May 27th, 2013
As promised in the last blog post, this time we will be touching on “Distributive Manufacturing”. The words are really just a formal way of expressing an idea that has been around for a long time, but I believe it is going to become VERY important soon. So let’s discuss what it really means.
Distributive manufacturing is the de-centralization of where things get made. Not long ago, steel was largely made in Pittsburgh, cars in Detroit, electronics in Japan, etc. This is centralized manufacturing, and in the world of the time it made economic sense. A lot of our customers are cabinet makers, body shop or custom car folks and the like. These industries have pretty much always been widely distributed where the customers are. Custom cabinets for example, have always been a local business. Cabinet boxes can be built anywhere, but the logistics of designing, measuring, fitting and installing lend themselves to local attention far more than trying to ship them in from a long way off. This is the Distributive Manufacturing model, and it is beginning to spread to MANY other fields, including those that have long been centralized.
It begins with the easy and free flow of information globally. Any reasonably intelligent adult can now aquire and use software to create a 3D model of a product they wish to own, even if it does not currently exist. And the technology to make products from 3D computer models is becomming cheaper and more accessable every day. Want a couple of custom pasta measures made for Christmas gifts? No problem. Draw it out, email it to a local shop and they can cut them in wood or plastic in a matter of hours and with machines costing as little as $3500.00 currently. Need a set of ten barbeque spatulas made with your restuarant logo cut into the blade? Easy, send your file to a local shop with a $5,000.00 CNC plasma cutter and they will make them in stainless steel. I needed a pair of plastic brackets when the ones on my microwave broke this month. They were pretty complex with compound curves, through holes, bosses and details on four sides. I created a 3D model and printed them out on my $1400.00 3D printer in less than four hours start to finish.
Now imagine how easy it would be if the microwave manufacturer had the 3D models or such parts available online for around $5.00 Anyone can pay the fee, download the file and have the part made locally. No packaging, no shipping, no need to make and store parts from discontinued models in the hope that they might someday sell. No more need to replace a $400.00 microwave because of a couple of cheap plastic parts that are no longer available. Sound too good to be true? Teenage Engineering, a Swedish manufacturer of synthesizers, has already posted 3D models of many of their plastic accessory pieces on their website. These parts retail for $12-14 each but shipping costs make them prohibitive for US customers to buy. Imagine now if GE, Whirlpool and other appliance makers did the same.
This return to “cottage industry” is a growing trend. Magazines devoted to the “Maker” movement are available at newsstands, groups are all over the internet sharing tips and techniques, and ShopBot Tools, a manufacturer of entry level CNC machines has started a program called “100KGarages” to connect ‘makers’ (largely but not exclusively ShopBot owners) with customers who need or want prototypes and short runs made to their designs and specifications. Consumers are more than ever wanting to support their local economy, avoid cheap throw-away products, and actually know who makes their posessions.
Companies that see these changes coming and embrace them rather than try to stop them will prosper in the next decade or two. There is a lot to think about in this and we would love to hear your take on these ideas. Get in touch here on this blog, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter. -2Sand.com
May 2nd, 2013
We recently came across an article in the Washington Post entitled; “Is U.S. manufacturing making a comeback- or is it just hype?” We thought you might like to read it and, of course, discuss with us here.
Photo Credit: Four Corners LLC
Personally, I am of the opinion that it is more than just ‘hype’, and I can cite some examples: Four Corners LLC is a CNC Job shop in Millerton, New York that has been producing high quality parts for their US customers for many years. As long as 10 years ago, they were getting jobs that either would have or was being done in China. Being in the US gave them a much shorter lead time, they were able to make changes quickly and easily, communications with their customers was much easier and the reject rate was FAR lower than “low cost” overseas manufacturing. They invested heavily in equipment to allow them to be very efficient, and as a team they are very adaptable and creative allowing for efficiencies that made up for labor cost differences.
Photo Credit: FastCap
And the trend is not limited to manufacturing parts for others. FastCap in Bellingham, Washington is about 6 years into a 10 year program to have all of their products made in the USA. When I last spoke with Paul Akers about it, they were well over 60% of the way to their goal. Paul uses a laser like focus on Lean Manufacturing to reduce costs on their hundreds of products designed for the cabinet industry.
I also believe that the trend will continue as fuel prices continue to rise, and as consumers allow environmental concerns greater effect on their purchasing decisions. Additionally, the rise of “distributive manufacturing” is, in my opinion, going to have a huge impact on the marketplace over the next 20 years. I’ll discuss that in greater detail in the next blog.
Meanwhile, we would love to hear what you have to say about manufacturing coming back to the US. Is it a trend or is it hype from where you stand today? As a group we can probably form a more accurate picture of this than with only our own personal view. Get in touch here on this blog, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter. -2Sand.com
April 9th, 2013
We pride ourselves on providing top quality sanding products at the lowest possible price and with outstanding customer service. That is why we don’t often offer specials or sale pricing, we think it better to provide you with sale pricing all the time. Business has certainly been picking up over the last quarter or two, but it is a challenge to figure out if we are gaining more share of a stable market, or ‘rising with the tide’ of a general recovery.
