I’ve been sick most of the week. I caught the flu, from the Atlanta trip I think. It has really kicked me in the head. Unfortunately, I had committed to being the only owner on duty on Monday, Labor Day, so I had no choice but to show up.
It’s sort of funny how people react when I get sick. Seldom am I sick, and I try not to make a big deal of it, even though I am a guy and it’s in our nature to seek nurture. People think I’m being “noble” or needing to prove I’m “indispensable”. It is not that I think the thing can’t run without me. Rather, I made a promise to a partner that I needed to keep. In my mind I’m just doing what I need to do. Literally, there was no one else to do it, and it needed to be done. This is an owner’s perspective.
Not feeling well gave me the opportunity to go through the coral I picked up on the beach at Khao Lak in Thailand. Doing this was so nice. It was like the smells of Thanksgiving, or the memory of that special ornament on the Christmas tree. I remember the beach so clearly just by holding a shell in my hand. I started feeling better.
Always being in charge of something, and feeling that things need to be done regardless of the circumstances, has made it more difficult for me to give myself permission to reflect and just do nothing. Seems that I need to get sick more often.
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Friday was the usual walking around for 8 or 9 hours, and then meeting in the lounge to discuss the day and the next plan of action. I specifically went to the third building of three, the hardware building, looking for very specific things like leveling feet and lighting and knobs and touch-up kits. Not all real exciting stuff, but hard to find, even for us.
I was so excited to find exactly what I had come for – a new lighting supplier. The guy makes solid metal casings with the new LED lamps, and will custom-make the wiring harnesses to our specifications!! These lamps were really, really nice stuff– expensive, but nice. Best of all, it is all made in the US, in Miami, Florida no less. So, after finding this guy and spending an hour with him, I felt like I could just enjoy the show, which I did.
Another thing that I pursued was finding college contacts. At the IWF, they will often times have student furniture on display. Assorted colleges will have booths set up. This is sort of a recruiting practice. I met up with the Virginia Tech Wood program. We sponsored a student this summer from Tech, and it worked out well. He was a delight to have here. My hope is I can find the “next generation” craftsman to take over this thing in 20 years.
Friday night was a surreal adventure. I found myself at a Mai Tai restaurant with my partners and I being served smoked steak. And yes, back to the cot roll-away bed! Saturday was a follow up day, which it always has been. I took all my partners to show them the lighting find. We all agreed this was the thing……..winner, winner, chicken dinner! I was shown three specific machines that they were considering, and an AutoCAD based drawing program that we are considering implementing on the sales floors.
Out of time and out of energy, back to the airport we go. During our lunch/dinner, as a group we sorted out and designed a new dining chair to go with the new Linnaea collection. There is something bigger and almost magical about the trips my partners and I have taken over the years. Call it synergy, call it cohesiveness, I call it the cumulative brain power of 150 years of experience. This is what ultimately makes these trips worth doing for me.
This is work. While it’s interesting, I will be walking around, sort of getting tugged in different directions for about 10 hours a day in Atlanta. It’s exhausting……and exciting. We have plans to pick up several machines and hand tools at this show, but you never really know what you’ll find. For Hardwood Artisans, we are sort of the biggest of the small fish in a really big pond. It is difficult to find the correct size and priced machines that work for us.
I am specifically going to the show to find a new lighting and electrical supplier. Now, this might not sound exciting to you, but for me, this is big fun. The lighting industry has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years, and in an effort to improve our product, I need better solutions. LED lights are becoming standard, power supplies with USB ports, and even very clever florescent lamps are evolving as the preferred solutions to the consumers needs.
The vendors take the time to hire all sorts of people to gain your attention. I’ve seen hired pool sharks, jugglers, impersonators, and actors at these events. Even Norm Abrams has been hired to sit and sign autographs and do picture op’s with the guests. What a freak show, not that I’m calling Norm a freak…..he’s our idol. I’ll let you know next week what happened at the show.
My wife thinks that “being green” is nothing more than living life like her grandparents did. Nothing gets wasted. Things get used and reused until there’s nothing left. Recycle, reuse and reduce, right? In the past few years, our county (Fauquier) has gotten very proactive in the recycling game. They actually are trying out some cutting edge programs, like using the methane gas in the landfill to create energy, and recently buying a construction debris separater. This has made me want to try to do more in the recycling arena personally. Effort fuels interest.
