This Spring, we brought on a new staff member at Five String Furniture, Cody Bonnette. Cody, the leading member of famed rock band, As Cities Burn, and seasoned pipeline welder, is no stranger to maintaining creative flow while putting in a hard days work. He is a positive spirit, brings new energy to the shop and has a natural gift for design and aesthetics in building. Above is the first collaboration we worked on. It pretty much sums up the vibe better than I can.
Pictured above is our newest build for a local financial management company, FSM here in Nashville TN. When they came to us with the initial file of their logo, also pictured in these slides, we thought of doing engraved letters in an all wood frame. However, they wanted the letters to be free-floating on the wall to keep it clean, modern, and direct. After a bit of planning and consulting with Steric Design and Allen Duke Steel Design, we decided to CNC the letters in pairs, double them up and paint them, while having the bridge laser cut out of steel.
For mounting, we secured dry-wall anchors and routed holes in the back of the letters to the size of the screw heads coming out from the anchors. We then measured each screw to come out 2.5" and mounted the letters with construction adhesive to guaranteed a snug and secure fit. We welded steel tabs on the back of the bridge and mounted them directly. The end result, a very clean, free standing sign inside of their office.
Have to start this one off with an apology, It's been a while since I've made post here. It's been a really busy two months on and off the road with music, changes in the company and battling custom bids as they come and go. However, I have found a sense of peace on the wood lathe and have been working constantly on dialing in my turning skills. This year we hope to turn a large portion of our online business in the direction of bowls, plates and custom lathe work. Above is the start of something new. Enjoy!
As a creative, one of the hardest things you can come across is the age old issue of "writers block". Obviously, we use this term loosely considering we build furniture and fabricate goods throughout the region, but the premise remains; After long hauls of creative free-flow and high work traffic, it can be difficult to find inspiration once work slows down. For us the winter time (especially in sub-freezing rain) is the slowest part of the year. Balancing your work flow can be tricky, balancing your drive can be seemingly impossible. To combat the soulfully sluggish doldrums we call February, we created morning warm ups.
It's nothing ground breaking or earth shattering, but it helps us find our inner rhythm and reconnect with our creativity in a light hearted manner. We simply start off our mornings working on personal projects and new ideas that are completely free of the business. Thats to say, they are not ordered products or contractually obligated projects. Rather, fun and unique builds that stimulate our wilder side and get us back in fighting shape for when things get busy.
When sailors hit mid-equitorial doldrums and lose wind in their sails, it's one of two things; get busy working on the ship, or go crazy. We prefer to stay afloat. Our wind of the week, some random turnings on the lathe and a wester cedar shower matt.
Late last spring we had one of our favorite clients, Station West Studios, come to us with an incredibly challenging job. They have a 1980's Trident 80b recording console framed in a producers desk made of curly maple, from 3/4 to 10/4 stock. This was before we had a relationship with our CNC guy, so most of the work was done by band saw and trim routers. What we did:
Completely tape off console and remove hard wiring. Sanded off original finish. Added a left wing to the console to match the right wing. Re-matched original amber shellac finish and re-assembled all pieces. We also had to install and refinish everything in 2 days because they had clients recording on a tight schedule. Not only were they great clients at the time, we've been working with them ever since as they dream up new equipment and custom pieces to develop the studio more.
Looking back, it was a challenging build for multiple reasons. The technical scale of the wood working, the limitations of time and space, and the never-ending pursuit of "perfect" duplication. Accepting such challenges can allow you to see what your capable of, especially in fields you normally wouldn't pursue.
Check out Station West below:
Something you realize rather quickly once you get into furniture design and creation is that good drawings are essential to completing a successful build. Professional drawings quickly transform the entire process for both the buyer and manufacturer. For starters, it allows the client to visualize the plans you might see clearly in you head, but they don't quite grasp. Client communication can get messy in the custom fabrication world making it important to set serious and reasonable perimeters on the project. Drawings help clarify many questions and concerns for the buyer, as well as pull forth inquires and ideas on the front end, rather than surfacing half way through the job.
For a maker, accurate and scaled drawings save time and material- the two biggest expenses in any shop. Knowing exactly how much material you need will prevent unnecessary waste, and pre planned cut lists and assembly notes will save you from the annoying and time draining guess work. Essentially, the proper shop drawing is equivalent to a well charted map; keeping you on target and in the know.
Above, the drawings for a custom desk for The Contributor Office in Nashville, TN; a local non-profit publication serving the homeless and work deprived.
Growing a small business in an age defined by unstable markets and a generation described as "careless" and "indifferent" towards the countries economy can be difficult. It often means that you will take jobs you might other wise not, just to make your monthly payments. However, you can not let economic criticisms and predictions dictate your planning, business plans or investments. Rather, take the opportunity to adapt and expand into markets you might not be as familiar or comfortable with- especially if others in your industry have already given up on them.
For us this means branching out from our typical client base in Nashville, TN. When approached by business owners on Amelia Island, Florida, we jumped on the opportunity to work with them. Rather than turning down the job due to obvious risks: the upfront costs of shipping, an install 10 hours away from the shop, never meeting the clients in person etc., we looked at the job as an opportunity to actively advertise our products and expand our reach in a new market. The Risk: losing money on a slew of negative factors. The reward: becoming a National furniture company while gaining new contacts and potential buyers in the state of Florida.
And, the install was one of the funnest we've done to date. Absolutely no hiccups, hitches or delays. The clients at Amelia Island Coffee Company were a blast to work with and we were fortunate enough to tie in some time at the beach while we weren't working. The short of it: if business gets slow in one market, take the down time to research and explore opportunities in others!
It's part of a small business owners responsibility to continuously reinvest in your future. However, the term reinvestment doesn't always have to come in the form of money. For woodworkers and fabricators the world over, we often face unique challenges regarding our materials. Resources come and go, prices are always fluctuating and availability of some of your favorites are hit or miss. Simply put, everything we have is finite; wood doesn't last forever and steel will eventually rust. It is also part of our responsibility to grow responsibly, both environmentally and ethically. So when you come across a bounty of mediums you work with often, you better set aside your plans and get to collecting.
This past weekend in Nashville a local wood shop closed their doors and had a rather large rack of various wood up for grabs. The deal was whoever takes it must take it all, including the 20+ ft. tall pallet racks it was stored on. With only two days to secure the find, we got busy. With the help of some friends and colleagues we were able to completely salvage the above goods. The Score: several hundred board feet of Sassafras, mahogany, oak, heart pine, tongue and groove pine flooring, oak flooring, and poplar. If something great comes your way be sure to make yourself available. Get busy, be gracious, and go build!
A very special thanks to the guys at Steric Design and Rien Long for the help. Check them out below!
It's easy to burned out or get tired of working on one thing for too long, so we focus on maintaining creative energy in the shop by working on new products or designs. Here is a Black Cherry Cake Stand turned on the lathe over the weekend. It's 11'' wide and over 5'' tall, with a featured channel to fit a 10'' glass dome. It's the little challenges in life that keep things interesting; this cake stand proved to be challenging and fun.
We are more than pleased to bring in the New Year with a fun and creative project for a local publishing company on Music Row, Rare Spark Media Inc. They were a pleasure to work with and let us fire away at a unique design for the sign at their new location! Below, plasma cut steel letters mounted in CNC carved Cypress with a channeled, locking frame.