My rehabilitation is going very slowly. I am continuing to have back problems which inhibits much exercise. I had hoped to return by April 1st but I am now thinking May 1st. It is hard to mill much lumber when it is a chore just getting up and down stairs. It is becoming obvious to me that many changes are going to need to be made if I am to continue. The three disk fusion and steel plate in my neck limits my ability to move. We keep hoping the spinal compression will return to normal but as of today it has not. I have been staying busy with new fonts and some new graphics I am anxious to see on the work. In the meantime I will keep plugging along, one step at a time.
The holidays have come and gone. The decorations are taken down, the ball has dropped and 2015 has faded into past. Few years in my life have been as difficult as 2015. I must admit I was not sorry to see 2015 go. I spent the last two months of the year by my mother’s bedside. She passed away on December 23rd. I do not have the words to express my profound sadness and great sense of loss. Mourning combined with recovering from the spinal surgery has left me weak as a kitten. I can barely lift a gallon of milk let alone my spirits.
The good news is I have been cleared to begin physical therapy and the process of rebuilding my health. I really underestimated at my age how fast arm and leg strength can just go away. I have responded to many people with the answer that I could not tell “if” or “when” I might return to my work from this forced sabbatical. I can at least declare now that I will return. I hoping to get back in April barring any other life surprises. I like surprises less than I used to and I am looking forward to an uneventful new year.
Well I am less than a week from surgery to most hopefully repair my spine and return full feeling to my hands and relieve the pain in my left shoulder and arm. This sort of thing seems quite frightening. I suppose it is the builder in me that is is most curious about how all of this accomplished. I am the sort that cannot look at a piece of furniture or a box without thinking “Well how is that accomplished?” “What tools and skills are required?”
For those who share this strange curiosity, here is a film and some information as to what I will be going through. I am uncertain as to the recovery time and the limits which may be placed on my activity. Here is a link to an informational video
It doesn’t appear as though I will be cutting dovetails anytime soon. Following X-Rays and an MRI, I have been diagnosed with severe cervical spine stenosis and a herniated cervical disc in my neck. This is causing numbness in my hands and pain in my left shoulder and arm. The prescribed treatment is spinal surgery. Basically, to the best of my understanding, they are going to rebuild a disc with bone implants and build up the space between two disc to alleviate pressure on my spinal cord which is causing the problems. Of course until this is accomplished I am at high risk of additional nerve damage and spinal cord damage. The risk of paralysis is present with this kind of surgery but it is far less than risk of paralysis due to a fall or sudden movement of my head that is currently my condition. I have pre op this week and surgery will be scheduled after consultation with my cardiologist (that is another story).
So I am waiting and waiting is the hardest part. I have plenty of powerful although somewhat debilitating drugs on hand and I am fine apart from being bored. I will keep everyone concerned with updates right here. I appreciate your understanding and your thoughts and prayers.
Over the past six years it has been my great honor and pleasure to make thousands of wood plaques and boxes for many wonderful folks.I think for the most part people have been fairly well pleased with my work and that has made me happier than I could begin to explain. I think the only complaint I ever receive is that I am often slow and this is true. Recently, the slowness has been compounded by days when my arm and left hand just won’t cooperate. I figured this was just getting older and the ravages of time.However it seems to be getting worse.
It is with deep regret that I must inform you that I have been unable to work for the past 7-8 days due to pain and numbness in my left arm. I have been diagnosed with cervical spondylosis, a degenerative form of arthritis in my neck. At this point in time, I am unable to say when or if I might return to woodworking. This could be in a couple of weeks or maybe a couple of months or possibly not at all. I continue to be optimistic and pray that I might return to the work I love sooner than later. I just have to be patient and continue therapy. The problem with this condition as it relates to my work is that it is chronic and I might be fine for several weeks and then suffer a set back. This makes it difficult to meet time frames as I just do not know how my strength will hold up. I will keep the web site up and keep all informed as to whether or not I am working.
I am not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I believe my best woodworking is still in me. So for now I consider this a hopefully brief sabbatical and I hope to be covered in saw dust sooner than later.
Over the past several years I have made hundreds and hundreds of Arrow of Light plaques for Scout packs all over the country. After awhile, this can get boring. So with the help of some packs, we came up with the idea of adding special achievement awards on the plaques. Awards such as the Nova science award or the Super achiever award could with some graphics work be added to the plaque.(click on the picture above to see full size) This makes each plaque unique and highly personalized. This takes a bit of time but makes a neat effect. I also like the fact that after so many tears, the work is still new and still pursuing better all the time.
