Monday, January 30, 2017

Tops, Spears, and Fairy Dresses!

I’m a little late in welcoming 2017, but not as late as I was in welcoming 2016…which I just did a few minutes ago.

It has certainly been a busy 2017, and it is only the end of January.  My year hasn’t been anything like the year on a national or political level, but still busy with travel and work and even a little bit of time in the shop.

Late last year I made a few tops – this is new for me, and I did sell one, so far the best one.  It is interesting to see how wood density changes the balance of these things.  The first was Guayacan or genuine Lignum Vitae – my favorite wood, nice and dense with very even density overall.  I also made a Bloodwood, and Myrtlewood and couple others that I can’t remember at the moment. If I can figure out how to upload the video I will post that. Otherwise it will be a still.


I also made a spear!  Not quite 100% satisfied with the butt end (not pictured here J for just that reason). 

One aside: I traveled to Michigan over the holidays and with my daughters and mother visited the Ann Arbor Matthaei Botanical Gardens – we only had a few minutes inside, but managed to see the fairy dresses that they had on display.  Pretty cool.

I also have another set of blades in progress – they are farther along now, and you’ll recognize a few from a couple years ago…

At least it is still January…


Note - I think this one was in November 2016 as well.  But it has some pictures!!!

As I was finishing up a knife a couple weeks ago, I realized that I hadn’t finished a knife all year – since the knife show last year in fact. I certainly knew that I hadn’t made much progress, but since I had at least worked on a few, I thought I must have finished one. Then I checked the serial numbers, and found out that I was wrong.  So I proceeded to crank out eight knives.  A couple of them have been in progress for years. 

This batch has a lot of hammer textured spines and carbon scale.  But not on all of them.  Also my first kiridashi, a massive curved machete, a ring knife that I started for the show last year, and a weird skinner of my own design.  There are still another 3-4 that I could probably finish off in a couple days of moderate effort.

And then my pens started selling – before I was expecting anything to happen, and then one of my oldest knives sold! So we ordered a bunch of pen supplies and Erica started listing some of the knives with sheaths.  Have I mentioned that I don’t like making sheaths?  I think that is the real barrier to selling my knives.  They are interesting unique and functional, with (in my opinion) some artistry to them.

So – back to pens.  I spent some time this weekend turning pen blanks – over twenty of them.  And tried some new styles as well – Music Pens; Gearshift pens; Steampunk bolt action; and now I have kits for tops and more wine bottle stoppers and a couple of other things as well.

The day after all the work, I started to itch. I am annoyed.  I wore my fancy dust mask, safety glasses, etc.  I thought I filtered out all of the nasty sawdust from the species that I am allergic too, but I guess I was wrong. I now have my standard systemic rash, but am taking anti-allergy meds to control the symptoms rather than just the hydrocortisone cream.

Some of the pens are coming out well.  The bullet pens are pretty easy and fast.  The Music Pens are pretty unsatisfying and have some quirks – not my favorite.  The Gearshift ones are pretty cool.  The Steampunk are too expensive but are pretty cool.

Right now I am recovering from the allergies.  Not very happy about it. 

Leadership, inspiration

Note – I wrote this one in November 2016, clearly a followup on the Marketing and Blogging post
Thoughts of the day – What is leadership?

Leadership is bringing people together to accomplish a goal. How do you do that – inspiring people to seek that goal.  Although there may be management and administration behind a leader that results in a more efficient process, or more success at achieving the goal, that is not leadership.  Leadership again, is convincing, inspiring, and selling some idea to those you intend to lead.  So leadership and marketing have a lot in common.

So I just did a quick web search on marketing and inspiration and I have to say, they overlapped less than I expected.  Some key tidbits that stood out are:
1.       Have a clear goal
2.       Make a connection – why should your audience listen to you.
3.       Inspire trust
4.       Connect your story with other influencers
5.       Help solve a problem
6.       Interact with your audience – give feedback
7.       Take different angles
8.       Take advantage of brand loyalty
9.       Humor
10.   Stand out – innovate
11.   Give more
12.   Be confident
 Be passionate
It is easy to sell to people who want to buy, give them a reason.
You don’t have to be inspired to be inspiring… but it helps.

