Sunday, November 29, 2015

Looking Around Pittsburgh (II)

I’d been meaning to share some photos of interesting houses I spotted in and around Pittsburgh. Not sure where all the time went, but better late than never. I found these houses more interesting than most, and thought readers here might find the same.

2nd empire homes were sprinkled in with some frequency. Love the neatly tiled Mansard roof:

Pseudo Tudor to be sure, but at least the simulated bracing was done in a realistic manner - and that’s a rare thing to see:

I can’t help but think that putting that short gable in between the main flanking gable roofs will tend to encourage roof leaking at some point. I wonder how often the owners make use of the (apparent) balcony above the main entrance?

I am often fascinated to see one material pressed into the service of simulating another - here, very tidily indeed:

The style of these dormers remind me of German designs I’ve seen in Rundgauben und Fledermausgauben - I wonder what impression my German readers might take?:

It’s kind of amazing to take a totally inflexible material like slate and produce an effect like a thatched roof:

I wonder how weather-tight that roof has been over the years? Seems like it would be a challenge to make it durably water tight.

This portion of the house, er, raised more than a few eyebrows:

Some lovely timber detailing on this house:

Those knee braces lend an Art Nouveau touch it seems to me:

The diagonal mesh of beam work at the front is delightful. The low pitch and use of multiple horizontal elements there is an interesting counterpoint to the height of the building and the steeply-pitched main dormers which dominate otherwise.

Note the embossed copper panels fitted into the interstitial areas:

A view around the corner of the same house. The chimney crickets are about the same size as the adjacent roof dormer:

This house had some unusual grilles just below the eave:

I presume it is the attic space being provided with a modicum of diffuse light - I imagine that the effect seen from within would be very nice:

Here’s a restrained Queen Anne style building, with an interesting ribbed chimney and a cylindrical tower seemingly extruded out at the side:

Some tidy slate work:

Another view - can’t recall seeing too many places with this sort of golden decorative band below the eave - very nice indeed:

I like the ‘dialogue’ between rounded and flat surfaces, square- and round-end windows, eave brackets in some location and not others, the flared 'skirt’ midway up the wall - a lot of interplay and I think it comes out very well:

Looks like a well made house.

Hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did. Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer #1660: Sometimes Less is More

I began writing a blog post yesterday (really I did) and just as I got started, the power went out. This was the second time in the past few weeks this happened, which was unusual because prior to that, we had kept power for years. 

One would think that I would have really been upset, but for some reason, I was not. I had just filled the orders that arrived overnight and the post was going to mostly be about some new things that I am going to work on in the future. Nothing that I can’t discuss later on. 

Lately, I find myself being a bit overwhelmed. while I am continually pushing to help our business grow and work on new ideas, I find that when I do achieve success in these areas, I have to be watchful of the consequences. (I am using the term “consequences”  in a positive way, not in the usual negative sense that we sometimes associate with the word.) 

Growing a business usually means that there is more responsibility. If one isn’t watchful, it is easy to lose control of things and allow the business to run you. While the thought of having a great idea, implementing it, and then being wildly successful with it is enticing, I have seen many a friend lose everything as a result of not being prepared for success and moving too quickly. Like most anything, it is better to grow slowly and teach ourselves to evolve with the changes that the new successes can bring. Otherwise, we wind up with feeling overwhelmed and not being able to fulfill our commitments – both to ourselves and our customers – and in some cases we wind up losing everything by allowing things to spin out of control, or worse yet, burning out. It is something that needs to be seriously considered. 

The past year has been good to Keith and I. Both of us have found new and successful avenues for our company. Some of them are self-supporting and others will require additional time on our part. I feel very fortunate that in this economy we are able to say that our business is steadily growing. 

But as a result of this, there are days when we feel a bit overwhelmed. I can only speak for myself here, but I have seen it in my partner as well. More patterns, and products equals more customers and emails, equals more mailing, paperwork and time. Again, I am not complaining, but only stating facts. I know that I have many followers who also have their own small businesses as we do and I find comfort in knowing that they experience the same things. Some deal with them better than others and unfortunately, it is the demise of those who are not prepared to handle the growth. I don’t want that to happen to us. 

Above all, I never want our quality of products or service to suffer. We always pride ourselves on doing the best job we can on our designs and I believe that is why it is so easy for us to promote ourselves. Neither Keith nor myself are great at selling ourselves, but if our products weren’t results of our best efforts, it would be impossible. You have to believe in yourself in order to convince others to believe in you. I know if I was not happy with a particular design, there would be no way that I would be able to sell it to anyone. I am sure Keith feels the same. We both realize that there are lots of places where people can get free designs for both scroll sawing and painting, and we need to make sure that our designs are worth paying for. They have to be better. Otherwise we wouldn’t last another year. 

