Here’s a little preview of what’s coming…I can’t wait!!!

Karelian Birch Double Chambered

Karelian Birch
Double Chambered

Here’s a little preview of what’s coming…

Karelian Birch Double Chambered

Karelian Birch
Double Chambered


It seemed like forever, but it finally happened. Number One is done!!

There are a few things I’d do differently for the next ones, and I have 5 bodies in my closet that have a major change included already, but all in all, this was a smashing success.

  • The P90’s sound like chiming bells, or like mean crunchy things, and a whole lot in between.
  • The sustain is literally forever, I think I somehow tapped into perpetual motion somehow. This is the first guitar I have to palm mute. (Might be the quality of my Dot Studio?)
  • It can be played as an acoustic. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I don’t mean it sounds like a Martin, but I can play this in a small room for friends and family without plugging in.
  • the thing is beautiful. Not like Clapton’s “I want a guitar that can hang in a museum” beautiful, but “wow, I want to play that” beautiful. Tony at Luthier’s workshop did the tobacco spit and setup.

The list of thanks you’s are predictable, but you don’t get from an idea to done without enablers. Here is a list of mine:

  • God gave me the talent and the opportunity to use it in woodworking.
  • My wife believed I could do it and trusted me to pull it off.
  • My dad was my first shop teacher, showing me how to be a traditionalist outside the box.
  • Brian and Al gave let me try out my ideas after hours.
  • Tony gave me some legitimate luthier horsepower to back up my woodworking.

So here are some pics, the next set are underway and I can’t wait to see how they turn out! If you want to see the whole set, here’s a link to the rest of the pics.

IMG_2331 IMG_2349 IMG_2353

I have been killer busy at work, but it has become more “job” than I realized. I decided some time ago that all my energy at work was doing nothing for my boys at home so I found a few discarded guitars and went to work – dis-assembly, repair, reassembly, sale – all with the little ones watching and helping when they could.

Well, that was step one as it turns out. I have embarked on a hobby that may turn a profit someday – building new guitars from scratch. After admiring a well-known brand name guitar through the window, I made the mistake of going in and picking it up. I was surprised at the poor quality of the “fit and finish” of their product – so much so that I said out loud – “I could do better than this”. I thought about that on the way home and decided to give it a go.

Currently, I have 4 bodies in various stages of completedness. One is promised to a friend who will play it so well everyone will want one. One is for me and I have been collecting the various bits and pieces for it as the budget allows. The other two are going together slowly – more budget issues – but I was just able to purchase the last of the hardware yesterday.

Apart from the setbacks of car repairs, home repairs and other financial burdens, I am pleased with the progress so far. I have been able to hook up with an old-school luthier who has a project of his own that I can help with, so I am bartering his skillset for mine. He has liked the bodies I’ve made to the point of offering to sell them in his shop. Step by step, this is taking on life!

If you or someone you know would like a great custom guitar for what you’d pay for off the shelf, give me a shout.

First one of many?

First of many?

After nearly a year, I am back in the fold. This past year has seen our industry take a shot to the gut, and I wasn’t sure it would recover. I was out of the yacht industry for 9 months, then after a few phone calls, I find myself back in a familiar role, but with very new challenges.

Like myself, a lot of people left for other jobs when things slowed down, but unlike me, many of them are staying away. I guess that’s one difference between me and a lot of other people – my passion for this industry allows me to take risks where they won’t. I use the word ‘risk’ differently that most people; I know God has sovereign rule and will continue to care for me. In any case, the fact is that I am in an uphill battle regarding filling out the departments that have seen many people leave. If anyone out there is looking for a great new start and has mechanical aptitude/experience as well as mad SolidWorks skills, get in touch!

I have said that this is my dream job – what I mean is that I absolutely love what I do and can’t imagine doing anything else aside from a higher call. The job I had for 9 months last year was a great job with many amazing people, but it came down to this: it wasn’t boats. Many may think I’m nuts for leaving that job, but I had no passion for it even though I was getting pretty good at it. Without the passion it was just a job (albeit a really good one, and one I was thankful to have) but even though I don’t regret leaving, I do miss the people there.

Last summer I realized that I needed a creative outlet, so I picked up a guitar on Craigslist and started to learn. If you are thinking about it but get intimidated, let me encourage you by pointing you to Nate Savage at I started in June, and by Christmas I was playing real music! Now, you won’t see me headlining anytime soon, but this is a major accomplishment. The lesson in all of this is that you are never too old to learn something new. This was such a departure from anything else I’ve tried to this point, that I’m still amazed that it worked.

