Goodbye Virginia Wood Shop…

Virginia Woodshop
Virginia Woodshop

Well, I can’t complain.  We had 2 great years in this house and Mrs Woodworker gave me half the garage for woodworking which then morphed into the whole garage (half a garage turned out to be plenty of space for most woodworking projects).  But, in order to be close to family we are heading West to the great state of Wisconsin which, rumor has it, has many wood shops.  We’ve been scouring the online realty sites and are hopeful we can slide right into another wood shop to continue the growth of Traughber Design.  Here are our requirements:

Absolutely Essential

Climate control.  I don’t mind bundling up for some period of time, but eventually standing on concrete (even on pads) eventually numbs the feet.  In addition, finishes take too long to dry and slow down production in cold weather.  Ideally, the shop would have a wood burning stove, but we’re open to other heating sources.

Amps!  The shop before this one (a basement) really struggled with the power tools because they were drawing too much current.  I’m thinking 20A should do the trick, but we’ll see what’s available.

Nice to Have

Large door that can open to the elements.  Some type of garage door might work for this, and I would really love to open up the shop when the weather is nice and roll the tools out the door to work outside in the fresh air and sunlight.  Given that Wisconsin’s winters are 11 months long, I’ll only get to enjoy the large door feature for 1 month, but it may be worth it.

A killer view.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to have large floor-to-ceiling windows to see the 10 foot high snowdrifts and deer?  That may be a bridge too far, but we’ll see what we can find.

If all else fails, we’ll build what we want, but that could take some time.  Using a pickaxe and shovel to dig up the frozen tundra is not for the fainthearted.

BTW, if you haven’t seen our daily posts on Instagram, click here.

How to Make a Very Cool and Simple Cutting Board in a Few Hours

Thanks for all the positive feedback on the various Instagram cutting board videos!  So you don’t have to chase them down individually, I consolidated them here in one spot.  Enjoy!

This video clip covers some of the initial design thoughts and what spurred the idea:

 

This video talks about wood selection:

The glue up:

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Cutting board glue up! #wood #woodworking #cuttingboard

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Planing:

Routing:

Finishing #1:

Finishing #2:

The operational cutting board:

For more videos, check out our Instagram site here.

 

See How a Marriage-Proposal Wooden Porch Swing Transforms Into An Entry Way Table

foyer table
Foyer Table

I absolutely loved the process on this commission, because the client (thanks Kevin Hanson) had a brilliant idea, we bantered back-and-forth, and the result is (in my humble opinion) a really cool heirloom table with sentimental value that will be in the client’s family for a very long time. What a great conversation piece that table will be for years to come.

Where did it all begin? Kevin got the chutzpah to propose on July 4th, 1994 on a wooden porch swing owned by his girlfriend’s father.  Rumor has it there was a shotgun involved, but that’s unconfirmed.  Later they had the swing engraved with the date and moved the swing to their own home.  After 25 years in the weather, the swing was taking a beating so Kevin wanted to salvage the best pieces and repurpose them into something special for his bride.  Let’s take a look at the transformation…

Raw Material from Porch Swing
Raw Material from Porch Swing

First, taking apart the swing may sound more trivial than it really was.  It took several hours to very carefully pry apart the boards with a flat pry bar while trying to prevent the wood from splitting.  Once all the boards and nails were removed we were left with what you see in the picture.

It was readily apparent that there wasn’t enough solid wood left for all the pieces required in the table, so we decided to save the best for the table top and lower shelf.  Then it was a matter of deciding on a complementary wood for the legs and aprons (cross pieces).  We took a look at several species and settled on white oak, which is very hard and perfect for furniture.  In addition, the light shade of oak contrasts nicely with some of the darker pieces remaining from the wooden swing.  

Choosing the Best Boards
Choosing the Best Boards

Next, we had to plane down the boards to remove the old finish.  After that we trimmed the edges to make them square and laid them out to align the nail holes and see which ones would look best on the table top.  We used some 1 x 2s to create a rectangle (see pic) in the same dimensions as our desired top then moved the rectangle around until we had an optimal-looking top and shelf.

Mortise and Tenon Joints for the Top
Mortise and Tenon Joints for the Top

Our next step was to trim the top to 45 inches (finished length was 44 inches) then join the boards together with mortise and tenon joints (see pic at left).  Our trusty Festool Domino made quick work of that task.  After we glued everything up we trimmed the top to its final length.