I recently took a class on leadership (Freudian slip, I started typing “marketing”), during that class we discussed a variety of world leaders from the last century or three, looking at successes and failures.  People like Henry Ford, Mother Theresa, Hitler and Napoleon.  It was interesting to look at these individual, not necessarily from a historic perspective, but as leaders.  They all inspired, sold a goal, and created empires of sorts.  Many of them over-extended themselves, trusted the wrong people or no one, and inspired the death of many people. 

Anyway, one of the exercises was to try to inspire people to charge the beach on D-day.  I don’t think I did a very good job, but I also didn’t have time to plan the speech and was working with minimal information.  Excuses.

Anyway, with a few minutes more I think I could have done a much better job of selling now. And with a few notes to keep me on track…well that probably would have helped too.

I am a good leader in Natural Resources and Environmental management because I have a connection to the subject.  I understand the problems, I know the players and the theories, I can sell the goal, share the solutions, and with a little time and research I can connect to almost anyone, and that means that I SHOULD be able to sell, but a little strategic planning helps.

Why? Because having a clear goal helps. Because having a game plan helps maintain your confidence.  Because having a plan helps you prepare the humor and connection.  Being confident lets you share passion for your goal. And in the end if you have a clear goal, and can inspire others to have the same goal, you are a leader.

Marketing and Blogs

~Note~ I wrote this one in September 2016, finally getting around to posting it. Oops.

I am not naturally a social person. I have a magnet on my fridge that says, “There are two kinds of people in the world, and I don’t like them”. The social environment is usually pretty exhausting for me, and I never thought that I would be spending so much time talking to people as a career; especially because I went to school to be a wildlife biologist.  Sounds like a good career for someone who likes to spend a lot of alone time, out in the woods or desert, waiting and watching.  But then…if you do an OK job, they ask you to manage a crew of biologist, then to write some grants, then to manage a program or department, and all of a sudden, you aren’t in the field any more.  You spend all day looking at a computer or in meetings. Suddenly your job is to be social. Your job is to sell your research grant, or program to upper administration (or whoever allocates money) so that your program can keep going.  Your job is to sell the mission of the organization, or department, or program or even the specific job that an employee has, so that THEY can be passionate about whatever it is that they do. And all you want to do is wander off into the woods, read a book, and just be alone.  It is not the life you expect when you think of yourself as an introvert.

Introverts and Extroverts are not always as different as people think, in my mind, what it really comes down to is energy.  An introvert gathers energy when they are alone; an extrovert gathers energy from being with others.  An introvert is exhausted after a party; an extrovert is ready to hit the next one.  But an introvert can give a speech, motivate people, be the life of the party, lead a group, just like an extrovert can.  I am an introvert that has to work like an extrovert for my career.  It is tiring.
So what about Marketing and Blogs?

I didn’t know it when I started my career, but everyone needs to understand marketing, and how to do it. At some point in your life, you will need to sell something, whether it is an idea, a research project, a car, yourself to a prospective employer.  Everyone needs the basic skills to convince someone else.  Now I think that everyone should take a marketing class so that they understand the basic concepts – It would help out a lot of people. Enjoying selling is different too – and I think I am reverting back to the In vs Ex discussion here.  I can take satisfaction in a job well done once I have successfully made my pitch – but I don’t have a passion for it.

So what about blogs.

Blogs are a method of showing yourself to the world, of selling yourself.  It isn’t the same as doing it in person, but it is still – to me- an extroverted activity.  The assumption that others will care about whatever it is that you are writing about…and come back for more.  The more you write, the more likely that you will get a following.  I, clearly, am not very good at it.  I have a number of blogs in draft form, waiting for pictures, I have others that are really just internal monologues that I don’t feel like exposing to my 3 active followers – or however many there are.  My last posted one – at least as I write this, was nearly a year ago.  Why would anyone follow a blogger that only posts once or twice or even 12 times a year?  Not good marketing.  I’d be very curious to know what percentage of bloggers consider themselves intro vs extra-verted. And if it is different that the twitter-ers (not the followers mind you, but the ones who actively post). My guess is that most active social media participants are extroverts, and that most of the followers are introverts – living vicariously through those they follow.

