Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 Sales Report (and a Winter Hint!)

Well, it's not "the year in review," but online woodworking sales have all but dried up for the year so it seemed like a good time to sit back with my Sunday morning mug o' coffee, put on my headphones with some classic EM playing, and take a look at where Smile Moon Woodworks is at this point and perhaps make some goals for the coming year too.

But before I do, here's a quick little helpful hint for all you little snowbirds shoveling out from another couple inches every other day this winter: SILICONE SPRAY! I picked up a can of silicone lubricant spray a few years back to help with a sticky handle on the tailgate of my pickup truck. I figured out along the way that it makes a great DIY non-stick surface if you spray it on a snow shovel. Anybody who's done any snow shoveling will tell you the worst part of it is all the snow that sticks to your shovel, making it twice as heavy every time you give another scoop the old heave-ho! Spray the whole surface of the blade before you go out to shovel, and you're all set!

As for the woodworking, by all accounts, it was a pretty successful first year. Without getting into specifics, I'd have to say this year has exceeded my expectations by a long shot. When I first set up shop in March of '08, I'd anticipated that it would help me supplement my craft show sales. The advice I'd been given was simply to make sure I had some sort of an online presence to make sure customers had somewhere to find me for repeat business.

After three craft shows where I barely made my table fees back, I was starting to wonder as to the wisdom of doing this at all, but while the in-person sales were decidedly unimpressive, my online sales were starting to take off. The very first thing I listed on Etsy sold within two days of listing! Then I discovered the Custom feature on Etsy, and that took care of the slower sales periods in the spring and summer when many sellers were closing up shop. At this point, about 14% of my sales volume has been custom work, but it's accounted for nearly 70% of my online woodworking earnings for 2008.

Wooden Travel Soap Box
Now that I'd have to say that Smile Moon Woodworks has been successful (as a garage shop) in 2008, I've got to wonder what would make it better in 2009. I'm not the type to set goals for myself, but if I don't give myself something to shoot for, I don't see it moving beyond where it is now. Therefore, I'm setting fingers to keyboard and making some commitments to myself:

1) Make more stock items for my shop. If nothing else, the Christmas season has taught me to be much better prepared in terms of keeping stock "on the shelves." I ended up making 4 batches of toy swords this year - 3 of which were within a month of Christmas.

Wooden Toy Swords
2) Make a wider variety of things for the shop by creating new listings. I need to examine what sells online in general and at Etsy in particular.

3) Explore and utilize effective advertising. So far, the showcases on Etsy have been a wash, and Majaba ( has been uncertain in reaching potential customers, as opposed to reaching other sellers. This is going to involve finding and examining real web traffic stats and learning about other tools such as adwords, google base, twitter, project wonderful, etc.

4) Participate in really good craft shows. Last spring was pretty poorly attended by all accounts and I don't know too many folks who said they had good shows at that time either. Staying away from the fall shows didn't help my in-person sales, but I was too busy keeping up with the online sales to notice. I'll need to step it up and maintain a presence at both types of venues.

5) Streamline the woodworking process. I need to be looking at things to make my job easier and quicker in the workshop. One way is to make multiples, especially of custom items that have even slight universal appeal. I've had more requests for the custom pill boxes I made back in the summer, for example, and it always brings production costs down to make more than one of anything.

Wooden Pill Box
6) Streamline the packaging process. This process improved 100% over the course of the Christmas selling season, but has a long way to go to justify the absolute minimum I've been charging for "shipping & handling." I got lucky in finding somebody with access to small boxes (that he let me have for nothing!) that worked out really well for my 3-D Wooden Puzzle Cubes, but I need to see about either finding ready-made boxes for those Wooden Toy Swords or at least making up a bunch at a time ahead of time to speed the checkout process somewhat.

3-D Wooden Puzzle Cube
3-D Wooden Puzzle Cube Production
7) Make sure my kids' stuff is going to pass muster when the CPSIA is enacted. Not sure what to do with this one just yet, but I'm going to have to at least familiarize myself with the letter of the law and see what it's going to take. Of course, with all the petitions and talk of possible revisions to the law, who knows where all this will lead?