The answers to this sort of questioning depend somewhat on you, our customers, are seeing. Is your business growing or at least recovering? Has your business model changed over the last few years, and if so, how? For example, a friend and customer of ours lost his cabinet maker’s position back in early 2009, and decided to ramp up his side jobs writing and consulting into a full time venture. His business model changed pretty drastically, but we are happy to report that he is doing quite well and enjoying his “new normal”.
So we want to hear from you. What does your “new normal” look like? What changes did you make to survive the downturn? What lessons did you implement that make your business better and stronger? Have you become more efficient? Do you spend more wisely? Did you add new equipment or change product lines? We are conducting a VERY informal poll and would love to discuss with you all what lessons you’ve learned and changes you may have made.
Share your stories with us by commenting here on this blog, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter. -2Sand.com
March 25th, 2013
I’ve been woodworking for nearly 30 years now. I’ve been turning for at least 10. I have mostly turned in support of my furniture projects, legs, finials, that sort of thing. So while I can and do turn, I do not consider myself an expert. But even so, I was surprised recently to learn a ‘new’ trick for sanding on the lathe.
I was working with another turner recently filming some how-to stuff, and in the finishing portion of his demonstration, he talked about sanding both radially AND axially when finishing turnings. I’ve never done that before! I am self taught and so was never shown it, but now that I saw him doing it, it seems kind of obvious. To be honest, I feel a bit foolish not having figured it out on my own.
Sanding the part while it spins in the lathe is obvious. This is radial sanding, sanding around the part. Sanding axially is simply stopping the lathe and sanding with the grain (on a spindle turning) by hand. It only takes a few second’s work to eliminate the radial marks and get a MUCH better finish!
So this week’s blog is asking for your confessions and tips to help others out. What ‘sort of obvious’ tips and advice do you have to share? What have you learned recently that had you slapping your forehead and saying; “Duh”? Don’t be shy, drop us a line here on this blog, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter. -2Sand.com
March 6th, 2013
The other day I was using FastCap’s Kaizen Foam to create a new box for storing my molding head cutter set. I had several scraps left over and it occured to me that these could be pretty easily shaped into custom sanding blocks profiled moldings. I tested the concept and it worked out quite nicely.
Then, because this is how my mind works, I wondered if I could get similar results with other kinds of foam. A lot of electronics get shipped packed inside foam padding, so I rummaged through some of the old laptop boxes I had in my attic. On the left is a scrap of the Kaizen Foam, the center and right are packing from various electronics.
I cut a block from the packing that was the right size to comfortably hold, and traced the molding profile onto one end. I then carved the bottom of the block to fit the tracing. I found that a ‘snap blade’ knife is excellent for this since you can extend or retract the blade as needed for making deep or shallow cuts. It only took a few minutes to create a sanding block that fit my profile very nicely.
PSA sandpaper can be stuck directly on the block, or plain sheets can be attached with spray adhesive. (you do not want to use solvent based adhesives like contact cement since it will probably melt the foam) You want to use a sanding sheet with a thin backer so that it conforms well to the profile of the block. Rolling the sheet tightly then unrolling it can ‘break down’ the backer somewhat so that it conforms better.
In previous editions of this blog I have looked at other ways to create profile sanding blocks. I’ve tried the deck of cards trick as well as using automotive filler, but foam is quick, easy and cheap. Try it out, I think you will want to remember this the next time you have a profile to sand.
Share your thoughts with us by commenting here on this blog, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter. -2Sand.com
February 21st, 2013
I know the saying is; “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but is that really how it works? I am convinced that the ‘dog’ gets old when he stops learning new tricks. Yes, I am firmly convinced that when I stop learning it will mean I have died.
I have written recently about continuing education for trades people. In the New Year blog I asked about your plans for professional development, and that leads me to the point of this blog: How do you keep your skills current or even expand your knowledge base? There are some high end woodworking schools around the country, but they rarely cater to production environments. I like attending (and presenting!) seminars and lectures at trade shows and know many people who attend several at any show they attend.
So how do you learn a new trick? Do you research online? You can find a LOT of how-to projects on YouTube, some very good, most….well, not so much. Do you subscribe to an educational website like Lynda.com? Ask questions or answer them on forum sites like WoodWeb or LinkedIn? (there is a surprising number of trades related groups on LinkedIn) Do you belong to a trade association and attend seminar and classes through them?
I would really enjoy learning how you find good new information to advance your personal education. It can be related to the skills of your trade, or how you learn new software, or even simply expanding your mind by learning new things that have nothing to do with your business. I’ll even start by sharing a few experiences of my own.
