Monday, December 21, 2015

Year in Review

What a year!  The big mile stone was launching All Natural Toy Plans on Etsy.  What a neat little experience.  There are some things that I have learned and things that I definitely need to improve on. I have enjoyed talking with people all over the world because of putting things on the internet.  It is very obvious that products sell more than plans, but plans are the product that provide conversations.  Customer service and marketing has always been a struggle.  My shipments are literally is a box.  I finally put my logo on the return address.  I need to put some sort of thank you card in there but really have never thought about it.  I have also learned that people ask for information so I had a couple of business cards printed to carry around.  Still learning Etsy and it is always nice to see a sale on the account.  I am learning that the larger more expensive toys do not sell as well as the smaller ones.  I do not have a lot of small toys in the shop, but hope to change that this year.
Highlights of this year:
  • Two of the biggest were already mentioned.  I started an Etsy store and made enough in sales that I funded my projects.
  • Did a little bit of shop work.  I made the sanding cart this year.  It holds all the supplies for making toys.  All my wheels, pegs, and accessories are in organized drawers along with all my sanding equipment.  This is a great addition to the shop.
  • Completed a bunch of Christmas presents and that was no easy task.  There were 12 sets of nativity keys and 3 nativity boxes.  Sadly I did not find another Christmas project I liked to make this year.  I did figure out the way I wanted to hang my set of keys.  Now I just need to finish it.  I found next year's project.  Now I have to find out if I can use it.
Goals that I had this year:
  • Start an online store front.  That is done and in process.  I can't be done because if I go stagnant it will never grow.  This project was long over due and have had success with it.  This year I fully funded my wood working projects.  Something that I have never been able to do.
  • Continue designing.  I did it again this year.  Made some changes and built some pretty need toys.  This will be an ongoing goal.
  • The scroll saw association has been fun.  There are a lot of good people and fun to be around.  I bring one of my kids to each meeting.  Sometimes they listen, most of the time they play on the phone.  Last year they tried to make me the president and it didn't work.  Maybe this year I will work on their web-based advertising.  They really do not have an online presence.
Favorite projects this year:
  • Favorite is the tow truck.  Simple design that posed some challenges.  It solved some of the problems that I have had with other designs.   The tow truck has also withstood the beatings that my kids have put it though.  A feat that I cannot say with other designs.
  • The second will not make my wife pleased but it was the rubber band gun.  This is one that I did not design.  This project is one of my favorite builds not projects.  It came at a time where I just needed something simple, quick and fun for me.  The trucks and toys are great and fun to watch the kids play with them.  I needed a little bit of stress relief and this provided it.  I do not have any of the rubber band guns in my possession.
Goals for 2016:
  • This is where my business sense falls a part.  I plan on releasing more plans, however, I do not know how to grow the business or promote it.  I have a smaller set of trucks that I am currently working on which are not friendly to small kids (under 3).  This is to hit the lower price point product.
  • I am almost done with the car carrier.  That should be a quick finish.
  • I need to have more kids over to play with the toys that I make.  It really does not do much for my  enjoyment (it is actually a little stressful) but my kids enjoy it and they are proud of the toys.
 Here is to another fun year. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Old Tradition Revised

When I was young, my parents took the Christmas tree and hung it from the ceiling.  It sounds odd but it was very practical.  How many stories are there on social media of kids and pets knocking over the Christmas tree.  This tree hung the fragile ornaments and some of the handmade ones collected over the years.  Now with toddlers of my own, I want to have ornaments on the tree without the fear of some of the more fragile ones being broken.
The hanging tree was not really feasible in my place so the next option was to make a hanging tree.  The objective was to have a place to hang the fragile ornaments that we as a family are collecting through our adventures.  The wood is bass wood so that I can put pins in it and gives a nice display piece that can be hung on the wall.  I made two because there are only going to be more family adventures.
 The other piece that is almost completed is the display case for the nativity keys.  I have been asked how I am going to display these keys.  Well this is how. 
 It is is a walnut frame that has the saying "For unto you is born this day a Savior which is Christ the Lord".  I like how it came out.  Glad I did it.  Sorry, I don't have more detail pictures on the lettering.  They came out blurry.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

No Guns Allowed

I found this plan in the Scroll Saw Gadgets and gizmos Magazine.  I actually did not buy the magazine for this plan but it was a nice little added plan.  It can be done over a weekend.  The concept is sound but there are a couple of small changes I would do to the design.  First, the crank arm is too long.  I would shorten it up.  Second the small dowels on the back side to keep the rubber bands from slipping off the dowels are completely useless.  Third I would remove the sight.  The string seems to encounter a lot of friction through this part. I would put the side mount.  Granted, this would cause the rubber bands to fire from the side instead of the top, but,who cares, it is not like it is very accurate. 