In addition to all these, I remain committed to my goals of working as "green" as possible, by acquiring and using materials that are cutoffs and leftovers from other jobs or rescued from the trash bin or firewood pile, buying from sources committed to sustainable harvesting when new material is needed, and using finishes that are non-toxic when finishes are called for at all.

Financially, I don't really know how achieving any of these goals will materially contribute to the bottom line, but I know that I'll feel better about the work I'm doing if I know I'm keeping busy and that my customers feel they're continuing to get good value from me. With 12 full months for Smile Moon Woodworks to play with in 2009, I hope I can double my 2008 sales volume and earnings.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Interview with MuffinTop Designs

A brief aside...

Here it is, the end of 2008. Christmas (and other related holiday) shopping is in full swing, and my Etsy shop has been very busy the past month or so now. I'm not sure if things are going to continue to be this brisk for the next couple weeks, but I went ahead and made up another batch of Wooden Toy Swords (almost 60 of them this time) just to be on the safe side, because I've already had three batches sell out within weeks already this fall. I've also had to make up a new batch of 3-D Wooden Puzzle Cubes because my first batch finally ran out on those too.

I can't complain about the extra work, I suppose. I don't know if I could've anticipated the Christmas rush, this being my first year of selling my woodcrafts online. And honestly, I don't think we'd have been able to buy Christmas presents for the kids (nor could I have bought much for Mrs SmileMoon) if it weren't for the success of my shop.

And now, on to the main attraction...

I recently had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Cy, the proprietrix (proprietress? young lady who's in charge?) of Etsy's Muffin Top Designs. After warning me that an overdose of super sugary sugar cookies and the sounds of Dwight Yoakham had the mini-muffin whipping around like crazy (more on that soon), we got down to business...

1. Welcome to The Thoughts of a Poor Woodsman. You look familiar. Where have I seen you before?
well, you may have seen me poking around Etsy - where i have two shops: Muffin Top Designs and Muffin Topsy Turvy and in the Etsy forums! i also have a blog that i'm not too great at updating here, but i'll hopefully get better at it!! you, my dear poor woodsman, have also seen me at a Starbucks in east Toronto!!! Your humble narrator will attest to that!

2. What kind of crafting do you do, and how long have you been at it?
in my past life, i was a fine arts major, but meandered into the world of social services and property management!! however, about 2 years ago, one of my good friends introduced me to the world of beading, and i'm proud to say that i'm a jewelry maker now! i also dabble a little in sock monkey making. i still paint and draw but right now i love making wearable creations out of shiny things.

3. What was the first crafty thing you ever sold? Do you still make that same thing for sale?
i think that the first crafty thing i EVER sold was an acrylic painting that was part of a body of work that i did in university. but i don't do large scale paintings anymore, sigh! i wonder whatever happened to that painting????
this is the first crafty thing that i sold on Etsy - a Glass Bead Lariat Necklace, but i don't work so much with seedbeads anymore. the allure of sterling and fine silver and wire wrapped pretties are my current obsessions!

4. How do you get into the creative zone?
my creative muse is an elusive one. sometimes i sit in my little basement "studio" and create more than i can even handle... other times, weeks can go by without something new. i try to keep my space organized and clean, and i also love browsing on Etsy and the internet for inspiration. also having a full stomach helps.

5. What level of distraction can you put up with while you're working - music, TV, telephone, onlookers?
i absolutely need music or a movie on in the background in order to work! and that goes for both my full time job and my creative one!!!!!! however, i can't tolerate the phone or people looking over my shoulder. it's irritating!!!!! the husband and i have a wonderful basement space where his music equipment is close to my jewelry table - we're close, but not TOO close!

6. Do you have a dedicated crafting area that's forbidden from the rest of the family?
see above. however, i'm one of those people who knows where everything is even though it might not seem like it... once i put something down on my jewelry table, i need to know it will be there when i go back. hence, the husband and i are respectful of each other's spaces. i have caught him running his finger through my beads though!!! i don't know what will happen when our baby arrives though... :)

7. Do you come from a crafty background? Do/did your parents and/or siblings work with their hands like you do?
my sisters and cousins are quite crafty and artsy in their own right... and while none of our parents seem to be outwardly crafty, we've been slowly finding out that there is quite the artistic streak in some of them. my grandfather was a fabulous self-taught furniture maker - he would construct stools out of large cable spools and my grandmother would whip up padded covers for them!

