Future of cabinet making...

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On Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 10:45:19 AM UTC-6, Swingman wrote:

Isn't that the goal? Seems every machine for the woodworker has that in mi nd. Electric board planer instead of hand planes for surfacing, drill pres ses for perfect 90 degree holes instead of brace and bit, electric routers instead of molding planes, etc.
Again, I think these things are a natural evolution of the genre.

Couldn't agree more. I once received a shipment of cabinets to install tha t had been assembled with out of square drawers with poor fitting dovetails . (BTW, they were sold with the dovetails being a sign of craftsmanship!) Bad enough that the supplier here ordered more and they paid me to take the faces off and screw new ones on.
The thing a machine cannot find a clever solution on its own to accommodate project design features, nor can it change anything on site to adapt to jo b site conditions. Although there is a real WOW! factor with a fully autom ated machine, they are best foot forward at demo time and work within the s trict parameters of their design and program limitations.

But could Leon sustain his current level of craftsmanship, design, and arti stry over a period of several years? We both know (as does anyone that che cks out his WIP photos) that he is not only hard working and dedicated to h is craft, but actually gifted as well. IME, skill only gets you so far. Le on is beyond that.
But... in context of making a living for himself and his family, could he d o that? It is an unfinished conversation between us. How much work could he bring in that would be needed to pay rent on a small space ($2K a month? ), phones, wear and tear on machines, delivery vehicles, a helper/employee, etc.? Would he have the time to lovingly select every board, fuss over ev ery joint, shop hard for just the right hardware, cut/assemble/finish/deliv er/install his work after hours of design? Would he have the time to chit c hat with well heeled clients as needed, listen to their blather and ideas, collect funds, maintain a set of books (OK... Kim could take that), manage his employee, maintain all machines, promote his business (everyone runs ou t sometime), and maintain quality control? And an added 5K a month to the bottom line could make a real difference in his current business model. Be fore retirement, could he have also made mortgage payments, personal expens es, kid expenses, etc.? I dunno... maybe next bottle of bourbon we finish up the discussion.
Leon is an exception to me, not a rule. His talent and workmanship make hi m unique, and he is in the most enviable position any craftsman could ever be in. Earlier in life he earned his way into this situation through his o wn hard work in another field, and Kim did the same. Their hard work and c ommitment /in other fields/ paid their bills when they needed steady cash a nd enabled them to be where they are today. Leon doesn't need the work and only takes the projects he wants. He told me he doesn't adhere to any stri ct time schedules, and that his commissions are "done when they are done".
Those last two sentences separate him from the folks that do commissioned w ood work as a sole means of support. You have a business and support yourse lf with it. I have for over thirty years. My model used to be Leon's curr ent model, but truck payments, paying my own college tuition, rent, utiliti es, employees, slow paying clients, and the slew of things I found out I ha d to address AFTER I was in full time removed my dream of being the prickly old craftsman working in a messy shop that people came to visit like they would a religious figure. I cherished that idea for years, but with one in come, the unpredictable nature of business, and the need to sleep at night, I had to change my personal model.
I think that Leon has the brass ring in his hand, knows it, and seems to be enjoying every moment of it. He should, he earned it! But I hope he chim es in somewhere and puts in his two cents. I would have hated to type out this diatribe only find he feels I have it all wrong.
Although, that wouldn't be the first time that has happened...
Robert
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On 03/02/2016 11:59 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote: ...

Precisely...what this will do is produce replicas of a given design w/ minimal _additional_ investment in labor after the initial purchase. It does have the flexibility a stock cabinet doesn't of being able to adjust to fit any given opening which is an advantage and would work reasonably well with the kind of precision you normally work to where the layout is defined before Leon heads to the shop.
_IF_ (yes, the proverbial "big if" :) ) the preprogrammed profiles and such are acceptable to the client, then all have to do is punch the button once the material is loaded, assemble and finish (or vice versa :) ). But, as you say, if there is a hiccup in a wall or there's a specific design feature not in the current software base, it comes to a halt.
...

