Sunday, December 30, 2012

Back to the Train

     Even though it's been the holiday season, I've still be able to squeeze in a few hours on my train.  I've been working on the trucks and wheels, which is really pretty much the last of the building to be done on the passenger cars.

     I started by making the sides for the trucks that included the springs, main cushion blocks and trunnion blocks.  Each side consists of 6 different pieces to be manufactured ( 8 sides total).  Next came the 16 wheels and 16 wheel flanges.  Each wheel is 7/8" dia. x 1/4" thick and each wheel flange is 1" dia. x 1/8" thick.  Once I centered, glued and clamped each wheel to the wheel flange I then drilled a 1/4" hole through each assembly for the axle.

     Here's a picture that shows one of the wheel and wheel flanges (clamped while glue dries), a couple of the truck sides, one of the truck assemblies before the wheels and axles and one of the completed trucks.

If you click on the picture you can see a little more of the detail

     Once I had the truck assemblies built, I made sure they where the right width for my track before they where mounted to the passenger cars.  I also did a dry fit to the cars to make sure everything lined up properly and also turned and pivoted the way they are suppose to.

     Another picture showing the trucks actually fitted to the car and on the curved track.  Everything fits and lines up perfectly.

     Now I'll be able to remove the trucks and start the finishing process on those.  Once I spray sealer coats on those and steel wool everything down, I will be able to start the final finishing on everything.  Right now it's too cold in the shop, so will probably put that off for a little while.

     I still have to finish the assembly of the trucks for the second car, but all the parts are made so it's just assembly that's left.  So far I have 17 hours in building the trucks and still have 3 or 4 more hours to go before I can start the finishing process.

     Tomorrow is the last day of 2012.  I hope everyone had a great year and may 2013 be even better.


Monday, December 24, 2012

"Twas the night before Christmas

     Twas the night before Christmas and all thru the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. But out in my shop it was a different story, I had presents to finish or there would be no glory!

     While the rest of the family was all snuggled in bed,  I had a shop full of saw dust floating around  my head.   There's presents to finish and I wonder why I try, I can't even get this dang glue to dry!

     I needed more clamps and a new saw blade or two, so what is this poor woodworker suppose to do? I've made my list and cut everything square, but no matter how hard I try it still doesn't seem fair.

     I do this every year and I run out of time, so I think next year I'll just order on-line
     I was about to give up and throw in the towel, when all of a sudden my dog commenced to howl!  He usually only does this when he hears a fire truck, but running outside I realize it was the UPS truck.

     The driver was dressed in a funny red suite; he might have been funny, but not very cute. I was not very happy with my late night intrusion, he only added to all my confusion.  He unloaded some packages with all kind of labels, brought them in my shop and put em on the table.

     It was hard not to notice what was written on the boxes, sitting on the table; names like Bosch, Dewalt and even Porter Cable.   I wasted no time unwrapping each delight; new sander, more blades, everything was just right. Box after box I tore open with glee and began to realize I didn't have to be a woodworking wannabe!
     I'm sure the lacquer has affected my thinking; was I sleeping, dreaming or just wishful thinking?   I'll have to wake up soon, and finish the presents,  but for now lets just say;  "THAT'S MY STORY AND I'M STICKING TO IT!.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Great progress on the Passenger Cars!

      I'm usually going crazy about this time of the year trying to finish a dozen or so woodworking projects for Christmas presents, but this year I decided to pass on trying to make something for everyone.  I'm using the excuse that we moved from SC to Delaware this year and I just haven't had the time to get the shop set up and build anything.
     I sure hope the family hasn't been following my blog, cause I've been putting some pretty serious hours in on making my passenger cars for the steam locomotive..........and enjoying every minute of it!
     A couple things I forgot to mention earlier;  As I said before, I built the steam engine for my Dad ten years ago and after he died in 2003, my Mom wanted me to have the steam engine back. Later I found a set of blue prints to make the passenger car, a coal hopper and the caboose, but didn't start anything for a long time.   Then a few years ago I decided to build not one, but two passenger cars and get back to working on the complete set.  After getting the floor plates and all the seats made for the two cars, they got tucked away in a cabinet and pretty much forgotten about for a couple years. 
     Every now and then I would find them and think; "I really need to get back working on these and finish what I started", but instead I would put them back in the cabinet and like the old saying goes; Out of site - Out of mind, which brings me to tell you a little about my new set up for a shop, because while setting up everything I found the cars again, only this time I kept them out and got inspired to get working again.
     Here on the property I have a detached two story, two car garage. ( about 25' x25').   In the garage I have 9 ft. ceilings and up stairs is a hip roof with windows on each end.  I have plenty of power to the garage and it was already wired with some receptacles and a couple 220v plugs.  I've installed a few 8ft. fluorescent light fixtures both down stairs and up.    I love having the complete upstairs to use for some of my smaller projects.  I have a couple working desk/benches along the front wall with the window so I can sit up there and work and watch the world go by at the same time. (this is where I work on the train).    I even hooked up the TV antenna and have a small TV and radio to keep me entertained.  I have a few of my cabinets mounted on the walls upstairs to keep all the extra hardware stored so it doesn't have to be downstairs with all the saw dust, etc.
     I used to love to do stained glass and still have all the supplies, so hope to get back into that also, but that's another story for later.
     The upstairs makes a perfect little workshop for working on my train.  I have everything set up and when I get done working (no matter for how long) I can just leave it there and not have to worry about picking everything up and putting it away.  I think that was one of the reasons I quit working on it the last time.  Trying to run a full time business and then switching over to work on something like the train for a half hour or so and then having to pick everything up so I would be ready for the next day for the business became too big of a hassle and took all the fun out of working on it.
     Anyway, back to the passenger cars. Here's a few pictures to show the progress.