8. What are your crafting goals for the next twelve months?
for 2008, i vowed to learn 10 new crafting/art techniques, which was really fun - and fully documented on my blog! for 2009, i want to take a metalsmithing course before the baby comes - how's that for a goal?????

9. How do you promote your business?
i wish i was better at promoting my business! working full time makes it difficult to get out there as much as i can, but i pass out my business cards as much as i can, blog, am present in the Etsy forums, and talk about what i do to anyone that will listen! perhaps one of my 2009 goals will be to draw up a formal marketing plan... and maybe get some MOO cards made up!

10. What is your most favorite handmade item that you have made?
probably the first sock monkey that i made. when i took it home, the husband immediately claimed it as his own. it was totally endearing.
i also fall in love with my new designs, wear them for a while, and then end up loving something else. i never liked wearing jewelry before, but now i'm quite flighty with my affections!

11. What is your most favorite handmade item that someone else has made?
i have sooo many. bizzielizzie makes the best zipper bags and key fobs and i can't live without them. scabbyrobot made the purse that i now carry. indulgentcreations makes lovely soap and body butters. i also have my eye on your wooden swords... i fully expect the husband and the baby to have tons of sword fights!!!!!!

12. What was your best handcrafted "moment"?
lighting up my butane torch and firing my first piece of precious metal clay at home. there's something to be said about a 1200 degree flame and molten silver. what a rush.

13. What's been the best advice you've received regarding your crafting and/or business?
stick with it and don't give up. things go up and down and as long as you're doing something you love, everything else will follow.

14. How far do you plan to take your craft? Do you envision being able to support yourself at some point down the road?
i am hoping to one day be able to only work part time and be a full time jewelry creator and sock monkey maker. it would be a dream to be able to stay home most of the time to create and take care of my family.

15. Describe yourself in 5 words.
kind, easygoing, creative, dynamic, hungry

...And there you have it! Please support my good friend and fellow artist by checking out her shop!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Using Google Base to Increase your Business Exposure

I only just this past week added my Etsy listings to google base. I made sure I followed the many tutorials that several fellow etsians have provided in the various forum threads - much appreciated. Let's Ets is a particularly good place to start.

One thing that I hadn't seen discussed was some of the important Contact and Payment information that can be added. If you leave those information blocks alone, then folks won't know that you accept Paypal or RME, for instance. Assuming you've already got your Etsy store items (or any items you're selling, regardless of your online store representation) listed in google base, go to the Settings Tab (the link works only if you're already signed into Google Base), then make sure you're in the Base Settings section. Toward the bottom of the page, under the blue heading for "New Items", you'll see subheadings for "Contact," "Location," and "Payment."

Editing "Contact" will allow you to set up your contact email and/or phone number. Click OK afterward.

Editing "Location" will allow you to insert where you're located, which gets translated to one of those little Google maps - cool! Again, click OK afterward.

Editing "Payment" will show folks what you accept for payment. Here's the rub: it only shows check, cash, wire transfer, and the major credit cards. There's nothing under the standard choices for money orders, Paypal, or Revolution Money Exchange (RME). There's a box for Notes, though - use it! And once again, click OK afterward.

Here's the final step, and it's important: be sure to click the "Save Changes" button at the bottom of the page! I forgot the first time, navigated away, then came back to find out I had to remember what I did the first time so I could re-enter it.

This time of year, I'm after all the marketing and advertising help I can get! I hope this helps you, too...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Home from School and the Joys of Rocky Horror

Our oldest daughter came home from school for the weekend. At her school, there are a number of students who live far enough away that they can't go to their own homes for the Thanksgiving holiday, so we had one of them stay with us as well. She was very pleasant to have around and my lovely wife enjoyed having an extra daughter on hand, too.

Of course, my daughter knows she needs to be earning a bit of scratch while she's home from school (next semester's books ain't exactly buying themselves, y'know), so she'd signed up to work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during her "time off." As I write this, we're getting a dusting of wet snow and she's on her third day in a row of work while on vacation. To her credit, she hasn't grumbled too much. She's lucky in that her summer job employer welcomed her back during her school breaks.

