I found some blue prints for a 1930ish ford model aa panel van online and when I paired them with the plans I had for the same year of flat bed truck, I figured I could make a wooden toy. At this point I made the crazy decision that I should make 3 at the same time to cut down on set up time with the idea in the back of my mind that if I could make these fast enough, I might be able to sell some. Right now, my skills are quite mediocre and there are so many things that I mis-measure and mess up that it takes me toooooo long to finish a toy. So I can’t justify the type of fee I would charge inorder to get a decent wage for the number of hours involved in the project.
I was very flattered by the chance to sell a few of my first trucks, I just just left it up to the clients to determine what it was worth to them and I was very humbled by how generous they were. I was happy that someone liked my work enough to pay me. Somehow this changed when I started making these trucks. Since the material is all scrap (except for the wheels) I recieve from my friend, my time is the only real expense. I started keeping track of the time and how much the toy would cost if I were to pay myself minimum wage. I found myself becoming more irritated by the mistakes I made (which I now realized was made 3 times) and I found myself skipping some of the little details that I had done on my last projects because I felt I couldn’t afford the time. As the time increased so did the cost of the trucks until last month I figured out that the trucks were unsellable at the time-cost I had in them. I was working on a rear fender that was a 4 step process to create ( drill out the inside, cut out the outside, shape the outside, concave the inside) when the drum sanding attachement I was using on my drill press caught the piece and shot it across the room. It shattered on impact. I stopped working on them, and haven’t been in my shop since.
I am not sure what changed. Perhaps it is my tendency to get bored with projects that don’t feel creative enough, perhaps it is my frustration with my slow-to-develop skills or perhaps it is possible that money can change things. I was under no pressure to make these toys financially viable, but the thought that they might be worth something changed my perspective. Suddenly what I could sell them for became how I measured what they were worth. I guess that sounds silly, but I thought they were worth alot more than I could ever sell them for. Let me explain. I recently gave the peterbuilt truck (it is one of my projects) to my niece’s husband. This is a guy who drives a truck 12+ hours a day, has a part time job cleaning a church and still has time to coach soccer. He is a good man. When I gave him the truck, I could tell that he loved it. It was worth so much to him. It meant as much to him to own it as it did for me to make it. I didn’t get a penny, but I felt like I was a richer man.
I have lost that feeling of being able to accompish anything of value in my wood working. I can’t explain why. I don’t think it was just the trucks, but I can’t help but think that has to be part of it. I still make things with the kids, but every time I look at the 3 carcasses in varying states of completion I get a knot in the pit of my gut and I can’t make myself go back at them. I can’t explain why it just isnt’ worth the effort now that I know what they are costing me more time that they are worth. I guess a more humble man could see this as a lesson in priority, but I still see this as a measure of my worth as an artist and there is something about charging a dollar an hour for your time that is disheartening. I am not sure when that became important to me in my woodworking but I long for the time when my project’s worth was measured in my satisfaction rather than price point. For what it is worth, I still enjoy seeing other people’s work. For what it is worth, I still think about projects I might try someday. For what it is worth, I know that given time, I can create something beautiful. What I have to do now is figure out what that is really worth.
-- The CNC machine can either produce the work of art you imagined, or very decorative firewood.