these newsletters …
Looking back on my November Newsletter [Australia review] I realise how long it was … sorry – and therefore congratulations to anyone who read the whole thing! I will try to keep this one somewhat more … succinct!
After sending out the last newsletter I had a few emails back complaining about the dark blue background making the text impossible to read. Apologies to all who’ve had this problem. I use a system to send out these newsletters that supposedly does tests to ensure that they can be read in the vast majority of email programmes, but it seems there are always one or two that don’t work as they’re meant to. I think I’ve sorted this now by slightly changing the way the template works – anyone who still experiences a problem might find that their email programme is set up to limit the download of images in some way. In addition there’s a link at the top which says ‘view it on your browser’ – if it doesn’t look like the image below please click on this link and you should be able to read it.
in this issue
… more about the smartHinge, a suggestion for a gallery of student’s work, a mystery pic and for those waiting to hear my weekend course dates for the spring … scroll down past all this infernal smartHinge stuff! I’ve even found time to make some boxes – hurrah!
Well, this is now available as per my last brief newsletter [subscribers since Jan 26th will not have received this] and I’ve had a huge rush of orders. At least, I did initially … then it all stopped as suddenly as it had started and there was nothing for 48 hours or so. I’ve only just worked out why – in slightly re-organising the payment page a couple of days ago I had somehow managed to disable the ‘Buy Now’ button so that it merely pointed to a generic PayPal page! Now fixed, I think – but I suspect that the system is still somewhat flaky – so, if you’ve tried to buy over the last few days and failed, please have another go, and email me if you have any problems.
If you’ve ordered, thank you, I should be receiving the first full batch at the beginning of next week so you should get them by the end of that week, Feb 10th/11th or so. I’ll be sending these out normal first class post – anyone who wants a more secure method please email me – a small extra charge may be required.
And anyone who’s thinking of ordering, but hasn’t yet, don’t leave it too long because I’ve nearly sold out the first delivery. If you miss this lot you’ll have to wait until I receive more which will be early/mid March. To order, go direct from the website – cost is £39.50 ppppp [per pair plus p&p].
Thank you for all the enthusiastic enquiries from US customers – there have been a lot! It will be a little while before I’ll be able to supply you, but I will keep you informed via this newsletter, and by email to each of you individually. I will try to sort it out as soon as possible and will let you know when the reviews [certainly Fine Woodworking but others too] are due to appear.
A few have pointed out that the smartHinge appears very similar to a hinge available from Woodcraft, BC Specialties and others.
Here are the hinges shown next to each other, smartHinge to the left – similar, certainly, in that they are both siderail hinges and lack a stay. But there the similarity stops. On the BC Specialties website [their part number is #CAH 062] it is described it as “The strongest and best looking non-well mortise hinge on the market
” – well, don’t be fooled, the smartHinge beats it by a country mile!
Apart from the fact that it’s far less well made than the smartHinge, the main problem is that the stop on the #CAH 062 is achieved by a square knuckle. So, what they don’t show you in their images is what this hinge looks like at the back of the box! In order to allow it to rotate you have either to project the hinge out of the back of the box by the full thickness of the knuckle [see below right] or you have to cut an escapement channel above and below the knuckle. Both options really spoil the look of the back of your box.
Which would you prefer?!
And incidentally, any hinge achieving a stop by way of a square knuckle, including Brusso’s stop butt hinges, shares this problem.
smartHinge reviews, retailers, publicity
There are reviews in British Woodworking [out now] and Good Woodworking [out shortly] with a press release in the current F&C to be followed by Robert Ingham’s review in next month’s issue. US box making supremo Doug Stowe has kindly offered to review for Fine Woodworking, but I’ve had to hold off on that for the time being as that would definitely lead to more sales than we can handle at the moment.
I’ve had a number of approaches from retailers wanting to stock the new smartHinge, but I’ve resisted, wanting to keep the cost to the user down as much as possible. This will perhaps be at the expense of wider sales – but the downside would be a demand beyond what we can realistically produce, and therefore the temptation to manufacture faster. This in turn leads down the road of incorporating more mass production techniques, which then leads to a lowering of quality. This is not an option.
In any case, the accuracy essential to make these hinges consistent means they are time-consuming and painstaking to make – and therefore already relatively expensive. The 30% or so added by any third party [plus 20% VAT – I’m not currently registered] would make these very expensive hinges indeed. Keeping sales JUST through the website ensures that a higher proportion of the price you pay goes into making the finest possible hinge, not into admin/markup/third-party profit.
There’s much more info on the website – I’ve recently added eleven reasons to buy smartHinge.
The second half of last year was a busy time for teaching and many came to spend some box time with me, both for the weekends and the one-to-one. It’s a great pleasure to meet so many people with such a diversity of interests and talents. From making Korean fighting kites to gun stock making, from folk music to making fishing rods and … fishing. And all points in between. The one common factor, of course, is a fascination with boxes and making them!
In case you’re wondering, the guys on the left are polishing up butt hinges ready to fit to their boxes. They seem to be having fun, but this is a task that will no longer be imposed on weekend course visitors now we’re in the age of the smartHinge!
The dates for the spring 2011 weekend courses are as follows:
I will be posting these dates on the website on Wednesday February 9th – so please contact me before then if you want to be sure of getting a place. Go to the weekends page for more info.