As long as I’m on the learning stump, I learned a lot about management from Dwayne over the summer that I won’t be able to adequately express here. Let’s just say that where he needed to be flexible, he was, and when he needed to draw the line, he did. He showed me how to be subtle in the difference.

If I get a chance, I’ll post about DriveWorks and the incredible power of parametric modelling. Fo now, I’ll say farewell and good night.

I have made a great discovery about myself that will hopefully be of great benefit to me. A lot of very successful people have said in one way or another: “Do what you love, and it won’t seem like work”. I have seen the wisdom of this and have seen a lot of truth in it, but it isn’t that profound; the trick is finding someone to pay you to do what you love!

I love boating. The call of the water is loud in my ears and only gets louder as spring approaches. I love being on the water, feeling the wind, hearing the waves; it is an adventure fresh and new every time I get out. There is one drawback to this love however. There just aren’t too many careers out there that have ‘boating’ as the main part of the job. The short list includes captain, Coast Guard and pirate. Being one of the former 2 could place you in direct contact with the latter, so while the good can be real good, the bad is probably worse.

I find myself in the boating industry through my current employer, and it is nearly everything I could ask for: I get to work on extremely beautiful yachts that only a handful of the population will ever see, I get to be creative in how I solve problems that arise from dealing with projects of the magnitude that we have, and I occasionally get to trial these gems on the deep blue waters of Lake Michigan. So, what could have prompted the title of this post?

In my job I have been singled out, not because I have proven to be the smartest, or the most creative, but aside from God directing my paths, it is the joy I have for what I do. I am so ‘into’ the projects I work on; I take ownership and strive for getting the very best out of myself. In turn, this has moved me into the role of department head, and with it a new set of challenges. This is the reason for the title…

I know what I’m good at, and in these things I throw myself in to. I have a knack for design as it relates to manufacturing. I have seen some pretty amazing designs that will never get off the paper simply because the well meaning designer didn’t take physics into account. I really take control of the project at hand and work it, mostly because I can see the end result in my head and I can’t wait to touch it with my hands. Unfortunately, along with the fun parts there are the tedious, repetitive, well, un-fun parts.

How will this benefit me? Now that I have admitted to myself that the un-fun things are really holding me back because I don’t like to do them, I will become a better leader. I am going to purpose to attack the things I find boring with the same zeal I put into the fun things. I will attack spreadsheets, budgets, material lists and other such things as though they were my only thing to do. As I do this, I will get better at them which will in turn cause me to spend less time on them, leaving me more time for the fun stuff!

I don’t see myself owning the company any time soon, which would enable me the freedom to pick the things I want to do and hire out the rest. I will therefore challenge myself to bigger and better things by doing what I love, and love doing things I don’t.

This year has started off with my company shutting down for a winter break – the first in my time there. This has afforded me a great opportunity to do some things that would normally be difficult or out of the question had I been working.

Build a snow fort

Those of you below the snow line don’t have any idea how fun this is, but trust me, hollowing out a huge pile of snow and then adding certain necessities such as an escape route and windows is nothing less than thrilling. Having only the weekend really dampens the enthusiasm however, so having the time to really throw into this project was fun for me and my son.

Catch up

My job had taken me to various places over the past few years, often without my family. I think I have been able to balance the books in this area quite nicely with the longest weekend I have had in my working life. It was really nice to be with my beautiful wife for an extended time to catch up, breathe and just be together.

Add a skill

I have started the Gallardo Lamborghini project, hoping to bring my SolidWorks surfacing skill up to the level of my Rhino skill level. I have to say that after hearing all the horror stories about SW surfacing, I was pleasantly surprised. I will acknowledge that there have been numerous improvements made over the past few years, based on the blogs I’ve read, but even so, I’m disappointed that I didn’t try to tackle this sooner! I hope to get the surfacing certification done by spring.

Get involved

We have been able to participate more heartily in church activities over the holiday season, including a Christmas dinner that served several hundred needy people in the community. God has blessed us with several things most countries would consider luxuries; it was amazing to be able to ‘pay it forward’.

This year has already seen much in the way of change, the current economy could take some lessons here. We have gotten so used to abundance we suddenly can’t handle a little scarcity. To 2011: may we find ourselves content with our circumstance.

