The Eve of Summer ICE

While trying to start my small business years ago, I spent my time in a shed in a friend's backyard tooling away at random pieces of scrap wood, desperately eager to learn a craft and make use of my creativity in a meaningful way. Looking back, most of the first pieces I made were lacking in the attention to detail that an experienced craftsman would incorporate in his work. I knew little of joinery and with a background in Biology, I knew more about the Krebb's cycle, xylem, and phloem than I did about actually working with various types of wood. I worked full time and spent my spare time learning, building, and occasionally selling a piece of furniture.

I received my first break when an acquaintance put me in touch with a local group called the Indie Craft Experience. The wonderful ladies at ICE Atlanta needed a few things built and were willing to barter in exchange for booth space at one of their festivals. With an operating budget of about $12, I knew I couldn't afford a booth and this was a fantastic opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and share my creations with the world. Those that know me personally would have a really tough time calling me shy, but boy I was anxious leading up to that festival. A million questions clouded my inexperienced and insecure mind: will people like what I have built? Am I crazy for thinking this will work? Will I have enough products to make money? Will I ever be able to do this full time?

I am extremely fortunate in that I have some amazing friends that helped me in my shed: building clocks, assembling tables, flower boxes, and whatever else I thought I could make that would sell at a craft festival. Even with a phenomenal support system, my anxiety still got the best of me. At a young age, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and have the tendency to stay awake for days straight in a stress-induced state of mania. In fact, before my first festival I was so anxious that I worked for nearly 70 hours straight with hardly anything but snack breaks. This exciting and stressful ordeal culminated in a minor seizure the night before my first festival. It was make or break in my mind and my body decided to break.

That first event was nothing short of a whirl wind. Despite the occurrence on the eve of the festival, I showed up and proudly displayed my hard work. I spoke to hundreds of people, handed out numerous business cards, and, in fact, made more money in sales the first day of the festival than I would have in two weeks of working my day job. “This could actually work,” I thought to myself.

That was exactly 4 years ago and tomorrow I will return to the Indie Craft Experience's summer festival with zero expectations and a smile on my face. At this point in my career I have a spectacular team of employees and a budget that is a smidge bigger than the $12 with which I started. I am proud of the work my team has accomplished and I look forward to seeing familiar faces, and meeting new ones. To all those who will be taking the plunge at their first trade festival tomorrow, please hear me when I say: trust the process. How Christy and Shannon (and their fantastic group of volunteers) manage to organize hundreds of unorganized creatives in one building never ceases to amaze. With the coordination of a well-practiced orchestra, they allow us the opportunity to share our passions with the world, and for that I will always be grateful. Whatever happens, happens; you win some, you lose some. I could end this with a number of classic cliches regarding success(which I still yearn for on a daily basis), instead I will just say good luck to all and have fun this weekend. Come see me in the Parker & Briggs booth. BYOB.

 

Building a Work Truck for Practically Nothing

  When I first started building furniture the only vehicle I had was an entirely gutless 4 cylinder Acura, with zero storage ability and even less towing capacity. Knowing that I needed the ability to tow and haul a plethora of wood and metal, the search for a truck began.

  Being extremely frugal (read: broke) and wary of taking on $35,000 in new truck debt, I had to search for other options. The used truck market was and is pretty abysmal: 15 year old trucks with 200,000+ miles for $7,000 seemed to be the norm.  I had a few problems with this option as well:

 1: How reliable will a 200k mile truck be?

2. I don’t have $7,000

3. I don’t want someone else’s head ache

  The only option I had left was to lift myself up by my boot straps, gather my knowledge as the grandson of a Ford engineer, and search for a headache of my own!  

   The first order of business was to setup a Craigslist alert for Ford F150 Trucks under $1000(did I mention I was from a Ford family?).  Within a few days I received a hit that looked like a solid foundation for my build: a “totaled” 1997 F150 XLT.  It had 125,000 miles, with a V8 and towing package for $500.  Slight problem: the truck was essentially destroyed after colliding with a fire hydrant, a telephone pole, and apparently a tree, in that order. The front driver’s side wheel was torn off in the crash, taking with it the entire hub, brakes, and suspension.  BUT the truck would run and drive with the front side on a wheeled dolly.  Easy, right?

  Getting the full-sized 3-wheeler back to my house proved difficult in and of itself.  Using some handy jack work, (three jacks if we’re being honest) we were able to drive the truck onto a flatbed trailer in a physics defying 4,000 pound balancing act. 

  With the drivetrain taken care of, I had to search for the other half of the project: a non-running F150 with the body parts I needed. I found what I needed after a few short days: 1998 Standard Cab F150 with a bad engine for $600.  SCORE!

  Using the same borrowed flat bed trailer I finally had both of my trucks in one spot, with Parker doing the over-watch.  

Total Invested: $1100 

 "Can't landscape without a truck, I s'pose..."

"Can't landscape without a truck, I s'pose..."

  The doors, fenders, bumper, grille, sub-frame, suspension, and brakes all had to be swapped from the white truck to the black one and, viola, I had a running work truck!  

  Living up to it's parts donor destiny, the white truck's excess parts were sold to a tune of $1400.  Woot, woot, our truck budget is at a surplus!

Total Invested: Profit of $300

 #Gutted

#Gutted

 In all her glory, Bertha The Work Horse was Reborn.

In all her glory, Bertha The Work Horse was Reborn.

  Well the truck runs great and all, but we can't leave well enough alone!  Bertha, the cow, needs a paint job, and something else to give her that special something: a little more practicality and a lot more uniqueness. 

  We had to jump in with both feet; personal projects such as this tend to get pushed to the side until they fall off the face of the Earth.  Not this time!  Drastic times call for drastic measures, so we drove to the scrap yard, unbolted the bed and had the crane yank it off and destroy it in front of our eyes. 

 Yes, Ron, it did. 

Yes, Ron, it did. 

 No going back now...

No going back now...

 Prepping for Paint

Prepping for Paint

 Hey!!  That's not so bad...

Hey!!  That's not so bad...

When designing the truck bed, Atlanta parking had to be taken into account.  After some brain storming,  a rounded short bed was the solution to parallel parking.  Now that Bertha doesn't look like a dairy cow, she was dubbed "The City 150". 

 Flat-Bed Framing

Flat-Bed Framing

Test fitting of the flat bed posed an engineering hurdle.  Using an engine hoist and a few ratchet straps, I rigged a system to suspend the bed frame while the truck was backed under it.  With all of the dimensions dialed in, the rough cut white oak had to be laid in and coated. The oak and metal for the bed was mostly scrap and it cost us right at $200 in paint, metal and finished wood. 

Total Invested: Surplus of $100

 Parker-Boy on guard!

Parker-Boy on guard!

 Stained Oak on a Truck Bed, say whaaaaaaat??

Stained Oak on a Truck Bed, say whaaaaaaat??

The truck was shortened by almost a foot, and the harsh angles at the edges of the bed were gone; parking became a breeze.  The shortness did however pose an issue with inattentive drivers (texters and tailgaters!!) while materials were over hanging the bed.  

 How can you tailgate this truck?  It doesn't even have one!!

How can you tailgate this truck?  It doesn't even have one!!

The solution to carrying long materials?  Scrap metal roof rack.  With the remaining $100 in our truck budget we framed off the truck bed and cab.  This gave us a sturdy, out of the way solution to transporting materials.

 Boom Baby!!!

Boom Baby!!!

Despite a nonexistent budget, Parker and I needed a work truck to pal around in.  Be sure to wave if you see us cruising around the A!!