  The past few days I've been working on making the diaphragms for each end of the cars, the ladders for each door ( 8 total) and making the hand rails for each ladder.

   I did a little final sanding on the cars and sprayed the first coat of sealer to see how things will look.  I'll steel wool everything down with #0000 steel wool before I put the final finish coats on, but I think I'll wait now until I finish building the rest.

     The last picture here shows that I can remove the top to the one car so we can see the interior.
      Now I get to start on making the truck assembly and wheels. There will be over 100 pieces just to make up the truck assemblies for the two cars, so I'm going to leave that for another post.
     What do ya think so far?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Passenger Cars for my Steam Engine

     I've posted a few pictures of the Steam Engine, Coal Car and bridge in one of my earlier blogs, but I'll start this entry off with a picture I took after I started on the passenger cars.  The first picture shows the beginning of the frame work for the passenger cars.  When I started I thought it would be just as easy to build two passenger cars as one, but boy was that a joke!   When 26 seats turned into 52 seats, I soon realized this was going to be very time consuming. 

     I'd like to take a couple minutes to explain a little of what went into making each seat.  Each seat consisted of a double bottom cushion, double top cushion, a pedestal and then an 1/8" dowel to mount the entire seat assembly to the floor of the car body.  I decided to make the cushions from maple so I would have some color contrast.  Once I cut the basic size to each top and bottom cushion, I then had to do the final shaping by hand by carving, filing and sanding each one to the final shape.  I had to cut each back cushion at a 5 degree angle so when the cushions where glued together the backs would lean back like a regular seat. 

     I built each base from walnut and glued each seat to a separate base.  I then drilled and glued a short 1/8" dowel in each base.  After all 52 seats were built, I layed out the location on the floor of each car for the proper location of the seats and drilled a mounting hole for each seat and glued in place.   I sprayed a couple coats of finish on all the interior parts while I had easy access.

     From there I was ready to build the sides and the tops for the two cars.  Once the sides where built and the windows cut out ( 9 windows on each side) I did the window trim. 
     It's hard to realize that it took 10 pieces of wood to trim out each little window.  You do the math; 9 widows per side, four sides, 9 window per side and 10 pieces for each window.  360 Pieces!
     Each window was first framed out with a casing, then the casing was trimmed with the exterior molding (each corner mitered).   Each window shade was made with a thin piece of balsa wood and the bottom rim was made with 1/8" dowel, filed flat on one side and glued along the bottom edge of each shade.  I made the shades random lengths and mounted to the inside of each window.
     When that was done I took a small staining pencil and stained the trim a little darker then the rest of the car.  No finish has be applied yet to the exterior.
 I did make one small design change on one of the cars though.  I realized that once the sides and tops where permanently mounted you would not be able to really see very much of the interior, especially all the work on the seats, so I made one of the tops so it could be removed.  No big deal, but sure makes me feel better!
     I have 8 doors and 8 sets of steps to make next with a few other small details for the body of each car and then I will start on making the trucks.  I remember how complex the trucks are from making them for the engine and coal car, but that will be later. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Back to the Railroad

     The holiday season sure makes it tough to find time to just sit and write for a while,but I did want to catch you up on my progress with making  the train.   I love when I get "off track" and forget about sticking with plans and just start designing things my way.  It's all part of the challenge!

     I'm still working on the passenger cars, but that's a very slow process and besides I had this wild idea and couldn't wait to see if I could do it.  I believe I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs that I wanted to display the train along the top of the headboard of our bed.   I'll post some pictures so you can better understand how that might work, but for right now, my focus was not just making some more straight track and have it run straight, but I wanted to see if I could build curved track and make it look like the train was coming out of the wall and across the top of the headboard!

     It's a challenge enough making the rails out of wood with all the cross ties, but making curved rails was going to be fun, especially since there are no plans to do such a thing.   The rails are somewhat like an "I" beam, so even though they are small, it's not too hard to run a profile on each side of the rails to make that, but that process won't work if you cut the rails in a curve first, so my only other option was to bend the rails once they were shaped like the "I" beam.

     I've never tried steam bending before, so I thought this would be a good time to learn.  I started reading up on how to "steam" wood and realized that it really wasn't that big of a deal.  The first thing was to make my straight rails ( decided to make them approx. 45" long), so I could attach them to the bridge I already built for the steam engine and coal car and that would allow a curve from the center section of the headboard to the back wall on the left side of the headboard so the train would look like it was coming out of the wall at about a 45degree angle.

      Sorry, really hard to get a good close up of the actual profile of the rails, but it gives you the idea.
Now it was time to build the steam box.  I built mine from some scrap plywood I had, but the next time I believe I will build it from PVC pipe instead. 

The one thing they recommend about steaming wood is to make the steaming box no bigger then necessary to put your wood in to be steamed.  Your wood also has to be supported in a way that the steam can penetrate the wood from all sides, in other words, you just can't lay the wood in the steaming box.  I took and drilled a small hole in each side of the box and slid a piece of coat hanger through from one side to the other.  I did this in four different locations along the length of the box so the  pieces I wanted to steam would be suspended on the wire cross bars.

Next I had to bore a large hole towards the end and make a plate that would be able to sit on the steam source and allow the steam to enter the box.  Oh, I forgot to mention, I needed a way to boil water to make steam and since I didn't have any other means, I moved my operation into our kitchen so I could use our stove.  Here's my set up once I had my box built, a pot of water on the stove and my steaming box stretched across the stove and counter.