 

Legs in White Oak
Legs in White Oak

As far as the legs, we went with 1 3/4 inch wide legs, and aprons of 3/4 inches by 1 7/8 inches by 38 1/2 inches.  Cutting the legs to width and length was pretty straightforward using the tracks and mitre saw.  We joined the cross pieces to the legs using mortise and tenon joints as well (there are no metal fasteners in this table).  The table height is 36 inches, the length is 44 inches, and the depth is 17 inches.  The shelf is 6 inches off the floor.

 

 

 

Clamping on the Top
Clamping on the Top

After we had the frame glued up, we glued on the top and lower shelf using Titebond III.  Then we sanded the entire table with 80, 120, and 180 grit sandpaper using our trusty Festool ROTEX RO150 Random Orbit Sander.  As far as the finish, we used our go-to finish of General Finishes Arm-R-Seal gloss using five coats overall with gradually increasing grits in between coats.

There you have it in a nutshell.  Leave a comment with any questions and I’d be glad to answer them.

Meet Entrepreneur Tim Pittman, Creator of FIRE Stories!

I love collaborating with fellow entrepreneurs like Tim.  Not only do they inspire, but there are always some golden nuggets of wisdom in their entrepreneurial journey.  In Tim’s case we get two types of wisdom because in his side hustle he has created a website capturing stories of Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) and in his main job helps small companies succeed.  Read on!

1)  Thank you for your time and congratulations on launching FIRE Stories.  Tell us a little about it.
Thank you! FIRE Stories (firestories.co) is a new project aimed at sharing the stories of people who’ve retired early or are well on their way.
Rather than focus on the tactical aspects of spending and investing, FIRE Stories is intended to be a single resource to read more about those who’ve retired early.
2)  Where did you get the idea for this business?
This came from solving my own problem.
 I had been following the FIRE Community for quite some time. While I find the more tactical advice very helpful, what I really enjoyed were the stories of those who’ve really embraced the concept of FIRE.
What are their mindsets, backgrounds, lifestyles, and philosophies? What were the challenges along the way? And how can I read these in one place?
However, it was time-consuming to find these people and quickly learn their stories and most of all, answer the questions I had for them.
So FIRE Stories has been born =)
3)  Have you always been entrepreneurial?
Actually, no.
Though I’ve been interested in my own side projects, I’ve been primarily focused on my career and other interests.
I currently work at Sumo.com. I help entrepreneurs and small business owners grow their their businesses. I really enjoyed the work and the team. I love our customers.  Also, Sumo is a very fast moving company. So sometimes it feels entrepreneurial to even be here. We move fast.
4)  What are some of the habits that have helped you become successful?
Frankly, any success I’ve had is not financial. firestories.co isn’t making any money.  The ‘success’ I’ve had thus far is launching a project that (I think) creates great content and I’m excited to work on.
Here are some thing that have helped me:
1. Set milestones – Say, at the end of month you want to do X. Create three blog posts, get feedback on a project, get 1 sale, etc. Set your milestones and be very bullish on hitting these. Make sure they move you forward.
Then carve out the time & habit you need to hit these milestone. My first thought was to tell you to ‘ship something everyday’, but I think that’s wrong. It’s wrong because some days you’ll want to work 12 hours on a new thing. Other days you are sick and tired of it. So work when you have the energy. Rest when you don’t.
But with milestones, you know if you finish X, you’ll be moving forward. Then debrief on those milestones and how you can improve for next time. You’ll work smarter this way.
2. Generate Ideas – Keep thinking of new ideas. Make it a habit. Force yourself to do this every morning. Over time, you’ll begin to spot ideas more easily. It will be second nature. I think that’s why folks who start things tend to start multiple things.  It takes time to get into this habit. But once you do, you’ll be spotting new ideas in things you see, what people say, etc.
3. Share! – Create, ship, and share often. If you are not sharing your thing, then nothing is happening. You are tinkering. It’s a hobby.  Sharing gets you into the habit of creating new things, not being afraid of feedback and judgment, and will give you much faster feedback on the quality of your ideas and projects.
The business owners we work with at Sumo have given themselves permission to create. Over time, as you create, you will get through your fear by sharing more and more.
5)  What advice do you have for beginning entrepreneurs?
I work with business owners everyday. They aren’t special unicorns. Here’s the biggest thing. And I hope your readers take this advice to heart.
If you’ve really not launched anything, started new projects, gotten that freelance gig – if your projects are at 0 – then your problem is shipping. Your problem is paralysis.
You need to get momentum. You need to practice creating and engaging with potential customers. I wrote a post on this here. I’ve made this mistake as well.
A great book is 7 Day Startup, by Dan Norris. Read this book. Then no more books. It’s great, because you get 7 days to create your idea, build the MVP, and ship it.
You need to take the fear out of engaging with people. Here’s a great way to start:
1. Answer quora questions
2. Join forums and niche communities and answer questions, like indiehackers.com
3. Write a blog post. Practicing creating content. Try youtube, medium, etc.
You’ll find it’s not scary. People want to hear from you. Once you get over this hurdle, you need to start _selling_ your thing. Find your product and validate it as quickly as possible. Sell your shirt to 3 friends. Try to get 10 users through FB ads. I don’t know what tactic will work for you – just remember to go as barebones and simple as possible to validate your idea.
Regarding ideas: A challenge I had is ‘where do I get my idea!?’  Well, as I said above, keep thinking of ideas. Find products and businesses you like and figure out why they are working. Is there a way to improve it? Is there a different angle you can approach it that differentiates it from others?
For firestories.co – I noticed lots of niche interviewing sites. I read lots of FIRE content. I couldn’t find interviews. So I took the niche concept and applied it to this area.
6)  Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes, my biggest epiphany is this: If it’s really easy, it’s likely not worth it. What is hard is rewarding – both in your personal growth and financially. The obstacles you face are the purpose. It should be hard – otherwise why is it worth even doing!?
On the other hand – have fun. Work hard. Welcome the challenges and push through them. But overall, enjoy what you’re doing and have fun. That’s the real value for entrepreneurship for me – you get to pick your job!
So if your project isn’t fun. If you’re say, writing lots of code, and you find you don’t like code, then change it. If you’re not sure what you like, set milestones for projects to help you figure that out.
To summarize – don’t quit when it gets tough. But don’t be miserable either. Enjoy the journey.
7)  Where can we learn more about FIRE Stories?
Head over to firestories.co! I try to get 2 new interviews per week. Also, send me a direct message on twitter. I’d love to hear your feedback on the site, answer other questions, and see what you’re building!