The working while on break's not too far off of what I've been doing with the woodworking during my own holiday time off. One of the first things I did was make up a new project for sale in my Etsy shop. It's a Holiday Star Wooden Tea Light Candle Holder:

It was ready just in time for the Thanksgiving Day feast we had here at the house (with 22 people in attendance). One of those in attendance was my sister, who celebrated (or probably tried to ignore) her 41st birthday earlier in the week. She saw a pair of the candle holders on the table and complimented me on them. I said "You like those? They're for you - happy birthday!" Then she proceeded to tell me what else she likes of mine... I guess it'd be safe to say they went over with her fairly well.

As I recall from being a college kid (and this is a stretch since I'm so very old, right?), one of the best parts about being on break is getting together with your friends from town again. My daughter had a few friends over to the house last night and after all the giggling at inside jokes, they sat down to watch Rocky Horror Picture Show - another step in the rite of passage that is getting through college. Since our home DVD player is busted at the moment, they gathered around the nearest widescreen laptop to watch.

Now, something I recall about watching Rocky Horror as a kid young adult was going to the theater (without a clue of what I was in for) and slowly figuring out for myself why people were squirting water pistols during outdoor rainy scenes, why rolls of toilet paper were being thrown at the screen ("Great Scott!"), and why everyone declared the actors were eating meat loaf for dinner; none of which my daughter or friends had even a clue about! One of the more enjoyable things I did as a college student at UConn was to present the film on campus as part of a fund raiser. When an ameteur acting troupe out of the New Haven, Connecticut area heard we were presenting the film, they asked if they could perform on the floor during the showings. I was naïve enough to say 'yes', but it turned out to be a highlight of the presentations.

Something else I recall about Rocky Horror was trying to relive the theater experience on a home theater VCR, only to discover that certain movies just do not translate well to the living room. Rocky Horror being first among them. The girls had their giggles while watching some of the racier stuff in the movie the other night, but they simply had no clue about the rest. They definitely missed out on the better 70% of the fun of going to "the show"!!

Coming up in my next installment: an interview with Etsy's MuffinTop Designs!
Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Idle Hands and Idol Worship

A long time ago, a good friend of mine turned me on to some music, the likes of which I'd never known existed. We were at his mom's apartment after school one day back in 1981 or so, and he had put on an LP without showing me the cover. It turned out to be 'Oxygene' by Jean Michel Jarre, and it absolutely blew my mind! Over the ensuing years, we became the best of friends and hunted down albums of electronic music to share with each other. He'd find LPs by Vangelis, Klaus Schulze and Michael Garrison, I'd find albums by Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, Edgar Froese, and Synergy. We taped each other's collections (as well as our own, because you just didn't want to take that chance that your kid brother or sister was going to take out your LPs when you weren't home and use them as frisbees for the dog to chase).

We made it through college, or whatever passed for higher learning, and moved out into the real world. He moved into it a bit quicker than I did, go-getter that he was. I ended up getting married and sprouting children a lot quicker. Sooner rather than later, my disposable income was now necessary, so the additions to the LP collection became fewer and further between. Of course, LPs were starting to see serious competition from CDs, so it wasn't long before there weren't many LPs to be had anyway. But I digress...

Back at the end of the 80s, when Tangerine Dream was recognizable enough of a name here in the States to be able to mount a 30 to 40 city tour and realize a profit, I decided it was time to meet the man behind the band, Edgar Froese. At this time, I'd already amassed about 50 LPs by him and his band, had written to them and received press kits and autographed photos of the band's members, and was, in short, a bit of a fanboy. I figured it was high time I met my idol.

I discovered the phone number and contact for the label Tangerine Dream was signed to at the time, called her up, gave her my name and told her I was a college kid working for the campus radio station with an assignment to conduct an interview for airplay. About the only part of this that wasn't a big fat lie, of course, was my name. After getting my brother-in-law (who WAS a campus radio station DJ) to sign off some sort of credentials on my behalf, and submitting a list of potential questions, I was approved for the interview.

By phone.