If you are interested in these, it is best to contact me via email. I get pretty swamped with orders and my bench fills up fast. I can only make so many in so much time. I will of course as per my promise, “Do my best”.
It has been 5 years since I started on this journey. It has been a most enjoyable time. I have made thousands of unique items. Last year alone, my work tripled! This caught me by surprise and come Christmas I was quite overwhelmed. Instead of making 4-5 items a week, I was making 30-40 items a week. Instead of making 12 boxes a year, I made 60 boxes. Now most folks say “That’s great!” or “Congratulations!” and it really is great except for the fact that I can only realistically make 20 items a week. The shop in in shambles and scrap wood and dust are becoming a real issue not to mention a health hazard. So I am constantly falling behind and the waiting list grows longer and longer. These are good problems to have as problems go but I feel bad that I have lost some customers and some orders because I just could not get to everyone on time. My friends and family say “Hire some help!”. I am not sure I could find anyone to work in Chaos the way I do. So what can be done? How can I maintain the hands on personal handmade quality and keep up with increasing demand? There is also the issue of burn out and I am tired and I have neglected some health issues for too long. I have worked 7 days a week for more than 6 months now and I worry that inspiration and passion may wane. Growing pains to be sure.
I have decided that I need to change my ways of working. I have always made each item from start to finish. I need to make multiple items and complete the heavy work (milling, sizing,planning) ahead of time and work from an inventory of plaques and boxes that are ready for assembly, engraving and finishing. In the past I built up an inventory of 10-20 plaques and 6 boxes to prepare for Christmas. These were gone before Thanksgiving and I was back in the catch up game. Perhaps if I have 60-75 plaques and 20 boxes I would be in better shape and would replenish this inventory once a month. This will take some time and much work, not to mention some new tooling,shop layout and storage. Of course this will also mean that special custom sizes will have to be on a “As Available” basis.
Therefore, I have decided to close Fishers Laser Carvers for Remodeling effective May 23rd through September 2nd, 2014. This is to remodel the shop, build an inventory and instal a state of the art dust collection and air filtration system. Tools need sharpened, machines need tune ups and I need a break. This is going to be expensive. I have several new items and new methods in mind. The idea here is not to stop making but expand production. So I am leaving for a little bit. You can still contact me as I will be around. I will return, better able to take care of my wonderful clients in a more timely fashion. In the words of the The Tempos, “I Will See you in September”.
By all accounts, Marina Keegan was an exceptional young woman with a voice for a generation. Just a week after her graduation from Yale she was on her way to Cape Cod when a tragic auto accident stole this precious life away. In a heartbeat, this optimistic and most promising voice of a new generation was silenced. This tragic story was widely covered in the national media including the Times and The New Yorker. For her friends and family this loss is intimate and personal. For all of us the loss of her talent and voice is immeasurable. Her words of hope and optimism are truly inspiring.
I was contacted by a friend and family of Marina. I was asked to create a remembrance plaque for Marina’s mother. I selected a piece of maple and I decided to frame the plaque with a 3dimensional laser carving of maple leaves. I selected this graphic for two reasons. A very old technique that I have always admired is to reflect a reverence for the tree that provided the wood such as maple leaves as drawer pulls on a maple table or oak leaves or acorns on an oak piece. I will talk more about this in a later entry. The other reason is that blowing leaves are a symbol of fate (leaves in the wind, a leaf on the river, the feather in Forest Gump). It is a charming plaque and my great hope that it may ease those broken hearts that view it.
In August, Marina Keegan’s work Independence opened in New York. The loss will never be over come but Marina’s words and thoughts live on. I never had the pleasure of meeting this young woman but I have read her words and I have engraved her thoughts and I feel very privileged to have done so. This is in memory of a fine young writer and playwright gone too soon.
You can learn more about this remarkable life here.
When people ask me what I am doing these days, I often find that difficult to describe. I do my best to explain the concept of enhancing hand made wooden objects with a laser and they invariably ask “How in the World did you get into that?”. That is a strange story.
I have pursued woodworking my whole life. The books by James Krenov (A Cabinetmakers Notebook, The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking and The Impractical CabinetMaker in particular) were inspirational to me. I was especially struck, not only by his use of hand planes, but that he made these tools himself to fit his hands. I decided over 25 years ago that this was something I must master. Thus I started making hand planes.
