Time to clean up the showroom and reclaim some badly needed space. We have moved on to a new nesting table design, as sweet as this one is. The old design had over 35 distinct parts for a set, just too many when we usually made one order at a time. One set sold immediately and we still have this Cherry setfor $800 (was $1200).. The inlaid leather is actually dark brown on the available set. Here is a link to the listing in out catalog.
But I sure am glad that Amy just had to have one and it had to be made by us. As anything new, it was a total learning experience on what force vectors it generates (as the mechanism swings up the attachment points exert a strange twist and pull so we had to engineer bracing exposto assembly. Their mattress was a super light model and closing the bed requires a bit more force than with a standard queen mattress of 70 lbs. Clearances between the hardware and the bed structure can actually be quite small,. I had predicted more play in the mechanism, requiring more slop in the fit. And as with all beds the entire bed is break down. Even broken down the load in for all these parts was memorable, especially the last step at the bottom!
The next step (after we complete the headboard and hanging side tables) is another design iteration, this time with all elements and bracing sized as just needed, and some styling incorporated. A headboard and hanging night stand/shelves will be made also. The completed project will be posted here and become a catalog item.
I am proud to be a party of our community effort to create the Sylvia Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Bellingham. For those of you who have been here awhile its in the old Cascade laundry building. next to the Whatcom Museum (old city hall). Its the old building with the full wall mural with a salmon on it.
Our share in the project is the ticket booth at the entrance, and phase one (out of four) went in yesterday. A superstructure will go on top of this main base, and the work station then bar will extend off to the left.
The opening was last night the 10th, and the 48 hour theater festival is playing this Friday and Saturday where randomized teams are given a then write and produce a ten minute play in 24 hours. They do it twice, hence the 48 hours.
The ticket booth units are all in Quartersawn White Oak with a lightly tinted natural finish. Counter tops are solid White Oak.
Mote pictures as we complete this community project!
Recently I had an inquiry from a marketer with suggestions of what they could do for us. It made some assumptions that we were just another furniture manufacturer, so My reply gave a basic framework which also seems to reply to many of your questions.
" I am not looking for more dealers. We are buried with direct retail customers coming to me. Having gone down the wholesale route for 38 years I can say with absolute clarity I'm not interested in additional retailers when I can sell direct and have a relationship with the customers directly.
I do not stock my dealers with inventory- they pay for their floor models. Last year I lost money when two retailers closed. They were limited to prepaid terms (because of their history of not meeting N30 credit terms) and managed to pay for a few loads with bad checks. Retailers have been nothing but razor thin cash flow punctuated with non-payment so at this point in my life I'm not pursuing that avenue. I am only staying with the few that have proven themselves to be stellar both in paying their obligations and rewarding to work with. I prefer to stay with the Dealers who pay their bills and do not constantly try to dicker me down on every little detail. This business of making such high quality furniture is a touchy business to make work, and the reason we are still here through thick and thin is by not borrowing money, demanding that every action we take creates a useful and proper outcome, and making conservative business decisions.
We are very Lean and only build to order. We do not have finished inventory outside of a few showroom items. I discovered the sensible concept of Lean decades ago before it became a buzzword in North America; that inventory is a killer, both in payroll and materials cost as well as the floor space to store it. When exclusively a manufacturer (of my own designs and products) one of our crucial attributes was keeping to a strict a six week lead time. However now that our product mix is huge and we are recognized as the unique craftsman we have always been, a strict lead time is often viewed suspiciously. As if we really aren't craftsman but instead pulling from a container, which couldn't be farther from reality. We simply have such a well organized operation from those decades that we know how to do it. I speak daily with people who are dubious that we are as "real" as those defunct retailers and wonder if our quality is as good as what was in the stores. Amusing, because the furniture they sold was my design, made by my shop, and the retailers were sometimes asking me to dumb down the product so as to result in a lower price to them.
Many people think our customers have tons of money and don't care about price. I am always amazed and impressed at the houses we put furniture into. Sure, some are palaces, but most often they are quite ordinary looking where warmth and taste is more important than size or opulence. They are people with values of quality and craftsmanship, and almost always pay close attention to the prices whether they need to or not. They are a pretty great bunch, endlessly interesting.