So I believe the answer is to be aware of things and learn to back off sometimes. Not completely, mind you, but in the places that you feel you can. 

For years I blogged every morning, seven days a week. I love writing my posts here because through them I have met so many wonderful creative people and it is a great chance to keep in touch with you all. It has become part of my daily routine, like brushing my teeth in the morning or having coffee. 

But lately, I find that I have had so many responsibilities that it is sometimes better to back off and skip posting for a day. I especially find it more difficult to post when I am working on new things that I am not yet ready to reveal. I could spend the entire day working on them and feel that I have nothing of substance to share with you the next day. I don’t want to post just to post. I think that would be boring for all of us. 

So if you see me posting a little less, it isn’t because things are slowing down, but rather the opposite. I can assure you it doesn’t mean that I am being lazy and sleeping in, but probably moreso that I am busy catching up with emails, packing up orders to ship out, or having fun designing new projects to share with you. It is all good.

Yesterday we had a wonderful and quiet Thanksgiving celebration. It was just Keith, his mom and I (and of course, our three cats!) It was a far cry from earlier in my life when there was the busy time of having dinner for a huge amount of people. Our lives have settled into something that is very different than that. There are times when I miss the bustle of crowds and big parties, but mostly I am happy right where I am. We had a dinner of turkey, stuffing, two pies, home made cranberry relish and a vegetable. Even though the power was out until about noon, I wasn’t in a panic. I knew that if it didn’t return, we would just go with the flow and find something good to eat. There was little stress in the day, and while I missed my own children and their families, I felt content in the little family I have here. I read many posts on Facebook later on of people who were exhausted and overwhelmed yesterday. They were gearing up for a hectic month ahead as well. You could already feel their stress. It made me wonder if it is all worth it.

I am titling this entry “Less is More” because as I get older, I find that more and more to be true. We live in society that seems to be driven by ‘having more’. Bigger and better are unfortunately the benchmarks for success. But are we really successful with more than we can ever handle or enjoy? I don’t think so.

To me, being successful is leading a productive life that makes me happy. I want to contribute to the world by teaching and inspiring others to find ways to be creative. In my experience, when one learns to be creative, their accomplishments raise their self-esteem and help make them happier overall. From cutting out a plaque on the scroll saw to painting an ornament or learning a new drawing technique or creating a beautiful needlework piece, they all create a positive self-image. We need more of that in this world. 

I hope you all had a wonderful day yesterday and an even better one today. I hope you agree that slowing down is the key to being able to actually enjoy your world around you, for we never know just how long we will be here. 

Happy Friday to you all. Have a beautiful weekend. 

<div>SLDK398 - Self-Framing Give Thanks Plaque Pattern by Keith Fenton</div>

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (11)

Well, I’ve been getting a lot more familiar with the Zimmermann in the past couple of days, and it has been a pleasant learning experience for the most part.

Here’s my Mark II (or is it III?) fixture for milling long stock:

Clean and flat, with no tear out - is it too much to ask? Not any more:

Here are the four inverted ’T’ section beams - crisp arrises and square adjacent faces, and nice and straight - what’s not to like?:

Today the three QS wide bubinga boards showed up via Fedex Freight and interrupted the milling:

Spreading these three boards out revealed a fairly awesome scene:

New to me altogether, in this material, were knots:

I’ll be able to cut out around most of them, and the few that remain behind are not too critical as they will be in the upper and lower carcase boards, which reveal only their edges in the normal viewing positions.

Can’t get much closer to ‘perfect’ stock at 23" wide, almost completely quartersawn:

I did a bunch of cross-cutting to obtain the remaining boards for the upper cabinet carcase, and then it was back to the milling:

The cutter has a positive rake, but it the cutter engagement is still quite a bit steeper than my 60˚ Funahiro plane. What you get, effectively, is rotary scraping with a HSS helical milling tool:

Beats grinding any day.