     Before I steamed the rails I took a scrape piece of plywood and cut the shape of the curve I wanted my track to be. It was to be a template to use to clamp the rails to to make the curve.  The one mistake I made though; I made the jig to the exact curve I wanted the final track to be and didn't allow for the rails to actually spring back a little when they were taken off the form.  It turned out OK since the actual curve was not real critical and there was plenty of curve when I finished, but I'll have to remember that in the future if I do any steam bending where the radius is critical to the design.

Here's a picture of my famous steaming box set up in the kitchen!

Once I put the rails in the box and brought the water to a boil, I covered the opened end of the box with a towel.  Do not seal off the box tight, it will build up pressure and could explode.  It's amazing how hot it gets!  Make sure you are wearing gloves when you start handling this.   Since my rails are only 5/8" tall and 3/8" wide, it only had to steam about 15 minutes.

When I took the rails out of the steaming box, I immediately put them on the jig and starting in the middle, I clamped the rails to the shape of the template.  I let them stay on the clamps all night and the next morning when I removed the clamps, whoa-la, I had two curved rails!  That is so cool.

I made 45 cross ties out of Wenge, built a couple different spacing jigs and started gluing the cross ties to the rails.  This was a very slow process, since my spring clamps took up so much space, I could only glue 3 cross ties in place at a time.

So after 3 days of gluing, clamping, let dry, remove and do 3 more, I finally made it to the end!
Here's a picture of the track when finished and one picture of the track tied in with the train and how it will work on the top of our headboard.

     Now my next project will be to design and build a tunnel portal that will mount at the wall to give the appearance of the track actually coming out of the wall and across the top of the headboard.  When I get all the cars made for the train, it will reach from one side of the headboard to the other.
     Here's one more picture showing the train and just the bridge centered in the middle.  I'm thinking I will probably just run the track straight across the right side of the headboard, but who knows, I've got a couple more ideas floating around in my head so we'll see.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Know your pricing

"How do I price my work?", or  "What should I charge for my work?". These are probably the most asked questions I get from either hobbiest that would like to sell some of their work to make a little money or the woodworker that is trying to decide if he should do this as a profession and if so, can he make any money doing so.  Either way,  I hope as a woodworker you know how to price your work, not only to survive, but to make a profit (doesn't always happen even in the best of times).
     One of the most critical areas of pricing that we all have a tendency to fall short on is understanding our true production cost.  If you don't understand or know your true production cost then your pricing is nothing more that a crap shoot because you have nothing to base your pricing on!

"Sell it for what the market will bear"; I hear that a lot as advice on how much you can get for your work, but I feel that's a very misleading statement and you really need to fully understand what it means before you settle for a price and you certainly can't base your prices strictly on that factor.  Here's my point; if it cost you $30.00 to build something, and you feel the market will only bear $20.00 for that same item, then you should go ahead and price it at $20.00 because "that's all the market will bear"?    I hope not!

So what does that mean?  Is that the only option you have or do you have to figure out how to build it for less then $20.00?  Or do you have to find a different product to sell?  Or Maybe you could find a different market for your product so you can sell it for more.   But before you get to that point and try to answer some of those question,  you really need to know what it truly cost to build it in the first place.

So let's take a look at how to determine a price for your work.
There are six things you need to consider when determining a price for what you build.  Too many times as a hobbiest, a woodworker feels that anything he or she makes above the cost of materials is profit and then try to apply that same thought process to business. It just doesn't work that way.
 Here are six thing you have to take into consideration:    
  • Material cost
  • Fixed overhead
  • Administrative cost (known as non-productive time and cost)
  • Actual time to produce
  • Labor cost.(What you would like to get paid for making and selling your product).
  • Profit

Material Cost: This is the starting point for figuring your cost to produce a project, but only the starting point.  Just make sure you list everything in your material cost. (lumber,hardware, finishes, and all the small materials like; glue, screws, nails, sandpaper, clean-up materials, etc.).

Fixed overhead:  This is your monthly bills to operate your business; like rent (or mortgage), electric, phone, internet, insurances, etc.  Total these up for the month so you will know how much it cost you to run your business. (if you divide that total by the total hours you work each month in your shop, you will know how much it cost you per hour to operate your business).
Example: If your overhead is $1,000/month =$12,000 year and you spend 50 hr./wk = 2,500hr./year.
                Divide $12,00 (overhead) by 2,500 (hours) = $4.80/hr.  This is what it cost you every hour to operate your business whether you are building anything or not.

Administrative Cost (known as non-productive time):  The average one man shop will spend approximately 25% of his time in non productive activities, (meeting with client's, doing proposals, running for materials, talking on the phone, advertising, marketing, cleaning up, etc.)

Actual time to produce:  If you're lucky enough to get to build a proto type first, you should know exactly how long it takes to build it.  If you're building it as a one on, then you need to know how long it will take you to build and finish each phase of your projects.  Whatever the case; you need to know how many hours it will actually take to build your project.

Labor cost:  How much would you like to make working for yourself?   One thing to remember; you will be paying all your own taxes, social security, health insurance, retirement.

Profit:  This is one area so many woodworkers don't even consider, but if you ever want to replace any tools or buy new or expand your business, you better figure in some sort of profit.

