How visiting Best Buy can…

January 14, 2008

How visiting Best Buy can improve your woodworking.

Written, 2001, posted here, 1/2008…
An economy is not an instant event, but it is building a system, a right formula, and a process. When you go into any Best Buy you will notice that they almost always have a system. The televisions are always to the back of the store and PC’s are always on the right wall. The customer service is usually on the right near the entrance and there seems to be a pattern. McDonalds and Walmart are also very consistent concerning the location of everything.

This is to provide a smooth operation and encourage order. This is “a system”. Remember, every successful wood shop needs a system. Methodology is critical. This is taking into consideration every possible maneuver to eliminate wasted procedures, mistakes, and encourage efficiency. Many companies have proven that they can expect success in  their respective sectors of the market. Some retail stores for example  have learned this after the fact, and then wished for more.

A system? Na…

Most businesses, especially start up businesses sell more than one thing. If an appliance store only sold TV’s they would have to be hand-made or have some really unique feature. Many times, with limited funds especially, it takes time for a business to take root and to demonstrate a profit.  It may be for example, that with limited time or money,  many woodworkers would not only make furniture, but restore and repair furniture.

Many farmers do some woodworking in the winter when it is too cold to plant crops. This is known as income streaming, branching out, diversifying. They may provide a service,  they also manufacture a product, and farm at different times of the year, depending on demand.

Henry Ford made an interesting comment once during the Great Depression. He said….”Whenever people
learn to become self-sustaining on farms or in small rural communities, then industry will seek out these communities. Industry will follow people to the smaller towns and many of our problems will be solved.”
– Ford News, April 1934.

Henry Ford might have been pertaining to the problem of farmers swarming into cities in search of work. Had they known how to build and automate they could have remained in the country and earned an income, should the crops have a bad year. Some farmers throw everything into one crop for example, and thats a risk. Read below about the complexities…that a business is a process, not an event.

Walmart might not be around if they only sold garden planters and top soil. They knew the advantages of diversity. They offer mountains of different products. You can even buy your eye glasses there along with film developing, a cell phone and a Big Mac! Of course a lot of variables make up any successful woodworking operation, but without the knowledge of duplication, the work will remain custom, hand made work. There is nothing wrong with nice quality custom work, but would Henry Ford would have survived making just one Model T?

Why it is important to know a little about jigs, and about precision? Less guessing, Less waste, permanence, assurance, and the least possible allowance for variation.
Think about it….We could be crafting a 1,500 piece puzzle, or…..

1. When advanced ideas and forward thinking solutions are tailored only towards our business goals, we focus and accomplish one thing…..Producing well made, quality products, but…
2. When all of our exchanges and our masterly, professional books and communications are drafted, reviewed, and with good intentions re-edited, they focus on another thing: Promoting well made, professional products.
3. And…When advanced ideas and forward thinking solutions are brought about and offered to those who have the tools, or those who have the money or experience, we have another thing…. progress, less waste, products, and productivity by connecting.
Productivity is the process of gradually eliminating waste. When raw materials are ordered in bulk, there is less packaging and less freight, among other things. Therefore, there is less waste. The point here is that it is more efficient to make two products at any one time. There is much less effort buying the raw materials and setting up all the processes involved in producing copies of any product, once the initial operations are in place. Our backlash at low quality, mass produced goods have stifled most of the capable woodworkers interested in any “process.”

Many people who want to be self-sufficient, resourceful woodworkers never make it out of the starting gate. Many set their goal on just one impressive masterpiece, and do not derive very much experience from a single “one hit wonder.” Only repetition can bring results, because skills need to be fed, and processes need to be practiced before most people can master most tasks.

I have built and delivered close to two hundred woodworking devices since 2001.
When you clearly describe to others about making things in volume, or getting the most from crafting, or from their tools, just like the guy making the low budget movie, you need to discover a niche. Another niche, or another angle different from the massive hobby media. Even with the huge woodworking tool business, you need to get the word out about making things in volume for example, in order to help them. In other words, the machine tool industry needs a boost, but…getting it done without misguiding some people about business, about the demands should they want to produce things is another thing.

Just having skill and ordering a new table saw doesn’t touch on any of the real risks or details. The arts and crafts media have provided millions of hobbyists their stories, plans, tools and guides and even some television. But, they are rarely into many advanced business principles, and how they relate to woodworking and to the arts or to crafting. I still see crafters who are very ambitious, very knowledgeable, but know little about making things in volume.
Making more in volume is where the next level of thinking resides, and the economist really begins to take a peek at the quantity, sales, and purchases and says “They found a niche, an idea, and a method to manufacture.” It is the hobbyist in motion, one discovering and advancing that keeps the industry, beginning with the craft and hobby media afloat.

Yet, in order to be cautious, and not misguide people about business, all of the edits result in stories that are careful about recommending a business bend to their readers craft or hobby interests. In other words, the traditional hobby, woodworking, and crafting media realizes that turning many hobbies, or woodworking into a business is expensive, especially if you have to buy your own hardwoods, and don’t have a system.

