News from the Pipemaking Workshop with the Funk.
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Monday, September 25, 2006

Handy Workshop Tips

Today's pic shows a new batch of Fdp pipes in process, with my own FdP #1 modeling with them. I thought I'd toss out some handy workshop tips that I've found, which might not be the most immediately obvious..

Get a remote-control for your vac
This seemed like ridiculous over-gadgetry when I got mine, but given the noise of a large dust collector running constantly coupled with the aggravation of having to pick one's way through a crowded, messy workshop every time the thing needs to be turned on or off, a remote is a god-send. Hang the button on your belt and click it from anywhere in the shop, for instant on-off vac operation. Lovely.

Get some wireless headphones
I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating. Big ones will cancel out machine noise while letting you enjoy music or audiobooks from your computer, satellite, MP3 player, or whatever. Essential for making those long hours of repetitive work pass more easily.

Make a stem twister
Get a length of soft wood and cut a rectangular notch in the side of it. You can slip a stem sideways into this notch and use the wood piece as a wrench to help remove stuck stems. The soft wood won't damage the stem material but you can apply a lot more leverage.

Make some mortise & bowl sanders
Get some varying-size steel rods and wrap sandpaper around them, taping it in place. They can be chucked in the lathe for easy sanding of mortise interiors and bowl interiors, if needed. This will drastically cut down on tenon fitting problems, allowing more leeway during the lathe cutting because it's easy to open the mortise with a little sanding if the initial tenon size is too tight.

Make a time sheet
Jot down a set of columns, divided into time spent drilling, turning, bowl-shaping, stem turning, and finishing. Keep track of the time you spend in each of these steps. This way it's easy to know what takes time, and if you find an alternate, faster method that gives equal results, you have something to compare against. Most people wouldn't notice by "feel" if one method of drilling of bowl drilling took fifteen minutes and another took 23, but over a year's time this kind of thing adds up!

Make a money sheet
Work out a handy sheet in something like Excel that can measure all the variable of your work so you can tell just how much you're really making, how long you're working, and whether you're actually getting more or less profitable. $400 may seem like an expensive pipe, but take out the $200 for the dealer's markup, the 4% fee from credit card or bank processing of the payment, and the $12+ in material replacement costs, and it isn't so impressive. That's just $180 going into your pocket, and that's spread over several hours, including packing time and back-and-forth to the post time. Not to mention office time spent doing taxes, filling out insurance forms, etc....

Mix halogen and incandescent lights, with as much natural light as possible
Much better for getting stain colors right.

More to come!
Oh, I may be deleting the Frappr map. It was fun and cute in the beginning but Frappr seems intent on over-slopping their site with unwanted add-ons like chats, forums, scrolling displays, and god knows what else, and I'm tired of logging in just to approve a new pin only to find that I can't figure out where things are after the latest re-arrangement. I recently got the notice of a new member and still can't find where to approve the pin, now. Alas, why does every site these days seem to think we all want every possible social networking option piggy-backed onto something that used to be streamlined and useful?