Now if you add up all the above segments to figuring your true cost of producing a project you will have your price you should sell your product for.  This will have nothing to do with "what the market will bear" or even if you can sell your product for that price, but simply a true picture of cost.  Then you decide if there is a market for your product, or if you need to see if you have to build it cheaper to be able to sell or maybe it's just not feasible to build and sell it for a profit.

Let's do an example so you may be able to better understand:  We're going to build a nice birdhouse in our example. 
Materials;  Lumber,dowel for perch and porch rail, glue, primer and paint.  Total $10.00
Your actual time to build and finish this birdhouse: 4 Hours.
Overhead; based on our earlier example @ $4.80 hr.
Labor: How much you would like to make.  Lets say $20.00/hr.
Profit:  Let's say you would like to make a 15% profit.

Now we can total up our total cost to produce this birdhouse     Materials:                $10.00
                                                                            Time to build:     4 hours
                                                                            Overhead 4 hrs. x $4.80                   $19.20
                                                                            Labor:  4 hrs. x $20.00                     $80.00
                                                                                                         Total:                $ 119.20
This is your true cost to build this birdhouse.  Now if you want to make an actual profit on this birdhouse then you would have to add in your profit ( $119.20 x 1.15% = $137.08

So, if you sell your birdhouse for $137.08, then you would be able to pay for the materials, pay for your 4 hours of overhead that it took you to build it, pay yourself for the 4 hours it took for you to build it and you would make a $17.88 profit for the business.

Here's the real kicker; have you ever heard of a woodworker that says he just uses a multiplier to figure their selling price?  Some will say they take the material cost times 4 and that's what they will sell it for.  What's wrong with this picture?  First; it's obvious they have no idea what it truly cost to build their project and second; compare the two prices.  If you take the material cost of $10.00 and times it by 4, you only come up with $40.00.  Figuring it that way and you sold your birdhouse for $40.00, the only thing you would be able to pay for is the cost materials, the overhead and pay yourself about $2.55 hour and no profit (or if you want to say you made a profit, then you worked for absolutly Nothing!).

This is why so many woodworkers fail as a business. They just don't have a clue what the true cost of building a project really is and they somehow convince themselves they are selling their products for a profit. Don't fall into that trap!.

Holy Crap; can I sell my birdhouse for $137.08?
 Now you have a few question you have to ask yourself and find the answer to.
1. Is there a market for my $137.08 birdhouse?  (will the market bear it?).
2. If yes, then marketing is your next step.
3. If no; then what are my options?
    Can I find a way to build this same birdhouse faster and cheaper and if so, how much faster and cheaper?  Can I get it to a price point to be able to sell in my market?
    Or can I look for a different market that would "bear" the price I need to sell my birdhouse at?

Bottom line; when all is said-n-done, it may not be feasible to find a market for your birdhouse and you may have to find another product you can produce and sell for a profit.

This reminds me of a story I was told years ago about the farmer from up "north", went to Florida and bought a truck load of watermelons for $2.00 each.  He brought them back home and sold them at his produce stand for $1.00 each.  Needless to say, he sold out very quickly and when his neighbor asked him what he was going to do since he didn't make any money, he said; "Guess I'll have to get a bigger truck".

I have a whole chapter devoted to "pricing" in my book, but for here, I hope I can at least give you some ideas on how to look at your pricing.  There's still a lot more to it then that, but that's a start.
We'll talk about quality, marketing, image and some of the other factors later.



Sunday, November 25, 2012


When I first decided to do a blog I had no idea what to write about or even what a blog was for.  Why did people do blogs?  Was it simply a way to share ideas, or another place where you get to tell people how to do things, or was it more like a journal.   I still don't understand the full meaning of doing a blog, but like so many others, I feel I should.

So how did I come up with the name for my blog?  I thought it was kind of clever myself, but then again, what do I know, I don't even understand doing a blog.   One thing is for sure, I have a passion for woodworking and love to share whatever knowledge I may have with anyone that is interested. Right or wrong, I'll let you be the judge of that.  My thoughts may not be on woodworking alone, but usually has a connection one way or another and my mind seems to race from one subject to another.  Yes; I've been told I'm ADD or ADHD or whatever label that is we like to put on someone who seems to have too much energy and can't keep it focused all the time.  I don't think my mind ever shuts down. 

I can design in my sleep, I will do complete installations in my sleep the night before I actually have to do the installation.  While working on one project, I'll be thinking of the next project I would like to challenge myself with.........and the thoughts go on and on!.

When I first started my blog, it was primarily for a customer of mine that I was doing a project for and I wanted to give them a way of checking up on the progress as I went along.  They lived in Pennsylvania and my shop was in South Carolina.  If you want to check it out or if you followed along at the time, it was all about building their gun cabinet.  The blog was a lot of fun, but I will have to admit, I would forget to take pictures as often as I probably should have, but overall I feel my first attempt at doing a blog turned out OK.  (the customer loved it!).

After that, I seemed to have lost interest in doing the blog, maybe not so much that I didn't want to do it but the simple fact that I really didn't think anyone would be that interested in following me build furniture or cabinets or talk about woodworking, so I pretty much dropped it.

 See, that's how I feel about face book.  I still can't figure out why people think the world is interested in everything they do in their life.  If I want someone to know something or if someone wants to know something about me, just ask me personally.............I don't need to tell the whole world about it!.

Now that I've spouted off about that, why the heck am I writing a blog?   Trust me, I have mixed feelings about it.  On one hand, I feel a blog is a lot like putting it out there on face book, but then on the other hand I keep trying to convince myself that anyone that is following a blog is interested in learning something more then just social gossip. 