Archery Thoughts 2016

-Note- I wrote this a while ago, but never attached pictures. Sorry. Posting now about 7 months late...

Thoughts on Archery
I don’t know how old I was when I first became interested in archery, but I think I was pretty young.  I was a cub scout, and read biographies of mountain men and indian scouts.  I poured over picture books about Native Americans and western adventure.  I remember pine sticks and string that dad put together.  He also had an old bow that he had found – that I think I finally broke it as a young adult – it was a nice long bow – or at least it seemed pretty long at the time.  At boyscout camp I shot basic compound bows for the first time, but living in the city it didn’t really seem appropriate, and dad didn’t hunt, so it wasn’t something that really came up. 

I remember loving stories about Robin Hood – on records, and then books and movies – I still have fond memories of Errol Flynn in the Adventures of Robin Hood, and I didn’t know anything about Howard Hill at the time. There was also gaming, and bows certainly played a role there as well, I had characters that were archers, or rangers that all carried bows.  My interest in the outdoors supported these ideas, learning about nature, camping, hiking and exploring all fit with the fantasy worlds that I read about and played in.

Then, when I was playing around with the SCA I finally bought a recurve, but I didn’t have any arrows, so I didn’t use it – in fact I don’t know if I have ever fired an arrow from it.  I left it with my friend Dave when I left the state.

Not too long ago, I decided to get back into it. So I looked up making bows online.  My first attempt looked pretty good, red oak with a backing of fiberglass tape.  It was stiff and slow and it worked OK for a while, long enough that I had custom arrows made for it. Then it broke.  I also tried salt cedar a few times, and they broke, and I tried laminating a bow together, and it broke.  Erica bought me a bow for my birthday – a nice simple Samick Journey - #45 take down recurve, since I wasn’t having any luck building a bow, and I started practicing with that.

But I still had the bug to build my own, so I bought a kit from Bingham Archery Supplies and built a form, and pressed it all together, and shaped it, and ended up with a lovely almost #40, 72” long bow.  It shoots very sweetly and is pretty accurate, and quiet.  But it isn’t as stiff or fast as I would like.  The recurve is closer to what I was looking for as far as performance – but I didn’t build it. I have also built up my ability to draw a bow, so I’d like an even stiffer one. 

I now have a wide variety of arrows also – I had some built for my long bow, and the ones for the broken bow work great with the recurve, and I have a few others of different spines and materials that aren’t quite perfect for either.  I wonder if I should build my own arrows too? I don’t have the tools for that right now, and am not sure I want to invest in the project.  But I might at least get a fletching jig so that I can fix arrows that get damaged (I bought one, and have fixed a couple so far. Good investment.  I guess I don’t really need any other tools to build arrows – except a die to cut the feathers into the right shape. 

What is next?  I have a few options, and really want to do them all.  The cheapest and simplest is to buy new heavier limbs for my recurve – that would let me know if I can draw that weight or if I want to go heavier.  I would also like to buy a Mongolian style bow.  Third, I would like to build another, reflex/deflex long bow – hopefully picking up a little speed, but still able to call it my own.  And forth, last for now, I think about an English War bow – over 6 feet long, #90+ monsters that throw massive arrows.  And then the question is, how much do I want to spend on all of this? 

