walk on it a while. Maybe leave it hanging up in the weather outside for a few weeks.

What brought this on was a visit to the shop last week by a couple of potential customers. I was wearing my new apron ($49.99 on sale at Highland) when they came in about some custom turning work. Now when you are considering hiring someone to do custom work, you want an experienced worker, someone who has been around the bend, a dirty apron kind of person. You don't want someone learning how to do wood work on your dime. A couple of hundred years ago, when you asked for proposals on work, the bidders brought their tool boxes with them for your inspection. They would spread their tools out for you to inspect, including the tool box itself as a sort of portfolio of the type of work you could expect. Probably not a bad idea.

Even today, when you go to a Habitat site you can tell in the first five minutes who knows what they are doing by the tool belt they are wearing. If you want to get something done, find someone with an old leather belt and a smooth worn hammer handle and follow them around.

Now it happens that I know what I am doing in the turning field, but the problem is that my apron does not yet convey my skill level to potential customers. It needs more wear and signs of usage and I am doing everything I can to get it there. If I can just find a muddy dirt road. leatherapron.jpg

March 18, 2010

Candle Stands and Tools

candlestand2.jpgWow, learn something new every day. A few weeks ago, my son the seminary student, asked me to make a candle stand for his church. It was not something I was familiar with, but he and I looked it up and after several back and forth discussions settled on a design we both liked and I could make. The only design issue was making sure the proportions were right and it looked good. I mocked one up full size out of scrap to check the shape and then I made one to match the pulpit furniture at his church. It was kinda fun and not too difficult and I was pleased with the final product.

And then just as a lark, I put it up on my Etsy site (www.thewoodshop.etsy.com) and put a price on it. Well, guess what! It is still a couple of weeks until Easter (everyone wants them for the Easter season) and I have sold three more of them. Churches in Louisiana, North Carolina, and Massachusetts will enjoy my handiwork during the Easter season. I had to set up a virtual assembly line. Thank goodness I measured the original and made a quick drawing of it before I sent it off. (Guess I coulda used Sketch-Up.) In fact I will try to make an extra one or two in case I get more orders in the next few days.

Bead system.jpgThat leaves only one other question to be answered — what new tools shall I buy with my profits? (Remember, tools are ALWAYS a worthwhile investment!) I've been watching that new beaded face frame tool at the High, and I sure could use a new router. Maybe I could make some more church furniture. Turns out to be more profitable than bowl turning. Triton router

March 2, 2010

SketchUp Time

clock.jpg OK, people, it's time to get SketchUp. I know you have been putting it off because you think it is hard to learn and it is new and different and you had rather get shop time than sit in front of the computer learning to use something new. I know — I've been there.

Here are the facts. First of all it is free. Google offers a basic version free in hopes you will buy the more robust professional version later (for $495). You can buy the pro version if you want, but the free one will do 99% of woodworking stuff. Just go to Google and type SketchUp in the search box. That will take you to the download area and it is painless to get loaded and running. Just open it up and go to work. Once you learn probably four basic tools in the program, you can design most things you will want to do in your shop. If you draw all the joints in detail, it is just like building them in the shop. Plus you can get a really good sense of the scale of any project by adding people, trees, furniture, cabinets and anything else which might be helpful. You can look at your piece from any angle, turn it 360, put it in x-ray mode to see inside (if you drew the joints), add texture and color, and pretty much anything else you may have ever wished you could do when drawing plans on paper. If you are careful with the scale of everything as you draw, you can pull any dimension directly off the drawing. Plus you can take a file of your drawing to a blue print/engineering printer company and they can plot it for you at full scale. When you have that, tape it to the floor and build the project on top of it like lofting a boat.

Sean Headrick writes a very good monthly column in Wood News Online published every month by Highland Woodworking. Follow his detailed instructions to get a good start and get an idea of what this thing can do. Another site I found on the internet is sketchupforwoodworkers which has excellent tutorials for rank beginners. Spend a little time with these tutorials and the ones inside the program and you will be up to speed very quickly.

clock2.jpgYou will not be the first to use this program and many people who use it enjoy posting their finished projects on the internet for other people to use. Go back to that Google search box above and look for the SketchUp Warehouse. You can find a huge number of finished plans there including the one for the clock I built that's pictured at right, which my friend Lorraine drew for me (Yes, that's the SketchUp version she drew pictured at the top of this entry). We only had the hardware and a picture and we scaled everything else from those items. Plus you will see that many magazines and blogs offer SketchUp files you can download for use in building the projects in the articles. You're gonna like this program.