There's room for a rare Sam Maloof here and there but even he followed the model that virtually all that I know now do -- they teach either classes on their own or in another cooperative or other arrangement school, write, have other outside sources of income as well as simply surviving on commission work.
I'm sure there are some in the country who can and do survive that way, but I surely can't think of any I know of by name at the moment that don't have something else going on as well. However many of them there are, it is "a precious few"...
--



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On Wed, 2 Mar 2016 09:59:45 -0800 (PST), " snipped-for-privacy@aol.com"

There will always be a need for Leon, and men like him. As technology takes over Profit and ROI will be the ruling factors. There will be very little effort given to one offs since the profit margin will not be suitable to do the job.
I already have experienced this type of production runs in my trade. I have seem major improvements. I have also see the cost of operation go up. Seen the loss of skilled tradesmen as they moved to other crafts or retired. I gave one experience of needing a simple drain pan made up, and where a "dinosaur type" Leon was very necessary.
I also see where even with reasonable QC and bad batch of manufactured wood products affecting an entire production run requiring a call back, or the sending of semi-trained people out to the various job sites for repair or replacement. Wiping out the profit for the next three or four jobs.
Plus, someone wanting an exact period piece matchup will not be able to get it as something's will just not match up.
When every medium and large company has access to such engineering and it becomes commonplace then the bean counters will institute forced change for profits sake because of intense competition.
End result will be lots of plus' and minus' for the new technology and an adaptable skilled craftsman will also be able to make a comfortable living. There is always a niche' to fill.
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OFWW wrote:

In related news here, Carrier (furnaces and A/C) is closing it's factory in Indianapolis soon and opening one is Mexico where the workers will be paid "$3/hr + about $3/hr in benefits", according to the CEO. I don't know what the workers were paid here, but the loss to the local economy (and society) will certainly be felt.
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wrote:

I just heard about this from Trump. Really very sad on many levels.
Over the years I have had to deal with parts that came from Mexico, many is the time the parts failed soon after installation or replacement, and no alternative other than buying another total system component. It took a while for Japan to get their butts in gear, and a few other Asian companies, but they did, and as a result took over the small commercial equipment area while the Americans consolidated companies. The UK is another area where their technology far exceed are own in many areas.
Even so there are many ma n pa business installing the stuff in homes, apt's, and small commercial business.
Many businesses went to Mexico over the years, only to return a few years later. (In the HVAC and Controls arena's)
OH, BTW. Laughable but true. FORD sends their engines there for "remanufacturing" I have heard from friends who were associated with Ford engines that they would find some engines with welded rods (that failed soon after running) I can't imagine how they balanced it so that it would run, or run without hitting the heads. LOL
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Bill wrote:

One of the news reporters asked him, while he was running away, if he was going to be making $3/hr too! As a result he wasn't able to answer the question.
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On 3/2/2016 6:33 PM, Bill wrote:

I'm going to ask a few questions here and hopefully you and or any one else will not become offended.
Do you feel that closing the factory and moving it to Mexico is wrong?
Do you shop around for large purchases and try to get the best deal or do you pick the place with the highest prices for specific items to make your purchase?
Do you prefer that the government step in and protect businesses by imposing import taxes on goods manufactured somewhere else?
Do you have a retirement plan or own stock?
Do you believe that trying to keep up with the Jones might be why our economy is in the shape it is in?
Years ago today's necessities were a luxury which the common family could not afford. I recall the days when air conditioning was not in but a few homes, those were the Jones homes. Automobiles with AC, power steering, power brakes, automatic transmissions, power door locks and windows, and even FM radio were only in the vehicles that the Jones drove. Homes with brick and over 1400 sq.ft. were the ones that the Jones lived in. Sometimes Mrs. Jones worked, seldom did the other wives work. Oddly enough we youngsters that grew up during that time seemed to have done just fine in the long run even though our last name was not Jones. We all ate at the dinner table before retiring for the evening to watch B&W TV.
Then things changed. The "new" Jones families began to out number the other families but this was because the moms began to work to help dad afford the life styles and luxuries that the Jones enjoyed. Meals at the dinner table were often provided by the producers of TV dinners or the mom and pop hamburger stand and often the family discussions around the diner table migrated to a TV tray to watch the new "color" TV. Kids had less exposure to parenting with mom working at her new job. Often the kids did not get the supervision that they needed and all too often some one else's mom stepped in to do the parenting. And unfortunately not all of the kids got the attention that they needed for a structured upbringing. You see a lot of those kids in prison today and their kids got even less attention. And today their kids often still live at home with mom and dad, well into their adult years.
Not every one is equal and not every one deserves to have what the Jones have. We live in a society that expects more with less production. We want top dollar for what is quickly becoming an entry level skill. We live in a society that believes we should have the best because we were simply born in the United States. That was not the way it was 50+ years ago. Back then we earned what we were worth much more so than today.
Unfortunately we still want the pay with out putting in the time and or realizing that maybe we simply do not contribute enough to justify what we are paid. Some one had to compensate for our pleasures, luxuries, and wages that exceeded our grandparents privileges. That is where cheaper manufactured goods from other countries began to fill the gap.
Are goods manufactured in Mexico and China inferior to USA products? Sometimes, more often not, and their work forces are getting better at it than we are. If we are going to survive we are going to have to compete with the world. We are going to have to swallow the pill and realize that what we expect to be paid is simply not worth 10 times that of a person that delivers a product 95% as good.
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Leon wrote:

rate may continue to rise. A lot of people seem to like their smart phones.
It was interesting to read what you wrote, because it was a little like memory lane (family eating together at the dinner table.., until some time in the early 70s or so). So no, I don't disagree with you. I understand basic economics. OTOH, the "relative pay" of people in an organization could probably use some balancing. Making a few people "absurdly-rich" off the backs of the masses doesn't seem right. I would even say that some of the organizations are stealing from their shareholders (who are among the masses) in this way.
Bill
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On 3/3/2016 11:58 AM, Bill wrote:

Kinda works with the 10 times more pay thing. ;~)
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Leon wrote:

company can only make a certain multiple of the lowest paid person. I think it's a multiple which is a lot lower than 1,000 --which is probably not too far off for many large companies these days. This in not unrelated to the current politics, where it seems many aren't in favor of a political dynasty (be it Clinton (D) or Bush(R)).
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wrote:

There are all sorts of stories about such, but every one I've seen is BS. They "forget" things like company stock and other perks. It's a silly idea anyway but pretending is worse, IMO.
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wrote:

Except that the "crime rate" has been going down for decades.

making them.

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On 03/03/2016 9:27 AM, Leon wrote:
...essay trimmed for brevity...
I shouldn't but will comment on a couple things...
Do I "feel" Carrier shouldn't move? Sure. Do I understand the economics behind the decision to do so? Different question entirely and of course I do.
On purchases...no, I obviously don't go out of my way to find the highest-priced vendor but I _do_ search (with less and less success, obviously) for USA-made or at least partially assembled product over (particularly) Chinese import, yes. I _will_ pay a premium for that as well as I still shop in local brick-'n-mortar businesses as much as can as opposed to taking everything automagically to the internet. Some of that is owing to being in a small market arena such that it's a real concern that losing a vendor is a _major_ loss as, unlike large metro areas, there isn't another or several others from which to choose. There's only one of many types of businesses here already and none of others as WalMart has driven quite a few out already.
Is "keeping up w/ the Jones" responsible for current economic conditions? Clearly not...consumer spending drives 70% of economy, w/o it it'd _really_ be in the doldrums or worse. What drives (and drove) much more is the rising formerly undeveloped economies needing markets for their own products to support their growing needs at home. Which need began the price competition that forced US manufacturers to compete on a global scale as opposed to having a closed US market. Started with Japan and the automobile and electronics, has gradually escalated with the rise of Korea, then the other SE Asia, E Europe after Glasnot and now in spades with China and India. Mexico and NAFTA were on the way in there, too, of course.
The breakdown of societal norms is a topic too big to even begin to touch...
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On 3/3/2016 12:31 PM, dpb wrote:

I totally understand. There are many many things I am sure that went into the decision to move that facility.