So, if I do have any followers, I'll try not to waste a lot of time talking about my social life, putting pictures of my pets, grandchildren,or family reunions on my blog and try to keep it focused on woodworking and my thoughts about things concerning woodworking.

Over the years I've met so many interesting people that taught me so much not only about woodworking, but also about business, how to deal with people and how to deal with myself.  Every day has been a learning experience and each day I try to learn and understand more about woodworking, business, people and myself.

If there is one thing I've learned about woodworking (especially doing woodworking as a profession) is you need to know a lot more then just how to cut a board square! 

I've been writing a book during the past year; How to start a woodworking business, so I may cover a few of the topics here in my blog or at least expand on some of my thoughts about what it takes to start a woodworking business. 

In my last few blog entries, I've been talking about building a model steam locomotive and my plans to finish the entire train.  I would like to switch back and forth from that subject and talking about woodworking in general.    

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Building the railroad bridge and tracks

I had to build a 36" section of railroad track so the train would have something to sit on and the plans showed exactly how to build the rails and railroad ties.  That part of it was time consuming, but pretty straight forward to build, but I wanted someway to display the locomotive other then just setting on the track on a shelf.

So I decided to design and build a bridge that could be used simply by sitting on a shelf as a display for the locomotive or it could be used as a display shelf within itself.  There's a french cleat under the back side of the bridge to allow it to be hung on a wall. (In fact, that's the way my father displayed it).

I found the pole lights in a hobby shop, so mounted and wired those along the back side of the bridge.

Now that I've decided to build a couple passenger cars, a coal hopper and caboose, I will need a lot more track and "where" and "how" to display the whole train has created a new set of challenges.

So here's my idea; this is a picture of our bed headboard.  It's 10ft. wide with the light bar being about 4 inches lower then the two outside towers.  Not that the bridge for the train was originally designed to sit between the towers, but the bridge turned out to be 4 inches high, so it could work out perfectly to run the train across the entire width of the bed.........but that would be too simple!

I thought it would be neat to make the track curved coming off the left end of the bridge and have the track turn back towards the wall and have the track curve the opposite coming off the right end of the bridge and turn towards the front of the right tower.  With the train being over 10 foot long when completed, this would give me the length I need to display the entire train on top of our headboard.

I've got a couple more ideas for this project but will cover them another time.  I've been working on the curved track, so will talk about that phase of the build in my next blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Let's look @ the plans for the locomotive

Happy Thanksgiving, 2012.
It's very quiet this morning, so a perfect time for a little writing. 
I would like to show you some pictures of the actual plans for building the locomotive.  You will see I really made a mess on each sheet, but only because I was keeping track of my time and I would     hi-lite each step as I completed it and wrote down the time it took to complete. 
I'm really glad I did, because it kept me focused on each step and I didn't get ahead of myself or forget where I was.........and I'm really glad I kept track of my time because at the end I was shocked how many hours I had invested.
The first page is nothing more than an exploded view of the overall  engine and coal tender.  As you can see these plans are based on the Reading Line (T-l) steam locomotive. 
Here's a few interesting facts about the T-1 steam locomotive.   It's a 4-8-4 freight locomotive,originally designed in 1949, and was made in Reading, PA 
T-1 Specifications
Weight on Drivers.....278,200 lbs.
Total Engine Weight.....441,300 lbs.
Total weight in working order, Engine and Tender.....809,000 lbs.
Tender Capacity.....19,000 Gallons Water and 26 Tons Coal
The approximate scale of model:  1/38
The very first thing I had to do to start the project was deciding what wood or woods I would use to build it with.  I love walnut and thought the natural color of walnut would make a good choice. I had a lot of scrapes of walnut laying around so felt I could probably build most of it without having to buy lumber.  I would find out later there would be pros and cons of using walnut! 
The very first piece I had to build for the locomotive was of course the boiler.  This would have to be turned on the lathe starting with a 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" x 16" blank.  Turning, sanding, laying out and drilling all required holes took 2 1/2 hours.   Wow!  One simple piece and 2/12 hours!  I knew right then and there I was in for a long project.
I'm not going into every piece and how long it took to make, but if you look at the following pictures, you can get an idea what was involved and how complex this piece was going to be. 

There is one little part that I had to make that turned out to be quite entertaining to make and that was the little "hand rail post" that run along the entire length of the boiler.  Let me see if I can describe one of them so you can get an idea what was involved in making each one (had to make 44 of them)
Each one was made from 1/4" walnut doweling.
Each one had a 3/32" hole drilled through the doweling 1/8" from the end.
Each hand rail post was only 1/2" in length.
Each end with the hole was rounded off by hand.
Trying to drill a 3/32" hole through a 1/4 dowel is one thing, but trying to hold on and round over the end was another. 
Taking each piece at a time and focusing only on that one and not worrying about the scope of the entire project helped me not to get overwhelmed. I learned so much about myself while building this locomotive.
I very seldom work with plans, especially plans from someone else, so having to build hundreds of pieces to someone else's specifications was a real learning experience.  PATIENCE; that was something I felt I was lacking in, but I found out that building something like this really test your patience almost every step of the way. 
Making very small items that would show up and be such a big part of the overall look of the final piece made me pay much more attention to small details.
Being used to building large items like Entertainment Centers, Furniture or complete set of Kitchen Cabinets, I found it took a totally different mind set to spend just as many hours as building something large as building something as small as this model. 
Little by little I began to see the shape of the locomotive develop before my eyes.  I would work for hours and it would seem like I wasn't getting anywhere, then all of a sudden things would begin to come together and I could see my progress.  
My biggest motivation was of course my Dad; knowing how much he would love it and appreciate all the work I put in it for him.  This was truly a labor of love. 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Building a Steam Locomotive

I'm going to start a long running blog on building a model steam locomotive, but don't worry if you're not interested in following this particular topic because it won't be a continuous blog.  I will be covering a lot of other topics along the way. 

