We Sold Out!

The Corn Hole Glue Up
The Corn Hole Glue Up

Back in Afghanistan, my pal Steve Patoir and I would commiserate about woodworking from time to time and one of the things we’d talk about was “the pivot” for some of the woodworking guys we’d run across.  For example, we heard about the “Bunk Bed Guy” who had started out making all kinds of things, then made a bunk bed which was so popular that everyone began asking him to make bunk beds.  Then there was the “Shadow Box Guy” who ended up exclusively making shadow boxes.  Am I “The Corn Hole Guy”?  I always try to keep a spare set of these corn hole sets in the shop in case a client wants to buy a set for a party or something and we are all out so I just made another one (see picture) this week.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with being The Corn Hole Guy since I enjoy making them and hearing clients talk about how much fun their party was with some good old fashioned bean bag tossing and friendly competition (if you’d like to make your own set, check out the plan at our post The Cornhole Plan, or How to Jazz up your Next Party).  This small project is relatively quick to make, and shouldn’t take more than 3-4 hours to build.

Speaking of small projects, I was talking with a potential client this week about making a table, and she said she thought her project might be too small.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  I love these small projects, because they bring almost immediate gratification and you can see the results of your work in a matter of days or weeks.  Corn hole sets fall in that category since I can easily crank out a set in a week (we do have to allow for several consecutive days of glue-up).  Some of our bigger projects have taken several months and it requires a lot of patience to wait to see the results of our handiwork.

Anyway, this client is a big advocate of supporting local businesses which we wrote about in Reflections on 2016…Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Traughber Design!  We should support local businesses (myself included).  After all, they are our neighbors.  They are our community.  One of the great things about 2018 is the ability to tap into that community both in the real world and cyberspace.  I ran across some entrepreneurship and woodworking communities on Reddit some time ago and pop in there from time to time to soak up wisdom and offer encouragement to budding entrepreneurs.  The Reddit woodworking forum has a wealth of plans and featured pieces for inspiration.  Check it out if you get a chance.  In addition, we wrote about curating information via RSS feeds.  For more on that, read our post The RSS Hack, or How to Curate Your Favorite Entrepreneurship and Woodworking blogs.

Or then again, maybe I’ll be the “Jewelry Display Guy.”  Did you see Christy Dewitt and Nomades on Fox and Friends Friday morning?  If not, check out the clip here.  Nomades just ordered three more displays and I picked up the walnut at a couple wood dealers yesterday for that commission.  We’re off and running.

Corn Hole Guy.  Jewelry Display Guy.  It’s all macht nichts to me.  I’m glad for the work.  Bring it on!

Getting back to corn hole, if you have a party coming up, these things are great.  Swing by the wood shop and you can pick one up.  We can always make more.

Reflections on 2017…Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Traughber Design!

40 Degrees? No problem.
40 Degrees? No problem.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our clients, friends, and family!  Traughber Design just delivered its final sale of 2017 last week, and we thought this was a good time to thank our community of supporters and reflect on the past year.

This was our third full year of operation and the business is now profitable!  We invested quite a bit in tools the first year, and we continued to build our client base the second year.  This year we delivered 17 commissions (plus one pro bono project) with a wide variety of projects and have 1 commission in progress in the shop.

Traffic continues to grow to the blog and we have had over 2,800 unique visitors and 5,900 page views.  We’ve published almost 60 posts now and have many more ideas for posts in 2018.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned over this 3 year journey is persistence.  Most small businesses fail, and I wonder how many were on the cusp of success if their owners had just kept at it.  Speaking of which, I’m grinding my way through David McCullough’s 1100 page biography (called “Truman“) of Harry S. Truman and the President’s persistence when everyone wrote him off is absolutely stunning.  Check out this passage from the book which references a Newsweek poll of the biggest writers of the day:  “Of the writers polled, not one thought Truman would win. The vote was unanimous, 50 for Dewey, 0 for Truman.  “The landslide for Dewey will sweep the country,’ the magazine announced.  Further, the Republicans would keep control in the Senate and increase their majority in the House.  The election was as good as over.”  As we all know from the history books, Truman won the election in 1948.  He never gave up.  The same goes for a small business; you have to believe you are going to win, just as Harry S. Truman did in 1948.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, please continue to support your local artisan ecosystem.  Local small businesses are all tied together and a dollar spent with Traughber Design flows to other businesses, like hardwood dealers, tool vendors, glass manufacturers, etc.