I made quite a few and I use them everyday. Then one day this odd idea popped into my head. I had never seen a hand plane with checkering added for the grip like a rifle stock. So I began to research the craft of gun stock checkering. This lead me to read several books and took me to a few scary gun owner web sites. I bought some checkering files and started my pursuit of this tedious art. In my research I discovered that most modern gun stocks are checkered with lasers. Lasers? I thought. This took me off to explore the abilities of laser engraving. I thought lasers were interesting and more than a little bit cool. I went to trade shows and watched every demonstration I could. I thought perhaps, I could use laser engraving to fund my woodworking pursuits and well as, of course, have checkered hand planes. The only ones in the world to the best of my knowledge.
Recently, I was contacted by the Irish Setters Club of Greater Tucson about some awards for a dog show. They wanted an award that was simple and understated but symbolized the sport of gun dogs. These dogs are trained to fetch quail. The dog and the rifle and the shooter work together. We tried several standard borders and the typical “First Place” “awarded to” trophy, when the idea came to me once again; Why not gun checkering? After all this familiar pattern is certainly well know to gun enthusiasts. We could even use a Remington or Winchester diamond pattern for the checkering. One of the club members had drawn a lovely quail graphic used by the club (these folks are really into this as I am sure are the dogs). So perhaps just a quail and gun checkering as a border. The plaque to the right is the result. The members were thrilled and the plaques were noticed by representatives of the ASPCA.
The wonderful lady who developed these plaques with me told me they were a big hit and no one has ever seen such a thing. I was relating this story to her and she mentioned I had quite a background. Isn’t it wonderful how one thing can lead to another and to another. I suppose one could say I have a checkered past.
The 135th Airlift Squadron is one of two flying units of the Maryland Air National Guard. It is based at Warfield Air National Guard Base (Martin State Airport) in Middle River, Maryland. Its parent unit is the 135th Airlift Group. The unit flies the C-27J Spartan.
The 135th Airlift Squadron was organized as the 135th Air Resupply Squadron on September 10, 1955 as part of the 135th Air Resupply Group (now the 135th Airlift Group). When it was organized, it was one of a handful of Air National Guard units nationwide tasked with what was at the time called the air commando mission, which included covert infiltration, resupply and exfiltration of special operations troops. It remained a special operations-type unit until 1971, when it was reorganized as a tactical air support unit. In this role, it was tasked with providing Forward Air Controllers to direct air strikes in support of troops on the ground. In 1977 it was again reorganized, this time as a tactical airlift unit. The 135th Airlift Group was inactivated for two brief periods: 1958-1962, during which time the 135th Airlift Squadron continued to function as independent squadron, and 1996–1999, during which time it reported directly to the 175th Wing.
When I was contacted by the Squadron last year about plaques they issue for deployments, I started researching the logos and missions. These folks are involved all over the world. If we have military somewhere, the Maryland Air National Guard is not far behind. The graphics they provided were too low a resolution to make an effective engraving. I worked on these for weeks before deciding it was best to just redraw them. I did not want to use a black and white outlines as that would look too much like a rubber stamp. I wanted something more along the lines of a carving. I should probably explain here that I consider cutting (or more accurately burning into the wood) an engraving and cutting away the background and leaving a design standing as laser carving. What I wanted to do was to replicate color with depth and texture. This is the resulting plaque.
The 135th also uses the designation “Baltimore’s Best”. This insignia was even more of a challenge. It features cross lances on a shield which boasts the Maryland State Flag, which is a fascinating and complicated design.The flag of the state of Maryland consists of the heraldic banner of George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore. It is the only state flag in the United States to be based on English heraldry. It took me about 12 different designs and 20 (yes, 20) tests runs to find that combination of deeply cut but not too deep and crisply cut lines. It is a heraldry insignia and the motto “Baltimore’s Best” was adopted in 1987 as a result of the unit being recognized by the Best in Baltimore committee the same year.
I do not think I have ever worked so hard on simple plaques. For reasons I am at a loss to explain, I considered this task most important. The squadron sent me an Arm patch in appreciation which is quickly becoming one of my most prized processions. I enjoyed working with these wonderful and brave Americans. I must say if we ever get into a real scrape, I want them on my side.
I had finished all of the plaques (I made a big batch) and was preparing to wrap them when at the very last minute, I decided to engrave the backs with “proudly made in the U.S.A.” After this experience, I really must say, “I sleep better at night, knowing the 135th and the entire 175th is over head”. May God Bless them all and keep them safe.