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August 2nd, 2017
06:03 pm


The Grandeur of the Sea...
There's something to be said bout sailing the Atlantic Ocean and visiting far off lands. Visiting Canada ain't too bad either.

First let me say that while I originally believed that a vacation longer than one week was madness, my mind has been changed. It's probably still not my first choice as I prefer shorter hops but it's been nice. The change of scenery at every port also helps. The final jury is out though as we still have two full days at sea coming up next.

I suppose my idea of relaxing is also different from other people. Waking up at the ass crack of 7AM to go workout then catch a nice breakfast, then finish off the evening after a full-day guided tour (or scenic flight) with a few hours of solid-modeling and CNC programming. Not a bad way to spend the vacation as far as I'm concerned. Being outside of cell-phone range for a few days doesn't hurt either.

The other interesting thing that happens is that I get a little distance to take stock on life. I've always been the introspective type so this seems natural to me but a little forced separation from usual routine almost forces a deeper level of rumination.

Do I like where things are headed? Am I really enjoying myself? Do I like the people around me and value their involvement in my life? What things could I be doing better / more of? Did I leave enough doggie treats for the pups while we're gone? Is the DVR going to catch both episodes of Game of Thrones?

You know, the important questions.

I've found that there are a couple points of frustration that keep coming back into the forefront of my mind. At least one relationship which feels like it's a sore point and I find it to be emotionally painful (made more a thorn because it's someone I genuinely love). A real or perceived lack of focus professionally which is only made more frustrating because I'm not sure how to better focus even though I think I know what to focus on. Some frustration at a real or perceived lack of progress (though I wonder how much of that is my own lack of patience as well).

Definitely a few things to take stock of.

There's more though.. there's the feeling that I've become somewhat myopic. Don't get me wrong, it's a willful myopia brought about by the intense desire to become better at machining / entrepreneurship but the distance afforded by this little sojourn let's me realize that as much as I enjoy these all consuming undertakings life still moves on, our time is finite (a point only laid more bare by having visited the graves of hundreds of Titanic passengers in Halifax) and there's more to life than goals and accomplishments (as much as I may personally enjoy and chase them).

There's a tickle in my brain that says that buying a fast car and taking a few road trips (both near and far) with a friend or loved one might be as necessary for the soul as anything else. If travel by ship has shown anything, it's that the trip is just as important as the destination (and sometimes more so).

Current Location: Middle Of The Atlantic Ocean
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: None

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June 11th, 2017
08:01 pm


So.. What Have You Been Up To?
Holy shit, have I been busy. No, seriously. I mean it.

This whole full-time business owner / machinist / entrepreneur shtick takes some real doing. I'm not exactly signing up to go back to government work though, know what I mean?

I must say that after looking back on the past 13 or so months I can honestly say that we never would have gotten here if I was still driving the keyboard and herding cats at the county. That and I might have strangled a few cunts / assholes with my bare hands by now (and from what I hear, they righteously deserve it).

Between adding people, infrastructure and machinery we've really built things up a bit. We've got projects booked out for the foreseeable future (most of them profitable, who knew?) and collaborations on the horizon. We've even got a few new Tuff Writer products up our sleeve (assuming we can close the books on the current Kickstarter project). In other words, it all sounds pretty good on paper.

I still feel like I'm the limiting factor though, the weak link. No matter how much I learn or how much better I get at juggling chainsaws I still feel like I'm not doing quite enough. Guess that's a good motivator though.

On a personal level, I really could use a bit of a break. I'm talking just one day (maybe two) of playing hookie, getting drunk and watching shitty sci-fi movies on the couch and talking about stupid shit. Haven't found any takers yet. Apparently, we're all serious grown ups with real responsibilities and the such.


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November 15th, 2016
01:56 pm


Time flies, right? It's November already and the weather has finally turned. It was a hot one this summer and it lingered much longer than anyone expected (or would have wished). Fortunately we're now back into fall weather (which means a high of 98 degrees) and I can wear jeans again (they make my ass look good according to the wife).

Arya has eased her way into the pack. Outside, her and Buster as virtually inseparable. Inside, he just wants attention from us all of the time (and I do mean ALL of the time). She's filled out nicely and looks to have grown a little bit taller, she's a beautiful dog with a lovely personality. Buster doesn't seem to mind, if anything he likes having a playmate and has the patience of a saint. Haz doesn't seem nearly as thrilled but she's making do. She doesn't bully them around as much which is either do to age or all of the training we've been working on over the past few months.

