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From workshop to wordpress

This is the post excerpt.

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Frostbite Furniture has been around for a while now but we’re finally starting to grow. We’re getting new projects both as commission work and premade stock items. We’re also finally starting to learn to really manage our business as a business and thought some people might like to come along for the ride.

So here’s a little of what our blog might have to see if you’re interested. If you’re interested in woodworking, we’ll have posts for you. If you’re interested in the ins and outs of running a small business, we’ll have posts for you. And if you’re interested in generally what’s going on in northern Minnesota and around the Frostbite world we’ll have a few posts for you as well.

So keep reading, I’ll keep writing, and hopefully I’ll be able to share a little something with you that you can at least find interesting if not valuable.

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Upcoming Craft Shows

Hi folks.

As most of you know we do a lot of craft shows in the summer to try to get word out about Frostbite and to hopefully sell a few things along the way. I know this cold and wind we’ve been having lately doesn’t exactly conjure up images of wandering through a park looking at all the stuff different vendors have for sale but I’ve really been thinking craft shows this week. Of course that’s mainly because I’ve been filling out entry applications now to make sure we get every early bird discount possible.

But I thought I’d share with you our upcoming tentative show schedule. First, I hope you come and check out our booth if we happen to be in your area. Second, because some people are curious about what life is like when you’re out hitting the craft shows and this schedule, even if it’s just an early draft for this season, will help shine a little light on it.

March 18-19  Blaine National Sports Center Annual Spring and Craft Show

May 12-14 Mesabi Mall Mother’s Day Weekend Show

May 27  Forest Lake American Legion Spring Craft and Gift Show

June 2-3 Detroit Lakes Street Faire at the Lakes

June 17-18  Land of the Loon in Virginia

June 22  Lemonade Concert and Art Fair in St Cloud

June 23-25 Back to the 50’s Cruise-n-Art Show St Paul

July 2 Arts in the Park in Brainerd

July 7-9 Heritage Days in Two Harbors

July 22 Pelican Rapids Arts in the Park

July 23 Detroit Lakes Arts and Crafts in the Park

July 28-30 Blueberry Festival in Ely

August 4-6 Tall Timber Days in Grand Rapids

August 12  Vergas Street Fair

August 19 Arts and Crafts Festival in Buffalo

August 25-26  Barnseville Potato Days

September 1-4 Wild Rice Days in McGregor

September 9-10  Little Falls Arts and Crafts Fair

October 6-8  Bayfield Apple Fest

October 13-14 Blaine Nation Sports Center Fall Craft and Gifts Show

 

All dates are somewhat tentative and subject to change. More dates will possibly be added.  IMG_0455

 

 

Dusty Vision

Across the yard from my shop is yet another project of mine. It’s far larger than any project that has ever been confined within the walls of my shop and is, at the moment, far more demanding of my time than the projects within my shop. It’s my house.

As many of you know, I’ve been building my house for the past several months. We’ve done concrete work, framing, roofing, and am now working on drywall. When we finally got to drywall it felt as if there was suddenly a light at the end of the tunnel and started making plans to move into our new home. However, because of all the drywall that light at the end of the tunnel ended up being pretty hazy. But we continue to push through.

Like a moth I’ve been drawn to the bright light that is my finished home and that has, unfortunately, drawn me away time and time again from the projects I have waiting for me in my shop. I’ve been able to get an hour or two here or there but even on days when I’ve planned on doing work in the shop I find myself drawn across the yard hoping that just a few more hours of work and I’ll cross the threshold of being able to bring furniture in over the threshold.

So I just ask that those who’s projects are in or are coming to my shop to just bear with me for a little while longer. Yet again I’ve scheduled myself to start painting in under a week but this time I think I may be able to hold myself to it. After that there isn’t much left to allow us to move in and, I believe, that will free me up in a dramatic way, to get to work on finishing the projects that are within the walls of my shop instead of the big one across the yard.

Thanks,

Markimg_08431

Looking sharp

Well, after some delay and part of the weekend of I finally got my newly sharpened planer blades installed and back to work. they cut very well thanks to Mesabi Willow Sharpening out of Eveleth, Minnesota. They even fixed a crowning issue one developed while at another sharpener.