Since I posted this, there have been many issues with my not following through on the thread. The biggest issue was my being transplanted to England for most of the summer to work with our sister company to deliver their first project. While I’ll never be a regular blogger, I like to pop in now and then, just to maintain a log for my own benefit. While I was away, Matt Lombard started a thread on his blog Dezignstuff that addresses the topic of using a master model in design.

We use this in our designs and it has become the single best tool we have to do what we do quickly and efficiently. I could never write as thorough a series of posts as Matt, so please check out the series, it will be worth the time, believe me.

Original Post:

I have been working with SolidWorks for over 10 years now, and in that time, I have been able to utilize most of the features at one time or another. The one thing I am using now is something that I believe is one of the most powerful tools in the arsenal: top-down design. I have looked throughout cyberspace to find anything about this technique, and have found that there isn’t much available.

We use top-down for our joiner design, which involves a parent assembly and several multi part sub-assemblies, any of which can have reference, toolbox or library parts.

If anyone would like to start a discussion on top-down, please comment.

The Design

The Design

The shelves at home

The shelves at home

We needed shelves. After looking at the offerings around the local stores I determined that 1) the quality ones were WAY overpriced and, 2) the affordable ones were little more than tarted up cardboard. After discussing the possibilities with my wife, we realized that we could build our own for a reasonable price.

Meanwhile, back at the office, I am constantly working to improve our process and make better use of materials. I was looking through the latest FDM magazine and noticed in an article on a canadian cabinet shop a photo of a joint they were using to build face frames. It was a half-lap puzzle joint that would allow quick assembly of a frame while maintaining squareness.

While designing our shelving unit in SolidWorks, I decided to try the joint to see if it was a viable alternative to our current process. I tried a classic style and  incorporated the joint,  then cut the parts out on our router. The one thing I knew would be a potential problem was the plywood thickness. I chose plywood over solid stock only to see how the system would work. I miked the plywood and  made some adjustments in the  model before running the toolpath.

The parts came off the router extremely clean, and after edgebanding the lot, it was time for assembly of the side frames. All the parts fit perfectly within the puzzle joint, but the varying thickness of t he plywood made for a few uneven joints. Knowing we would stain the final product, sanding through the finish veneer to even them up wouldn’t detract too much from the final look.

Once the frames were cured, we attached the shelves using a tab and slot joint. If I had  made them by hand, I would call them mortice and tenon, but since  the router did the work, I won’t take the credit. After a few coats of finish, the shelves arrived at home to the delight of my wife and me. As it turned out we had our son about a week after they were filled with books, so the timing was pretty critical.

Thanks to Scott for allowing us  to use the shop, to Shane for staying late one night to help with the router, and mostly to my wife for her hard work during too many long days in her delicate condition.

After several weeks of fear and trembling, I finally took the time to take the CSWP test. I am happy to say, I passed with a perfect score! I was sort of shaking for about 15 minutes afterwards, and I still  am a little shocked. (I took a sample exam about a year and a half ago and only got frustrated)

So, now I get to place this cool logo everywhere. So exciting!

This is the reward.

This is the reward.

In our department, we design interior joinery for superyachts. This means that we need to have the ability to build high quality furniture that rivals Giorgetti and Smania, but with new technology and tools rather than old world craftsmen. Now, don’t get me wrong, the guys in our shop are world class; I am amazed at their work every time I see it!

Using SolidWorks allows me to ‘build’ a room from scratch in virtual reality; a CNC router allows those parts to be cut precisely as I envisioned them. The biggest challenge is to find the right kind of person for my department. Most designers don’t have cabinetmaking experience, and most cabinetmakers don’t have CAD experience. Our schedule and  staffing requirements do not allow me the luxury to develop a person over time; they must posess a minimum amount of both worlds to be successful.

We also use PDM Workgroup in our company. This allows us to have several projects and users going at the same time without having to worry about one person overwriting someone else’s work. It also allows virtual collaboration so we can see interferences with other trades before they hit the shop floor saving time and money. Now, I know there are a lot of PDM systems out there, but the one  I have is the one I will embrace; anything else would be folly and unproductive. I will save any ‘wishlist’ items for the other help blogs that are out there. A few that I use:


The SolidWorks Blog, Twitter

This area of my blog will be a journal of successes, failures, course corrections and overall life as a SolidWorks user and department manager.


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