Toward the end of last year I was out of the shop due to an injury.  During that time orders continued to pour in.  As a result I found myself topping 100 pending orders at one point.  While that sounds great, I find that now 6 months after getting back to work full time I still have nearly 70 orders pending.  It has seemed like and endless treadmill trying to get caught up.  So I have decided to stop taking any new paid orders for the time being.  Instead I have set up a  wait list so that customers can secure their place in the queue without having to commit to an order with lead times that could be several month (or longer) out.  Once at the top of the list we can discuss the specifics of the order and make arrangements for payment.  But there is no obligation until the order is finalized.

Currently on the top of the list of paid orders are several adzes.  nearly 30 in all by the time I reach the end of the current list. adzes

I have finally found some time to sit down and start working on a new website for Black Bear Forge.  Switching over to word press is a whole new learning experience.  But I hope that it will be a cleaner easier to use website for everyone.

I know it has been years since I have used my blog page here at WordPress.  But This seems like the best place to get my thoughts down concerning some upcoming changes to Black Bear Forge and the way I accept and process orders.

For years I have had a website with a simple shopping cart system that allowed people to order and pay upfront for a variety of items.  Those orders would then go into the queue and hopefully be completed and shipped in a timely manner.  While this works and allows the customer to secure their place in the queue, it has become a very burdensome way of doing business.  It was great when I had 10 – 20 orders in the queue and lead times of about 4 weeks.  But as more and more people started buying my products the list grew faster than I could keep up.  At one point I had nearly 100 prepaid orders pending in the queue.  Thats a lot of people with lots of expectations on receiving their order in a timely manner.  When you factor in the little things that life brings your way to keep you out of the shop, things like injuries, bad weather, family vacations and so on. the wait times can not only be long, but also extremely difficult to predict accurately.  Currently working a 60 plus hour work week, I anticipate lead times of about 16 weeks.

So the time has come to put the brakes on an regain control and hopefully a more sane approach to doing business and taking orders.  In the next month or so i will start the process of removing the ordering option form the items listed on my web site.  This is also to prepare for a completely new and revised web site.  Once all of the options for ordering and prepaying for items is gone from the web site I will concentrate on the current backlog of orders.  With no new orders being accepted I hope the backlog will start to clear out in a more timely manner.

Once things are back under control I plan to use a slightly different approach to making items for sale.  Instead of accepting an endless number of paid in full orders I will make items for sale so that if you pay for the listed item it is available and ready to ship.  To facilitate that system I am looking at simply using my Etsy shop at: http://www.blackbearforge.etsy.com  This will make my life and the listing of things for sale much simpler since Etsy is designed just for this purpose.

But I know that some people will miss out on limited production runs or one of a kind items unless they just happen to look at the shop at the right time.  So with that in mind I will also be starting an unpaid waiting list.  I will add names to the list with no deposit.  The list is not an obligation to buy nor does it guarantee I will make a given item when I get to your name on the list (so if you get on the list hoping for a sword or a driveway gate, you’re still going to be out of luck).  As the time allows between stocking the Etsy shop, building stock for shows and trying to live a life outside the shop, I will slowly take a few names on the list.  At that time we will discuss your project quote a price and accept a deposit with full payment due on completion.

I hope this all makes some sort of sense.  I also hope that it allows me the freedom both in the shop to make what I am inspired and excited about making at any given time.  But also the freedom to live life without feeling like I cannot enjoy a day off because the list keeps getting longer an longer by the day.  After all we have been building our home for 10 years and I haven’t done a full weeks work in the last two years due to the overwhelming amount of work in the shop.

Thank you for everyone who has been supporting Black Bear Forge.  I won’t be going anywhere, just destressing the process a bit.

Today Janet and I made the commitment to attend Woodworking in America this year.  This will be in Kansas City MO. September 25th – 27th.  This will provide an opportunity to introduce our products to lots of woodworkers.

