Monday, May 11, 2009

Ebonizing Timber: Wattle

Here is a sample of wattle, also left overnight to soak in ebonizing solution. Not an outstanding example of ebonizing but creates an interesting effect nonetheless.

Wishing you a productive weekend...

Ebonizing Timber: Merbau

This is an offcut of (I believe) Merbau decking, also known as Kwila. This is a species known for high tannin content which would explain the very strong reaction seen in the ebonized sample. This piece was soaked overnight in a jar of ebonizing solution.

Wishing you a productive weekend...

Ebonizing Timber: Tasmanian Oak

The Tasmanian Oak reacted quickly wherever the solution was able to soak into the grain of the wood. This sample was simply dipped into the ebonizing solution, allowed to air dry and the process repeated.

Wishing you a productive weekend...

Ebonizing Timber: Can you ebonize bamboo?

Apparently not, at least not with the rust+vinegar method. In both photos, the piece of bamboo

on the left is the control sample (original state), the piece on the right has been soaked overnight in ebonizing solution - virtually no change took place.

If you have had success with another method please share it via comments!

One of the things I like about the ebonizing process is that you get a pretty fair indication of how reactive the timber is within a few minutes. Any timber that gets noticeably darker after a quick brush with ebonizing solution is going to go very dark with a thorough soaking or repeated brush applications.

Wishing you a productive weekend...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

AlphaInventions - the blog network grows

Overnight 'a productive weekend' was polled by - a little site that updates instantly and continually with published blogs to encourage instant commenting and feedback. Worth a look, if only to try your hand at speedreading.

Wishing you a productive weekend...

Are you being too cheap on yourself?

Skilled Do-It-Yourselfers achieve their end results at zero cost so often that it starts to become a habit. A good friend of mine actually has a "zero cost policy" - when a job falls under this category we are only allowed to work on it with materials we already happen to have lying around or that we collect by the side of the road during council cleanup time.

I am not disputing thriftiness. If you are making things to make do on a tight budget, then power to you. Necessity is the mother of invention. However, if making things is your hobby which brings you pleasure, perhaps you should consider spending a little more on it.

A classic example of being too cheap are homebrewers. Early on in the career of every homebrewer, the urge is there to work out exactly how much it is costing to make a bottle of beer. Many people try homebrewing because they are told how much money they will save. But realistically, if you value your time at all, its still probably cheaper to seek out low quality alcohol at a discount liquor barn. If there are reasons for doing this beyond cost, such as personal fulfillment, pride, learning a new craft and so on, then why should they be valued so cheaply that we use low quality ingredients to save a few cents. In fact, in homebrewing and elsewhere, it is relatively easy to make a very high quality product with medium financial outlay that will make you the envy of your friends. For a few extra dollars you can upgrade yourself from making the cheapest beer in town to making the best beer in town.

If you can give your hobby enough cash to get the right tools and supplies you will flourish at it. If you can't afford it, maybe you need a cheaper hobby, or smaller specialisation.

Wishing you a productive weekend...

Making Money out of your Hobby

Visit any country town in Australia and somewhere you'll find a few items from the local woodturner for sale - usually priced under $20 and gathering dust. As often as not, the craftmanship is excellent and the finish is flawless. Yet these items seem to sell like used VHS tapes - that is, not well.

Knitted tea cosies and baby booties always seem to find their market, but for sake of argument lets assume you don't plan to trade your lathe or table saw for knitting needles just yet. A few ideas some of my associates have kicked around recently:

1. Make BIG things
One correspondent reports his breakthrough came when he started making large items which psychologically people thought must cost more. They were happy to pay hundreds of dollars for a big item of common furniture. In contrast, would the average customer in a gift store have any idea about the number of hours you have invested in an intricate item.

2. Do custom jobs
If your work is of a high standard, most people wouldn't know if it was mass produced or not. On the other hand, if they are involved in the design process, and the finished item is customised to their exact requirements (including things like engraving a name on a gift item) they will naturally expect to pay a lot more.

3. Tell your story
Even if its not a custom job, you can distance yourself from cheap imports by telling your story. By providing some information about the item, who made it, materials used etc, you make the item more interesting and you increase the likelihood of connecting with the shopper. Unless you tell your story, your produce will be just one of many similar items.

4. Put your prices up
One of the anomalies of economics, some things sell more when prices rise because people assume they must be worth it. This also leaves room for a smart shopkeeper to do some negotiation and have the buyer thinking they are getting the bargain of the century.

5. Keep Experimenting
Whatever your market is, you will eventually find it if you keep adapting your offering. If nobody wants to buy turned wooden pens, its a compelling reason to stop making them and try something else.

One of the benefits of not trying to make money out of your hobby is that you can make whatever you like and not care a damn about what the market is willing to pay for. If you do decide to use your hobby to raise a bit of cash, suddenly you are in the business of making other people happy and you inherit everything that comes with that.