Looking forward, soon the Air Force will be kicking me out after 30 years of service, and I’m excited to pursue Traughber Design full time.  I will be on terminal leave at the end of 2018, and we will see what other exciting commissions come our way.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

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

Entrepreneur:  “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”  (dictionary.com)

Lisa Traughber, Award Winning Nature Photographer
Lisa Traughber, Award Winning Nature Photographer

This interview is our fifth in a series of interviews with entrepreneurs and makers, this time with magazine writer, blogger, and photographer Lisa Traughber, the Best-Sister-In-The-Whole-World.  Lisa has been published in multiple magazines and also won several photography awards.  Our readers may find her move to slash her work hours in order to create very interesting.

Thank you for doing the interview.  You have many creative talents and I think our readers will be interested in how you were able redesign your life to shift your time from working to making.  You only work 3 days per week and spend 2 days per week creating:  writing for magazines, blogging, and doing photography.  You made that shift some time ago, and how you made that shift might be very interesting to our readers.

You’re welcome.  Thank you for your interest.

You started with writing for magazines and have had several articles published.  Tell us a little about how you got started.

I took a week long class a number of years ago that was devoted to writing articles for inspirational magazines.  The class was held at the beautiful Glen Eyrie located in Colorado Springs.  The class taught me everything I needed to know to properly submit articles for publication.

How were you able to go from 5 work days per week to 3?

I changed job locations within the same organization.  The location change was the right time to cut down my work hours so I could pursue other things. The change also gave me more time to spend with my family. The people in administration at the organization were happy because they wanted someone who would be flexible with their hours when they opened the new location.

Was that a difficult transition?

It was a very easy transition.  I simplified my expenses and had my mortgage and car paid off, so I had more freedom in cutting down my work hours.

Tell us a little about the focus of your blog.

My blog is specific to nature at the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin.  This includes the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge and the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area.  My blog focuses on wildlife and plants along with talking about photography.  My main goal is to share the beauty, creativity, and artistry found in nature.

How did you get started in photography?

I have been interested in photography since I was in high school.  I set up shots around the house and took pictures in the yard.  Later, two of my favorite subjects were (and still are) my niece and nephew.

You’ve won some awards.  What does it take to get to that level?

It takes practice and study.  I have taken thousands of poor photos.  That part is necessary to arrive at an exceptional photo.  I have also taken online classes and done a lot of reading.  That has been helpful in learning the technical aspects of photography that can improve a photo.  I am still learning and I share mistakes with my readers so they can learn with me.

The blog is something new you added in 2016.  How is that going?

The blog is going well.  I want to do at least one post per week.  This motivates me to get out and shoot regularly.  The blog is a wonderful outlet for me to work on my photography and writing skills.  I have new readers checking it out every week.

How often do you write?

I write for the blog at least once a week.  I also write in a journal occasionally.  My focus is on the blog rather than writing magazine articles now. I enjoy the creative freedom that writing for a blog provides. When you write for magazines, you have to follow their writer’s guidelines.  You may also receive more rejection letters than acceptance letters.  That becomes discouraging.  When you write for a blog, you may receive immediate feedback and, in my experience, it has been encouraging.  Bloggers are often good cheerleaders for each other.

What have you learned on your blogging journey?

Prior to starting the blog, I took the class “Creating WordPress Websites” through Moraine Park Technical College.  It is a 6 week online class.  I learned everything I needed to know to get a website up and running.  Knowledgeable instructors answered all of my questions.  I highly recommend it.