I have much booked in for this year from all over – a nice mix of new faces and repeat bookings which is the way it should be! Please contact me if you’d like to enquire about booking some time.
boxes in France 2011
We‘ve had much interest in this premium event with some places already booked and others being thought about … if you’re interested please go here for more info – and don’t leave it too long as the remaining places might not last long!
box making done …
… and about time! At the end of my November newsletter I alluded to my desperately needing to get back to actually making some boxes – well, despite all the other things that seem to be consuming my time at the moment [not least the smartHinge!
] I eventually managed it. I’ve recently completed two fairly demanding commissions, each coincidentally for six beautiful drinking vessels. One is for a spectacular set of silver gilt whisky tumbers and one for very beautiful engraved wine goblets.
The first, seen below, is in walnut and stripy maple and features asparagus spears and a pineapple for reasons I won’t go into.
There’s me doing a final brighten up to the polish in my mother’s kitchen just before delivery.
The second one is veneered with a beautiful pale myrtle, also bookmatched, and was mostly made during the first half of January. In time, just, for a 50th wedding anniversay, which is part of the reason why this newsletter’s a bit later than usual. This was actually delivered incomplete because the customer hadn’t wanted the goblets out of his sight – understandable. I don’t normally like glass – but these are gorgeous!
This is a large box for me, measuring 700 mm long, and involved a few fairly stressful late nights getting it finished on time. I now have it back and I’m doing little more work on the polishng. The customer is currently in Egypt [!] and when he comes back he’s bringing the goblets to the workshop so that I can complete the lining, bedding the beautiful glasses down into some lovely soft blue leather.
The exterior decoration incorporates around 14,000 black and white squares, each single one cut out, lovingly dimensioned and individually applied. Only kidding – all put together Tunbridge ware-style as per pics … getting the lid margin to work with half the decoration above and half below was somewhat challenging!
I have also been making some oboe reed boxes in collaboration with my wife, Hilary, who is a baroque oboe player. She is doing some of the making and has become very good at doing the inlay on the lids of these and my ‘standard’ flat flute cases. Here seen doing the task of squaring the routed grooves for the inlays with the help of one of the prototype jigs Veritas has sent me for approval.
These are luxury versions of the more usual ones available – we’ve sold several of these already and hope to offer them off-the-shelf soon. It was interesting experimenting with the various foams available to get just the right consistency, how to machine it, get just the right gap, spacing and so on … I think we got there in the end, but are awaiting feedback from first customers.
To the first person who explains exactly what this is all about – a free smartHinge. Oh all right, a whole pair.
The next project I need to complete is for the new book so that’ll be killing two birds with one box. As well as work to the new book I’m also intending to do some more writing for the WW press, something I haven’t done for a long time.
I actually have a huge article in progress around the subject of … you guessed … hinges. Derek Jones at F&C said it was WAY too big for them to consider using, and wouldn’t even consider doing it as a series [shame, all those possibilites for cliff-hangers!]. Could I just pick out a few choice chunks for a one-off article? No, I couldn’t … it would lose any continuity and context. I will probably end up posting it on the website in huge, indegestible chunks of text. Or write the definitive book on box hinges: “Hinges, now it’s personal
”. In any case, the mega-work inevitably arrives at the conclusion that the smartHinge
is really the only solution, so not sure how dispassionate it would be considered to be in print, unless it was published as one enormous advertorial!
I’ve known Nick Gibbs [one time editor of Woodworker and Good Woodworking magazines and now running his own excellent mag British Woodworking
] for a long time now. He was actually the originally intended author for The Book of Boxes – then he met me at one of the very first Woodworker shows I ever did and suggested that I took it on. Very glad he did, and I did. I will doing some writing for Nick over the coming months, mostly box related, of course, but conversations with Nick tend to range far and wide, so who knows where we could end up! If you haven’t seen BWW I highly recommend it – lots of great stuff.
At the last minute I considered putting a gallery together of work by past students and hastily emailed out to a few that I knew had made lovely work, either with me here or after their visit, for submissions and/or permission to use images I already had. But I just as quickly decided that it was going to be too much work for now, and I was going to have to wait for some to get back to me anyway – thanks to those that did so quickly!
Incidentally, I hesitate to call some of my vistors ‘students’ – many are already extremely competent woodworkers in one way or another … Anyway, if you’ve been to me for a course and would like to have a pic in the next newsletter, please email me. Here’s a few of images just to be going on with – lovely stuff I think you’ll agree.
box making supplies
This is coming together slowly, but mind on other things at the moment. As well as the items I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters I will be offering a smartHinge starter kit – to include, amongst other things, a specially made hex bit for the no.3 screws I supply and a hex driver extension for doing the awkward screws at the backs of the hinges [but not half as awkward as the screws at the back of quadrant hinges!]
This should be up and running by the spring to coincide with the first of the weekend courses. In the meantime please let me know if there are any other bits and pieces that you’d like to have available, either that you’ve found difficult to source or whatever …
and finally …
So – not that succinct then, but I hope it’s all of interest! I think I will do four newsletters a year from now on – hopefully they will be less long and a bit more … digestible!
Thank you for listening