I was really pleased running the birch through the planer. It’s always a little like unwrapping a present when you stick rough lumber through the planer because sometimes you get the basic wood you’re expecting and sometimes you get some interesting grain pattern or even some unexpected color.

This time I got the treat of some nice auburn running down the middle of one board. That might often be considered detrimental if you’re looking for matching boards throughout a project but that’s why I generally try to order a fair amount extra each time. That way I have enough for the whole job even if I set aside an interesting board or two I find while planning. I use many of these boards for some of my more decorative work or for parts where their natural beauty will be highlighted. It’s a good way to develop a collection of interesting stuff that you have on hand for when an opportunity to use such a piece arises.

Because I spent the rest of the day doing a repair job for another customer planning the boards is all I got done today on this stool job. I’ll be mostly out of the shop tomorrow as I am scheduled to do some sales work but I hope to get ripping and doing the initial sizing of all the pieces in the next couple days.

Thanks and have a good day,

Mark

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A planer is one of the loudest tools in the shop. Always wear your ear protection when it’s on.

Challenges

One of the unexpected challenges of restarting a shop after six months away is trying to remember at what state of completion partially done projects are in and even more relevant toady, what state of wear tools and blades are in.

Today I had intended on planning the rough lumber needed for the step stool project. I knew there would be a number of challenges getting back into the swing of things, especially since several of my shop additions are only partially hooked up. Since I still don’t have my ductwork done for my new dust collector I ran a hose for that. Then I blew out the planer which presented it’s own challenges because the new air compressor isn’t plumbed into the main shop room yet either. After spending way too much time on prep work I finally got the planer dialed in and ready to start planning.

As those who have used a lunch box style planer before know it’s a load and growly tool anyway but when the board first reached the blades it made the distinctive and loader still noise that in the back of my mind had been fearing might happen. You see, last time I used the planer, over six months ago, I was planning a very old finish off some reclaimed cedar that I made some small stools out of. It turned out the finish in some of the boards was full of sand from being on the side of a building for years and that sand totally demolished my planer blades. It all came back to me remembering that I had intended to take them off and bring them into the sharpening guy after the craft show in McGregor but of course that was the last thing on my mind when I returned from there and was drawn into the project of rebuilding my house.

But it shouldn’t be any problem, I’ll just put one of my spare sets on and get to work. But there is a problem. Both, yes both of my spare sets are also dull. I guess back in August I had a hard time getting myself to get into the sharpening guy.

So I guess that leaves me at another pause while I wait for the blades to go into the sharpener and back. In the mean time I’ll share this picture with you that allows you to really see the dullness of the blade and make it easier for you to recognize the dullness. The same visual check holds true for most chiseled edge blades ranging from chainsaws t scissors so recognizing the signs is a good skill to have. What you’re looking for is the extra shine along the edge. That indicates curving of what is meant to be two straight faces meeting along a straight line. Remember, tool sharpness can best be defined as two smooth planes meeting at an edge to infinity. As much as the angle matters the smoothness of those two planes and definition of that edge on which they meet tend to matter even more.

Thanks and have a great day!

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Dullness of a planer blade shown by the shiny edge along the cutting edge.

Getting into Projects

As I get back into the shop and begin working on some projects for some customers I thought it might be fun to show how our work is done. This won’t necessarily be a tutorial and I won’t really be teaching you how to build the project, I’ll just simply be sharing a few points and pictures along the way. As I build I may share several times a day so that you can follow along in real time. If you’re interested in this sort of thing give me some comments and I will continue doing it on other projects.

The first project I’m going to document is a step up stool with a guard rail. The stool also features an adjustable top step that can be moved lower as the child grows taller. It’ll be a great little stool with a little extra safety and functionality added on to let a young child help out in the kitchen. It’s a commission piece for a family with two small children.