Any big plans for 2017?

I plan to take the class “Writing Effective Web Content” (www.ed2go.com/mptc) to help me to develop my writing skills.  I also plan to watch a photography DVD series I purchased a while back to improve my photography skills.

Tell us a little bit about your creative process.

My blog is photography driven.  I will go for a drive or hike at the Horicon Marsh and whatever happens to be there that day can become the subject for my blog.  I develop the written content from the photos.  I try to include interesting, educational content as well as personal insights.  At times, I will decide to look for something specific, like macro shots. I may also talk about the process of taking the photo if I think it is helpful for my readers.

What advice do you have for beginning bloggers or photographers?

I recommend taking classes, reading, and talking to other bloggers and photographers.  You can avoid a lot of mistakes by learning what has worked for others.

Where can we learn more about your photography?

The best place you can learn about my photography is at the blog, horiconmarshnaturephotgraphy.com.

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Don’t be afraid to jump in and start your own blog.  It is a great opportunity to learn and to meet others who share the same interests.

Thank you, Lisa!

For our other posts in the entrepreneur interview series:

Amazon best selling author Lawrence Colby, write of The Devil Dragon Pilot:  Part 1 and Part 2.  Colby has finished his draft of his second book, The Black Scorpion Pilot.  Stay tuned for another interview with him after the book is available on Amazon.

Amazing photographer Richard Weldon Davis.

Successful entrepreneur and owner of Custom Display Cases, Mo Johnson: Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

Incredible baker and entrepreneur, Haleigh Heard.

Stay tuned for our next interview in the entrepreneur series!

 

Over 1000 Users! Thank You to Our Readers!

Over 1000 Users!
Over 1000 Users!

Last week we passed 1000 readers of the blog!  Many thanks to all of you for spending the time here and your support.  As you can see from the picture, the blog seems to be really taking off, which is encouraging since we just launched on September 8th.

 

We’ve learned many things about blogging and launching this digital side of Traughber Design which I’ll share in a future blog post, but just wanted to mark this milestone and pass along my thanks to all of you!

Our First Commission of 2017! Black Walnut Gun Cabinet

black walnut gun cabinet
Black Walnut Gun Cabinet

We were very excited to receive the deposit for our first commission of 2017 only 9 days into the new year and we’re jazzed about sharing philosophical musings regarding our maker journey as we build the piece.  This commission is for another black walnut gun cabinet which we’ve made before (see picture), but we’ll be making subtle design changes in this version.  Also, the last one took approximately 100 hours to make, so we’ll be very interested to see how far up the learning curve we’ve gone.  For example, we’ll be putting that fairing stick to work that we wrote about in September to streamline making the curve at the top of the door.  Several additional techniques we’ve learned since then should speed up the work.  Then again, the design changes will add some time to the project so it may be a wash to the overall hours count.  As we mentioned in our post on moving the shop, we’re a bit under the gun since we’d like to complete this piece before the wood shop move this summer.  A little pressure is good : )

We picked up the raw lumber from Dunlap Woodcrafts yesterday (for tips on buying lumber, read our post here). One of the most fun parts of the process was chatting with some of the other woodworkers and the owner.  There was a young guy there looking at a board and I asked him what he was making.  He was making a coffee table for his wife.  Another guy walked in and said I should buy all the boards I was gazing at (which I did) and said he was making a guitar for his son.  We just have a great woodworking community here in Northern VA.