This idea of building a model steam locomotive started over 10 years ago when I saw a set of plans for building a very detailed locomotive and coal tender.  Since my father had a great love for steam locomotives, I thought it would be a great project to build for a Christmas present for him.

I sent away for the plans and when they arrived, I immediately realized this was not going to be an overnight project, in fact it was quite overwhelming!  It involved hundreds, upon hundreds of parts that each would have to be fabricated from scratch.  OMG; what did I get myself into! 

I'm sure glad I got the plans in January and I had a chance to get started then.  Working nights and weekends, it took the entire year to complete.  Over 200 hours to complete.  I gave it to my Dad for Christmas in 2002.


I wish I had taken pictures while I was making it, but never thought about it back in 2002, but I will discuss a few of the details about the engine, coal tender, bridge and track as I go along. 

After my Dad died in 2003, my Mom decided I should have the train and was returned to me.  Since then I found the plans  (blue prints) for the passenger cars, coal hopper and caboose so decided it would be fun to build a complete train.  The engine and coal tender is about 3 ft. long now.  My future plans are to build two passenger cars, one coal hopper and the caboose, which will make the overall length of 11ft.

I've been working on the passenger cars, but will talk about those a little later.  On my next blog I would like to talk a little about some of the details involved with the engine.

Kitchen pictures in Pawleys Island

I know I should post some pictures as I actually write the blog, but I like to do things a little differently. Here are a few pictures of the kitchen I did in Pawleys Island,SC. It's a small ocean front condo that was built in the 70's.

This last picture is looking out the kitchen window.  I will have to admit it was hard to stay focused!  It's probably a good thing I did this job during the winter months.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

California to South Carolina

Over the years I've designed, built and delivered furniture and cabinetry to a number of states; in fact 13 different states so far.  Most have been along the Eastern Seaboard, from New York to Florida.

I've had a web-site for a number of years now and it has slowly been getting more leads from all over. A lot of inquires are looking to see if we have a show room or do we produce a certain line of furniture, but every now and then I will get a request for a price on a custom piece.  Personally, I've found it hard to sell directly from the site since everything I do is custom and NOT CHEAP! 

So how do you sell a $5,000 to $10,000 piece of furniture or a $20,000 to $30,000 set of kitchen cabinets to someone on line when they've never met you or seen your work in person.  First, I try to keep a good variety of pictures of some of my work on my web-site.  Second, once someone e-mails me regarding a project or price, I make sure I respond immediately.  I try to give them some basic information and ask for more information from them.  I try to keep it simple and professional, but making sure to show a lot of interest in what they are inquiring about.

About 2 years ago I received an e-mail from a prospective customer in California asking about custom made kitchen cabinets for their Condo.  My first thought; how the hell do I deliver a complete set of kitchen cabinets to California?  But as I read on, I found out they own a Condo in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, which is not far from Myrtle Beach where my shop was.

They had been working with a design center in Myrtle Beach a couple years before that, but had to put the project on hold and when they decided to start again, the original design center was no longer in business.  They found my web-site, liked what they saw and decided to contact me to see if I would be interested in quoting a price on their kitchen. 

We e-mailed back a forth a number of times.  They sent a copy of the original design and a few pictures of the style cabinets, style doors and drawer fronts and also they would want them painted a custom color.

Something I've never done before, but decided to chance it on this proposal and that was to quote a rough price on the job without visiting the job site first.  I explained it was a very rough proposal, but wanted to see if this was in their budget before we proceeded further.  At the same time, I sent them a list of Customer References and asked them to take the time to contact each one to see what they thought of my work, was I on time, did I do what I said I was going to do, how I worked when in their home and how satisfied they were with the finished project?   I picked 6 different customers; each one I had done more then one project for over the years. ( I found out later, she had contacted all six and I'm glad she did).

I realized the wife was running the show ( her husband was a TV producer and left the project totally up to her).  She thought the pricing was fair and pleased that I sent the customer referral list at the very beginning.   I learned years ago that a customer really needs to feel comfortable with you if they are going to part with thousands of dollars to a stranger and in this case not being able to meet you in person.

We made arrangements for me to get keys to their condo in Pawlys Island and take a look at the job site, take all the measurements and see what was going to be involved.  She also hired a contractor to put in new sheet rock, new ceiling, new electrical and new flooring, so I had to coordinate with him on schedules and who was going to do what so we could get a final proposal back to her.

As always, I refuse to work "for" a contractor as a sub, so my proposal was totally separate from the contractor.  I never knew what he charged for his portion of the work and he never knew what I charged.  I like it that way.  I work strictly for the customer, not the contractor.

We did all the final design and finalized on the final quote, sending her drawings and prices thru e-mails.  I got a signed contract and deposit to start the job and never met the customer. Actually, the first time we finally met face to face was at my shop and her kitchen was better then half built.  She had flown in from California to finalize on some of the things for the condo. (flooring, granite, tile for back splash and lighting fixtures).

She really enjoyed stopping by the shop and actually getting to see her kitchen cabinets being built.  That's one thing I've always enjoyed; letting customers come by so they can see how everything is built.  I have nothing to hide and they really appreciate what goes into making a quality product.

