Just before breaking up for Christmas I had some generous feedback from a customer regarding some garage doors we made and installed. The email read;
Just want to say a huge thank you to you and your team for making the doors to my barn. They do look great and have made a big difference to the warmth of the kitchen. The doors make a difference to the look of the building and they have created a new area which for many years has been an open space.
Last night my wife found me sitting in the barn with a beer and asked what was I doing to which I responded, "admiring the new doors!" I stayed in the barn for 2 more beers.
Have a relaxing Christmas and enjoy the family time and once again a huge thank you and do pass on my thanks to those involved.
It's always great to hear this and very encouraging. It made me reflect for a moment and decided it could be useful to have a quick overview of how we get from initial inquiry to finished product. In this instance we had a call from the client who came via a recommendation, we then typically visit site, discuss what's required and take some basic sizes. Back at the office we'll then design the item and submit a drawing and proposal for consideration.
Clearly we don't win them all, but thankfully this time our proposal was accepted. We then make another trip to site and complete an accurate survey and iron out any design issues. A deposit invoice and a purchase order is then sent to the client. At this point it is critical the client reads the purchase order, looks at the design and understands it. I never have an issue with further questions at this point from our clients. They are committing themselves to a substantial investment and another hour of discussion is never wasted if it leads to a clear understanding.
We then book in the work an indicate a projected completion date. Often we can hit out dates with a degree of accuracy, however! In this case we were unable to keep to our projected completion time. Perhaps having an open door policy where a client can arrange to come in and see their project underway creates a degree of reassurance, and allows us some flexibility if a bespoke project takes a little longer or staff fall unwell, etc. We made the client aware and they were very understanding of which we were very grateful for.
When the joinery is finished, and coatings are applied we install on site. Most often our own joiners install our work, this gives us a more complete control over what and how things are done. There are times when we need to return to site after installing, on this occasion it was to adjust the action of a bolt and ease and edge of the door. Again, in this instance the client deserves credit. Too often people can loose site that wood is hygroscopic, in Devon this tendency to adsorb water, will at times mean items of joinery will require attention. And in this case on large garage doors it was little surprise. So there you have it, thanks again to our client. Without good clients you'll seldom do good work!
There is often an interesting discussion about exactly what "hand made" means. I'm not going to delve into that can of worms too deeply but I'd wager most people have a romantic view of no power tools being used. I think there are very few, if any working in that way, although many like to lean heavily on the term "hand made" for various reasons. The tightrope most craftspeople work is using wisely the tools at their disposal while not undermining the unique skill required to make things.
As an example the stair strings used in my current project were prepared using machines the edge glued sections were leveled with my smoothing plane. I could of set up a sander but the reality of small and bespoke projects is you need to work smart. For anyone considering a career in modern Joinery or Carpentry you'll need to master both hand and power tools if you want to be really effective. Personally I've always enjoyed using hand tools the most and I think they should be the first group of tools to be understood, followed by fixed machines with power tools coming in last. However they all have a lot to offer and no group can be neglected.
Stairs are a really exciting project and we really enjoy the variation on designs we get to deal with from our clients. In the next few blog post I'll give an overview of some steps involved in making a set of winding stairs. This particular flight will be in hardwood with a few interesting details on the handrail. The first task is to set out the stairs to ensure the rise and going comply with building regulations and also they'll fit into the hole left on site for them to fit into. It's not unusual to find that the space left on site is far to small! We don't have CNC machines at our workshop yet so we set out complex areas, full size, on a setting out rod.
Especially when working on stairs with clear finishes, exposing the grain, I surface plane the strings to see what I'm working with. Even though it would be easier to handle the string cut into shorter pieces I'd much prefer sweating a little more at this point to enable me to discover the true beauty of the wood below. It also enables one to move any areas with a hint of defect to hidden areas such as wall strings or the underside of the staircase.
Even with the benefit of a robust and modern planer/thicknesser, preparing the stock is hard work and soon fills the extractor. I think the extractor is one one of the most wonderful machines in our workshop. I'd hate to work in a environment full of dust and mess, a good quality extractor, independently inspected every 14 Months is an absolute must in a professional workshop. Next time out I look forward to sharing some of the joinery used withing the making of the stairs.
As you might of noticed it's been quiet on the blog since October last year. The reason being is I've been lucky enough to write a weekly blog post for Popular Woodworking Magazine. I'm delighted to be be writing for them. The Editor Megan Fitzpatrick has been excellent and given me a great deal of room, I can pretty much write about whatever is on my mind. Sadly for her she has the task of trying to make anything I write make sense. Anyone reading this blog will sadly have to put up with my average grasp of English!
It's been great to have people commenting on what I write and I'm thankful for anyone who has shared their thoughts with me whether at Popular Woodworking or here on this blog. I personally feel it's important to respond to comments and if I ever miss one I am sorry!
I take nothing for granted though and if I was asked to stop I would do so with no ill feeling. If anyone had said to me when I started work in the late 1990's that I would be sharing my thoughts on woodworking via the internet on an American magazines website my response would of been "what is the internet". I've been aware how woodworking is woven into the minds of many people from this island but I never anticipated how just how vibrant and varied the American passion for all things woodworking is. I think it's fair to say that the woodworkers on that continent have contributed massively to the progression and enhancement of woodworking.
However I've decided I need to write some more content for this blog as I still have the urge to share things that interest me here too. The photo above gives a hint of what's going to be happening. I want to try and stand back from the bench a little and see what's going on in a Joinery workshop of today. I'm hoping that will give a nice contrast to my efforts for Popular Woodworking.