The walnut we purchased is S2S cut and we’ll square it up in the shop with the planer, tracksaw, and mitre saw.  Carefully cutting all the pieces with precision will take a long time.  We tracked all of our hours on the last cabinet and have a pretty good feel for how long each operation will take.  That’s why it’s so important to always document your hours.  Then you can more actually predict how long future projects will take.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though.  The first step is to to stand the wood up, take a look at it for awhile, and listen to what the wood tells us it wants to be.  For example, we need to think about what the most visible parts of this piece are and where it is going to sit in the client’s house.  In this case, I’ve talked with the client and have a good idea where it is going to be and how people are going to see it.  In this case, the door, face frame, and crown moulding at the top will be the most visible parts so I’ll look at the raw wood to see which boards are knot free, have matching color, and pleasing wood grain.  I need to ensure the opposing sides of the glass door and opposing sides of the face frame have not only matching color, but matching grain.  That means I’ll cut those pieces immediately next to each other from the same board.  Likewise, I need a long enough board that will allow the entire crown moulding pieces to be cut from it, so the grain flows all the way from the top left to the front to the top right of the piece in one seamless flow.

We’ll keep you updated how it goes.  As I stand in the shop looking at the boards, I’m thinking I have 100 hours of joyful creating in front of me.  As I wrote about in blog post #1, this is a part-time business for now so I’ll continue to follow the time management framework I laid out in the post on making versus managing.  Working 6 days per week with Sundays off, we’ll make good progress.  As I mentioned in the last post, we’re also getting ready to move:  talk about a self-inflicted time management challenge!  Ay caramba!

Stay tuned.  We have several more interviews with entrepreneurs queued up, some random thought pieces, and a couple other potential commissions we may be writing about soon!

Interview with Entrepreneur and Photographer Richard Weldon Davis

the jefferson memorial
The Jefferson Memorial

This interview is part of a series of interviews with fellow entrepreneurs.  Our first was with a best-selling author.  In this interview, photographer Richard Weldon Davis shares some of his methods and secrets to success.  Read on!

How did you get started in photography?
 
I was on vacation with my wife celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary about 6 years ago.  We hired a photographer to take pictures of our vow renewal ceremony.  I started asking the photographer about the camera as I had become intrigued with the idea of buying a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera (think digital version of a 35mm camera).  I bought one when we got home and I started taking pictures using the automatic mode, allowing the camera to make all the decisions for me.  For the most part I was disappointed in the shots.  They just weren’t coming out the way I envisioned them.  This went on for a couple years and I didn’t use the camera much.
 
the washington monument at night
The Washington Monument

During a visit to some old friends, both of whom are excellent photographers, I asked for help.  They both worked with me to show me how to take pictures in manual mode and select the Shutter Speed, ISO (think film speed) and Aperture myself.  They patiently explained what selections to make for which shots I wanted.  They also showed me the basics of photo editing in Lightroom, a program from Adobe related to Photoshop.

With this new information in hand I began to experiment with the 3 sides of the exposure triangle (Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture) to get different shots.  I’m still learning every day, but now I make the camera do what I want instead of allowing the camera to decide.  In order to understand the exposure triangle, think of the camera as a room (that’s actually what the word means in Latin!) and the lens is a window.  To illuminate the room, you open the window.  How long the window is open is the Shutter Speed, how big the window is is the Aperture and how much light you have is the ISO (sensitivity to light).  So for an action shot of kids on the soccer field, you want a very quick Shutter Speed to freeze the action.  For a night photo of stars, you want a long shutter speed to gather more of the starlight for your shot.
 
I was lucky enough to go on one of your shoots as your “assistant” and it was impressive to watch how much effort you put into getting just the right shot.  Tell us a little bit about your creative process.
the golden gate bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge

I really enjoy landscape photography.  You and I were in San Francisco for work and I really wanted a nice shot of the Golden Gate Bridge while we were there.  In general, the best times of day to shoot outdoors is the period of twilight early in the morning at dawn or late dusk when the sunlight takes on a blue hue.  That’s why I dragged you to Baker’s Beach an hour or so before sunset.  I was hoping for a nice blue effect right after sunset.  It turned out pretty nice and I appreciate you humoring me hanging on the beach dodging a random nudist.

night stars
Night Stars

I’m also a big fan of night photography.  I love the way different lights are captured by the camera; from the starburst effect of streetlights during a long exposure to the streaks of red and white lights from cars driving by to capturing the stars that outline the Milky Way galaxy, I really enjoy longer exposures (can’t get that shot in light polluted DC!).

