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Gerald Boggs

Pros and cons of production work.

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I've already said I do mostly production work, 99.9% these days. Thought I'd write about the pros and cons of it. Not all at once, but as the thoughts show up, I'll add to this. Feel free to ask any questions about running a solo proprietor business as an artist/craftsman.

 

First off, I didn't start off to do production work, it's just something that happened along the way. I had started in the area of architectural iron. But as the song says, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans” However, I'm fairly happy with my lot, the reason for brings me to my first Pro: I've finally become financially stable. My income has gone up 5 times what it used to be. First Con: I've found the things that sell with the highest return, are the simple things. Making the same simple items day after day after day, can become quite boring.

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Pro: I get to spend most of my time forging. Since almost all my work is sold through Amazon or Etsy, I'm not running around visiting potential clients, No spending hours/days working with a client, only to have them decide not to use iron or tell you your price is too high. No driving to shows and standing around hoping to sell something.

 

Con: I need to pay close attention to what my body is telling me. Used to try to forge with the heaviest hammer I could use and try to get the most out of each heat. Can't do that if you're forging the same thing over and over, you quickly find that the stress builds up. Now I use the lightest hammer that will do the job, I move between 1 ½ to 3 Lbs hammers Also, when I started to forge the same thing over and over again, I found some actions my body wasn't happy with, I had to rethink a lot of how I did things. It wasn't always the hammering, in one case, it was how I was bending my wrist while moving a piece on the anvil. Do it once or twice, no problem, do it a 100 times in a row, problems. That one took me a while to figure out.

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There is a lot to be said for productionising ones work, and a lot to be said for trying to vary that work or to space it out amoungst other more varied stuff.

 

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True, but production work is what found me :-)  Believe me, I wasn't looking to spend my days doing production work.

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Are you happier now? (serious question, not a digger)

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It's a fair question. And the answer is both yes and no.

I really like not having the monkey on my back worrying about making my bills and wondering about the future. 2008 saw all my custom work disappear and with it, most of my income, not that I was ever really doing well, but still I had good years.  Right now, doing production work, I'm able to put more away for retirement, then I used to make.

Also, my primary drive is 'How I work” rather then 'what I make' and in that area, I still hold strong.  Everything I do, is done at the anvil, hammer in hand.

The part I have trouble with, is saying and acting upon “I've earned enough this week and now it's time to play” I'm getting better and am starting to do a bit of play, but still in the back of my mind, is the thought “Time is money, get back to work”.   If I'm in the forge, I feel I should be working.  Because of that, I haven't done a cool project, just for fun, in years and I used to do them all the time.

Edited by Gerald Boggs

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Not trying to be nosy but, I have got to ask. You say you are doing production work. However from what you are saying it sounds like the production work is forging! So I hope you don't mind me asking but what are you doing??? If you don't want to talk about it that is OK as well!

///

8 minutes ago, Gerald Boggs said:

Everything I do, is done at the anvil, hammer in hand.

 

10 minutes ago, Gerald Boggs said:

If I'm in the forge, I feel I should be working.  Because of that, I haven't done a cool project, just for fun, in years and I used to do them all the time.

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Bottle openers, hooks and dinner triangles are my big items right now, but that changes with times and peoples tastes.  If you want a look at my stuff, here's my etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WayfarerForge 

Or just google my name.

One can sell almost anything, the range of peoples taste guarantee that.  It just comes down to location, presentation and a bit of luck. 

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Thanks Gerald, hey life is all about money, happiness, and retirement, and ! The first one makes the last two much easier! Plus you are doing something you like, forging and it is true,  a man that loves what he is doing, has never worked a day in his life!!

I don't see a thing wrong with that kind of production. In fact I have thought about stuff like that. It all boils down to finding a place to market the finished product. I thought about renting a table at the local flea market but everyone wants to talk you down on your price at a flea market!!

 

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I just visited your Etsy store and here is my answer to this bit: 

13 hours ago, Gerald Boggs said:

If I'm in the forge, I feel I should be working.  Because of that, I haven't done a cool project, just for fun, in years and I used to do them all the time.

You are experiencing ennui.

You have a tab on your Etsy store page labelled "Art". That is where the fun pieces should go. If I were you I would look at those "fun" projects not as something that is outside of potential sales, but something that is very much a potential sales item. Not for bragging, but my wife and I make art pieces and they do sell. We haven't made a coat hook or a bottle opener in years. I was thinking about making a bunch of leaf key rings for the art show just so we could have some $20 items on the table, but my wife looked at me like I had antlers growing out of my head. Your Celtic crosses are a nice idea. What if they were ringed in a hammered copper rod? How much would you sell them for? How about plant pots? Stuff for wall hangings, vases, wine chillers, BBQ utensils, desk ornaments, jewelry, table trivets, the list goes on and on.