It looks like the plans are available online for free.  It says that 100 rubber bands can be loaded on the barrel if done correctly.  I have been able to load 80.  It does take a little while to load and has a rage of about 20-30 feet.  I will link to a couple of videos. 

I made three, two of which will be sold on my Etsy account.  I hope to list them the beginning of December.  I am going to make a couple of the changes I mentioned above. 

A couple of things that are were nice about this build.  It was easy.  It was nice just to build.  I tend to over design and over complicate things.  I did dowel in everything so the barrels will not com off.  Sometimes it is nice to unload a bunch of rubber bands and loading them can be relaxing too.  My wife does say no guns allowed, so the one that I am keeping is now at the office.

Video 1
Video 2


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Current work load of projects

So I have been dark for a little while on the blog.  I have been busy but not with new designs.  I have been working on Christmas projects and other personal projects.  I was asked to make some things for my sister's wedding.  Nothing what I would call impressive but it took a couple of days.  It was all out of ceder fencing and nailed together.  I have also been trying to get a couple more decorations on the Etsy site before the holidays.  I am still hoping but my weekends are filling up with activities. 
However there are a few things that I have learned and are somewhat of an annoyance.  I mentioned earlier that my belt sander died and I was looking to replace it.  I didn't replace it yet.  I purchased the belt that was dead and greased all the bearings.  Now it works great.  My small shop vac also died. not really a big loss but it was a nice to have.  Being my engineering self I took it apart to see if I could figure out what was wrong.  It was an easy thing; the switch went bad.  I know that I am going to get in trouble posting how I figured this out but I am going to anyway.  I took off the covers, then plugged it in.  I then took a metal tool with a plastic handle and crossed the terminals on the switch.  It turned on.  Cut the switch out and connected the wires.  It turned on again. On Saturday when was fixing my belt sander my respirator head band broke.  I really cannot hold my respirator and wood work with tools so I needed to get another one.  I have one of the 3M half face mask versions.  I only needed to replace the head piece all other parts were fine.
So here is my annoyance:  Cost of the part verses shipping.  In the case of the belt sander, I needed a $12 part from Sears.  The part is only available online and I could not fined it elsewhere.  Shipping was $11 for a 5X7 padded mailer that cost less than $2 to ship.  The switch for the shop vac was $7.  I went to a local electronics store and they had one similar that would work.  No shipping required.  My respirator is another story.  I found the part I needed on line for $9.  before checking out I looked at the shipping and tax, $17 for standard shipping.  I looked on Amazon and found the entire respirator for $23.  I can buy a new respirator for less than it would cost me to get the one part that I needed.  Why is shipping so expensive?  I am literally throwing stuff away because the shipping is more than buying new.
There are a couple of take away ideas from this past weekend.  I may have spent $43 this weekend on equipment but in reality I saved over $200 because I did not buy a new shop vac and belt sander.  It is obviously cheaper to repair then to replace, even though I did not get a new sander.  Second is that I will choose free shipping or no shipping when ever possible.  I buy my toy wheels where I do because I do not have to pay for shipping.  Third, a little TLC for the equipment goes a long way.
There are some projects on the horizon that I am excited about, one from a plan I designed and a couple from a magazine that I recently purchased.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Front End Loader

This is one of the most requested items by my kids.  Ever since I brought home the design they have been asking for it.  If I remember correctly my middle child actually slept with the plans the night I brought the plans home.  My oldest slept with the toy last night.  There are things that I like about it and things that I am going to modify. 
 First problem was all about the design process.  When I was putting it into the CAD system everything fit even though some of the joints were close or parts were thin.  The shovel caused the most grief.  Because the joints were tight, my first bucket did not move.  There were some modifications and I figure that I need to give the joints about an 1/8" tolerance.

The second mistake was trying to make the bucket thin.  I do have to give a little bit of back story on this process.  The bucket is made up of laminated pieces and to line all these parts up I marked 1/8" holes in precise locations in the pattern.  This allows an 8d brad nail to be put through the holes and line up the various parts.  I started with 1 1/2" thick material. The first mistake was that I cut out the part and then drilled the holes.  The 1/8" drill bit walked on a couple of the parts making alignment off. 
First assembly of the shovel.

My second mistake was using 1 1/2" thick material on a scroll saw with the wrong blade ( I used a #7 skip tooth).  The blade did not cut square.  I figured I could sand it all out.  This is probably why my sander belt sander died.  So I sanded all out and sanded to the assembly holes, which were less than a 1/16" from the edge.  I still did a dry fit which is when I found out all my joints were locked.  So I went back to the design and moved all my joints out and all the pieces of the bucket were made with 3/4" pieces.  I also thickened the wall of the shovel.  The second shovel went together much easier and less sanding.
 This was a fun little project and with a lot of discoveries.  Glad I finally completed it for my kids so now they can pressure me into a garbage truck.