Gang-cutting was an option with the stock which will become the pillow blocks for the lower stand:

The mill made it relatively straightforward to straighten the stock, and I was able to get close to target dimensions. The pillow block width was set for 2.700":

Before surfacing with the FZ-5V, I had this sort of tear out on the faces after careful machine planing - the closest I could get with planing left tears propagating up to 1mm into the surface:

The rotary scraping however left behind a clean flat and tear out -free surface, which was indeed happy days for me:

Target dimension here was 1.1250" - - if I invested in a bit more metal, I could improve the fixturing yet, and I think achieving +/- of 0.001" to target dimensions is certainly within the realm of possibility:

What’s this? More bacon slices crop up under the super surfacer:

Clean surfaces, free of tear out, arrises crisp, and parts are right at the desired dimension. Am I dreaming? I could get used to this:

Another view:

Round 216 of milling begins, with the stretchers (nuki) clamped into the fixture:

Getting the parts to dimension via the milling machine certainly isn’t the fastest process compared to other approaches, but it is a rather certain one. I am so happy to get things down to size without tearing my hair out over tear out. More work remains on the stretchers, and then it will be time to form the legs into parallelogram sections. Feels very achievable and I look forward to seeing how these slight improvements in dimensional accuracy and parts straightness piece to piece translates into ease of assembly when the compound-splayed base comes together. I think the small differences will add up to something significant.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends, though in truth my Canadian friends are wondering what took you all so long :^) Thanksgiving is in October, after all.

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My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer #1659: A Visit to the City

I can’t believe the whirlwind of time passing these days! It seems that soon after the sun comes up, it begins to turn to dusk again. I know it is ‘that time’ of the year, and the darkeness never really bothers me, but I can’t help but feel that I am in a time warp. Every day is jam packed with thing to do! It is actually very exciting.

Yesterday we needed to head to Halifax to take my Mustang to be worked on and stored. For those of you who have followed the renovation of the car this past spring/summer, I need to mention that things don’t always go exactly as planned. I have kept pretty quiet about it because as of now it is a ‘work in progress’ and to make a long story short, some of the things that were done on it were not done properly and as a result, we are back to square one with it.

You can imagine my disappointment and discouragement, as those of you who followed the process know how excited I was to get it done. (Not to mention, the great amount of money that I spent on it!)

But we all make mistakes, and even though I am not saying that it was “OK”, I am giving the place ONE CHANCE to make it right. They promise to do so, and are doing a complete repaint of the car. The things that were missed will be attended to properly and the painter in charge of the job of my car has since been fired and replaced. We can only hope that things will go much better.

Even after all of this, I do like the owner of the shop. He seems genuine in his concerns and I understand that in a busy environment, something some things slip by. Also, he owned up to the mistakes that were made without question, and I have his word he will personally oversee the job this time.

So we took it there to spend the winter indoors and the work will be done by spring. I am guarded in my optimism that it will all turn out OK. I will certainly let you know.

Naturally, it began snowing on our 3 hour trip to the city. Anyone with a rear wheel drive Mustang GT knows that the car is not made for any type of winter weather at all. But fortunately it was not sticking and we slowly and carefully forged on and made it safely.

The rest of the day was crazy! We left the auto place at around 1:30 and headed for downtown Halifax. We had a couple of errands and I found that there was a Deserre’s art store there that I hadn’t seen before. Keith got his fill of city driving very quickly and we did make it to the store as well as stopping at the mall for a couple of things. Since this was my last trip to the city before snow and holidays, I wanted to have one ‘looksie’ to see what I could see. ;)

By the time we got out of the art store (which was OK – but not really too impressive) it was already getting dark. We wound through the snarled traffic and made our way to the highway toward home. The smell of exhaust was pretty strong and it brought back memories of my days living in Chicago. We were so happy when we finally got out of town.

On the way home, we stopped in the smaller town of New Minas to do some more shopping. Even though it was dark, it was only just after 6pm. We went to a few stores and got some wonderful ‘treasures’ which I will talk about on later posts.

One of my favorite things that I got at Staples was this:

An ADORABLE kitty tape dispenser. (Isn’t it funny how excited we can get with something so silly?)

Among my other ‘treasures’ were some great BOXES for gift giving this holiday season. I am a ‘box junkie’ as many of you know, and I find it hard to pass up the beautiful holiday boxes that are available this time of year. Here is part of my haul:

This is only PART of the fun, as there are smaller boxes nested in the larger ones. I think if I bring another box into the house here, Keith will build me a place to live in with them! ;)

By the time we unpacked and I settled down and got through the almost 250 emails, it was nearly 3am. What a day!

So today I will be catching up on orders and cutting orders of wood. Lots of people ordered my little ornaments and I have a whole load to cut and get out. I am thrilled about that!

I should be back to my ‘normal crazy’ life by tomorrow. If you emailed me and are waiting for a reply, please be patient. I answered as many as I could last night and have some to do again today. I promise that these busy times are the foundation of some great new projects and ideas to come!

I hope you have a wonderful day! (Mid-week already!) Happy Wednesday to you!