To begin with, I’ll be building this project out of 4/4 birch that was actually sourced locally and milled at a small sawmill in Meadowlands, Minnesota. I’m going with birch on this project because the simple light coloring is what the customer wants and because my local sourcing allows me to get high quality material at a pretty good price.

I’ll also be using some 1 1/2″ hardwood dowel as well as some metal keepers to secure the adjustable upper step.

I bought the materials several days ago and have had the birch acclimatizing in my shop ever since. I feel it’ll be good to go to start working on it tomorrow. At that time I will begin the milling process and transform the rough lumber into smooth and square pieces.

That’s enough for tonight. Tune in tomorrow and you can begin to see some of our process.

 

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Collaboration

Oftentimes when working in the shop I tend to find myself in a bit of a bubble. My creative influences tend to get limited to little more than what I can stream into the headset built into my ear protection and since woodworking is a visual craft this tends to leave me a little wanting. Sure, I do subscribe to a number of magazines, occasionally pursue Pinterest, and am always on the lookout for inspiration from other pieces I happen across. However,  when push comes to shove and I’m deep into production mode, my muse is often  little more than my own thoughts and this is often not enough.

Last Saturday I was at the grand reopening of Smith’s Infusion, a small boutique that carries a number of our items. While I was there I had the opportunity to meet for the first time a number of the other artisans, crafters, and vendors who’s products are also carried at Smith’s. Certainly we were meant to be there mostly to mingle with the customers as they came in but more often than not we seemed to be drawn to converse with one another. Even though our areas of work vary significantly we still engaged in exciting conversation range from technique to marketing to our families. It was a great and enjoyable time.

I found it inspiring to hear of the way a stained glass maker cuts, solders, and polishes small pieces to make an entire piece. The similarities between my laser work and the work of an artesian that works in vinyl were dramatic. Even hearing from those that work in cloth and yarn talk about texture and color choices made me start to think about the possibilities of both visual and physical texture within my own work.

In addition to that are the opportunities that were found for collaboration. One conversation in particular lead to a brainstormed idea of combining mediums with another artisan to see how our work could be combined into one piece creating something neither of us could have made alone. It remains an exciting idea that I look forward to working on.

Many people who make are often at a danger of being to isolated in their craft. Working and making more often keeps us from getting out and experiencing more of the life that inspires us to make in the first place. So if you’re like me and spend a little too much time in your shop (or basement or office or wherever you make what you make) get out and find people who are as into creating as you are. Listen to them talk about their craft and be inspired. Collaborate with them. Work together and be a part of growing a community that makes.

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Getting going again

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new either personally or about the company. It’s been a long and incredibly fast few months since our family, and by extension our company, faced the challenge of losing our home. Since that time a number of people have asked me if we intend to continue on with Frostbite Furniture even once I’ve finished building our home. The answer is absolutely yes!

However, it remains a long row to hoe. Our shop remains packed to the brim with materials associated not with building furniture but rather with building a home. In the place of walnut and bubinga is pvc and rolls of copper wiring. For several months the shop was totally without power and the very limited furniture work we did was faced with deep challenges as a result. Those challenges and are why we have postponed doing any more work until the shop is fully able to produce the quality we and our customers have come to expect.

Even these challenges can not temper the excitement we have regarding the future of Frostbite Furniture. While the shop was down and our family was in building mode we made the decision to greatly expanded our building adding nearly 1000 sq feet of office and production space. This addition features space dedicated to growing the refinishing portion of our business as well as allowing us to venture further into some upholstery work. In addition to this we have brought in a major tooling upgrade to our shop that I will be unveiling later. It is a very exciting time for us!

We are also having the orders start to stack up. Chairs, shelving, specialty stools, and more are all on the docket awaiting their time in the shop. This is in addition to gearing up for the upcoming show season. While we may not be producing yet we soon will be so now is the time to get your order on the list!

I’ll leave you with a sneak peak at one of our shop upgrades; our new station for laser etching. We believe our new setup will be faster, more efficient, and will give us greater flexibility for meeting custom requests. Be sure to check back often as I plan to continue a show and tell of sorts with our many shop and business upgrades.

Thanks and enjoy

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