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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Handcut Proof

I am asked so often these days if my art is cut with lasers. At a recent show I was even asked if it was cut with a water jet. I really can't figure out how you could cut wood with water without ruining the wood, but that's not the subject if this post. I fully understand why I get this question so often these days though. In these modern times, so many things are mass produced and assembled or painted in sweatshops in some country that you and I can't even pronounce. Then these items are sold so cheap in what I call "box stores" that some people are shocked by the price when they do happen across true hand made crafts or arts. Then, because these same items are made so cheaply, they don't last, fall apart, fade, or disappoint the customer in one way or another and the customer is hesitant about trusting anyone, even the craftsman, enough to pay any amount for an item, no matter the quality.

To answer the question in short, no and never will be. Every item you see by me is hand made, by me. The only exception is that sometimes my wife or kids want to help me some. I let them help do some sanding. Sometimes one of my older sons may even help apply some stain. I do buy my patterns. I can't draw a straight line without a ruler. Every now and then there are things I design myself. A lot of the clock faces youo see on my clocks are designed by me. The words on the sides of the bottom level of the Patriot Clock were made using simple stencils that were bought at the dollar store. Everything is handmade though. Cuts are made by saws in my shop. My Delta scroll saw is the saw that gets the most use, but I also own a band saw, table saw, skilsaw, and a jig saw. Other tools I use regularly are the router, cordless drill, and several different types of sanders. I have never though, and never will use, a laser.

These days, there are several different machines that you can use to create the same kind of work that I do in mass produce fashion. One of these methods is a machine that cuts wood in a predetermined pattern using laser. That's where that laser question comes from. Using this machine, certain companies from all over the world cuts similar pieces to mine by the thousands. To improve even more on that, they have set up mass production style factories that can be run with the minimum amount of workers to turn out these products as fast as possible. There's a catch though. With anything that is produced in that quantity, it never gets handled by humans long enough to even notice what kind of quality is being thrown into boxes and shipped out all over the world. As a matter of fact, many of these companies have quit using wood for their products. They get more uniformity from plastic that is textured to look like wood.

All this being said, quality comes from hard work and care. Every item I make has time and personal touches put into it. When a project is completed, if I'm not happy with it, it is never sold. A while back I built a cradle. After completing it and staining it, I wasn't happy with it. I set it on fire in front of my shop and started over from scratch. If I'm not happy, I know my customer won't be happy. Also, each item is personally cared for from a block of wood to the finished project. Nothing is automated.

So for this rant about lack of quality in our modern world to connect with the post title. Once you get any project of mine into your home, careful inspection can prove that it is handcut. Whether it be a portrait or a candle holder, inspect the cut lines carefully. I make sure to leave just enough "fuzzies" to prove it is handcut, but not enough to interfere with the beauty of the project. "Fuzzies" is that little fuzzy looking splinters that appear on some of my projects, like on the inside edges of portraits or on the undersides of some of my rocking toys. Lasers do not leave this type of byproduct. Also, lasers leave tiny burn marks in tight corners. You will not find that on my projects.

So, if you buy any of my projects, look for the handcut proof. Show that proof to others because you now own a piece of a dying art. As time goes by, there are less and less people in the world that do this type art. Before we know it, it will be gone. Then all the world will have left is mass produced stuff that will fill up more landfill area while consumers go out and buy more stuff. You though, or your children, can own a piece of art that has quality and can last for generations if taken care of.

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