The publication rarely mentions the “Biz” word, because most people may need to try very hard keeping and enjoying their current job…”job one.” That’s reasonable, but then again, people need to know about duplication and automation, to sell machines, but there’s not always an agreement about how to present it. What the publications might be saying is that it doesn’t just take a few machines, and some material. Its not an event. It takes the machinery for sure, and also a sequence of steps and events added, and a system which automates much of the stuff…like a retail store, having all the ducks in a row.

To locate things with precision is very important. To begin to prevent waste, you need the least possible allowance for variation. A “must know” – but least considered principle.
The next link in the loop is numerous government agencies, specifically the SBA, who recommends, probably carefully, that everyone pursue a business slant. They would encourage a method, or an accountable system of uniformity, duplication and delivery…carefully, and methodically. They would suggest that woodworkers test the waters, each according to his financial ability and especially suggesting a proven knowledge of what business demands and how it can provide “mistake free” delivery. If you would like to discuss this, get in touch. If you want more detail, or to learn more visit woodjig.

Read about the museum called The Henry Ford

Tags, crafting.
The Henry Ford, museum, automation,


Tips to save good hardwoods.

January 9, 2008

Tips for saving good Hardwoods with a table saw, router, or planer.

Don’t plane wood on just one side. Many times the wood will cup unevenly. Reduce the chance of having a piece of cherry wood or black walnut cup. Plane both sides evenly.

If you don’t want to splinter the end of a router cut, stop just before the end and hand file or sand the radius in by hand. You can even set up a stop so your piece doesn’t pass all the way to the end. Another way to prevent tear out is to butt two pieces together.

Always test a new finish on scrap first. Many times the finish can lose it’s quality by sitting in a can for too long or it is not the type of gloss you need. Don’t take a chance on using old finishing products on your project because you might have to do it over if it doesn’t dry properly. This is especially the case if you are going to use an expensive piece of hardwood.

Don’t try something new with a project that you have invested long hours to complete. In other words, if a certain glue you have used works good, use it. Don’t try to experiment yet on any project that you invested long hours to complete. One example would be trying a new woodworking glue or finish that you may never have used before only to find out that it doesn’t work the same with all woods. Test first. Set the job aside and work on another project in the mean time.

Use plenty of scrap wood when in doubt. Don’t use a piece of cherry wood when pine is readily available. Make a test cut out of scrap wood for any complicated projects. Then, at worst you will have made one to give away. Scrap wood should be used liberally to make test cuts for any new set up.

Fresh cut wood can be up to 50% water. That means that a fresh, 25 pound log contains up to 12 pounds of water! It is good to know your wood’s moisture content. Damp wood will expand, and drying wood causes shrinkage. Kiln dried wood is not necessarily better than seasoned wood. In any case, if the wood is not at the proper moisture content when worked, it might warp, crack, or check. Don’t use wood immediately after bringing it into the shop either. The ultimate precaution is to let it acclimate for awhile first, before machining it if the slightest bit of warping will be a concern.

Instead of only focusing on the right power tools, or the right woodworking machine, learn more about how they build and use jigs; wood jigs, especially with a table saw. They are the key to increase productivity, increase accuracy, and reduce mistakes. By using jigs, you expand your range of abilities, and use machines for their full potential, and then waste less hardwoods.

To build solid, flat dependable woodworking jigs I recommend using cabinet grade plywood wherever possible. It rarely warps, and it is easy to drill into. If there is ever a screw that strips out of plywood, that is easy to fix. Just use a dowel. First, take a 3/8″ drill, and drill a hole. Then fill the hole with a short piece of 3/8″ dowel dipped in glue. Then file it level and smooth. Now you have a solid surface to re-drill into.

Work safe, and always do a number count after your router, planer, or table saw blade stops before touching the blade for any reason.

More about Hardwoods

Tags… Oak, Walnut, Curly maple, Woodworking Lumber, Mahogany, Maple, Exotic Woods, Cherry wood, ash, chestnut.

What about inventors, innovators, crafters and artists?

December 16, 2007

This is a little offbeat, but it explains some things about tools from a new perspective.

I have built and delivered close to two hundred woodworking devices since 2001. When you clearly describe to others about making things in volume, or using their tools, or making box joints effectively, like the guy making the low budget movie, you almost have to outdo the giants of the hobby media in order to help them.
Who really matters in the hobby, woodworking, and crafting industry? It is the hobbyist in motion, one discovering and advancing that keeps the industry afloat.

Woodworking; making things in volume and getting things bought and sold is vital to our culture. Production woodworking leads to advanced work with tools and machines. We can’t stop advancing because the famous (not saying this in a negative sense) too often unknowingly become a barrier to progress from outside. For example; how many times are we going to see the same network mega-stars consistently, everywhere at every turn? People who make things still matter right? The economy might need to be more serious about our inventors, innovators mechanics, and crafters?

Sure we have American Inventor, Martha Stewart, and a few shows on cable TV about furniture making or working in a shop. But few of these shows know about, or mention the practicality of making things in volume.

So…getting to the point: “It saves more time to make a batch than it does to make everything from scratch.” Would we make just one Lexus, one MAC truck, or only one Rolex?