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Monday, November 23, 2015

My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer #1658: New Free Scroll Saw Pattern

I had a wonderful and crazy/busy weekend. It is always busy this time of year, and this year is no exception. I not only began working on some Christmas gifts, but I also have been working on some different aspects to expand our little business. I can’t wait to be able to share on that front, but since I am still figuring things out, I am going to wait. (I know! I can be downright MEAN! ;)  )

Yesterday Keith’s mom and I attended a penny sale for the cats that live on the nearby fishing wharf. I have spoken of this group before, and my neighbor Lee is very active in working with them. For many years now, he goes to feed and check on the cats every single day. There are others as well that provide food, shelter and medical care for these dear animals. Many of them are ferel, and many of them have been dumped there by cruel people. Sometimes they are able to be adopted out to homes, but others are not suitable for life with humans, and accept the care from a distance. 

I try to help them as much as I can. Keith and I frequently donate our prototypes to them for auction or penny sales such as we attended yesterday. It is a cause I enjoy helping with because I see all the good they do and the huge difference they make in so many little lives. They spend so much of their own time and money, and I am happy to try to give to them as much as I can afford. 

The sale was a huge success, and even though we live in a small community, they raised over $6,000 for their cause. This will help them get through the long cold winter that is right around the corner. They certainly were grateful.

As per tradition, I didn’t win a thing. <grin> Keith’s mom won a prize though and she was happy with that.  I think the best part of the afternoon was when the winner of the 50/50 prize draw won over $550.00 and immediately donated it back to the organization, saying the kitties needed the money more than she did. It truly warmed my heart and made me proud to live in such a wonderful, giving community. 

Speaking of giving …

Keith made a beautiful new plaque to post on our site for free:

With all the turmiol in the world and the upcoming holiday season quickly approaching, we both thought it would be an appropriate design to share with you. 

You can get it on our “Free Patterns and Resources” page of our site. 

We hope you like it. 

I am keeping this short today because there is lots to do. I have lots of mail to get ready to ship out and lots of other things I am working on as well. Tomorrow I am taking my car to Halifax for the winter storage and to get some additional work done on it, so I may or may not blog. If not, I will be back on Wednesday. 

Take care and have a wonderful and happy Monday. Do something fun and creative! 

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Friday, November 20, 2015

A Ming-Inspired Cabinet (10)

This is the third project working with material from some big slabs of curly bubinga. Each time I delve back into this material I am brought face to face with one of the main challenges: the propensity of the wood to tear-out during processing.

Even with sharp knives, and four of them, in both jointer and planer, I have found I can only reliably dimension down to a certain point, beyond which I proceed at my peril. My shoebox Makita planer, given the high rpm, sharp knives and a shorter distance between the cutter head and the infeed/outfeed rollers, can obtain a slightly better finish, tighter to desired final dimension, than can the bigger planer, but I am still limited to dimensioning down to about 1/8" overside in a given dimension. Tear out, when it occurs, can pull fibers from nearly 1/16" into a surface, so if I want to be confident of obtaining a clean surface, I have to allow for that in the planing.

I’ve learned about this matter the hard way in the past, having to take some parts below intended dimension so as to produce a clean surface afterwards. I wanted to avoid that outcome this time around, and I have found that the tool that helps get me there is the FZ-5V milling machine with helical shell mill. Even longer pieces can be adequately supported and worked from each end to produce a flat surface:

Another view:

A close -up shows the fine slices that can be removed, a layer at a time until a clean surface is left, with one round or two of final planing or super-surfacing remaining:

Above is a skimming pass taken closer to the dimension, though at other times I will mill off 1/16" or more. Generally speaking, it’s not at all the type of milling, the heavier stock hogging, that one can undertake on the planer or the shaper. After all, we’re talking about a 4 hp spindle, not an 11 hp one.

With these particular sticks, their final form was to be an inverted ’T’ section, so in an effort to guard against unwarranted wood movement after the waste strips were ripped from the blanks to produce the ’T’, I left the stock oversize in every critical dimension prior to doing the rip cuts:

I’ll let the stock settle for a day or two before milling to final shape. The excess thickness in every dimension should allow me to realize the ideal stick hidden within - all being well also at dimension and straight and square. There is the ideal and then there is the reality. Just trying to shorten the gap between those two states.

Here are the short side pieces (top), with the pillow block stock (bottom) also being worked, step by step, down to the line:

It’s certainly not a quick process to mill the stock in this manner, as the amounts taken per pass are rather modest, but it has allowed me to obtain clean surfaces without tear out, getting closer and closer to dimension, and that is really all that matters to me.