No matter your shot, the key to photography is understanding and harnessing the light, whether it is sunlight, a flash, or starlight travelling for thousands of years to light your scene.
I’ve begun to dabble with portrait photography and that is fun as well.  Again it comes down to light.
 
What lessons learned do you have for other budding entrepreneurs?
 
I’m not much of an entrepreneur yet, but for those exploring photography with a DSLR camera, the equipment is secondary, you need to shoot in manual and learn how to make the exposure triangle work for you.  It helps to look at photographs online where the artist has listed Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture so you can dissect their shot and figure out how they did it.  You can also find great resources online to better understand your camera and its functions.  Don’t be discouraged if your shots don’t look as good as those you find online, just keep shooting.  Figure out what kind of photography you like and how to differentiate yourself from other photographers.
 
Also, what’s a good link where we can buy your prints?
My best shots are available at Fine Art America:
I also have a sometimes updated blog at http://chartprepping.com/ where I write about early retirement and my hobbies to include photography.
sandals resort
Sandals Resort
 Thanks so much for the interview Jerry!

Entrepreneurship and Woodworking Require a Community

military challenge coin display black walnut
Military Challenge Coin Display in Black Walnut

I was messing around in the wood shop over the holidays and created the military challenge coin display shown in the picture with a piece of scrap black walnut.  During the process, I was thinking how many people are necessary to pursue a creative endeavor like this (woodworking) and what a terrific community we have.  Some people may have the mistaken impression that woodworking consists of toiling away solo in a wood shop, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  There is a large network of people who are generous in sharing their wisdom and help make that woodworker or entrepreneur successful.  One way to frame it is by considering three groups:  artisans, enablers, and clients.

Artisans

The Traughber Tribe recently went to Canaan Valley WV for our annual cross country ski vacation.  This year we went over Christmas and planned to open some of our gifts there.  As a gift, my daughter gave me an allowance to spend in the resort gift shop.  Since we enjoy candlelight dinners, I thought I’d buy a locally made candle.  But then I got to thinking…for the price I’d pay for the candle in the gift shop, I could get two or three times as much candle at a discount store back home.  I tossed the idea out to our daughter and she said “Dad, is that even a question?”  Her meaning was, how could I NOT buy the candle from the local artisan, which is what we did.

I receive so much inspiration from my fellow makers.  On a recent business trip, after hours a colleague and I went on a photo shoot since he’s big into photography.  We were in San Francisco and he knew a particular location where he wanted to take the perfect photo of the Golden Gate Bridge.  We spent hours taking photos in different locations, with different lighting, with different camera settings.  I know nothing about photography, but it was inspirational to see another craftsman spending so much time to create something beautiful.  We’ll have a post soon covering an interview with the photographer and you’ll see the results from the photo shoot.

Fellow artisans are also terrific mentors.  They don’t necessarily even need to be skilled in your particular craft.  For example, the author (Lawrence Colby author of The Devil Dragon Pilot) we interviewed recently and I chat often about blog ideas, writing and our craft.  In almost every conversation he gives me some pearl of wisdom that helps me in Traughber Design.  Fellow craftsmen are great for helping keep things in alignment with the business’ vision and goals as we wrote about in our post on glue technique.

Lastly, craftsmen provide fellowship.  Recently we spent Christmas with my pal Steve’s family; Steve is also a Festool fanatic (see our post about Festool here).  He gets it.  He fully understands why someone would spend an exorbitant amount on a power tool and think of it as value.  Hanging out with like-minded people is part of the great fun of being an entrepreneur and craftsman.

Enablers

Woodworkers could not do what they do without hardwood dealers, specialty suppliers, and tool experts.  I was up at Colonial Hardwoods recently to buy some wood for our windowsill commission, and the dealer pointed out some wonderful white oak they had recently received.  We took a look and I ended up buying some and using it in a recent commission.  Where else would a salesperson consider what you are making and make suggestions beyond what you said you came to buy? And where else would they let you wander around the warehouse and pick the pieces you like?  Our community is so giving.