Set aside one day a month to play. Make something you think is cool and put it on the store. See what happens. Eventually you will have to expand your product line if not to attract new customers, just to keep yourself engaged and fulfilled. And don't be afraid of cancelling a product line if you get sick of making it. Just make sure you have a new one to replace it or switch to a "made to order" business model for that piece instead of an "in stock, on hand" business model.

Never stop having fun. 

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Fun is important, thats for sure. I remember saying at the begining of all this that I would have a "play" with making damascus to an old timer. boy did I geta bollocking, knives are a serious business!! but I still stand by it. I am very lucky, what I make sell's , my classes fill, I am verry lucky indeed

....The trick is keeping motivated, keeping the variation up and the challenges apropriat and tough enough to keep you on your toes...without breaking you.

 You really have to learn to do a number on your self ,to keep the idea that this repetative hard work , physicaly exhaustiing and grimy job is "good work" and worth doing and fun.

 and with the rite head on it certainly is! Its the best Job in the world!

 

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I've had jobs that were horrid and I had days, running my own business, that were horrid but in the case of the latter it was MY horrid. I could always say "Well, it could be worse, I could be working for some A-hole boss. At least I get the challenge of multi-tasking. I'm the lowest grunt on the payroll AND the A-hole boss. Livin' the American dream"

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13 hours ago, Joshua States said:

You are experiencing ennui.

Not sure how you got: “A feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.” from “If I'm in the forge, I feel I should be working.  Because of that, I haven't done a cool project, just for fun, in years and I used to do them all the time.”

I used to do the cool stuff all the time, because I had plenty of free time. I had plenty of free time, because I wasn't selling my stuff as fast as I could make it. Now the situation is reversed. I don't make and sell anything, rather I sell and then make. It's been several years since I haven't had a backlog of orders.  With Etsy, I'm already paid before I even pick up my hammer.

So for me to stop and play, requires me to turn down work, and turning down work is the same as turning down money. Which is the basis of this “The part I have trouble with, is saying and acting upon “I've earned enough this week and now it's time to play” I'm getting better and am starting to do a bit of play, but still in the back of my mind, is the thought “Time is money, get back to work”.  If I'm in the forge, I feel I should be working”  Hell, I've just now come to terms with not working on the weekends, took me years to do that. 

As for making different items or embellish something I'm already making, I appreciate the advise, but  why change what I'm doing.?  I'm already selling everything I make, as fast as I willing to work. I apply the formulae of “time, effort, return” to everything I make to sell. I have a minimum price earned point and if the product isn't above that point, it doesn't get made. Embellishing one of my crosses, I've already maximized the return on them, so doing anything more to them would reduce the return. 

If I stop to play, it's going to be for me. Working my way through the projects in Mark Aspery's books would qualify as “Fun”  A good example of something I want to do: Finish my CBA/ABANA grill. I've already got all the bits for it, just need to stop working and finish it.

But my point of this thread, wasn't do discuss my inner turmoil, but to talk about pros and cons of doing production work as a profession.

 

 

 

 

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14 minutes ago, Gerald Boggs said:

Finish my CBA/ABANA grill. I've already got all the bits for it, just need to stop working and finish it.

Sorry for the hijack. I’m intrigued. Is this a barbecue grill? Do you have a link to the plans? Thanks

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47 minutes ago, Charles du Preez said:

Sorry for the hijack. I’m intrigued. Is this a barbecue grill? Do you have a link to the plans? Thanks

Google it.

Gerald, Sorry if I misunderstood what you were trying to say. It's not uncommon for me to completely miss the point, especially when the form of communication is reading words on a page. I'm much better when conversing face to face.  I'm not so much as trying to give advice, as I am exploring what is missing from your day to day that you feel is one of the cons of production work. What I was hearing is "not much time to work on things I want to make or experiment with design, because I'm always making stuff that I have to make, because I have orders to fill".

I need to read your posts again with a different perspective, because I clearly do not see the cons from the first two goes at it.

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46 minutes ago, Joshua States said:

Google it.

Sorry Joshua, I did. The links are dead or blank. The only thing I could come up with was this:

F8A2F6C4-7358-478D-A7BF-874EBDEAD9FB.jpeg

 

BTW, I subscribed to Dos Gatos on YouTube. Thanks for the vids.

Edited by Charles du Preez

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Thank you

Edit: Darn, I wish it was a barbecue ;)

Edited by Charles du Preez

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And here's the grill drawing:  https://www.calsmith.org/Level-III#level3_img1

CBA education page with more stuff:  https://www.calsmith.org/Level-III

The grill is actually from a gate panel in the Cosara gate design book with a couple of embellishments.  Gate 5014 http://www.bamsite.org/books/WROUGHT IRONWORK GATES PART 2_tcm2-18928.pdf

Edited by Gerald Boggs

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A few thoughts about production work from what you have said. Mind you, I have never done production work of any kind. Well, except for a couple of weeks when I was a framing carpenter and I worked on crews that did production homes. Miserable work from my point of view. Couldn't stand it.