Update: I finished another bow. I started with a 20”riser that I put together from Bloodwood, Ipe, and Maple, then ordered a kit from Bingham for #55 bamboo and carbon for 68” straight longbow with an 18” riser. Then I made a form that was a bit reflex-deflex.  When it was all assembled at 68” I got a 65” string and noticed that it was still a pretty light draw.  I did some math and with a target of about #50-55 cut 2.5 inches off each end – so I now had a 63” longbow.  There was added incentive to this – I had a 60” string on my 64” Journey recurve.  I strung it, and it felt stiff.  Maybe I’m just weak?  I’ve been doing some exercise specifically for the purpose of a higher draw weight, so I didn’t think so, but maybe?  I noticed how bad my form was to compensate for the higher weight – more exercise necessary obviously, but it shoots, it shoots pretty straight, my 400 spine arrows seem to work about right. Then I took it in to work to discuss with my arrow shooting colleagues.  The local guess was 60-65 pounds.  Last night I set it up with my luggage scale, drew it to 28” and found that it is 65#, pretty much on the money.  I guess I wasn’t as weak as I thought I was.  But I still need to work on it. I feel like I have gotten better already with practice.  I have lost two arrows through my fence though – need to put in a stiffer back stop so that when I miss everything I don’t lose any more arrows.

Today over lunch I decided that I would try it for flight shooting – ie going for maximum distance.  I don’t know if I am getting the angle right, but I tried it 3 times, twice with Easton XX75’s and once with one of my wooden shafts.  They ranged from about 238-250 paces, probably about the same in yards – the terrain was flat and not any wind to speak of.  I think my longer bow (37.5#) did about 180, but that was a much hillier terrain, so harder to compare. 

I am still planning to buy a Grozer bow, he came out with a batch of Hungarian bows, up to 50#, but I really want about 55#, and maybe higher as a result of my current long bow.  I am hoping that the next batch is Assyrian, but we will see.  And then last night the new batch appeared on-line!  I ordered a 52# Assyrian, so I will have a 37, 45, 52 and 65.  I think that will be enough.  I sure hope so J  Next mission…arrows.

UPDATE:  I got it and it is beautiful – now my favorite bow!  Fast, light, traditional, and a good weight!  I haven’t tried it from a distance perspective yet, but I am guessing it will beat the 65#.
I had one of my colleagues say that they might order a bow from me.  I don’t know if I am consistent enough for that – or maybe I am since the first two started right around 38#… I’m just not good at hitting my weight target.

Back to the main story.
The other question is, what am I going to do with all of these bows? I can shoot them in my back yard, but there isn’t a lot of diversity there.  I could go to one of the archery shops, but shooting inside seems lame (yes, I climb inside, but that is more due to time restrictions – if I could do that at home I would, or better, go to the field and climb real rock! But I haven’t even been to the gym in a few months). 

I feel like I should get a hunting permit and try to shoot something. But I’m not really sure I am ready, or accurate enough. 

Mostly, I just want to try out a few more bows, and figure out what style and weight I am really looking for, and then get pretty good with that. And THEN, maybe try hunting something with it.
Right now shooting in my back yard is therapeutic – it takes focus, but is peaceful (funny, shooting a weapon is peaceful).  I have made a couple of light bows for the kids, and they are variably excited about it, Autumn mostly after Brave came out, and Penny suddenly took interest after Autumn’s interest level dropped off.  Interestingly enough, Penny’s focus is better than Autumn’s was.
My accuracy is getting better, despite mismatched arrows, and switching among bows.  Most of my arrows hit the 18” target that I have set up on the back fence.  I finally had to get a foam block target – I was using a wallboard backstop, then straw, then another board, with a fence behind that, but after repeated use, I was punching through too often, and, since there is another shed and home behind that, it wasn’t really safe anymore. I still miss every once and a while, but the set up seems to stop things before the fence most of the time.  Unfortunately, not all of the time.  I need to beef up my back stop. I’ve lost two arrows into the neighbor’s yard…

Motivation and Progress

-Note- I wrote these a while back, almost a year ago in some cases, planning to add pictures.  Because I never got around to adding the pictures I didn't post them.  I'm going to post them now anyway, and maybe someday make a new post that has a bunch of pictures.   Or maybe I'll never get around to the pictures.

Motivation comes in fits and starts. Sometimes just starting something can get you going. Other times, not so much. For me there are days that I try to start a craft project and I realize that if I keep going I will either 1. Break it, or 2. Hurt myself, or 3. Both.  Those are good days to stop.