"Uh-uh", I remember telling the label rep. "I want to conduct this interview in person." I already had tickets in hand to see the band perform in Boston, so why not get together before the show and do it then? After a bit of hemming and hawing on her part, we agreed. I ended up sitting down with Edgar Froese and a tape recorder for about 20 minutes, going over his views on music technology (presaging by about 10 to 15 years the advent of compact flash drives), analogue vs digital instruments, and several other such inanities as he's covered in countless better interviews conducted by folks a lot less gormless than yours truly.

Following the interview, my brother-in-law and I strolled over to Newberry Comics and found a rare Tangerine Dream CD that I just had to add to my collection. Meanwhile, I think my extremities felt somewhat numbed at the excitement of it all. We had the privilege of meeting the full band backstage after the show as well. I also traded a transcription of the interview for a membership in the Tangerine Dream North American Network, some members of which made me seem quite casual about the whole thing by comparison.

Eventually, the editor of the Network's newsletter must've had a falling out with Edgar's management or something because the direction of the newsletter went from covering all things having to do with the band to covering everything close to the band but not the band itself. Yeah, odd, I thought. One particular band the editor had become very fond of during this transition was an electronic music band from the UK with the strangest sounding name I'd ever encountered, considering the music they played: Radio Massacre International. Shame on me - it was years before I actually found anything of theirs to listen to. And what a revelation it was for me, too! Unfortunately, much of their music is privately pressed, meaning it's recorded to CDR and distributed through limited channels til the supply runs out, then it's 'tough luck, Charlie.'

The connection was made for me a few years later, when upon listening to a BBC recording of Tangerine Dream live at the Royal Albert Hall in 1975 (and incredible recording if you can get ahold of it!), I heard the radio announcer mention that the concert was being broadcast from the vaults at the request of one Steve Dinsdale - - who, as it turns out, is a member of RMI. I guess I wasn't the only fanboy out there after all. I'm glad Steve did that, though. What a great recording! And an obvious inspiration to his band in their formative years.

And even though RMI has played various shows in the US at least four times over the past several years, I have yet to get out to see them. I kick myself, too, because they're right up there among my all-time faves now, right alongside Redshift...

...but they're a subject for another day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Etsy Members are the Best

I find myself this evening in the Holiday Inn Express in Toronto - or one of them anyway. There may be a half dozen of them in this city for all I know. It's the first time I've been to Toronto, but the purpose is the same as it's been for a while: I'm here to try and sell machinery for cutting, grinding, and polishing synthetic and natural diamond for industrial purposes - it's my day job, as it's been for three years now. Of course, with the US economy in the tank and taking every other nation's economy with it, Canada's automotive sector is having just as much trouble as America's. There are a few bright spots - companies that diversified into more than automotive, companies that deal with the Japanese automakers (who don't seem to be quite so hard hit (yet)), and companies that were never heavily invested in automotive to begin with. I'm hoping my travel schedule puts me in touch with more of them than the ones who are laying off most of their workforce, but I'll know better by the end of the week how that works out.

But more to the point of the title of this particular entry. I decided I'd check out who among the Etsians I've been in touch with in the various forums might live somewhere along the way between Connecticut and Toronto. [I got together on the way up with my best friend from high school, but that's a story for another day.] I've found that many of us in the Etsy forums have expressed an interest in meeting up with other members of the forums because we all seem to get along so well. I know that other web board members get together fairly frequently. I'm also a member of the boards and live in a constant state of jealousy of the friendships that have been forged first-hand through meetings at the numerous bashes held all over the UK. A number of b3tans have pledged that they'll have a bash in my honor, should I ever make it across the pond again, and I plan to hold them to it! They're a great bunch, and I'd love to meet them all!

As for Etsians on this particular trip, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the proprietor of Muffintop Designs, who lives in the Toronto area, for coffee, before starting out to conduct the business of the day. This is the first time I've met up with somebody from the forums (I've met a customer or two as well as other sellers in the Connecticut area before), and it was a rare treat! Never has a morning coffee gone by so quickly! We both left with the feeling that we could've talked all day and not exhausted the subjects of conversation: selling on Etsy, selling at craft shows, our day jobs, our families, our pets, our spouses, what led us to do this crazy thing and how we've overcome inherent shyness to put ourselves out there and proudly spread out our wares to show the world that we enjoy creating! What a blast! She also has an entertaining and informative blog, so please support her as well and check it all out!