On ‎10‎/‎31‎/‎2017 at 8:03 AM, Gerald Boggs said:

Making the same simple items day after day after day, can become quite boring.

I rarely ever have been bored. Sometimes I got bored at work, but never have I been bored outside of my job.

On ‎11‎/‎3‎/‎2017 at 7:52 AM, Gerald Boggs said:

I really like not having the monkey on my back worrying about making my bills and wondering about the future

This is a good thing, unless it comes with a feeling of being unfulfilled and boredom. Also, it seems like you have to work at something that is not particularly interesting to you because there are expectations to be met. Sounds a lot like having a job to me. Did you just trade one monkey for another one?

8 hours ago, Gerald Boggs said:

So for me to stop and play, requires me to turn down work, and turning down work is the same as turning down money

That's a matter of perspective. Just because it's not filling an order that is waiting, doesn't mean that it isn't a potential income source. I choose to think of those "fun" projects as an investment in myself.

8 hours ago, Gerald Boggs said:

but  why change what I'm doing

When I was taking business management courses in my last college go 'round, I read an interesting quote that really stuck with me: Sometimes in order to grow and expand we have to stop doing what made us successful in the first place.

9 hours ago, Gerald Boggs said:

I've already maximized the return on them, so doing anything more to them would reduce the return. 

That depends on how much you can charge. You seem to already know that there's a ceiling to what you can charge. I find that perplexing.

So far, from my point of view, I find very few pros and too many cons for me to even consider the idea of doing production work as a smith. I have a fb friend that used to be a framer on one of the crews I worked a long time ago. We reconnected after he left construction and entered the artisan business. He used to do all sorts of stuff, wood, metal, furniture, whatever he felt like. He had a motto: I make what I want to make. If you like it that's great, if not, that's OK too.

He now has an Etsy store: https://www.instagram.com/_chatfields/

And a fb Page: https://www.facebook.com/jay.chatfield.52

He is still making whatever he wants, and selling it too. 

 

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10 hours ago, Gerald Boggs said:

And here's the grill drawing:  https://www.calsmith.org/Level-III#level3_img1

CBA education page with more stuff:  https://www.calsmith.org/Level-III

The grill is actually from a gate panel in the Cosara gate design book with a couple of embellishments.  Gate 5014 http://www.bamsite.org/books/WROUGHT IRONWORK GATES PART 2_tcm2-18928.pdf

Thanks Gerald 

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Oh, it should be remembered, the intent of the grill isn't just in the making, but also in how.  It must be done by hand and if you were ever to present it to CBA, you also need to show the tools you forged to make it.  I was lucky in that I was Mark Aspery's assistant doing an eight week course at Penland.  The class was a compressed version of a two year training program with the final pieces being the grill and a gate.  We did a lot of various projects to develop specific skills, and along the way, forged all the tooling for the grill. (we never did get to the gate) 

Edited by Gerald Boggs

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9 hours ago, Joshua States said:

When I was taking business management courses in my last college go 'round, I read an interesting quote that really stuck with me: Sometimes in order to grow and expand we have to stop doing what made us successful in the first place.

That depends on how much you can charge. You seem to already know that there's a ceiling to what you can charge. I find that perplexing.

 

You're still operating under assumptions.  I neither need or want to expand.  I've actually reduced my on-line footprint to have some control of the number of orders I receive, at one time I was over 800,000 on google.  Damn, never mind that last, "Gerald Boggs blacksmith" is getting 1,900,000 results.  I'm currently 3-4 weeks out on orders, the last thing I want to do is grow. 

It's not a matter of ceiling, but rather an understanding of my market and the application of the formula: time, effort, return.

But why do you think I'm asking for advice?

 

 

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I don't think you are asking for advice. I'm just trying to have the conversation. I'm just offering a different point of view. If you find that offensive, I will gracefully bow out.

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I hate to go to what seems obvious as a suggestion, because I might appear a bit dense but here I go. 

Is it possible that you could start to transition your products to more expensive, therefore profitable, items and therefore be able to work "production" fewer hours for the same income? I looked at your store, and to be frank and honest, " yah, you make bottle openers, I get it". There is a lot of repetition in your site so no wonder that is what you sell. Use more of the space to present one-off custom pieces and advertise that you do that more strongly. Those custom orders will break the monotony and have a higher profit margin per hour.

Sorry if I am stating the obvious.

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