All for today- thanks for visiting!

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My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer #1657: Some More New Things

Today is one of those days when I debated whether I should blog or not. Yesterday was one of those crazy/busy days when I finished my “work” at 11:30 pm (after being at it pretty much since I got up early in the morning!)  I am still looking at 91 emails in my mail box – 31 which aren’t open yet – that need attention. 

Ahh … the luxury of being ‘self-employed’!  :)

I say that with a smile because those of you who read regularly know how much I love my job. It really doesn’t bother me being this busy. It is what we strive for. However, as we get busier and grow, there seem to be more days such as yesterday when we spend our time doing the day to day maintenance of our business, which doesn’t make for exciting or inspiring reading.  It is just the way it is. 

So after I finished  my new pattern (SLD519 Damask Photo Frame Ornaments) and emailed copies to those who pre-ordered them, I had to wind down a bit. I began playing with my new Kindle Fire reader that I got a couple of weeks ago from Mary Kingslan Gibilisco’s site for subscribing to her online classes. (Yes – it was a FREE bonus Mary is offering with a subscription to her classes! You can check it out HERE. Scroll to the bottom of the page)  For someone like me who hasn’t had a phone or tablet, this was a wonderful opportunity to try one out and expand my learning. Mary has so many wonderful classes and videos and the subscription is an incredible opportunity to learn with her. 

Anyway, I played with my Kindle until after 3:30 this morning! I got lost in the many things it could do and had fun downloading some fun books and playing some wonderful videos. The videos by Mary are great to watch whether I am painting along or not, as I learn from every single one. 

Needless to say, I slept in a little this morning. With the site all updated, today will be a day to regroup and unwind a bit. 

I did want to mention a couple more items that I added to the site besides what I talked about yesterday. I now have my SLDP244 Autumn Harvest Banner pattern available. 

This was the pattern I created for ToleTown that was painted on Roc-Lon fabric. I really enjoyed doing this one. 

My other new product is a new surface that I will be using for some of my designs. They are called SLDPK129 Elegant Bevel Cut Ornaments:

I am selling them in sets of three. I think there will be loads of ways that people will enjoy using them for their everyday holiday crafting. 

They are a great size and can be used for painting, stenciling or any other crafts. 

Today I am awaiting the arrival of something that I can’t wait to try. I hope it will help open an entirely new dimension for our little business. It is supposed to be delivered today, and I look forward to playing with it over the weekend and hopefully I will have some new things to show you on Monday. 

Until then, I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Enjoy every moment of your days. Make every minute count.

Happy Friday and weekend to you! 

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

My Journey As A Scroll Saw Pattern Designer #1656: Site Update Time!

As I write today, I promise I will keep things short. (I know – I always say that!) I want to get going on writing our newsletter that we will be sending out later on today. I also want to get to writing on the instructions for the new ornament pattern that will be available to my scroll saw followers later on today. (SLD519 - Damask Locket Ornament Pattern) (The link will work as soon as I have the pattern available on the site.) I have had such a wonderful and positive response regarding the pattern that I know that many of you are anxious to purchase it. 

Yesterday I took some better ‘presentation photos’ of the project. I really think they came out nice.  I took some of my own photos and printed them on photo paper and fit them into my frames and I just love the result:

Pretty cool, aren’t they?

The photos are of my 'cat children’, my human children and grand children, and my dear friend Leldon’s son is on the bottom left. Wouldn’t these be AWESOME gifts to give at holiday time??  And the cutting isn’t really that hard, either. I think it is a really nice 'intermediate’ scroll sawing project. 

Here is a close up so you can see the size of them: 

Also, in the same pattern, I am giving the inside motif designs for those of you who don’t want photos inside:

My sample set was done in a beautiful curly maple wood. You can really see the lovely grain on it and it compliments the designs so nicely. 

Of course, I had to try some BLING on them! :) 

As you can see, just a few beautiful hot-fix rhinestones that I got from Rhinestone Canada really added a bit of elegance and polish to an already pretty ornament. Adding these stones took just a couple of minutes! 

So that is all I am going to show you today. I am really pleased with this pattern and I think that you will enjoy cutting and giving them as well. For those of you on our mailing list, please watch for your newsletter later on today. I have some nice new things for the painters that subscribe to us as well as our new scroll saw patterns. We are always trying to keep all of you happy and busy! 

It is another cloudy and cool autumn day outside. I suppose it goes with the season. I am snuggled up with my kitties and coffee this morning and just enjoying the quiet. I wish you all a beautiful day.

Happy Thursday to you all! 

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