The second time she saw her kitchen cabinets, I was doing the installation.  She flew in again to see the overall progress of the total project and pick out some final things for the kitchen.  She had to go home before it was totally installed, but she was thrilled with what she saw and told me to just send her the final bill when I was finished with my part and she would send me a check.

I finished my part about a week later, sent her a final bill along with a bunch of pictures.  She never hesitated to send me a check for the final payment and she never saw the kitchen again until almost six months later.  When they came to the East coast , she brought her husband by my shop so we could meet and he was able to see the shop.  They invited the contractor and myself to stop by so we could all celebrate and enjoy a Margareta. ( did I mention this was a beach front condo?)  Some jobs are just better then others!

I know I have some pictures of the project so I will post a few on my next post. The very last project I did before I retired and move to Delaware was doing a couple vanities for the same customer.  I never got to see them on that project, but sent lots of pictures and again they were thrilled!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pictures; kitchen before/after

Thought I would post a couple pictures of the Kitchen I've been talking about in my last couple post.
Like I said earlier, we didn't really change the foot print of the kitchen, just changed from white to cherry.  More of a modern look.  The cherry cabinets were finished with clear pre-catalyzed lacquer so they will darken over time to a beautiful patina. 

The pictures were taken before I was even finished with the install and it's amazing how much they have darkened since they were installed.  Within a couple months they already began to blend with the other cherry furniture in the condo.

The first couple pictures were taken on the first day of installation, as you can see it was left up to me to clear out the kitchen. Not only was everything was left on the counters, but the cabinets were full also.

I had just finished putting back the final touches when I took these pictures with the new cabinets. The only thing left to do was to install a new piece of granite behind the slide in cooktop since they changed from a free standing stove to a slide in.  We had a piece of matching granite cut that went behind the stove up to the microwave.  When installed, it looked like it had always been there.

Next time I'm going to talk about dealing with a customer from California when I'm in South Carolina!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Installing the Kitchen Cabinets

In my last post, I talked about the kitchen remodel I was doing and the unique installation I found myself involved in.  How do you remove old cabinets and install new cabinets without disturbing the existing granite counter top?

Designing and building the Cherry cabinets was a piece of cake, but now it was time for "out with the old and in with the new"!

I started by removing the upper cabinets. After getting all the cabinets unloaded (that's right, the customer left all that for me to do).  I then removed all the doors and shelves.  I very carefully cut the caulking along the top, bottom and sides where the cabinets meet the wall.  Remember, this was brand new wall paper and they did not want to disturb it or have to redo anything that was already done.  Taking my time I slowly and very carefully removed each cabinet.  So far, so good; all the old upper cabinets are removed and not one thing disturbed on the wall.  I cheated when I built the new upper cabinets by making them 1/4" longer  and 1/8" deeper then the original ones and it worked out perfectly.
When I installed the new cabinets, they lipped the wallpaper by just a whisker and looked like it was always that way.  All the upper cabinets went in very simple and that part of the installation was pretty much the same as any other cabinet install.  I will have to admit that I am very slow when it comes to installing, but I think that just has to do with being so particular about everything being level, plumb and aligned.

Now came the fun part; how and where do I start with the base cabinets?  All the old appliances have been removed and the sink, disposal and hot water dispenser was removed.  If you were wondering, yes, I brought a plumber in to remove the dishwasher, sink, disposal and hot water dispenser.  I've done all that before, but this was on the sixth floor of a bunch of $600,000 condos and if water was going to flow, it was going to be somebody else's responsibility. 

I removed all the doors, drawers and shelves in the base cabinets.  I knew I would basically have to destroy each cabinet to be able to get it out from under the counter.  I started with the end cabinet that was next to the refrigerator opening.  I very carefully cut all the silicone I could see along the front edge and along the side that was the end of the counter.  Thank goodness for particle board sides and staples because I was able to slowly knock the side of the cabinet loose from the face fame, bottom shelf and back without disturbing the counter at all.   Once I got it loose enough, I was able to tip it to the side and remove the one side of the cabinet.  I left the back stringer of the cabinet screwed to the studs while I carefully removed the toe kick, bottom self and face frame.  Each was broken up and removed piece by piece.  I made a brace to support the front edge of the counter and since the back and back stringer was still attached to the wall the counter was supported and never moved.

Now I went to the next cabinet and carefully repeated the same procedure.  When I had the second cabinet removed, again with the back of the cabinet still in place screwed to the studs and the front supported by a temporary support, I then took one of the new base cabinets and slid it back under the counter part way.    If you've been following closely, your first question should be, if I couldn't get the old cabinet out from under the counter because the cabinets where literally sitting in a hole, then how could I get the new cabinet back in.   I originally thought of just building the 4" base for the toe kick separately; install that "in the hole" and then slide the new cabinets in between the base and the counter top.  The only problem with that scenario is, I had no idea how the floor ran in conjunction with the counter top.  How would I be able to level and keep the cabinets tight to the bottom side of the counters?  So what I did was build the cases minus the 4" base.  I used heavy duty cabinet leveling legs so I could adjust the legs up enough to slide the cabinet in under the counter and then adjust the legs to bring the cabinet up tight to the underside of the counter. 