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Click these links to see our other posts in the entrepreneur interview series:

Amazon best selling author Lawrence Colby, writer of The Devil Dragon Pilot:

Interview with Entrepreneur Lawrence Colby, Author of the New Military Aviation Thriller: The Devil Dragon Pilot

The Devil Dragon Pilot Rockets to #1 on Amazon! Interview Update with Entrepreneur and Amazon Best Selling Author, Lawrence Colby

Amazing photographer Richard Weldon Davis:  Interview with Entrepreneur and Photographer Richard Weldon Davis

Successful entrepreneur and owner of Custom Display Cases, Mo Johnson:

From Military to Entrepreneur: Interview with Mo Johnson, Owner of Better Display Cases

What Everyone Ought to Know About Launching a Business: More Wisdom from Mo Johnson, Owner of Better Display Cases

Do You Have the Courage to Start Your Own Business? Military to Entrepreneur – More Insights from Mo Johnson, Owner of Better Display Cases

Veterans MUST Read This Post! Key Transition Tips from Mo Johnson, Owner of Better Display Cases

Incredible baker and entrepreneur, Haleigh Heard:  Interview with Entrepreneur and Baker, Haleigh Heard, Owner of S’Cute Petite Bakery

Writer, blogger, and photographer Lisa Traughber:  How To Cut Your Work Hours 40% to Focus on Making: Interview with Writer and Award Winning Photographer Lisa Traughber

Serial inventor Deane Elliott:  5 Patents??? Meet Superstar Inventor and Entrepreneur Deane Elliott

Young Entrepreneurial Risk Taker Adam Mayers:  He Started His Own Company in High School??? Meet Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Impeesa Coffee & Tea: Adam Mayers

Stay tuned for our next interview in the entrepreneur series!

How to Refinish Those Old Stair Hand Rails and Give them Some Pizzazz!