What I was thinking when I asked that question is the company, Carrier, probably did the same thing. Again I'm sure there are many factors, unknown to the general public, that went into the decision to relocate in Mexico vs. some where else in the USA, Canada or China. I'm sure their decision was an economic one to please stock holders. Being a public company they have to operate under a different kind circumstances. On an other note, one which I find a bit humorous is Buick and China. Buick has been a big hit in China for many years. What I find a bit strange is that China is going to build a specific Buick, for Buick, to be sold here and not there.

Yes it is.
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Leon wrote:

I thought this post was interesting enough to discuss and thereafter send to a family member! I'm sure lots of folks here have seen it all for themselves, but it's nice to have some of the details laid out, such as they are, in Leon's post.
Bill
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wrote:

My employer sent all of the production jobs from our site to Mexico in '08. It's been a bumpy ride but less so than China or Malaysia. The odd thing is that there are more jobs (doubled in size, twice, since I started four years ago) now than there were then, and all engineering and management jobs (though a good percentage are H1s). All of the production area is now engineering office space. Note that this is a Japanese company that's investing in engineering, here. Globalization is a two way street.
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On 3/2/2016 5:40 PM, OFWW wrote:

Yeppers.
Imagine the shop that relies on a machine, when a client calls and says I have ten of these 50 year old chairs, but I want/need/must have two more that are identical to this one, and they are nowhere to be found:
https://picasaweb.google.com/111355467778981859077/EWoodShopMissionChairReproduction2013?noredirect=1
Basically well-to-do will pay heavily to assuage their must haves ... this guy traveled from Austin to Houston twice, plus paid handsomely for this very simple job:
https://picasaweb.google.com/111355467778981859077/EWoodShopRetroTableLegs?noredirect=1#
Couldn't find a "craftsman" locally with the tools or know how to do the precision necessary ... and OMG, he just had to have the latest millennial rage - his old desk magically turned into a standup desk.

Bingo, Hell yes, and Yeppers again. The man nailed the elephant in the thread!
And, as I have said here a few hundred times:
"There's riches in niches"
And the corollary that has never been truer, as evidenced in the links above:
The more machines that do the work, the more valuable the ability to fill the resulting voids/niches becomes.
IOW, bring on all those machines, eh Leon? LOL
--
eWoodShop: www.eWoodShop.com
Wood Shop: www.e-WoodShop.net
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On 3/3/2016 10:00 AM, Swingman wrote:

LOL, and what I have said under my breath, sales are great to those where money is no object.

Exactly! Machines often speed up production and precision in areas that you will never see. Take my lap joint double floating tenon joints for instance. ;~) How many man hours and $$$ do you suppose my Domino has saved considering that it has cut 10K mortises, even at just $2 per hour? LOL I would buy another in a heart beat should it poop out.
Building slower does not make for better quality.
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But in one hundred years people will be clamoring for those good old fashion antique Domino style joints, shaking their heads while saying, they just don't make things like they usta. ;)
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On 3/3/2016 3:54 PM, OFWW wrote: Snip

You say that and then and oddly I just got turned down to build a display frame for an antique stained glass window still in the original window casing/frame. This is a customer that I did some work for about 8~9 years ago. He and his partner had lot's of antiques in their home and one of them worked in an antique store. Obviously the stained glass and wood frame were well built, as they were in pretty good shape for their age. He did not want to make any repairs so much as knock off the peeling paint and paint over the old paint. The window would have to be brought back to my shop and I would build the display frame around it, it would stand about 83" tall and 42" wide. Being a repeat customer I quoted him a price below my comfort range and apparently that was too much. Having access to those type antiques I'm sure he got a deal and expected an even better deal from me. I don't really think he appreciated the fact that I was going to build something worthy of holding an antique of this size.
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