July 30, 2009


It was more like “Sproing, slam, bang, thud…D’oh!”

When things go wrong in my shop it’s never in a little way. Most failures qualify as epic. There’s nothing dull or mundane when things go wrong, and, my reaction is invariably shouting a “D’oh!” that can be heard all around the Peach State and has been known to reverberate through the North Georgia Mountains for weeks. The other day was just such an instance.

A bench grinder is one of the tools that is an absolute necessity of my craft (and my art). It’s where rough shaping is done, doing hours of work in a matter of minute’s time. Without that grinder, production stops dead cold. And, like someone who can’t help themselves, how I react to such events, compounds my troubles greatly.

Folks who know me know that I’m not necessarily frugal. I’m certainly not cheap, but at the same time I hate overhead. I know it isn’t very popular to say this these days, but I like profit, and, as an extension of that I dislike anything that decreases profit. This is the case not only to line my own pocket but based upon the fact that increased cost will almost invariably translate into increased cost, and that comes out of my customer’s pocket. So, keeping overhead, and thus cost, down, it is a win/win situation that suits all concerned well. But, sometimes, in my effort to keep overhead down, I qualify as penny-wise and pound foolish.

A perfect example was the last time that my grinder/buffer motor went gerflooey. At the time one motor was performing both buffing and grinding duties, so my shop was completely disabled. Production was at a complete standstill. But, rather than recognize that it was imperative that I spend what was needed to get things up and running ASAP, pronto, I looked to what I had on hand to try and get by. That led to a comedy of errors that I believe was the topic of a blog piece some time back. The end result was the better part of a week lost, falling further behind, and a significant loss of income, all in the name of saving a few bucks.

I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid. So, when I heard a huge snap and turned around to see the sight that you see above, my grinder motor and stand in shambles, the product of the aforementioned grand waste of time, I knew that this time I would have to act swiftly and not jerk around with home remedies and get my shop back up running. And holy crap, when that thing went it reminded me of that helicopter tethered to the train in the tunnel in Mission Impossible. Okay, there was no ball of flame and chopper blade missing my neck my mere millimeters, but based on my gasp as I witnessed the break-up of the stand it might as well have been as I realized that suddenly my shop was shut down.

That stand was one that sat in my Dad’s lab (he was a dentist) for decades, and had great sentimental value, but all of the nails and duct tape wasn’t going to bring it back. So, I dropped everything, bit the bullet, and hopped in the car and headed to Woodcraft where I purchased a steel grinder stand for the princely sum of $43. In the next hour the motor will be anchored to the new stand, and a day later I will be back in business.

So, the net-net is that I ended up only losing a day of work rather a week. I have apparently learned one lesson, and that is that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. No matter how much I like to improvise and use existing things to turn them into other things, recycling them, I owe it to my business and my customers to correct things directly despite cost. And, as to cost, dealing with issues decisively usually ends up being less expensive as opposed to wasting time (and in the end spending even more money) contriving Rube Goldberg contraptions that would make McGyver blush.

After ten years at this, I’m learning.


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