Thursday, February 28, 2013

Carving, Part II: The Machine

When we last left off, the design was in the software.

Here's where the saw dust starts.  I go out and have the machine measure the board I'm going to use.  This one is a reclaimed piece of pine.

It's important the machine measures the board so that it is precise and I avoid scaling issues.  

After measuring the actual piece of wood I'm using, and making sure it matches exactly in the computer (eg.  11.268 inches and not 11.3 inches), I upload this project from my computer to a card that then goes into the machine.

At the machine, I select the project I want to produce from that same card. 

In a typical week, I load all the projects I'm going to carve Monday and Tuesday, the Sunday night before.  That way, it's just setting boards and pressing buttons come Monday, which is helpful while also wrangling a 14 month old during the day.

No, he's not in the garage with me, he's usually corralled somewhere in the house or in his bouncy excersaucer chair thingy.  Always safe.  

This is also where my protective eyewear goes on, because even though there is a protective plastic screen, I don't like to take chances.

I press more buttons, make sure everything is set right, help the machine go through some motions, and then it carves.

I really wish it always went that way.  Sometimes it doesn't test depth right.  Sometimes it doesn't recognize there is a board in the machine.  Sometimes it skips steps.  Sometimes it doesn't measure right.  Sometimes get the gist.  

The machine uses different bits, and carves back and forth in straight lines.  It's pretty cool to watch.  No heat is used in the process.  And, we run green wind energy for electric at home, so it's one more way we're eco-friendly.

Hopefully, after 20 minutes -3 hours, depending on the carve, I see this:

And, not some run time error.  I don't like those.  

Those make me moody.

The machine stating the carving time means it's done!

I pull the board out of the machine, and see what it produced.

And, dust it off a bit.

Not bad.  Not great, either.  Which is why there is always a sanding phase.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wood Grain Wednesday - The Sloth Edition

Sid, from Ice Age, right?

I may need to get out of the shop every once in a while.  Breathe some fresh air.

Seriously, though.  Sid, right?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Carving, Part I - The Software Design

The first part of any carving project doesn't normally begin holding a piece of wood.  Although, I can't say that it doesn't happen that way, sometimes.  Just only on rare occasions.

It usually starts here:

That's a lie.  It usually starts here: 

Then, I open my software.  Because staring at a blank board, without an idea, is really boring.  I'm sure it's akin to a writer with writer's block.

The business owns a CarveWright machine, and I use it's Project Designer software on my laptop to create all of my projects.  I feel like I'm giving away a trade secret, but I doubt all of you will run out and get one of your own.

Once a design is nailed down, that's where the blank board comes in:

I can specify the board dimensions, and pretty much create anything I want on it.  Any fonts that are on my computer can be used on a project, but some do carve better than others.  There are patterns inherent in the software I can use - like scrolls, filagrees, etc, but I find most of the time, I'm using some other form of clipart or artwork.

The use of Illustrator, FireWorks or other computer graphic software to manipulate pictures and text, so that it is a nice carvable object, is not uncommon.  But, that part, I leave up to my husband.  The last time I tried to use FireWorks, I think I cussed a lot, slammed my laptop shut, and left the room!

Since this isn't a software tutorial, I'll skip what all those nifty buttons at the top of the menu are for, so as not to bore you with details.  

I just keep playing until I come up with something I like:

This whole process takes anywhere from 30 minutes to infinity.  I find that sometimes nailing down the project design with my clients is the hardest part.  Other times, it's easy peasy.  Just depends.  This is why I say the 2-3 week processing time is after the design is complete.

This software is also where the board images of the drafts originate.  They look something like this, and are a screenshot of my laptop, cropped:

So, that's step one in carving a project.

Join us next time when Carving, Part II goes into detail on how a design becomes a carving on the machine.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wood Grain Wednesday - Is it a bird?

Like an ostrich?  

With one big eye?  

Turn it counterclockwise 90 degrees, and it looks like an elf's hat to me.  But, it's not really the season for elves.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wood Grain Wednesday - Polar Bear

When you work with wood a whole lot, you begin to focus on its characteristics.  I thought it would be fun to have a regular "Wood Grain Wednesday" post to showcase the cool I find in wood.

Some may look like animals, or objects, others may just be really awesome natural grain lines.  Who knows what I'll find!

Like the polar bear face, in this piece of pine:

It was a piece of wood paneling, in the cabin we stayed at, on our honeymoon years ago.  We saw a lot of alien faces, too.  Those were creepy.  ::shiver::

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"How do you do it?"

It took me two years to define a good set of working hours.  At first, I wanted to work all the time!  Then, I felt it encroaching on my time with the dogs, husband, friends, family...and it felt endless....working all the time.  I needed a break.  That's when I switched to working a set hour schedule, and turned everything off at 5:00 pm.  Central time.  No if's, and's, almost done's, or one more thing's!

Thirteen months ago, that all changed when I had a little boy.

There is no way I can work with power tools and also take care of a child at the same time.  For one, it's dangerous.  For two, LOUD.  And, they don't make noise cancelling ear protection for infants.  I checked.  

Just kidding, I didn't really check.

I worried all through my maternity leave how I would ever be able to get back to it...and the pre-orders were piled up sky high.  But, each month got better, and more structured.  I'm blessed that the kiddo is a good napper and loves his routine.  He must have gotten used to the sound of all the tools when I was pregnant, because they don't have a tendency to wake him up, either.

I've tried a lot of different ways to get all these wonderful signs and products out the door.  Some have worked-sort of, and some have made life so chaotic I wanted to pull my hair out!  

After 30+ years with myself, I decided to go back to basics, where I'm most comfortable and happy.  Basics in this scenario is efficiency.  To be efficient, I need only concentrate on one thing at a time.  So, here's where I landed:

Monday - Run carvings and pack up last week's orders for post office pick up

Tuesday - Run carvings

Thursday - Staining and painting

Friday - Finishing

We (me and the custom items) take the weekend off, to really have the stain/finish set before shipping, and to give me a much needed break with the family. 

In among all that, I'm shipping ready made items the next business day from when they're ordered, talking to clients about custom orders, and trying desperately to keep up with all the teams I'm apart on Etsy.  That last one is the hardest for me....and I always feel like I'm so behind in it!

How are things different with the kid?  Well, I work feverishly during nap times, trying to accomplish as much as I can while he sleeps.  That doesn't always happen.  Sometimes, I'm labeling shipments and hubby is watching the kiddo at night.  Sometimes I get up really early in the morning to get something done.  The "doors" don't necessarily close at 5pm anymore.  It's just the way of it, now that my time is not necessarily always mine.  

At the end of the week, I feel accomplished, and the whole family is happy.  So, that's at least a success.  It took a bit of trial and error to find balance, but it was there.  Always is.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What's to come?

The blog has shifted from Wordpress to Blogspot.  But, you can still find me at  Easy Peasy.

I'd like to take the blog in a whole different direction, though.  Let's call a spade and spade, I haven't been posting about anything out, different direction?  Or, a direction?  


Let's talk wood types, huh?  How about power tools and how to use them?  Would you like to find out how I make all this stuff?

If you do, then stay tuned.  This is where it's headed.

All the personal posts from the last couple years have moved on over to Raising Some Noise.  You can keep up with us and the kiddo there, or dive back into cool posts about aliens from mars and funny stories about my dogs.

A little separation between personal and business is always a good thing.

Put on some clothes you don't care about, get covered in sawdust, and come join me!