Peachy is busy as hell at work but you know, she's good at it and enjoys it. She's valued at MCDOT and you can see how much more effort and energy she puts into that place, the pride she puts into doing a good job. It does tire her out though.

The neck is better. Neurosurgery consult resulted in minor depression (too invasive and expensive for it to be worth it right now) but exercises, meds and trying not to be an idiot have helped quite a bit. Less weights and more met-con. Less boxing and more biking. You get the idea.

We did end up getting that new mill. A Haas VF-2SS with all of the bells and whistles. Unfortunately, there's a spindle defect (chip / gouge in the taper) and we'll see how good they are about taking care of it. Otherwise, it's a thing of beauty.

As for the business, it's doing ok. Cash flow management is a pain in the dick and we always need more tooling and equipment, especially to get the lathe up and running properly. Brady's churchkey project is half way done and I've really enjoyed it, with any luck more will come this way. As for the BOSS laser... what a piece of shit. The thing simply will not focus well right now and I think we've come to a point where we need to replace it. Industrial lasers aren't cheap but... what ya gonna do, right?

Ok, back to work...

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August 14th, 2016
05:46 pm


So Far, So Good...
Alright, things have been moving along. Last week we got another dog, Arya. She's a Belgian Malinois we adopted from Animal Care and Control. I have to say... it was a bit of a rough week with the pack but I think we're over the hump and everyone seems to be (slowly, very slowly) adjusting to the new normal.

I've managed to run a few lathe parts including some threading (I know, cool... right?). The mill project Triquetra Spinner with Eric Garza seems to have gone over pretty well. The official release is at the USN Gathering next month but so far it seems like it's a success.

Brady and Ryk have finally decided on what they want their machined clothes-pin project to look like (well... probably). Since I've finished the run of D22 Uncus carabiners, it's time to get Brady his parts. With any luck, we'll have some ready for the USN Gathering which will make three (3) collabs for the show (not including the Vehement Acid Etched pens which we've already sold out of).

Savannah seems to have decided upon a different career path (insert sad face here). To take some pressure off, we've hired Adam Chavez (a fellow USN'er). What he lacks in experience he makes up for in enthusiasm. It's still not the same but then I guess things move on whether we want them to or not. That said, Adam has potential and I want to give him a fair shake. He has some big shoes to fill but at the moment it seems like he's up for the challenge.

We're considering adding another Haas VMC this year. A brand new VF2SS (although I'm thinking about splurging for a VF3). We might also ditch the Boss laser and are considering a fiber laser instead. While the Boss laser itself is actually solid, the control software leaves a little to be desired and the support has been somewhat lacking. It works, and it lasers well but it's just more work-intensive than we'd like (that and Peachy fucking hates it and I'd like to stay married).

Now... the neck. Yeah, it's fucked. Last week was brutal (and I do mean brutal). Looks like it's time to consult with a neurosurgeon. I hate hate the idea of a spinal fusion and would seriously prefer a cervical disc replacement. All bullshit aside, I don't want ANY of this. It's fucking terrifying but I think we're way past that now. Welcome to 40, now eat a shit sandwich.

Alright... enough for now. Time to go play with the pups.

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July 4th, 2016
11:53 pm


Ok, so I finally got moving on the lathe. Steve came over and we cut a set of soft-jaws. Next, I wrote a simple facing program. It might not sound like much (and really, it's not) but this was precisely what I needed to get moving. In fact, I've just spent the past 4-5 hours learning about lathe programming in HSMWorks. I've even modeled and programmed my first part-part and (appropriately so) it's a knob.

Hm.. well, actually I spent the past hour or so learning more about multi-axis (even downloaded a 4th axis post for the Haas) and 3D programming. This is something which I find fascinating and think may eventually give us a competitive advantage. The idea is that everyone and their mother can make simple 2.5D prismatic parts so why not learn how to really program and machine the hard shit.

First functional part on the lathe? Not sure yet. Dave wants some titanium beads for his buddies so I think this might be the first official project. The first 'real' project is the lightsaber hilt component for JD Ellen but it's still biting off a bit much at the moment. We'll see how it goes.

Ok, it's late and I'm tired. Tomorrow.... we're going to make this knob of a part.

Wish me luck.

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June 18th, 2016
10:21 am


Working For The Weekend...
More like, working on the weekend. No complaints though. Peachy is in Dallas visiting Theresa and I had a great brain storming session with Brady yesterday at Monkey Edge. All-in-all, I love staying busy. Tending to a bunch of spinning plates at the same time is my happy place. So what's going on?