I own a weed eater. Actually, I own two or three, but that’s another story. Weed eaters are something that I find to be a good idea gone badly. They have become a disposable thing. You can buy one for less than you can fix one, or so I’ve been told. I have refused to accept this disposable attitude, and have “humpty dumptied” my weed eater back together for four years in a row now. It has nothing to do with the money – it has everything to do with the fact that the motor runs perfectly, but the spool keeps breaking. I hate waste, and for about $20 and an hour of my time, I can mount a new spool on the weed eater, which lasts for about 9 months. I figure this is better than filling the land fill/scrap metal bin with four partially operational weed eaters.
I have a neighbor, Karl. He’s from Buffalo, NY, and his upbringing was absolutely nothing like mine. I grew up in Great Falls, VA in a bit of a privileged upbringing, playing tennis and football and working at the country club. Karl regales me with stories of ice hockey and his time spent working in a meat processing plant. You know, hooves and snouts and all that stuff we prefer not to think about. Somehow, however, we are very similar in that we were taught how to do and fix things by our elders and friends.
Karl is the kind of guy who will create something great out of what appears to be nothing. He made a pantry door from old 2 x 4’s and hinges he stripped off an old garage door. He is an amazing fellow, really. We share a log splitter, and the motor burned up on it. We took an old, unused lawn mower motor and retro-fit the motor to the log splitter. I think it took Karl and me two days time to fix. The question becomes “what is your time worth”. Well, it was a $1000 log splitter, and it is 500 pounds of metal that would be tossed in the scrap metal pile, verses putting a twenty pound mower frame in the pile. When I’m at work, I try to remember I’m very expensive (wink, wink). At home I try to remember I’m not. I’m not saying that I’m so crazy that I’ll straighten out and reuse old nails, like an old friend I once had (Pops). I don’t have that kind of time.
What I am saying is that I think we could solve this recycling problem if we could make things less costly to fix (expertise), or more expensive to buy (better quality), or if we could stop thinking our time is so expensive (worth of time), and just fix it ourselves. I think I will do my part to save the planet one weed eater at a time.
I bought a Toyota Yaris two door hatch back a year and a half ago. We named it “the clown car”, or “clowny” for short. You know, like when it pulls up, you think 23 clowns are going to come out of this teeny weenie thing. I love this car. It has tons of space, lots of cup holders, and it rides very well. It also gets 40mpg any day of the week.
About the same time I bought clowny, I placed an order for a Smart Car. I became very interested in this vehicle, and the $99 reservation fee was fully refundable, so I thought I’ve got nothing to lose. Well, the car showed up two weeks ago, and I went to look at it. Now, it doesn’t have the room of clowny; it only has two seats and a tiny space behind them. It doesn’t have the pick up; it is a three cylinder engine that is hidden under a steel trap door behind the driver seat. It doesn’t get that much better gas mileage; about 5 mpg, or 45mpg. Top speed is about 85mph. I’ve had clowny up to 95 without even knowing it. None the less, I bought the Smart Car. I felt I needed to, like this little thing had somehow grabbed me in a way I did not understand. I think I get it now.
Today, getting from here to there is on everyone’s mind. With gas over $4.00 a gallon, the thought of alternatives is everywhere. I think the Smart Car is a stepping stone to that end. I think it’s important for me to show support for this sort of thing, instead of just talking about it. I think that I’m doing the right thing when children see me in the car and smile in a reflective way, like they are seeing their future. I think it makes me happy to see a change in attitude from the people I touch by owning this funny little car. I think this is a good thing for me to be doing. I think I’ll name it Bumble Bee……or Smarty……..or something.
Design is a tricky thing. Changing one thing can alter the aesthetics of a piece considerably. When I draw, I don’t use dimensions aside from the component sizes. I prefer to place a fixed shelf where it looks best, not where some mathematical formula tells me to put it, like the golden rule for a perfect rectangle. I might move a shelf ten different times before I’m happy with its placement. This happens because I need to work within the confines of the component sizes. I can’t have four different thicknesses of shelves.
Back when I used to hand draw with a scale ruler and graph paper, I used a lot of white out, a whole lot. Now-a-days I draw rough sketches and then AutoCAD the drawing. I end up making a lot of changes as I work through the design with the customer.