As for my own Etsy shop, I'm considering listing a bunch of "seconds" from the last batch of swords I made up. See, I had purchased a whole bunch of wood from a friend of mine from back when I used to live in North Carolina many moons ago. Oddly, some of it turned out to be wormy, which is sometimes okay if that's a characteristic you're looking for in, say, flooring for a converted farmhouse, but may not necessarily be desirable in a toy sword you'd want to get your kids for Christmas (unless your little pirate likes pretending he was a member of the worm-ridden undead crew aboard the Black Pearl). Am I wrong about this? I don't know - here's a photo of the swords in question:

Anyway, I was thinking of listing them at half price and seeing how they do. They'll still be sanded smooth, and woodburning a personalization is still free, so it's not a bad deal by any stretch. In the meantime, I think it's time to head to the lumber yard and find some poplar that's a little more solid for the next batch of swords. We'll see...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's starting to get c-c-cold

So I started out promising to keep this up on a weekly basis, and it's been - what, over 6 weeks! - since my last post. Pretty smooth!

So, what's been happening since my last post, you ask? As it happens, a lot! Let's see - there was my high school 25th reunion, my oldest daughter's been back home a few times since we sent her off to school, half of my boys have had their soccer season come & go, Halloween's cavalcade of candy greed has fueled all the kids into hyperdrive, and I've been on the road a few times, too (Utah, Massachusetts, and New York, with more Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Ontario yet to come in the next couple weeks). My trip into Massachusetts and New York last week saw the last remnants of autumn's firey maples and rusty oaks dusted with the first of the early winter's snow. It was like coloring on a clean white sheet of paper.

Calvin chasing down a soccer ball

The west side of the Berkshires with an autumn dusting of snow

Halloween carvings

My reunion reintroduced me to a good friend I hadn't even spoken with since graduation. All I knew was that he'd gone into the Navy afterward. Talking with him the other night unearthed some territory I must've subliminally put right out of my mind many years ago. Suffice it to say, I hadn't given my friend nearly enough credit for his role in helping me achieve a somewhat normal existence in high school. Thank you, Charlie.

The big highlight for me this past month and a half was the completion of a woodworking commission of sorts, involving the fabrication of wooden fan blades for Urban Archaeology in Brooklyn, NY who, among other things, upgrades ceiling fans by customizing the metal finish on the motor housings, then adding either red oak, quarter sawn white oak, mahogany, or teak fan blades to them. It's probably fairly obvious where I came into the picture, I suppose, but I have to admit to being completely stoked to having finished the project on-time and on-budget. For a hobby-gone-bad, that's a major accomplishment. It wasn't as crafty as the projects I get into in my shop on Etsy, but it'll help put oil in my tank this winter!

I was also featured in an interview at The Downtown Boutique a couple weeks ago, and am currently featured in Vicki Diane's Artists of Etsy Exposed Series. Downtown Boutique's giveaway is over, but the interview is still a decent read (if I do say so myself!). Vicki Diane's feature, however, expires Tuesday morning at 9:06 AM, so check it out before it goes! [Once it's gone, it's gone!]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Card Display for JMcGuinness of Etsy

First off, I've got to admit that I'm particularly fond of the way this project came out. I know last week I was all about how cool I thought the Prayer Box had turned out, and I'm still very down with that, but I think this card display came out oh-so-much-cooler than its predecessor (which you can check out here).

Jen of Etsy's JMcGuinness came over to the house tonight after work to pick up the card display and was kind enough to let me get some "action shots" of the finished card display with her photo greeting cards in the spaces. What a great combination:

Jen's promised me she'll get me a shot of the card display in action at one of her next shows, which are going to be:
- September 20-21: Meet the Artists and Artisans at the Milford (CT) Green. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- October 4-5: Celebrate Wallingford (CT). Fishbein Park at the railway station green. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

If you're going to be in the area, you should stop by to check out her amazing cards and photography.

In other happenings, I was able to get my college-bound daughter's laptop working after finally getting Dell to part with a replacement hard drive. Mind you, this was after following their instructions to send the unit in to their service technicians following about 8 hours of working with their customer service reps over the phone. Would you believe they had me send in the laptop to be serviced and all they did was run a diagnostic check on the motherboard and processor - yet they did NOTHING with the hard drive, even though it was right in their hands?!! And can you guess where the problem lay the whole time?!! Argh!!

