In my last post I put an image of a storyboard which I typically make for repetitive projects to illustrate all the steps. I keep the instructions in the box containing the tools, jigs, blanks and whatever is needed to make the particular item. I have been very busy doing a lot of that kind of work lately - making things which have sold out in the gallery. Fortunately, the weather has been very mild and pleasant for early August.
Back on 7/10/2011 I wrote about one of the garden items I make for dispensing nesting fiber for birds. It is a simple vortex with a hanger and a loop which can be hooked with a spike tipped pole and hung as high us as that reach allows. It can be filled with string, yarn or gathered vine and grass segments. Obviously the nest builders get most of their material from other sources but when they do tug out a piece of yarn it is entertaining.
The sales success of some of these small garden items has been remarkably more than I anticipated. As the sales numbers rose I was faced with finding the most effeceint way to make more of them for the gallery so I can move on to more creative work.
Last week, I was told that the gallery sold out of the fiber dispensers, so I needed to make more. I got out the box and went to work. The story board make the job easy. This a well worked out project, fully jigged. I cut ten of the required lengths of rod using a hack die in the hydraulic forging press. This method pinches off the pieces with a nice taper already started. With coal fire heat a round taper was drawn on both ends. Scroll pliers and a crook jig was used to form the standard hanger hook. Just below that I coiled a single loop which was bent to form a lifting “hole”. On the other end a 90º bend was made a couple of inches from the tip and with several heats I rolled up a coil about 3” in diameter. That was the end of the coal fire work.
The coil was opened into the vortex by hammering with a ball peen hammer over a ring jig held in a vise. This was done cold. The torch was used to heat the point where the coil transitioned to the hanger shaft. A 90º bend was made at that point and the shaft was twisted at the same time to make sure the hook lined up over the mouth of the vortex. The completed dispenser is put in the tumbler for cleaning away all the fire scale before applying the lacquer finish. I learned the hard way not to put ten of these into the tumbler at once because the intertwine to form something like a Gordian knot.
Organizing these simple projects in this way makes them move quickly and not seem boring. I should mention, too, that most project boxes contain a finished model and perhaps a step set too. Invariably, when I make a quantity of pieces there will be at least one which goes awry. That piece can become the “shop model” if it’s not too far off but not nice enough to be sold.
When I pack up a project and plan to store it away until the next production time I record on my inventory spreadsheet (a file on GoogleDocs) where the box is stored.
For some projects I keep some nearly finished components unassembled so if a client requests some variation of a standard item I can accommodate them fairly easily. That exact thing happened yesterday when a client came to the studio with a sunflower she had purchased and wanted a hanger added and also a leaf - both were right at hand.