Refinished Bannister
Refinished Hand Rail

After we refinished our floors to a beautiful dark half inch bamboo (see pic), the hand rails going to the basement just weren’t cutting it.  The old blonde colored oak finish no longer matched the floor.  In the post (link here) regarding upgrading our bannisters, I wrote about how we refinished the bannisters going upstairs from the first floor.  Since we’re in the market for a new house as I wrote about in the Reflections on 2018 post, it was time to get in high gear on the remaining projects in this house.  Let me give you the low-down on a very simple refinish to the railings that you can knock out in a long weekend.

First, remove the rails.  This will save you endless heartache since you won’t have to cover the stairs with a drop cloth, worry about getting finish on the walls, getting sanding dust throughout the house, and bringing the varnish fumes into the house.  In addition, you can put the rails on a bench or work table at waist height (the Festool MFT/3 works wonders for something like this), which will make the refinishing much easier.  If you do it while they are attached to the wall, you’ll be doing all kinds of contortions to access the side against the wall and the underside.

Second, sand, sand, sand.  Use a coarse grit sandpaper like 60 or 80 grit and I highly recommend using a power sander.  I used my Festool RO150 random orbit sander which worked surprisingly well given how big it is.  The sanding disc is pretty large relative to the piece, but was able to hit just about every surface except for the small bead that runs near the bottom.  I hand sanded that part.  Sand until there is no more shininess to the finish.  You don’t have to take it to bare wood:  just rough it up enough so that the new finish will adhere.

Third, prepare.  Do this in a well ventilated area and wear gloves.  Also wear eye protection in case any of the finish splatters upwards.  It’s not likely, but don’t take any chances.

General Finishes Java Gel Stain and Arm-R-Seal
General Finishes Java Gel Stain and Arm-R-Seal

Fourth, apply the gel stain.  I used General Finishes Java Gel Stain.  I did a test run underneath the shortest hand rail to see how dark the stain looked and how evenly it spread.  Then give it 24 hours so you can evaluate the test area.  If you like it, then press on and stain both rails.

Fifth, apply the topcoat of oil and urethane varnish.  General Finishes Arm-R-Seal works really well for this and I recommend the satin finish.

Sixth, reinstall the rails and enjoy!

I hope that helps!  Catch up on the latest Traughber Design project videos on Instagram here.

Traughber Design Featured in FIRE Stories!

Woodworker
A Woodworker

Many thanks to fellow entrepreneur Tim Pittman for the recent article about Traughber Design in FIRE Stories.  Mrs Woodworker and I hope some of the wisdom we’ve gained in the past several years might be of use to you.  If you have any questions, FIRE away in the comments section.

First Day of FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early)! 5 Lessons Learned

Fire
Fire

Today after 30 years of work I am declaring my freedom!  Yesterday was my last duty day.  Does that mean I’m not going to “work” any more?  No, but we’ll be 100% focused on entrepreneurship at this point and seeing where that journey takes us.  Are you still “working” if you are an entrepreneur?  That’s a good question.  Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Here are 5 lessons we learned along the way that may help others achieve FIRE.  Truth in advertising here, I was in the military and have a pension.  The Retirement Police may quibble about whether that is RE or FI or both, but since we have freedom of action now, I’m calling it FIRE.  That’s the beauty of FIRE, you get to frame the situation.

Lesson #1:Seek the wisdom of those smarter than you.  Read books. Buy a cup of coffee for a guy 20 years older than you that has his act together and seek his advice.  The Good Book says in Proverbs (Proverbs 11:14)  that there is victory in an abundance of counselors.  You don’t have to figure all of this out on your own.  I was very lucky when I was first starting out because I ended up in a carpool with some investing savants.  These guys were about 20 years older than I was and probably didn’t realize it, but were essentially giving me an advanced class in investing every morning and afternoon as we commuted.  You’ve got something just about as good called Reddit where you can ask the crowd just about any question.  If you’re wondering where to start, check out the subReddit on financial independence here.

Lesson #2:  Save 10% of your gross starting with that first paycheck.  When I started out as a second lieutenant, one of my co-workers kept bugging me to invest in this thing called an “IRA”.”  I thought “why would I want to toss away $2000 towards something (retirement) that was so far away?”  Luckily, those gurus I mentioned earlier convinced me of the errors of my ways.  They gave me much wisdom then Mrs Woodworker and I started maxing out both our IRAs.