But all was fine after that. I was able to get all of the essentials loaded on before delivering it safely to her the following evening. She treated me to a delicious dorm dinner and I proceeded to entertain her new-found friends with showing them how we play "see-food" back home and regaling them with tales of how she used to ride her tricycle naked around the kitchen when she was three years old. Good times, good times...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Missed the Party, but It's More Fun at Home

Did you ever have one of those nights where you're calling all your friends and nobody's home? Only to find out the next day that you missed the best party ever?

That's what I'm feeling like right now. Not in a personal sense, but professionally. See, besides turning wood into sawdust as a hobby gone bad, I sell equipment for cutting, grinding and polishing polycrystalline industrial diamond for a living. And it's a good thing I don't work on a commission basis or I'd be shriveled up to a hollow husk right about now. The point I'm making though, is that while I'm here in my office attempting to call potential and prospective customers, most of these folks are at a tool show that's so big it only happens every other year.

So why aren't I there too? Basically, sales are so slow for us this year (as they are for very many of our associates, as I understand), we simply can't afford to go. Soooo, here I sit trying to look busy while there's nobody to talk to and try to sell stuff to.

On the lighter side, Smile Moon Woodworks has never been healthier. I've got a custom request I'm working on right now for JMcGuinness of, who's a very talented photographer. She and her husband turn some of their photos into greeting cards, and asked me to make a display case for them for local shows. This is actually the second such display I've made for them, the first one looking something like this:

The larger display is still in its infancy, but I'll post photos of it once it's done.
I recently finished a piece for MrsAgard of, and if I may so, I think it's one of the nicest pieces I've put together in a long time. She'd requested a prayer box with a removable lid with a cross on it and a slot in the lid for dropping prayer requests into. Here's how it turned out:

Prayer Box

Prayer Box

The box was made of 1/2" thick red oak for the sides, 3/4" red oak for the top and bottom, and 7/8" thick rock maple for the cross. Finished size was about 8" long by 6" wide by 5" tall. I finished it with several coats of clear lacquer.

There's a lot more woodworking on the way, too. Oh, and that frinking laptop I told you about last time? Still not straightened out! The fine folks at Dell are one more problem away from being told to kiss my big black butt!! Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Broken Bones and Broken Homes

As these journals accumulate, I think the one word that’ll crop up in almost every one is "hectic." It’s the one word that consistently describes my life, and my family’s. For instance, my oldest daughter has been preparing all week to head off to college - yay, class of 2012! One of the things that needed doing was to purchase a laptop so she’d be able to check all her facebook activities while at school since she wouldn’t have the home desktop computer to use anymore. I checked the paperwork that accompanied some of the scholarship checks she’d gotten at the end of her high school career and found that the money could be spent on a computer, among all the other necessary things like tuition, housing, meal plans, books, etc., which is a darn good thing since this poor woodsman can't afford to be running out and buying new comuters at the drop of a graduate's mortar.

We decided to go with a Dell laptop running Windows XP; first, because a friend had suggested Dell’s refurbished computer department on their website; and second, because Windows Vista is still reported to have far too many problems to stick with my kid where I’m not around to help out with the thing. Besides, I’ve been running a Dell laptop with Windows XP for nearly three years now and have had little trouble to speak of to date. We got the computer in on Tuesday and she couldn’t wait to open it. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the patience to go through the little Q&A at the beginning, and I suspect she simply shut the unit off without doing anything to actually get it started properly.

Before I go any further with that tale, however, allow me to mention that as I was on my way home from ye old day job on Tuesday, I’d gotten a call from my dear wife to say that she was on her way to the emergency clinic a couple towns over to bring one of our boys in to get x-rayed because she suspected he’d broken his arm while playing kickball down at the circle at the end of our street. Needless to say, I was not in any state of mind to deal with the computer issue that night. By the time they’d gotten home from the clinic, it was discovered that my boy had indeed broken the radial bone in his right arm. And as if that weren’t enough, he’d ALSO broken the radius bone in his LEFT arm! That’s right - my son’s got two broken arms the week before school starts! Amazingly, he was in very good spirits coming back home, complaining only of throbbing in his arms from having to wear splints under Ace Bandages overnight. He got real casts the following day, and has not complained at all about it since. On the contrary, he’s set up his brother’s drum upstairs in their bedroom and plays it with his casts. He was shopping for back-to-school supplies the other day with his mother and she told me he was strumming up and down the grille of the shopping cart with the casts too, as if it were a xylophone! And you should see all the names he’s collected on the casts, too.