Check it out at

https://www.facebook.com/woodworkinginamerica?fref=ts

http://www.woodworkinginamerica.com/ehome/index.php?eventid=108695&

Hope to see you there

I started working for a private ambulance company back in 1980.  Then was hired by the Aurora Fire Department in 1987.  I have progressed through the ranks from probationary firefighter to paramedic and for the last 14 years have served as a suppression lieutenant on an engine company.  Most my time as an officer has been at station 10.  I have had the honor of working with a great crew at 10s.  However after 34 years in emergency service, It is time to retire. from firefighting and emergency medicine.  It is with great excitement that I pick up my hammer to begin a new career as a full-time blacksmith.  I have been running the shop part-time for 20 years or more and the time feels right to make it a full-time job.  So thank you to all of those I have served with as a fire fighter and thank you to all of my customers past and present who have made this transition possible.  Wednesday October 8th will be the start of a new adventure.  Please come visit at www.blackbearforge.com

I have received a very nice bit of recognition recently.  I was asked to demonstrate axe forging at this years Rocky Mountain Blacksmithing Conference in Carbondale Colorado.

http://www.rockymountainsmiths.org/conference/conference.html

While this is a great honor and I am really looking forward to it.  I also am a bit nervous.  One of my blacksmithing idols, Peter Ross, will also be demonstrating this year.  I know Peter has made quite a few more axes over the years than I have.  In any case it promises to be a great conference.  We will also have Mindy Gardner and James Makely to fill out the demonstrators.  If you’re a blacksmith or simply interested please come and join us.

Boy, have I been bad about writing this blog.  I don’t think any of the great bloggers have any competition from me.

Anyway,  Today I finished up a few planing stops or bench stops, I’ve also seen them called bench hooks.  These are a small fishtail shaped iron hook that had teeth filed into it.  Typically these are set into a wooden square 2″ – 3″ that is mortised through the bench top.  This allows the iron hook to move up or down to adjust to the board thickness.  These are a real improvement to most hand tool workbenches.

Three planing stops ready to be put to work.
Three planing stops ready to be put to work.

When you cut the hole in the wooden part of the stop, just make sure it is a good fit so you don’t cause a split like i did.

Here is the bench stop inserted into the wooden planing stop.
Here is the bench stop inserted into the wooden planing stop.

In use be sure to keep the iron stop well below the path of your plane iron.  This will dull your cutter badly if you’re not careful

The planing stop in use
The planing stop in use

New kiln

Last week I attended a knife making workshop at Scott Kretschmer’s shop in Loveland.  The workshop was taught by Steve Rollert from Dove Knives.  This was a full day of demonstration and discussion about hand forged knives.

One of the main topics was a the proper heat treatment of knives.  Blacksmiths have traditionaly judged heat by color and while this is pretty good it isn’t perfect.  Colors appear different in different ambient light.  It is also hard to tell the difference betwwen 1100 degrees and 1200 degrees accurately and that 100 degree difference can be important.  Hardening at the exact right temperature makes for repeatable results.  If you don’t like the results you can easily judge if it should be a bit hotter or a bit cooler.  But that is only possible if you can hit the exact hardening temperature you are aiming for every time.

Enter my “new” heat treating kiln.  This is an electric oven capable of very exact temperature control.  You can set the exact temprature you want, leave the knife or (any other tool for that matter) to preheat and soak – hold at temperature – if needed.  You can’t do that accurately with a torch or a forge.  This particular kiln is actually a small ceramics kiln that was being used by a silver smith for burning out wax for lost wax casting.  It is not ready to be a heat treating kiln yet.  I will need to add some higher tech precision controls to make it work the way it needs to.  But, since a new heat treating kiln costs close to $2,000 and this one was only $200 plus $100 or so for the controls, it will be a bargan.

Part of my long term goal is to make quality hand forged tools for woodworkers.  This new equipment will help me turn out consistent, predictable high quality tools.

It was too muddy to get the car, with the kiln in it, right up to the shop.  So it went up on the back of the ATV
It was too muddy to get the car, with the kiln in it, right up to the shop. So it went up on the back of the ATV.
The kiln was tranfered to the top of my welding cart, since there was no place else to put it, then rolled in under cover.
The kiln was tranfered to the top of my welding cart, since there was no place else to put it, then rolled in under cover.