What does the future hold? Difficult to say. I'm 63 with no inclination to stop running this operation I love. Nonetheless at some point someone will need to appear on the scene to continue the legacy. My peers all have the same problem with finding new blood. There need be someone with the desire to become a working component of all this, who will focus on the years required to learn the craft, focus on the work and sacrifice to keep things humming, and focus on our relationship with customers and their diverse desires to participate in this creative endeavor. What is needed is excitement at what can be created, the discipline to learn what is needed, and letting go of the perceived unfairness of expending more time and energy than other people get away with in their lives. In short participation, excited creativity and relationship which asks for more than mere attendance.
That's all for today. I need to go attend to the shop now, Greg"
Assembly of Cherry Dresser 60" x 30" tall
I have often thought it is too bad that our case joinery is hidden inside unseen. So often today even high end cases are put together in a simple manner, relying on pocket screws or biscuits, or in the case of kitchen cabinets, glue and nails.
Steve needed a hand with the long clamps and many pieces so I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures. Warning- this blog post is long! I have problems limiting myself when talking about building furniture.
The next photo shows a side panel freshly assembled and ready to go onto the main case.
Face gluing alone is not adequate for our standards even though we use boat building epoxy as an adhesive. The strength of Aliphatic Resin (woodworking or "Elmers" glue) glue is inadequate due to its brittleness and inability to adjust to varying fits. We only use Apiphatic resin glue on bent and edge laminations.
Granted, epoxy will not disassemble, but who is disassembling our furniture? And why would it need to be dissassembling? These joints hold well past the strength of the wood. In other words run over the case with a forklift and broken wood members are left but the areas containing joints remain intact. Don't ask how we know that.
The Domino tenons where the leg meet the side panel are difficult to see so look closely. Face gluing alone is not adequate for our standards. The inner end panels are .75" hardwood plywood (which may legally be called "Solid Wood" but being a different animal we call it what it is). If solid wood panels are to be used on the end the panels must be allowed to "float" .19" to allow for seasonal wood movement (yes every season -every year) . Our rule of thumb is to allow for .125" shrinkage/swelling per 1 foot of width. Wood does not measurably shrink or swell in length (along the grain), hence the often overlooked wood construction rules.
Note the mortises (slots) which will accept domino tenons when the subsequent parts are assembled.
Another advantage of Epoxy is the color. Unlike Aliphatic resin glue which leaves harsh spots if any excess glue remains in the wood grain, epoxy has a similar color to clear wood finish, therefore cleanup is not as crucial. Yellow glue cleanup need be so thorough people will use too little adhesive for the job just so there are no glue spots when dry. FYI we do wipe the excess epoxy adhesive off and rub dry. Five minutes of easy cleanup can save 45 minutes of hard cleaning and trimming!
The vertical arrows direct you to where the bottom is inserted (the case keeps alternating between upside down and vice versa throughout assembly). The bottom presses against the back, tightening the previously assembled component into place.
The arrow shows the vector of force tightening the back into place.
The mortices are visible in the parts getting assembled. No screws or nails here. All mating faces and tenons are glued.
Note the mortices waiting to get glue before the tenons.
The vertical stiles are the point where assembly gets difficult. We have to get the rest of the front loose enough to spread the members apart so the domino tenons on all three sides can slip into their mortises.
At this point the case is at risk of falling apart as we work because of working at slipping all the tenons into place.
Large case assembly requires everyones wits and focus, so it is not a task to start right before lunch or at the end of the day.
Somewhere near the end we flipped the case upright Note the assembly blocks under the rails (magenta arrow). They provide total control over the flatness of the case. Squareness is also of utmost importance. If all the parts were made flat, square and accurate the case will naturally assemble pretty much the same, but it requires small tweaks to get it to a perfect final position. Changing the position and/or pressure of a clamp will tweak the case into the desired position. The completed case will end up exactly the same as when it was glued up, so we check it for several hours after assembly to make sure it wasn't bumped. The epoxy cures in twelve hours, and we keep the left over adhesive in the cup next to the case to confirm the cure.
I've never weighed one of these assemblies with all the clamps on. By the time we're done it has twelve iron pipe clamps on. Planning on having a clamping spot available becomes quite a challenge with that many clamps.
Because of the possibility of prematurely unclamping before the adhesive has cured, no one will unclamp someone elses case. I have seen things come up people move onto other projects, leaving a fresh case in the clamps for days at a time while drawers are baeing made.