Moving ahead to the end of the week now, and dealing with my home-breaking college-bound daughter again, I started to dive into the new computer so we could work out any bugs ahead of time. It became apparent very early in the registration and Q&A process that something was decidedly wrong with this unit. It took me nearly an hour just to get the computer to boot up and make it through the basic Q&A (what’s your name, what time zone are you in, do you want to set up an internet account, etc). I explored what I could, but didn’t see anything obvious, and at 2 GB of RAM and 2 GHz of processor speed, this thing should have been (on paper, at least) the fastest computer in the house! It took me another hour or two to load on the Norton Anti-Virus we bought to keep things from getting all virus-y later on. Without getting too deep into the tech support fiascos that ensued, suffice it to say I’ve put in at least 12 hours trying to get the computer to operate normally, and Dell technicians have devoted at least 5 hours from their end trying to help me with it, and I’m no closer to having an actual operating computer than if it was still sealed in the box.

As you may have guessed by now, the computer did not accompany my daughter to college this afternoon. In fact, between my day job and trying to get that computer running, I hadn’t had any time to devote to Smile Moon Woodworking all week. I grabbed a couple hours very early this morning, though, and put the finishing touches on a project I was working on for a school teacher to help her determine whose papers to collect during class. I present here for your inspection, The Wheel of Misfortune:

It’s a miniature version of your standard carnival wheel with a little flapper up top that hits all the little nails on their way past to slow down the wheel and stop it on a given field. It’s up to her to customize the fields at this point. I can’t wait to hear back to see how it’s received by her students! Hopefully, her colleagues will see it and think of other crazy things they’d like for their classrooms as well! Here’s hoping...

Monday, August 25, 2008

First Draft

Many folks will go off and do something rash after downing a fifth of Jack or a case of beer. I decided to start this blog after half a pint of Ben & Jerry's (Peanut Butter Cup, if you're keeping track), and several months of seeing how many of the better sellers do it on I'd been indifferent to the whole weblog phenomenon for years, but many folks seem to manage a great deal of friendships here, and that can only help one's hobby, business, opinions, or deep thoughts get noticed. A little bit of exposure never hurt anyone (unless they were exploring the arctic), so I decided to come here and expose myself. Hello, my name is Jeffrey, and I hope you'll enjoy this.

So what's the point of me having a blog? Whysoever would anybody subject themselves to the muttered musings and random ramblings of somebody who bills himself as a poor woodsman?
Beyond the blatant commercial aspects of maintaining a blog for the purposes of driving folks to my storefront at, I also enjoy photography (which you'll see examples of in future posts), listen to copious amounts of electronic music (which I'll provide links to in future posts), create interesting and occasionally useful things through woodworking (which you'll find examples of at my Etsy storefront and in photos I post occasionally here as well), and I've heard it said that I have a sense of humor (which may or may not be in abundant evidence here).

You'll sometimes find links to other sellers on Etsy who've become e-friends of mine over the course of my tenure there, links to websites of interest to me and the two or three of you who share similar interests, and links to other blogs of particular interest for whatever reasons. Of course, I'm trying to leave things pretty wide open for myself so I won't find myself pigeon-holed a couple months into this, but we'll just see how it goes. For now, though, I bid you welcome to read my journal and enjoy what you find. Don't expect to discover the vaccine for Polio here (Jonas Salk already covered that) or the answer to life and everything (okay, it's 42), but if there's anything worth commenting on (besides my poor grasp on the rules against the use of dangling participles), feel free to do so!

Oh, and for the record, I would've eaten the entire pint of Ben & Jerry's, but I was starting to get that buzzing feeling I get in the back of my jaw, right behind my molars, that tells me, 'You've had enough, son. Step awaaaay from the ice cream.'