Hello, and welcome to Reproduction Woodworks, The Blog. I suppose it is an appropriate time to enter the online world, as we will be launching ReproductionWoodworks.com this week, and beginning to develop an online presence for a business which has, to this point, been a largely word-of-mouth venture. A blog seems the logical extension of all of this.
My name is
Eric Hess, and I will be your guide through this adventure. I started
Reproduction Woodworks in the spring of 2010 when it became clear to me
that my hobby was overwhelming the rest of my life. So I made the
rather scary choice to try to turn my hobby into a career.
I may seem like an unlikely candidate for such a venture, as like many of you, I am
sure, I am not a classically trained woodworker. Nor am I a
non-classically trained woodworker. In fact, I have relatively little
formal training in woodworking at all. What I do have, and what I hope
you share, is a tremendous love of woodworking, paired with a desire to
listen and learn from woodworkers, machinists, hobbyists, engineers, and
everyone else that has something to share.
Growing up, my
father and I had a relatively modest shop that we did relatively modest
work in. Our involvement in Civil War Reenacting led us to host a 'woodworking weekend' to make Hardtack Boxes for our entire unit. This was code for purchasing 1x4 pine from Home Depot, and with a couple of crude stops on our radial arm saw nailed into place, we cut a lot of pieces to length in a very short time, then nailed the parts together. This was far from precision work, but we are rather proud that 10 years later, those boxes are still going strong. This was my first experience with production woodworking, though at the time, woodworking was not my primary interest.
You see, I wanted to be an Engineer, so in High School, instead of taking Wood Shop, I took Welding, Drafting and Machining, which more closely matched my desired goal at the time. That education continued through my first two years of college at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where I learned about production methods, tolerances, and expanded my skills as a machinist and metalworker. When I left Cal Poly to pursue a History degree, I returned home to a shop full of basic woodworking tools, and a bit
more free time than I was accustomed to having. And thus, at a
Renaissance Faire, I met the owners of New Stirling Arms, and started
talking with them about a miniature catapult that they made to shoot
peanuts. When they lamented that their previous maker had retired from
woodworking, being the overly ambitious young man that I was, I opened
my mouth and said "Well, I have a shop, and I can see if I can help you
out with that." At the time, I was looking to save up some extra
spending money, and this seemed like a good side gig from my day job.
Little did I know what that one little step would lead to.
out, I totally screwed up my first attempt at these catapults. Rule #1:
Failure is alright. Learn from it. As much as initial failures
may deter me from trying skydiving, they also serve as learning
experiences, and after scrapping the first few test pieces, I turned to
my training from Cal Poly, drafted a set of plans for myself, identified
an order of operations for how to machine each part, wrote down all my
dimensions, and now armed with a completely new approach, I went back
into the shop and made a whole batch of catapult parts. And wouldn't you know it, they came out great. This was the first time that I was paid to do woodworking, and I was hooked. Not on getting paid, though I certainly don't mind that aspect, but on the process of developing a project, carrying it through production, refining that process, and improving with each one I made.
Living in Sacramento now, I was hired by the local Woodcraft store, a nationwide chain of woodworking stores that caters specifically to fine woodworkers (and woodbutchers like me). When I started working there, I considered myself a fairly competent woodworker. Two
weeks into the job, I considered myself a relatively poor excuse for an
incompetent wood mangler. Two years into the job, I left Woodcraft with
a keen understanding of my strengths and weaknesses as a woodworker,
and with skills I hadn't even dreamed of when I started. Shortly after that, I started my business. Not because I think I am a tremendously
skilled woodworker. I'm not in comparison to a true craftsmen like
Malcolm Tibbetts and many others who produce works that fetch tens of
thousands of dollars. They produce amazing works of art that I hesitate
to even touch, and they have been at their craft for 20 or 30 years or
more. Maybe I'll see where I'm at in 20 or 30 years and see if my
abilities approach theirs. But for now, I'm happy to do what I do,
because I have an approach to woodworking that simply works and I love
my job because of it.
I have fun developing projects,
improving production processes, seeing something take shape, and I enjoy
the pride that comes with carrying a project to completion. Find what
you have fun with in woodworking (and in life) and run with it. It
doesn't matter how good your project comes out, as long as you enjoyed
the process of making it, and if it didn't come out well, you learned
from the experience and will hopefully do better in your next attempt. And never, ever, be afraid to keep learning. Push your skill levels, don't do just what you are comfortable doing, but expand your skills and improve your abilities, make mistakes!
Of course, I
wouldn't survive long in business if I was constantly making mistakes. But understanding that mistakes are acceptable and part of a
learning process is essential to enjoying woodworking as a hobby, as well
as a profession. I try to minimize mine, hopefully I can help you do
This blog will be many things, but mainly, I
hope it is a forum to discuss woodworking, to learn from each other, and
hopefully share some ideas that spark your interest or creativity and
make things fun. I will also be periodically reviewing tools, as well
as giving tips and tidbits I learn from the shop, walking you through
shop improvements, and occasionally even sharing with you the journey a
new project takes through our workshop.
In addition, I'll be
posting periodic updates of the projects that are underway in the shop.
If you are curious as to what I am working on at the present time, or
eager to know the status of your project, the 'Current Projects' tag
will feature what has been going on in the shop, and progress updates on
various projects that are underway.
So grab your drink of choice, find a comfortable chair, and lets make some sawdust!
Thank you for visiting Reproduction Woodworks' blog today. Here you will find a log of projects I am working on, discussion of future plans and general musings on my experiences as a woodworker. I hope you enjoy your visit today. Questions and comments are always welcome and appreciated.
If you are a client and would like a progress update on a project that you do not see on here, please send me an e-mail and I will get right back to you.