Lesson #3:  You may think you can pick winning stocks, but you’re probably lying to yourself.  Instead, invest in low cost index funds and watch dividend reinvestment work its magic.  My personal favorite is the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index.  If you’re wondering how much of your portfolio to invest in stocks, if you are in your 20s, I’d invest over 90% in stocks.  That will give those early investments decades to power you to FIRE.  Many people incorrectly say that when the market is down you are losing money.  You are only losing money if you sell at that point.  Over the long haul, the market has always recovered.  

Lesson #4:  Bloom where planted.  No matter what job you are given, be excellent at it.  People will notice and you will be given more responsibility.  That will lead to promotions and more income.  When I was stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, the squadron gave the new guy (me) the SNACKO duty.  For those not in the know, that means one of my additional duties was to keep the snack bar stocked and handle the money.  I tried to be the best SNACKO the world had ever seen and created a schedule of fundraisers during times I knew the squadron would be hungry.  The leadership noticed that revenues went up and that the snack bar was always fully stocked.  That, along with keeping my nose to the grindstone in other areas led to more responsibility.

Lesson #5:  Think carefully about WHAT you want to do and WHERE since this will determine your FIRE date.  My wife and I kicked this around for about around 5 years until we settled on moving to a state (there are 19) that doesn’t tax military retirement.  In addition, the state we are moving to has a much lower cost of living than our current state.  It’s much easier to achieve FIRE in a low cost area.  Think about your FIRE vision looks like and where you might need to move in order to achieve it.

I hope that helps you achieve your FIRE goals.  Best of luck on your FIRE journey!  I’d also like to give a shout out to Mr Money Mustache  for his prolific guidance on how to live frugally and also Doug Nordman at The Military Guide for his military-specific advice.  Thanks guys!

OK, off to the woodshop…I’ve got a commission to knock out…

Reflections on 2018: A New Journey Begins

Air Force Seal
Air Force Seal

Ah, the entrepreneurial road is a long and bumpy one…my grand plan to ramp up Traughber Design at the end of calendar year 2018 did not survive first contact with the enemy.  As I’ve written about before, Mrs Woodworker and I are winding down a 30 year military career, while continuing to ramp up this business (see post Why Did I Write This Blog About Woodworking and Entrepreneurship).  The community has been very supportive and we’ve had at least half a dozen requests for work in the past few months, BUT life had other ideas.  We were a little short-handed at the unit in 2018 so I had been working a double load which meant very little, to zero wood shop time : (  It has been a mad sprint to complete everything required for military retirement.  I’ll write about that transition soon.

We did; however, have 5 commissions in 2018 and broke even, which is a pretty good result in my book given that we essentially closed the shop in the second half of the year and turned down about a half dozen commissions.

Never fear, this month we will be able to pursue entrepreneurship full time AND we will be looking for another property, ideally one with a  heated shop.  Doing finishing work on wood has proven to be a challenge in the current shop which is in our garage.  If we want to operate 24/7 in all conditions, we need a climate controlled shop.  For example, today it’s 12 degrees outside this morning.  Brrrrr!  I still plan to bundle up and try to gut out at least an hour in the shop, but could do more work if the shop were heated.  Not to worry, if it’s one thing that woodworking teaches you, it’s patience!

We hope you had a stellar 2018 and are off and running on your 2019 resolutions!

Win $350 Custom Made Prayer Kneeler in Cherry with Black Walnut Accents in our June Giveaway!

prayer kneeler in cherry and black walnut
Prayer Kneeler in Cherry and Black Walnut

Yes, that’s right! This beauty can be yours for the price of a comment on the blog.  Why are we doing this?  Two reasons.  First, it’s an entrepreneurial experiment. If it goes well, we may do more giveaways and I just want to see what happens.  Second, the Traughber Tribe is about to begin its third annual minimalism game (see the post 3 Reasons Entrepreneurs Should be on a Minimalism Journey for more) and I don’t want to GET BEAT by Mrs Woodworker.  We usually have one of these minimalism games around the month with Independence Day (Get it?  Independence from our stuff).  I had intended to sell this at an arts and crafts fair, and it’s too big to ship so rather than having it gather dust I figured I’d gift it to someone that can use it.  The arts and crafts fair is on the back burner for now because I need to work down the current backlog first.

There is one caveat to the contest:  you need to pick it up from the wood shop in Montclair VA.  We’ll select someone at random that leaves a comment on the blog below this post during the month of June.  The winner will be announced in early July.  Good luck!