Gun Cabinet in Black Walnut

Another key enabler is the specialty supplier.  In my case, one of these consists of glass suppliers.  Del Ray Glass was a company I used for the black walnut gun cabinet (pictured).  I don’t know much about glass (in addition to photography), but they walked me through thicknesses, types of glass, frostings available, etc. and delivered on time and at a fair price.  They are on my short list the next time I need some glass.

Last there are the tool guys.  It would have been very difficult to learn Festool so quickly without Brian Graham’s tutelage at the Festool Ubershop on Baltimore.  He set up the equipment before I arrived, gave a demo, I played around with it, then we boxed it up to take home.  It’s so much easier to learn a tool hands-on like that.

Clients

military challenge coin display in black walnut
Military Challenge Coin Display in Black Walnut – Angle View

One of the great things I love about our clients is they reveal the art of the possible.  When a client asks “can you build that?” I almost always say yes.  I’ve usually got a general idea to begin with, but sometimes get to experiment in the shop with alternate ways of making something.  For example, with the military challenge coin holder I could have cut the slots from the bottom with the router table.  I also could have cut them from the top using a rail guide and the router.  I could have also used a jig.  That’s part of the fun in creating is experimenting and mulling over what works best.

Our client network continues to grow.  A client may have a piece in their home, then other people see it and word gets around.  Most of our business so far has been from referrals.  For example, a kitchen cabinet panel commission came about from a Facebook conversation (see our post: How to Make a Kitchen Cabinet Door:  Flat Panel Construction).  I love the serendipity of where our projects come from.

Speaking of clients, I’m currently reading a book for my day job called The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross.  Ross is analyzing which industries will be replaced by robots.  One of the beauties of the artisanal movement is our works are not likely to be outsourced.  Sure, you can buy mass-produced furniture from overseas, but that’s not the market we’re in.  We do custom woodworking which doesn’t lend itself to outsourcing.  Our local clients are buying from us, not some company overseas.

We’re very fortunate to have such a great woodworking and entrepreneurial community and look forward to spending time with that community in the new year.

Why Did I Write This Blog About Woodworking and Entrepeneurship?

Gun Cabinet
Black Walnut Gun Cabinet, the First Commission

Why Did I Write This Blog?  I wrote this blog to share some woodworking wisdom gained over the years and also lessons learned from starting my own woodworking business in 2015.

But first, let me give you a bit of backstory.  In 2014 I finished up a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.  We were extremely busy when I was there, but a situation like that gives a person some time to think about their future, especially since we were away from our families.  At that point in my career, I had been in the military for 25 years and was approaching one last assignment before retirement.  With our military pension, I knew we were not going to starve and that there was a golden opportunity to try something new.  I kept thinking “if money was no object, what would I like to do as the next act?”

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed is woodworking.  Ever since my first Industrial Arts class in middle school I’ve enjoyed making things.  Our itinerant lifestyle and postings all over the world have made it difficult to set up a permanent shop and outfit it with quality tools.  We have been in one spot here in Northern Virginia for a while which has enabled me to carve out some space for a shop and to invest in tools.

Another thing I’ve always wanted to do is start my own business, which I did with Traughber Design in 2015.  The commissions have been steady and the business has a bright future.  Writing this blog may help some other budding entrepreneurs out there get started on their dream business.  We’ve learned a lot about things like pricing our work and will share those tips.  In addition, I’m ramping up this woodworking gig part-time as my career winds down.  I’ll share some insights learned about how to manage that transition.

Last, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special shoutout to Kevin Hanson.  He was the catalyst who pushed me to attempt the first commission, the black walnut gun cabinet pictured above.  The cabinet was from a plan I purchased from Wood Magazine, was a challenge, and great confidence builder.

So that is why I started his blog.  I hope you like it.