I know everyone here loves to hear a good “tool gloat”. Yesterday in my travels, I found an incredible deal that I couldn’t pass up, although it wasn’t really a tool that I found – it was a printer. With having a woodworking pattern business, I suppose a printer can qualify as a tool, as it is an important part of my day to day operation.
With the impending snow storm and all the current deadlines met, we thought it would be a good day to get out of Dodge for a half a day and get some much needed shopping done before the weather held us hostage here for the next several days. Besides, we have been working at a pretty brutal pace the past several days and could use a change of scenery.
In preparing for the show in March, we realize that we need to have hard copies of patterns to sell. Right now most of our sales (about 97 percent) from our website are sent electronically. This is great, because we don’t have the additional costs of printing and shipping orders, and customers get near-instant delivery of the patterns they order and can print them out in their own home. This also saves them the additional cost and time of taking the patterns to be copied and printing for cutting, as the preferred method with scroll sawing is sticking the pattern directly on to the wood with temporary spray adhesive and cutting it from that.
However, when attending shows, it is customary to sell paper patterns, which means printing them out. This has been a dilemma for us, as we offer almost 400 patterns. We have never attended a show of this scope and even though it is large, only a portion of the attendees are interested in scroll sawing. What the exact portion is remains a mystery to us.
Common sense would tell us to bring several copies of the newest patterns available for selling, but predicting what will sell and what won’t isn’t an easy task. It is a guessing game at best and there is no certain resolution. We just have to see.
In order to be prepared to fulfill the needs we anticipate, we decided that it would be a good idea to bring our printer and have the ability to print on site if we run out of certain patterns. All of our patterns are printed in color, and recently we have decided to include as many step-by-step photographs as necessary for people to best understand the process of creating the project. In earlier days of my business, it was impossible to print in color without having to charge too much for the pattern. Cartridges for most good quality printers often exceeded $25 each and lasted only a short time. It wasn’t economically feasible to offer this to customers.
However, a couple of years ago, a friend and colleague of mine who also does printing for the magazine told me of something referred to as a “Continuous Flow Ink System” (or CIS, if you will) that they make for several common models of printers. He purchased his set on Ebay and was very happy with it. I was in the process of purchasing a new printer at the time and was ready to move from Epson, where the cartridges were expensive and refilling them a mess and the computer chips in them caused all kinds of problems.
After much research on printers and systems, I decided to try a Canon Pixma. It was a good low-cost printer and I had found an Ebay vendor with a great reputation that supplied the CIS for the model I was looking at. I purchased the printer for around $150 and got it home and tried it out. It did a beautiful job and even printed on DVD’s and CD’s. After running it through the paces for a few weeks, I decided it was really a good printer and I placed an order for the system. The cost of the system itself was about $50 and came with the ink tanks filled. I have a picture of the tank system here:
|From Ink System|
This system sits beside the printer and the ink is supplied to the cartridges by the five little hoses. Once the cartridges are in place, you never have to remove them – you just refill the outside tanks from the large (100ml) ink bottles. Needless to say, one refill of the tank equals many, many cartridges. Also you can repurchase in at the cost of $10 per 100ml bottle or the entire set of five bottles for $30. It is incredibly economical and the printer has preformed beautifully for both photographs and normal printing. It is one of the nicest printers I have ever had, even though it is one of the cheapest.
Here is how it sits outside the printer:
|From Ink System|
As far as the chip issue goes, you simply remove the chips from the cartridges that are included with the printer when you buy it and stick them onto the cartridges that come with the system. Everything is pre-assembled and you don’t have to mess with the ink at all. Here is how it sits in your printer:
|From Ink System|
You can see in the second picture that I do wrap the hose system with a bit of light foam so that the cover of the printer won’t kink the hose. With the Pixma, you need the cover closed in order to operate the printer and you can either cut the lid or do as I did and kind of prop it open so that it doesn’t pinch the hose. It is an easy fix for such a great solution to the high cost of ink.
One of the reasons that I had stopped designing painting patterns several years ago was because I was unable to provide my customers with quality color patterns at a reasonable cost. Using this system makes the printing cost almost non-existent, as I have only had to buy one additional set of ink bottles in the past two years.
I was sad that the Canon Pixma IP4600 printer was discontinued last year, as most printers are replaced after only a short time. I found one for about $70 at the Staples near us and scooped it up. I thought it would be a good back up printer when this one’s life is over.
Yesterday, however, we were at Staples and saw the Canon Pixma IP4700 on sale for a mere $39! This is the next generation of the IP4600 and is identical in nearly every way, except it is supposed to be just a little faster. The most important thing is that it uses the same ink cartridges and will be able to accommodate this system too. So how could we pass it up?
I am going to place an order today for a second CIS as a back up and I think we are going to bring two printers to the show with us, in case we need them. We will have our laptop and be able to print from there and we already tried to see how it would preform using both printers at once and it worked beautifully.
If you do a lot of printing, I really recommend you looking into one of these types of systems for ink. For less than the cost of a set of cartridges, we now have a back up printer and ink set that will print several hundred times the quantity of what the one set would have done, and the printing looks absolutely beautiful, too.
I love when stuff like that happens. We also bought a case of paper and we are starting to print out quantities of our catalog to distribute at the show. Getting ready for this show is exciting and I am looking forward to it more and more each day. The next month and a half will focus on getting everything ready and is really going to be great. I appreciate all the suggestions you have been sending me, both via email and PM and am really getting things in order and mapping out my presentation. I feel more excited than nervous about it right now and although I am sure that there will be moments of stage fright, overall I love talking to people and teaching and once I am there I think it will go fine.
Today will be a day of organization. I will be writing instructions for the new trays and checking over patterns and getting the next shipment of projects ready to go out to the magazine. It is still snowing here and we are expected to get several inches more today and tomorrow, but I am prepared for just about anything and can work no matter what happens.
I hope all my friends who got pounded in the US are safe and warm. There are places like Chicago that are quite a mess I understand. My one friend has been sending updates from Midway airport on her Facebook account, as she now lives in Wisconsin and is awaiting a flight home. She travels frequently with her job and is used to delays and such and she has a fun and positive attitude about life in general. Hearing of her adventures is like watching a movie and quite entertaining. As long as everyone is safe.
I wish you all a wonderful day!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"