Working the the "top secret" project for Brady. It's a small 2 piece assembly with 3 OPs and some tight tolerances. Nothing earth shattering but pretty neat.

Trying to figure out how to rough and clear titanium. Randy stopped by yesterday and had some good ideas for tooling. Starting to see the value in through-spindle-coolant right about now. Of course... the tool holders and inserts would cost a shitload more as well but then they'd last longer and run faster. Bah... no free lunch, right?

Trying to get the next batches of titanium, copper and brass pens ordered. If we make 'em, we can sell 'em. Also trying to decide what the next few Kickstarter projects will look like.

Next up.. the lathe. Still need to cut something on it but the Haas lathe programming class starts Monday so next week will be lathe week. I'm so fucking excited I could pee myself (but... you know, I probably won't).

Then we've got a butt-load of pens at anodizing right now and dealer orders to fill. We could also use a re-work of the web site. I'm thinking of bribing Brady to re-shoot our product photos an then use them across the web site, ads, catalog and various press releases. The would also look great on a Kickstarter project. Might be worth doing and I'm sure we can work something out.

Otherwise, just chugging along. Working out outside is a bit of a pain right now. Even at 7:00AM it's bloody hot. There's just nowhere to run from the sun.

I also had a nice meeting with our financial adviser and it occurred to me that this might be a pivotal thing. One of those events that seems innocuous at the moment and only later, years down the road, do you realize that it had a profound effect on things. It might just be that kind of thing if we actually start using our money wisely.

Also... I want another mill. Yes, I'm serious. Still not sure whether it will be a VF2 or VF3/4 but it will assuredly be a Haas. Also considering the idea of purchasing a new one but I just don't think I'll be able to justify that. More likely it will be another used (but not abused) machine. It's not happening right now but... if we can find a way to make a Kickstarter justification for it, I'd like to do it. Then again, give me another month and I might realize that a second supporting lathe might be the smart play. No rush but... I'm trying to think ahead and build something here.

Time to get back to work. Stay cool everyone (it's going to be 119 degress this weekend!).

Current Location: Surface of the Sun

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June 7th, 2016
10:25 pm


So Very Tired...
Holy shit, am I ever tired. Both the NRA Show and BLADE Show went well. Hell, better than expected (although the polished Ti Bolt Lights didn't move at all). That's the good news. We saw old friends, made new ones and got to mingle with a few pillars of the industry. The better news is that we even got serious bites on production CNC work. I'm jazzed about this, like really jazzed. While I don't want to become a job shop I really like the idea of getting integrated into the industry and finding ways to collaborate with other makers and grow our machining and manufacturing experience.

We also spent Sunday night with Dustin and Maria Worl from EM Gear. We had a wonderful dinner and a fantastic conversation that lasted well into the night. We covered everything from business to politics and back to business. It was great to be able to speak with business owners who have experienced similar slings and arrows of small business growth. Plus, they just seem like nice people.

That said, I feel spent. Exhausted all the way down to my soul. I'm sure it's nothing a few days of light duty won't fix but the mental and physical exhaustion is thick as pea soup. Still, it's hard not to feel excited coming back from a big show with a pocket full of moolah and some solid leads.

A hustler's got to hustle, right?

Current Mood: Exhausted

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May 31st, 2016
09:24 pm


One Month In...
Ok, I'm almost a month in to being a full-time TW employee. It's been a hell of a first month too. The NRA show in Louisville, Kentucky was amazing. We're talking mind-numbingly crowded the likes of which I've never experienced before at a trade show. Kentucky was very pretty as well, stunning green grass and trees wherever you would look. Then we came back just in time to have a week to prep for BLADE Show. No rest for the weary it seems. That's just the way I like it though. Idle hands and all that...

I can't say that I've gotten used to being a full time business owner quite yet. Maybe it's something you never really get used to, I don't really know. That said I am happy to be here, to be doing this now. I know more or less where we are and I sure as hell know where we're going but I can't say that I've decided exactly how we're going to get there or what it'll look like when we do. I do know that we're heading in the right direction though and I'm very much enjoying the ride (the roller-coaster-like thrilling and terrifying ride, mind you).

