What’s New In and Out of The Shop – 3 year update

I just don’t seem to have time to write blog posts or at least I’m not willing to find the time.  My last post was almost 3 years ago! I had a prospective customer visit the shop this summer and say he’d looked at my blog and saw how old the most recent post was and wondered if I was still in business. He suggested I either post in my blog or delete it.  Well it has taken me another few months to get to it but here’s what’s new in the last 3 years.

Computer Controlled Machinery

In July of 2015 I purchased a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) router for the shop.  My interest in computer controlled machines was sparked by my spur-of-the-moment purchase of a used computer controlled tenoner in 2011 from a furniture shop that was going out of business.  I was so impressed with what this machine could do that I started looking into other CNC machines.  The CNC router can do a wide variety of tasks.  We use it for sculpting chair seat contours, cutting out bed headboards and pretty much anything that has a curved shape, mortising bed posts, table legs and other furniture parts.  I’ve also used it to cut a router jig from aluminum for cutting dovetails in my drawers and cases.

What I like most about the two computer controlled machines I have is that their versatility, ease of use and incredible accuracy gives me more freedom in my furniture designs.  I’m able to make pieces with complicated joinery with relative ease.  Customizing the shape of a headboard no longer requires working out the design on a computer and then somehow transferring that design to a template before finally cutting the headboard.  Now the design goes straight from the computer to the router which cuts the shape.  Needless to say this saved time saves money while also increasing our production capacity and often eliminating tedious work.

Shopbot CNC Router

Our Shopbot CNC router has a cutting area of 4′ x 8′ x 6″ deep and takes up a 14′ x 11′ room

 

Lots of Work – No Time for Lunch

Since April of 2015 we have been very busy – so busy in fact that I barely take a break for lunch anymore.  I used to take a full hour+ for lunch and walk the 1/4 mile home to eat it but I haven’t done that in years.  Now I just take a break long enough to eat a sandwich and then I’m right back to work.  Custom furniture making is generally a feast or famine existence and I’ve learned over the years (35 years in the business as of April 2017) that when you’re busy you work as hard as you can while you have the work. When you don’t have work you catch your breath and do the things you didn’t have time for when you were busy – and then start worrying. Here are just a few of the custom pieces I’ve made since 2015:

custom cherry bathroom vanity

Custom bathroom vanity in cherry with curly maple door panels and ebony pegs.

sheet music cabinet

Custom sheet music cabinet in cherry, maple and curly maple.

blanket chest with drawer

Detail of a dovetailed cherry blanket chest with drawer

Night table drawer pull

Asian night table drawer pull details. Cherry with curly maple and ebonized cherry.

2 door wall cabinet rosewood finish

2 Door wall cabinet in cherry with rosewood stained finish.

2 door wall cabinet bevel detail

2 door wall cabinet bevel and hinge detail

wall cabinet reveal details

2 door wall cabinet detail. I’d forgotten how difficult this cabinet was. Nice details throughout.

 

Our New Sawmill!

For many years I’ve thought it would be great to be able to mill lumber from our own land for use in the shop.  In 1963 my parents bought the 140 acre mostly wood property where my shop is located and had it logged in 1972.  Since then no logging has been done so there’s quite a bit of mature timber on the property – pine, hemlock, soft and hard maple, birch, cherry, oak, ash, aspen.  In 2010 we had some lumber milled from trees that were blown down in  a thunderstorm. I used quite a bit of this lumber for furniture for paying customers but also made myself a very nice bureau with cabinet (see below) that was made entirely from our own lumber. The logs were taken to a sawmill near here and dried at a nearby kiln.

7 drawer bureau with cabinet

7 drawer bureau with cabinet made from cherry, hard maple, soft maple, aspen and pine from our own trees.

We have just purchased a sawmill of our own and plan to build a solar kiln in the spring. While we certainly won’t be able to supply all the wood we use in the shop I am looking forward to adding some of our own lumber to the mix.

New Woodmizer sawmill at Richard Bissell Fine Woodworking

Our new Woodmizer sawmill and some freshly sawed lumber. The insert is a picture of me taken in 1966 just outside of where my workshop is now located.

 

If you’ve made it this far thanks for reading all this. It may be a while before I write another blog post but rest assured I’ll still be making furniture.

 

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