Since last August/September, when I did the USN show in Vegas, I haven’t posted.  It was a frustrating experience, and I know that it wasn’t my market.  I sold a knife, and it was to a friend of mine.  I sold way more of my pens, and all of that activity was in the last day. It made me think about shifting gears to folding knives, but I’m not sure that I have the precision to do that.  As a result, I didn’t do ANYTHING in my shop for a good long while. 

Have I ever talked about my shop?  Most people would call it the backyard.  I actually have 3 shops though, and only one is the backyard.  My forge, anvil, and most big tools live in a small shed in the back yard with my collection of wood, scraps and leftovers from the previous homeowners.  I do work in there, but only to forge.

 My second shop is in the house, it holds my drill press, hand tools and smaller stuff, and my archery equipment, some of my books, leather working equipment, more wood, stone and some other supplies; not to mention wrapping paper, motorcycle gear, and a variety of other clutter. 

My third shop is the backyard on a concrete slab with a beat-up work bench.  This is where most of the work happens. It goes something like this…

Great I have some time, let’s set up the shop:  drag the extension cord out from the house to the bench; haul the belt sander, the table saw and the lathe out of the shed and distribute so that they are either out of the way, or ready for use; bring out whatever projects I am working on. Get started.  Obviously, weather and light affect this.  It is not pleasant to work in sub-zero temperatures (unless I am working the forge – which heats things up nicely).  It is also not pleasant in 100+ heat (especially in the forge, but then it feels cool outside, which is a little odd).  High winds are sometimes helpful, but can be frustrating, depending on what I am working on. After dark it is not safe to work (since I can’t see what I am doing). Did I mention that I commute 45 minutes to work, and generally work more than 8 hours a day, and help with Roller Derby?  Not a lot of time left after that.

So, I get the shop set up and…it starts to rain, or the wind blows away my sandpaper, or the kids need some food, or I need some food.  The distractions add up to not quite so much time as I might like to play at my crafting hobbies.  I think I do pretty well considering the things fighting against me.

But enough about the shop.  What have I been working on?  Since last labor day:

More bowls – some more successful than others – I tried some Australian Myrtle bowl, that had really weird holes in it, and tried to fill those with epoxy and turquoise and a variety of other materials, and I have pretty much decided that it was a failure, and that I don’t really like working with Myrtle – it tears too easily on the lathe.

Broken bowls

Alligator Juniper on the other hand is fun to work with – smells nice, is soft but turns well, and is pretty.

Maple is one of my favorites now – and I re-handled (again) the Kershaw Antelope II that I found and modified.

Bottle Brush wood

And some others

Two Leather Bracelets

A mess of pens

A quiver for the arrows that a second degree friend made for me

A pouch to match the quiver

A pen case

A few shaving sets, and extra brush handles. Manzanita with turquoise and copper accents, Myrtlewood, and Juniper.

And I’ve roughed out a few knives.

I broke a few too – I don’t know if I got the metal too hot, or the anvil was too cold, but I broke two with two blows of the hammer. I’m going to reclaim 4 knives out of the two larger ones if I can.

I also broke my favorite hammer handle (birdseye maple) and replaced it with Hickory.

I’ve been dreaming about making another laminated longbow, and have put together a couple of potential risers, and trying one more time with a salt cedar self-bow.  I don’t think I am going to back it this time, we’ll see what happens.

And since I have been working with a retired judge on and off, I am working on a gavel.

That looks like a lot of stuff – and here I thought I was slacking off?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

USN - Knives and Pens galore

My friend Pat has invited me to share his table at the Usual Suspects Network annual show in Las Vegas for Labor Day weekend.

This is intimidating because:  
1. I have never done a real knife show;
2. They are a tactical crowd and I don’t really do tactical;
3. I don’t really like people all that much and have a hard time pushing my own work;
4. I don’t really know how to price this stuff, and general just wing it.