Last fall, I flew to Denver and spent 2 days learning the new Enroute5 CAD/CAM software from SAI. Cost me less than $1,000.00 for the class, my flight, and hotel stay. And on the other side of the coin, my wife and I are about to attend a day-long glass blowing class at a local craftsman’s shop. It should be fun and we get to keep the project we make.
So share with us how you keep your mind young through education or training. What was the last class, seminar or training you attended? What is on your schedule to learn this year? Share your thoughts with us by commenting here on this blog, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter. -2Sand.com
February 6th, 2013
This is “Get Woodworking Week”, a week in which Tom Iovino (Tom’s Workbench Blog) has gathered a rather impressive group of woodworking hobbyists, professionals, manufacturers and retailers to encourage more people, especially young people, to take up woodworkng. As a hobby it is second to none in my book, and provides not only many long hours of enjoyment, but also provides useful and beautiful items from your hobby. (hopefully!)
But I wanted to talk a bit more about woodworking as a career. We all know about the demise of ‘shop class’ or industrial arts from schools, and it seems that every student is indoctrinated into going to college straight out of high school even though most of them have not a clue what to do with their lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT saying that education is unnecessary, far from it. But a traditional four year degree is only one path to success, and frankly an expensive one if you do not know what you want to do ‘when you grow up’.
The trades as a career path hold some amazing opportunities at this point in history. The average age of licensed plumbers for example is rising rapidly and more are retiring or dying than young people are entering the trade! Yet the number of homes needing plumbing installations and repairs is certainly not going down. In many larger cities, plumbers wages are approaching that of General Practition doctors!
Many people still think that making furniture and cabinets is pretty mindless and does not require a lot of mental work. They are wrong. Modern shops rely heavily on computers to create 3D models of items to be built. Computer driven machines require a lot of mental agility to program them successfully. Even adhesives and finishes are high tech requiring an understanding of chemistry to get the best results. And the education received on the shop floor can send you off in some VERY interesting directions.
I know woodworkers who write articles and books, built a “brand” around their websites and blogs, travel the country working as consultants, use their experience in sales or development of woodworking tools, own their own shops, get paid as designers, or even some luthiers living quietly in the country building fine instruments. I even know one who makes their living selling sanding supplies online!
Like any career path, woodworking has it’s dead end jobs and it’s rock stars. I think it is time we take another look at woodworking, and all the trades, as a viable career path for those who find as much pleasure working with their hands as with their heads. Join us, you just may love it.
Feel free to share your thoughts by commenting here, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter. Let us know what you think! -2Sand.com
January 8th, 2013
Personally, I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions. If I want to make changes, why wait until Jan 1st to implement them? If it is worth doing, it is worth doing now.
Your thoughts on the New Year?
That being said, I do like to use the 4th quarter of the old year to plan and schedule my major goals for the coming year. Having a plan gives me direction and a ‘map’ to follow as the year unfolds. Without it, I tend to find that goals get forgotten.
So in this, the first blog of 2013, I want to survey you folks a bit. Ask a couple of general question and see what you think.
Do you formally set goals for the upcoming year? If yes, what goals have you set for 2013?
What do you want to learn this year? 2sand.com
Is education and professional development ever on your list? What are you planning to study this year? What might you want to learn if there was an opportunity?
Finally, what do you see for your business or industry in 2013? Are you anticipating a good year, a poor one, or about the same? Are you looking at expanding or changing your business this year?
Enquiring minds want to know! I’m not sure where all these questions will lead, but I think that it might engender some interesting discussions!
Feel free to share your thoughts by commenting here, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter. Let us know what you think! -2Sand.com
December 20th, 2012
Well, this is our shameless Holiday blog episode, brought to you firmly tongue in cheek!
I have to begin with a nice holiday story; I was on an American Airlines flight last Thursday night. It was late, everyone was tired, but then the flight attendant began her safety briefing. For the first time I’ve witnessed, everyone listened. She recited a rendition in the style and cadence of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. It was so well done and unexpected. I’ve never seen an airplane full of travellers applaud a safety briefing. It was such a pleasure to have been part of.
Now on to the shameless commercialism!
If, like me, you are tough to buy for, here are a few ideas for fun stocking stuffers that you might actually use!
Rockler’s Silicone Glue Application Set. Adhesives do not stick to the silicone, so the pieces are reusable over and over! You can see a review here.
Lee Valley’s new Veritas Inset Plane. This handy little insert allows you to make your own mini handplane!
Our own Sanding Detailer Sticks. These are great for reaching into tight spots to shape and smooth your projects. Be sure to check out all our products!
And finally, our friends at Popular Woodworking have this list of books for woodworkers of all skill levels.
We at 2Sand.com hope that this list helps, and hope that your Holiday Season is filled with joy and peace! You can send us your Holiday Greetings or just get in touch with us by commenting here, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter. Let us know what you think! -2Sand.com