Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Guitar pick bowls. A new market?

I took a phone call yesterday from a gentleman complementing me on a bits and bobs bowl that he had bought. He got it on the weekend at a fundraiser for Read-by-the-Sea, and he was calling to let me know how much he liked it, and to thank me for donating it to the silent auction.

As it turns out, he is a member of the Calgary Woodturners Guild, but his real purpose in buying the bowl is that he plays guitar and he thinks the shape of this bowl will be ideal for keeping guitar picks in.

The ideas people have for using these simple little bowls never ceases to amaze me. Whether there is a big market for guitar pick bowls remains to be seen!

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Corks and Corkscrews

I have being doing some research today about corks and corkscrews. I will soon be adding a new product to my line, a bottle stopper and corkscrew gift set, and needed some information to spruce up my packaging and marketing. I'd like to share with you some of that information and the links I found.

Cork has only been used to seal wine since the 17th century (www.history-of-wine.co.uk). Cork is harvested sustainably from the cork oak, which has it's bark stripped every nine years. This does no long-term harm to the tree, which typically lives for 150-200 years. Much of the world's supply of cork comes from western Mediterranean countries. Corkfacts.com describes the whole process of harvesting and making corks.

Sometimes wine goes off due to contact with cork which has been contaminated with mold and chlorine. This creates a chemical known as TCA and the bottle is said to be 'corked'. This has caused considerable debate about the use of cork, and there are many calls for vineyards to consider switching to alternatives. This has created some concern within environmental organistions such as the RSPB, who warn that a large move away from cork might mean destruction of the cork oak forests and the loss of species such as the Iberian lynx, the Spanish imperial eagle and the Bonelli's eagle.

It is not clear exactly when the the corkscrew was invented, but it is believed to have been based on a tool used to clear musket barrels of unspent charges. The traditional corkscrew is a simple helical wire on a wooden handle. Many patents have been filed since then to make cork extraction more effective, and today there are many collectors of corkscrews. The Virtual Corkscrew Museum has many pages of corkscrew pictures.

And finally a few quotations:

"During one of my treks through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew. We were compelled to live on food and water for several days."
Cuthbert J. Twillie (W.C.Fields) in My Little Chickadee (1940)

"Here's to the corkscrew - a useful key to unlock the storehouse of wit, the treasury of laughter, the front door of fellowship, and the gate of pleasant folly."

"Bring in the bottled lightning, a clean tumbler, and a corkscrew."
Charles Dickens

Finally, I hope to have these new wine stopper and corkscrew sets ready in the next few weeks, and will get them on the website as soon as I can. I think they are going to be a good seller, making a great gift for wine enthusiasts.

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Curly Shavings

Apart from the pleasure of making beautiful artefacts, woodturners often delight in the shavings which pour off the cutting edge of their tools. A sharp tool, properly presented to the wood can produce long streams of shavings. This is often associated with turning 'green' wood, but here are some shavings I made while turning bottle stoppers from kiln-dried maple.

Ribbon shavings from the parting tool

These ribbon-like shavings are made by the parting tool as I rough out the cove.

Fine shavings from the spindle gouge

These fine spiral shavings are made by the spindle gouge as I refine the shape of the cove.

Bird's nest shavings from the skew chisel

These are my favourite! I like to think of them as delicate little bird nests or woven baskets. They come off of the skew chisel as I turn the very top of the bottle stopper.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

Tourist season?

With freezing temperatures, and flurries in the forecast, it is hard to believe that the tourist season is just around the corner.

But tonight I am off to display my wares at a 'trade show' organized by the Pictou 'accommodations committee'. They have invited other hosts from elsewhere in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to spend a night or two in Pictou and to be shown what we have to offer visitors to the area.

I have also signed up for the Pictou County Weekend Market, a new venture for me, and one which should put my work in front of a much wider audience. It's going to be hard work keeping enough stock made to run two venues, but I think I can do it. It does mean though that I won't be able to run woodturning courses at weekends this summer.

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ready for the tourist season!

Although I haven't blogged here lately, it doesn't mean that I have been idle. That batch of 110 wedding favors has been shipped and the customer wrote me a lovely e-mail telling me how delighted she was. I now have another order for favors, this time a batch of 200. Today I received an enquiry for a rush order of 8 which would be no problem; I already have some in progress that I can divert for this job which I could probably ship within just 4 days. It's nice to be able to help customers like this when I can.

The gallery is now open for the summer season. I finally got around to laying the ceramic floor tiles which I bought three years ago, but never had a chance to get done. Anyway, the gallery looks a lot better now that the ugly cement floor has been covered up. And we had our first customers today - some folks from the west coast who are in the area for a conference. It will be quiet for several weeks yet, and although our peak tourist season is July and August, more and more visitors are choosing to come in the shoulder season.

Summer hours are 10am-5pm, daily. I hope to see some of you this year, which incidentally is my 10th year in this business.