Sure as hell wouldn't go back to how it was though. Having left the county I can't really imagine ever going back there. Also, don't really know what the heck made me stay as long as I did, don't know what I was so afraid of. There are more important things to donate brain cells to than thinking about the recent past though, such as all of the opportunities and challenges we get to overcome now. I'm slowly starting to prioritize but it's all going so very, very frustratingly slow. There are still only 24-hours in a day and while I have access to more of them now, there are still never enough to make as much progress as I'd like.

I am excited though... and I do mean excited. Something I can feel in my bones, in my blood. It's like waking up with a purpose, greeting every morning with a sense of direction. Tell you the truth, I love it, it feels amazing. I don't know that this feeling means anything but... think I'll hold onto it for a while and see where it takes me.

Current Location: Assembly Table
Current Mood: determined

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May 2nd, 2016
08:06 am


Welcome to a New Day...
Well, it's official, now that I'm not longer a .gov employee Peachy owns me. Ok, let's be serious.... she owned my ass way before we ever got to this point. This is just cementing the deal. Still, this may be the only chance I have of really putting in a concentrated, dedicated effort to get everything dialed in and figured out. It'll also let me supercharge the learning curve on the technical side of machining if I can keep focused. As for the business side, even over the past week it's become obvious that in order to scale the business, we'll require physical and organizational infrastructure which is of a different type / magnitude than if we were to continue to run it as a "part time" enterprise. Also, I have to grow as a business owner and be able to see not just the moving parts as they are now but as they have to be in order to make this thing grow. I also need to train up our employees (one in particular, Savannah) to be able to run the CNC equipment and be a #2 right hand in the shop in order for us to be able to run the equipment more efficiently and buy more equipment. I see a lot of these one-man makers / shops and they are limited by that very one man. We need to get past this ASAP otherwise it'll become a real issue if we do start growing rapidly. Plus, if you can't grow and develop your people (and even let them spread their wings if they have to) then you're really not helping them, you're just helping yourself. I've always been of the mentality that we're building more than just a business, we're building a tribe. As the business grows, if we manage it well there really should be enough to keep everyone happy, healthy and paid. That's the goal anyway.

Yeah... exciting stuff. A little nerve wracking but definitely exciting. I don't see myself getting bored anytime soon.

This month will be an adjustment period but the biggest part of that will be identifying and prioritizing tasks. There is an infinite number of them and while many are important, certain ones will get us paid. Cashflow is going to be important from here on out (much more so than it was before). Therefore managing the tasks which contribute to that cashflow is going to become a key skill. If we learn that, I think we can grow and flourish. No pressure (ha!).

Current Location: TW Central
Current Mood: Invigorated
Current Music: Shop Noise is Music to my Ears

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April 19th, 2016
12:36 pm


Whirlwind of progress...
Man, things have sure been busy:

We spent a week in Utah landing in SLC, driving up north to Park City and Ogden before making our way south, then East to Grand Junction, Colorado and finally back west to Moab. From there we drove the long way around to make it back to Phoenix. It turned out to be a hell of a trip and Utah is far more beautiful than I had imagined. The scarcity of people is also a nice benefit. Being able to stay up late and read a book was also nice for a change. I forget sometimes just how much I love reading for pleasure.

The new / used lathe, a HAAS ST-20SSY finally got plugged in only to fail to turn on. After calling Elisio to take a look, It turned out that a faulty low-volage power supply was the culprit and it was a (relatively) cheap replacement. The machine finally powered on and we found that it only has 98 spindle hours on it at this point. It's essentially new, not even broken in yet.

Our anodizer called us to let us know there was a problem with the last batch we dropped off. The short version is that they over brite dipped (and thus, pitted) over 150 pens. No bueno. Once they strip them we'll blast them to see if they are salvageable but in the meantime we spend all of last night blasting, cleaning and prepping a new batch of pens. With any luck, these will come out better.

I've also got a few interviews for I.T. jobs but in reality, the most likely scenario is that as of July 1st I'll be working for TW full time. Part of me still would like to put in 6 months at another I.T. shop just to finish on a high note and catch a different perspective, make some money and walk away with some fresh skills but... with both CNC machines up and running it might just be time to make the jump to full time for the business. Considering the projects (such as Brady's clothespin) and the collaboration with Jon as well as the need for making a new batch of D22 carabiners, this might be the way to go. That and we're out of titanium pens so getting that lathe tooled up and running is definitely a priority now.

All of this plus we have an the upcoming NRA Show and shortly after the Blade Show. This means work, travel and then more work to re-stock. Yup, things don't look like they're going to be slowing down anytime soon.

Ok, time to head back to the salt mines.

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