The next stage is making the dovetailed drawers. That is another blog post but here is a picture of the drawer side stock getting glued. We bring in large units of local Broadleaf Maple from Northwest Hardwoods in Arlington and glue it up into the largest panels to fit in our clamps, then rip off the drawer sides as needed. We get amazing yield using that method, and it is much more sensible than looking for boards to glue up into each individual drawers sides and keep track of each drawer. This Maple is considered "Mill Run" (a lower grade) so we do have to defect out knots and such. Patches of figuring abound in each drawer, just not to the extent of Maple selected for heavy figuring.
End of Post- watch for the Drawer making Post in the next weeks.
For years I have been laboriously rendering each new furniture design so customers may visualize what we are going to build. It is a valuable tool to see the many details and how they work together. Now the 3d Builder app bundled along with Windows 10 by Microsoft has reached a truly usable level of ease, quality and speed. Now when I work up a new furniture order for your approval you will receive a 3mf file which will open automatically in 3d Builder. You may zoom in and out as well as orbit around the object, watching it from any angle desired. You can even fly through the furniture in a way you could not do in reality. What is the inside of a buffet like to a mouse? If you don't have 3d Builder just go to the Microsoft site and download the app. It works on Windows 8 and up as well as Windows Mobile devices. Sorry, it doesn't work on Android phones and tablets, only full size Windows PC's, laptops, and Windows tablets or phones.
Here is a file you can try out now.
Sorry, no juicy news here. After nearly forty years of this business and struggling to spell my name both verbally and with fat fingers the name NWchairs seemed perfect; our core product and easy to spell.
Additional hours November 4 and December 2 from 10-2 pm. I don't plan to stay open later because it seems Bellingham are off to their Saturday doings. But if people do show up at 2, its an opportunity to stay and talk.
Do I give shop tours? As long as I don't have to abandon people in the showroom, yes!
If we do a tour, tell me if I am too detailed about what we do. Its easy to get on a roll.
First Geek Chic. I knew they were skating on ice and bravado but didn't quite understand the depth of their story and antics.
Why is a tail even important? And how is it we keep going on and on while other open, reach for the stars then close when they are no longer able sustain the image? I am a woodworker first, furniture maker second, lover of my crew third and all that other stuff is somewhere trailing behind where it can guide from the back. Its not the tails job or place to wag the dog. The tail is pretty important (just stay with me through this please), but no dog, no tail. What we do and make is our core focus and we can never know enough about how to do our jobs better. Continuous improvement. I have always run my shop at a ratio of at least four woodworkers to each office person usually more. Debt and dicey business decisions are like making a piece of furniture: making an overly slender chair leg can bring the entire chair crashing down, with people getting hurt in the process.
So why is a tail important?
"For the most part, canines and felines use their tails to communicate — from the wide, sweeping wag of a happy dog to the quick tail swish of an annoyed cat. In canines, a tail may also serve as a type of rudder to help stabilize dogs in the water." Vetstreet
"Many land animals use their tails to brush away flies and other biting insects. Some species, including cats and kangaroos, use their tails for balance; and some, such as New World monkeys and opossums, have what are known as prehensile tails, which are adapted to allow them to grasp tree branches."
Like most ideas this one could be seen as an over simplification, but metaphors sure are fun to play with.
And yes, those are our Pacific Dining Chairs in the photo below. But we are not massively in debt, nor have we closed nor let go any of our talented people. We are alive and thriving though licking our wounds (yes we lost quite a bit of money in these closings and bankruptcys). And we are making some of those gaming table now with our own name on them! And by the way- nice photos, a luscious showroom and cute monikers have little to do with the quality of the furniture made or the strength of a business.
Patrick wanted a new and special bed and was patient while I conjured up a few uninspired ideas. He knew that he would know when he saw the right design and had good clear comments on various features (so crucial). It tickles me when we all know something is "right" when hit upon, and from the moment I started drawing the top arch I could feel the excitement in my veins.
The side tables are my Akura design. The entire set is finished with our 2k polyurethane (shellac as a sealer coat to bring out the grain and color). As usual it has a center support and leg.
It is definitely an addition to my stable of beds, but what to call it? I already have an Akura bed. Hopefully the present Akura bed wouldn't be offended if I stole its name and demoted it to something new. When I signed up to make furniture I didn't know I would have to name each design too...
Comments are more than appreciated.