I designed a couch for a customer several years ago. We liked the way it turned out, and made it a standard piece. The original drawings are below, with a variety of chicken scratch notes made on the sheet. There is a whole write up on how to build the piece in addition to these notes, but it all starts with the design.
I have a 790 John Deere tractor with a model 70 loader on the front. Now, this should not be confused with a lawn or garden tractor. We call our riding lawn mower that cuts the grass the mow-mow, taken from our neighbors two year old. My “tractor” weighs about 2500 pounds, is diesel fueled, and has a 30 hp engine. Watch me roar, argh, argh, argh…………….
I find a tremendous amount of mental relief while running my tractor. After a bad day, I have been known to spend 6-8 hours running the tractor, digging holes, moving rocks, grading the driveway, hauling firewood, moving old stumps, and the like. It’s where I do my thinking, escaping, dreaming, and praying. Sometimes I just drive up the driveway and back to sort of get away for a few minutes. I will get myself re-centered, and remind myself of how fortunate I am in this life, and how grateful I should be for what I have. We all have a place like this that we go to from time to time. Where is your place?
Here’s a photo of the finished unit. I did some nice wire management down the back leg, so it’s very clean. The lamps are set up on a timer. See my babies…..tomatoes and peppers. As of today, the tomatoes are 10″ tall.
My lovely wife is the “exclusive” caterer for Hardwood Artisans. This all began several events ago when we had what I considered poor quality catering by another group. She interjected that she could do much better, more personalized, more quantity, for less. This became a perfect match for the company. We required her services for the Chantilly open house we had this past Saturday.
So, in my personal life I need to aid and support my catering wife. I do this by cooking and cleaning up for her during these events. It is, after all, the least I can do (the very least, guys). Normally, the house is all tore up and she’s in a baking frenzy. Last night, I came home to find out that all the baking was done. Most of the dishes were cleaned. Wow. All I had to do was cook. Erika left to go see the neighbors’ white calf that isn’t feeding properly, but that’s another story.
I made chicken divan for dinner. I have made this dish since we were newlyweds, back in a one bedroom apartment in Fairfax. I make three things: spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and chicken divan. And of course I’m the grill master, but Erika doesn’t consider that cooking. The mac and cheese is marginal cooking as well.
When she came home she said she could have bet me money that I’d be making chicken divan. Well sure, since I only cook one thing with chicken, duh. For me, the chicken divan is a comfort food. I love these kinds of simple foods. Erika gets so mad at me. She’ll spend hours making some fancy dinner that is quite good, but throw together some curry in twenty minutes and I think it’s great. The time consuming stuff seldom gets the “great” comment. I think this drives her crazy, but she resists accepting that the simple things in life are often times the best.
About 15 years ago, I made a seed starter station from some plans out of one of those how-to magazines. You know the kind I mean, with florescent lights and liners for the trays to hold the soil medium and seeds to start their germination. This worked out fine for our initial garden measuring 8’ x 8’. Well, since then, we have outgrown its capacity and need to make an additional one for the 80 tomato and 80 hot pepper plants, and the dozens of annuals regularly grown from seed now. The new planting station has become an easy and fun project that my wife and I have enjoyed working on together. Perhaps you need one.
Some simple tools and supplies would be needed to complete this project. A miter saw, a cordless drill with drivers and countersinks, and a pocket screw jig (like a Kreg Jig), glue, screws, some 3/8” luan, wood, and of course lights.
The entire project is just glued and screwed together. We have been working on this now for several weeks, doing bits here and there. I’ve taken some photos of the progression. I should have a finished piece, complete with lighting, done by next week.
Erika does all my cutting, the product of having built a house together, so she started out cutting the vertical parts, and then the cross members at the ends. A funny thing happened about half way through the project. She got confused about the orientation of a board. I explained to her how I wanted the placement, and she stared sort of blankly at me and asked “How do you think this stuff through like this?” I just laughed, because I have always known that my brain processes thoughts and images far differently than hers. She, for example, can visualize colors. I cannot, but I can build and de-construct a coffee table stick by stick in my head. Odd thing, that there brain.
If you would like some specifics on the actual construction, post a comment with your email address and I’d be happy to send you some mildly confusing parts lists and instructions…..some assembly required.