Here's where it got tricky; I could only push the cabinet back in so far since I still had the back of the old cabinet screwed to the wall and was in the way.  I had to leave enough room between the new cabinet and the remaining parts of the old cabinet to be able to get behind and remove the back.   This meant that the back of the new cabinet was sitting in the hole and the front of the cabinet was sitting on the new floor.  I adjusted the legs so it sat flush with the bottom of the underside of the counter and gave support.   I then crawled in behind the new cabinet and carefully removed the old back and stringer, leaving the one that was on the end of the counter next to the refrigerator opening still in place for the added support I needed.  I then loosened the tension on the new cabinet just enough to slide it little by little back into the opening until all four legs were where they should be and could raise the cabinet tight to the bottom of the counter.  I did not fasten the cabinet to the wall yet.

I now took the new cabinet that was for the end next to the refrigerator opening and slide that cabinet back part way and adjusted it to the counter like I did the first one.  Carefully removed the rest of the old cabinet, put in a temporary support at the very edge of the back corner and then slide the new cabinet back into the hole so I could adjust the legs again to make it tight to the underside of the counter.   So far, no signs whats so ever that the counter has been disturbed at all. The caulking has not even cracked along the wall or between the back splash and counter.

  Would you believe that took me a full day just to get that far?  Two cabinets!   I'm exhausted, but pleased with the results, so it was time to call it a day and start the whole process over the next day.

The next day was another challenge because now I was going into a dead corner and supporting the "L" shape of the counter while removing the old and getting the new in took a long time also.  Two more cabinets and undercounter refrigerator and that was it for another day.  The great part was I had a complete run of cabinets done along one wall, around the corner up to the range opening.  The cabinets looked great and the counter top remained perfect!  But now comes the real challenge; I have the other wall to do which includes the opening for the dishwasher, the sink cabinet (with all the plumbing coming thru the wall) another cabinet and then a lazy susan base cabinet in the opposite corner.   Almost 10ft of run with the sink cut out to deal with. 

Let's deal with that on my next post!  I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kitchen remodel with a twist

     After 27 years of woodworking I did something with a kitchen remodel that I never tried before; and most everyone said it couldn't or shouldn't be attempted.  Let me give you a little background on this job before I get into the actual remodel.

     I have a customer I've done many projects for over the years, including their main home, his office, their cabin in the mountains and their condo at the beach.  They purchased a new upscale condo in North Myrtle Beach, SC about 5 years earlier and they were never that impressed with the kitchen, so I was asked to quote a price on designing and building a new kitchen.   So far, so good!

     Existing kitchen cabinets were white melamine cases with MDF termofoil 1pc. raised panel doors (typical cabinets used by contractors for many price level homes).   The counter tops were Granite with a 4" high Granite back splash.  The overall footprint of the kitchen was going to remain the same as the original layout.  New cabinets were to be Euro style (cherry inside and out) with modern style doors and drawer fronts.

So..........where's the twist?  Let's count the twist.
First; they had installed a new tile floor earlier and did not want to disturb that.
Second; they had just wallpapered the walls in the kitchen and did not want to disturb that.
Third; the upper cabinets were mounted tight to a soffett with no moulding and did not want to have to use moulding when the new cabinets were installed.
Fourth; All new appliances, including range, microwave/hood,dishwasher, refrigerator, sink and they wanted to add a small under counter refrigerator.
Fifth; They had beautiful Granite Counter tops and wanted to keep those.

So.........what's the big deal?   Well to start off, the granite people said they could not pull the old Granite counter top off without breaking it. Their excuse was; the granite was siliconed down and since the area around the sink cut-out was only a couple inches wide, they were sure it would break at that location since the counter ran from wall to wall and it was approx. 10ft. long.  Now; my customer does not like to take "No" for an answer, so you can see where this is headed. 

Now my customer wanted to know if there was any way I could remove the old base cabinets and install new base cabinets without removing the granite counter tops and back splash?

I had to give this one a little thought.  Let's see, I have granite counter tops "siliconed" to the old cabinets, a new tile floor that was installed after the cabinets were.........which means the cabinets are sitting basically in a hole so even if I can somehow cut the silicone, I can not pry the counter tops up and I can't slide the cabinets forward because of the floor.  Anyone besides myself see a problem here?

All I'm going to say for now is, I took on the challenge.  I'll tell you how I handled it and how things turned out in my next blog.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What was I thinking?

     Obviously I've been doing a lot more thinking then actually writing.  It's been a long time since I've posted on my blog, so I believe it's about time to get back at it and see if I can catch up on a few things that's been happening over the past two years.

     Let me make a quick list, then I'll try to fill in some of the details as I go along.

 2008:  "Best" year I ever had as far as business went. Designed, built, finished and delivered more furniture then any previous year.

2009:  "Worst" year I ever had as far as business went. Designed, built, finished and delivered less then 50% compared to 2008

2010:  Worked harder then ever to pull things back from the brink of nothing and ended with something in between 2008 and 2009.

2011:  Here we go again!  Back to even worst then 2009.  This is really taking all the fun out of woodworking.  I've got to make some decisions, so in July of 2011, I sent a letter to all my customers letting them know that I planned on retiring the Hufford Furniture Group in July of 2012.  One more year and that would be it.

I'll have to admit, it did generate some business for the remainder of 2011 and the start of 2012. 

In October of 2011, Tracy's great aunt passed away and Tracy had a chance to acquire her property in Delaware.  From September of 2011 to March of 2012, Tracy made 12 trips to Delaware to take care of the estate, etc.   From October of 2011 to March of 2012, I made 6 or 7 trips to Delaware to help take care of the property, etc. and still operated my business in Myrtle Beach, SC.  So in March of 2012, we made the decision that I would retire a couple months early and we would move to Delaware.

Well...........that's it in a nutshell!  I'll fill in the details as I try to catch up with life.  I had no idea being "retired" kept you so busy.