That said, I am interested and very curious if I can sell any of my work – be it classic or tactical.  I’ve also decided I should do some tactical style knives to increase my chances.  I’ve got some designs in mind already – just need to have the time to put them all together.

Then there are the sheaths.  People like to have places to keep their knives, and I can make leather sheaths of various styles.  BUT…tactical people like kydex, which I find to be noisy.  So I need to figure out if I can felt-line kydex to make it quiet.  And figure out if I can make kydex sheaths at all.
Experimentation is expensive and takes time.  So I need to buy a kydex kit.  I want to try wrapping handles, so I need some cord – but not just plain Para cord.  I should probably buy some taps and dies and get some other screws for handles.  I need more leather to build sheaths for the knives I already have.  It may seem like September is a long way away – but it feels like next week. (Update 5 - Now it IS next week).

Update 1: I haven’t made it that far yet, but making some knives has been fun – I think I want to do a couple machetes as well – which are a pain in the butt since they are so big.   I’ve started a kerambit of sorts, and a tanto, and a short bladed stabby knife, and a unicorn shank, ok so the unicorn shank isn’t very tactical – tacky maybe.

Unicorn Shank - Twisted CruForge V with Cocobolo and Ebony Handle.

I’ve looked for better cord than para, but haven’t been very successful, the options seem to be dyneema, spectra, and Kevlar, but they all have some problems, so I may just go with para after all. Boring, but what people are used to. And available in a rainbow of colors…like black…or drab…or rescue orange, because really, who needs any other colors?

Update 2: I want to make the knives black or grey.  Seems like the style for these things.  I was going to use GunKote – which I have used in the past, but my can of it seems to be dead, and although it isn’t hugely expensive, shipping is ridiculous and I haven’t found it locally yet.  I may check a couple gunsmith shops this weekend.  There are a couple of other options.  Bluing the knives, dipping them in acid, mixed mustards, and probably some others as well.

I did pick up some paracord – went with Digital camo.  Should look good with black.
I still don’t want to do sheaths.

I also have an idea for a knife that may take precedence over the machetes – especially since I don’t have the metal for machetes at the moment. Hmm…don’t have enough for that either. Guess I need to buy some steel.

Update 3:
I blued the tanto and the kerambit.  I paracord wrapped the tanto – which I think turned out pretty well, but I may have my friend rewrap it since I am new at this.  The kerambit got M3 Lava macromolecular material, which I think turned out beautifully.  It was my first use, and is kinda pricy, but so far I’m pretty impressed.  I’d definitely use it again. I think it would be pretty sweet on the kind of tactical folder that I don’t make. :/

The stabby knife got an acid-wash, and a coyote tan canvas micarta handle.  I wrapped it with paracord too, for good measure.  I think they all turned out well, but the kerambit is definitely the most elegant.

I started a couple more kerambits since I liked the first one so much.  I may even try to make an inside curve to the blade. I don’t currently have anything particularly good to grind that curve, but I bet I can manage.

I also have ideas for friction folders, which I haven’t done yet.  I keep trying to decide if I want to buy some titanium to use as a liner.  Decisions, decisions.

Update 4:
No friction folders in the short term at least, no time before the USN Show.

The 4 loophole knives are coming along nicely – 2 kerambits and two scimitar bladed.  Cutting ¾-1” holes is a pain in the butt. I’ve got them shaped and quenched and tempered, now I need to spend the time finishing them and putting on the edges.  I have 2 weekends left!

In the meantime I did build 15 bullet pens…

I was also thinking about rehandling AR86.  I don’t like the way the handle turned out.  That is what I get for using man-made materials.  But I have some others – so IF there is time, I will strip it this weekend and shape the replacement.  While finishing the other 4.

I still need to carve in all of the numbers and logo’s also.

Update 5: In taking the handle off AR86, I snapped it in half.  I was in a bad mood and did some stupid things - like cutting myself with a hacksaw. Never work in your shop when you are in a bad mood.  I've turned it into something new now, but that wasn't the plan.

 I did finish AR94 - A Maple handled knife - specs to come later...


Pretty sure I'm not going to have many sheaths for the show...