My story here is about how people need to use their tools with practical means, because some very skilled people really want to know, and can develope into something big.

Some can do the work of two or more people, called a surplus, and using jigs and gauges and combined with certain machines, the possibilities are infinite. If more people knew just about using jigs for production woodworking alone, they could could do more with common woodworking tools, even learning how to make things in high volume. The ultimate devise is where a table saw is fitted with a crosscut box, which is then the starting point for which jigs can do precision high volume machining of wooden parts.

Knowing about jigs is a good way for beginners to increase their interest in woodworking. With the help of certain jigs and fixtures, a table saw can produce consistent, uniform, interchangeable parts. This is the mostly forgotten basics of mass production. Done properly, building jigs is what leads to high volume work. They are devices used to manufacture interchangeable parts using even common machines many people own. Just by starting out with a “solid gauge” box joint jig, things which use to be tough become more natural to accomplish.

Right now artists and craftsman around the world attempt to produce a work of art, dreaming to produce and then successfully sell a winning product. Maybe even a product that might be in demand one day. What they need to do is what most manufacturers do. They need to duplicate a winning piece, and mass produce it! More people need to learn the importance of wood jigs, especially in the industrial arts Here is part of the problem.

Many, many people rush into a hobby, or into woodworking by purchasing numerous expensive machines. They thrive for awhile dreaming of some time in the future where they will produce something, be self sufficient, become self reliant upon their craft. Many have tried this, and then found out that hand made artwork without a duplication method often requires so much hand work that for the average person, it is not very profitable.

Woodworkers can then expand their hobby and their productivity if they “Unlearn” many misconceptions of what tools do. If we focus more on….. “high volume” than just “making things the best”, then we can break
out of the mold. We can then focus on progress. Just because things are mass produced, doesn’t mean it is low quality. Learn to build jigs, because they are permanant, used over and over, and they are quickly set aside and a new one accuratly ready for the next batch or process. In other words, they goof proof things.

Even some experts in woodworking or who own fine machines lose interest. Many get discouraged or maybe they have been use to making things by hand, or using only outdated techniques. Few people for example know that most table saws with a cast iron table can become a precision machine. Most table saws have two accurately
milled miter slots. These slots hold a cut through the blade uniform and straight. What some new table saw owners don’t realize is that these two slots enable a saw to become a precision tool. This means that an
ordinary table saw, with a few simple additions can become a high volume machine, making uniform batches of wooden parts for assembly.

This means that with the help of certain jigs and fixtures a saw can produce consistent, uniform, interchangeable parts. This is the mostly forgotten basics of mass production. Done properly, with teamwork and certain other expertise this is what leads to an economy of scale, a high volume economy. An economy of tradable goods begins with the unique but basic knowledge of how to manufacture interchangeable parts using precision tools.

All being said, people can gain enormous skill from using a box joint jig, especially one with solid little pin gauges. Why know how to make box joints correctly?

In the manufacturing industry many shop hands spend their whole careers perfecting only a few operations with machines. Many perform operations using the same, time honored tools, many of them producing precision, quality parts. In other words, in manufacturing, most machine operators
do not require many of the vast planning, “pre-production” skills. (This is the principle behind the division of labor). The ones who do the brainy work, the planning, “pre-production” skills are the engineers and shop leaders. They are often the ones who create the original plans, the jigs, the fixtures and the designs. These are the ones who understand, often after decades of effort, the true productive value of gauging, locating, and innovative ability. Those who graduate to the level of Jig maker or fixture
makers, automation technicians, and engineer know the “real” value of machines, not the undeveloped, basic, perceptive value.

Right now, an innovator, a creator who looks at an idle machine doesn’t see an iron edifice with switches, gears and motors, but something with vast capability. What a box joint jig does (one with solid, interchangeable gauges) is to change many of it’s user’s from an observer of machines to someone who finally sees it. They employ a sequence of steps to effectively produce box joints. Someone who learns how to use just simple, but accurate gauges can discover the true productive potential of a table saw. Then, not only do owners make nice box joints,
but they can go on to apply the principles to make many machines become more productive and yielding. Many jigs, especially a box joint for instance is a stepping stone towards woodworking mastery. Just using a few tools like a micrometer, or calipers allows many new capabilities.

production woodshop

The beginner, or “Novice” gains great insight into woodworking when they understand jigs…. Once you master certain woodworking techniques, like using a (solid gauging) box joint jig, things which use to be tough become much more natural to accomplish.
When you learn to use jigs, especially a box joint jig, you can do all sorts of projects such as making boxes, humidors, component parts, PC stands, mobile phone stands, or mobile phone accessories, storage for computer items, wooden trays and stands. You can build mini toys, storage items, furniture, chests, letter trays, pen boxes, candy dishes, stationary holders, CD holders, cassette holders, video holders, filing stands, coasters, magazine holders, and many, many more.

There really is a “secret technique” to it. When woodworkers use a table saw to make box joints for example, it is a genuine benefit in the shop. And when they discover jigs and measuring, it is a benefit to the economy, and to business in general.

12/2007 Doing what matters… since 2001.




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