Thursday, February 11, 2016

Recent Conversations

Good Morning,

Over the past few days I've had some interesting conversations (at least for me) with a couple of different customers and I'd like to share the essence of the conversations with you.

My Daily Gift

The 1st conversation had to do with wood selection. The customer was vacillating between a few different woods and asked if we could send her pictures of the wood blanks so she could get a better idea of how they look.  It's a perfectly reasonable request, one that we've had countless times before.  It was at that point that I realized that every day that I receive multiple gifts, think of it as unwrapping a present.  As I explained to her, there is very little correlation between what a roughed out 3/4" x 3/4" x 8" piece of wood looks like in relation to what the stick will actually look like on the inside.  Similar to unwrapping a present, I never know what the stick will look like until I've peeled away the wrapping paper (the excess wood).  Now don't get me wrong, I'm pretty good at reading grains, and over the years I've set aside hundreds if not thousands of blanks because the grain is too unruly, to the point of being dangerous.  Highly figured grains are truly beautiful, until the grain abruptly changes direction, and decides to explode on the lathe at 3,000 rpm.    So my point here is that I'm truly blessed, as I'm the only one that gets to unwrap 2 or 3 mini-presents every day, doing a job that I love.

** Case in  Point - As a good hearted poke at Willowyn, I was in the process of making a spec stick consisting of all the things that she so eloquently pointed out that she doesn't like... it was a memorable and special conversation, I don't think I've laughed so hard in years.  Well, as luck would have it, the grain on this stick is simply too beautiful, I would only ruin it by engraving it.  The grain on the top of the stick is unbelievable... if you're anywhere near the grain freak that I am.

Design Elements

Yes, I saw LHC, and Willowyn's question... she's the greatest!  In her own special way thru a recent conversation, she explained the errors of my ways.  It's regarding designs at both the top and bottom of the stick, Tree of Life and Seashell designs specifically.  The question being, should the designs align, or be offset by 180 degrees.  It would appear that I now have an additional question to ask on custom orders, and a new way of thinking on spec sticks.  As background, for years I have always "stopped the presses" half way through the engraving and rotated the stick so that the design is offset.  I remember long ago a customer had requested that the design be offset so that the tree could be seen on either end of the stick regardless of the position in her hair.  That was when I formed the habit, because the design actually does align, but it was me doing the rotating, I just assumed that was the way everyone wanted it, apparently I assumed incorrectly, but it's an easy fix.

The other design question, again from Willowyn, is the space between the design and the end of the stick.  This is where it gets into the "iffy" category.  If you think through the mechanics, yes there actually mechanics involved in a hairstick, let me try to explain.  In the absence of the stick being a petite (<.50" at it's widest point), the top of the stick is usually in the .55" - .65" diameter neighborhood.  I usually end the upper design approximately .25" -  .30" from the end of the stick.  If I bring it closer to the end, it looks crowded to my eye, and if it's much wider, it looks like a mistake, again, to my eye.   So, with the top of the stick being dimensionally wide, I can make the inlays virtually as deep as I want, with no fear of the stick breaking. 

The foot on the other hand is a different animal.  Again, back to the mechanics... I typically end the design closer to .50" from the tip of the foot and begin the taper to what I call the landing zone.  The diameter of the stick when I begin the taper is approximately, .35" to .40" and I need to taper the landing zone to zero... the tip of the stick.  In order to balance the distance on the top and the foot, I would need to begin the taper higher up on the stick, which isn't a problem until it comes to the inlay.  To maintain the same distance to the end of the foot as the top, I would be engraving a diameter of +/-.25".  I engrave to a depth of approximately .08" - .10", thereby reducing the sticks diameter on the inside of the engraving to approximately .15", and that's a guaranteed break.  In order to maintain the sticks integrity, I never allow the internal diameter to dip below .25".   The only other alternative to maintain an equilateral distance, and the integrity of the stick would be a landing zone taper from .40" to zero in the space of .25", in other words it would be an extremely blunt tip, and unless I'm wrong again, no one wants a blunt tip.

I have no idea whether this makes any sense or not, and if it doesn't, that's ok... you'll just have to trust me on this one.

Thank you Willowyn and my other un-named customer, it's these kind of conversations that only make me better!

Have a great day!



  1. Inquiring minds: What's this mystery stick look like?

  2. Which one? I just finished the grainiac stick, and as for the one I was going to tailor to your particular persuasion, blame it on the wood, it's the grain's fault. I guess we'll just never know what I might have cooked up.

  3. I bought the graniac stick!! Can't wait to see it in person. I'm a sucker for gorgeous grain.

  4. I don't think you're going to be disappointed. The top of the stick is one of the most interesting grains I've ever seen.

    1. I am very excited! I will say though I have never gotten a stick from you I've been disappointed in so that is never a concern:)