Kunkel & Son a Hidden Treasure in Nashville

Kunkel & Son Mahogany Door CarvingWhile I was visiting Fort Houston, I was wandering through the old factory/warehouse building and stumbled upon a room that felt like I had stepped back in time about 100 years. Like the wardrobe in “Narnia,” I was in another world. It was a huge wood shop with benches and hand tools all along two walls. The wood floor was covered in sawdust, shavings from hand planes, and chips from carving. There were all sorts of projects in various states of completion from gothic church carvings to modern benches with aluminum butterfly keys.

As I stood there taking in the site of benches and walls loaded with carving and hand tools, an older gentleman steps out from the shadows in the back and asks, “Can I help you?” It was apparent he wasn’t used to visitors in this back corner of a warehouse. I told him I had just stumbled into the room and was admiring his work and tool collection. He immediately pointed out a few of his tools that had belonged to his great grandfather. After asking his permission to snap some photos, we struck up a lively conversation and he proceeded to show me some of his unique projects.

One project was the bench that had been made by his father and carved with his name. Then he stoops down and grabs an odd-looking wood box with a large hole in the top. Turns out it’s a vacuum-assisted carving vise. He picked up an old bowling ball that had a short piece of pipe with a wood block stuck in it. He places the ball on the box, hooks up a vacuum, and clamps his carving to the pipe stem. The vacuum creates a tenacious hold on the bowling ball yet it can be pivoted to any position. Ingenious. Next he had to show me the carving vise he made from an old dentist’s chair. He can elevate the work with a foot pedal. Brilliant.

His son soon came out of the back room and they told me about some of the work they have done, some nationwide for retail stores. Their website shows you some of the more interesting projects they’ve done.

JET Tools Targeting a Younger Audience

I had an opportunity recently to visit with JET/Powermatic in Nashville, Tennessee. They introduced a few new tools: Powermatic PM1000 Table SawJET 14″ Steel Frame Band Saw, and soon to come, a 10″ low-speed bench grinder and a couple of new midi lathes.

But what was most interesting was a chat I had with their engineer, Barry. He said that from a design perspective, they’re really paying attention to details and a potential buyer’s first impressions. He reiterated what others in the product design industry have noted: Your decision to buy or not to buy a product is really made within the first few seconds of seeing it.

JET tools are made overseas in Taiwan. Most manufacturers are content to paint the castings their company color right out of the foundry and call it “done.” JET is raising the bar by really paying attention to detail and aesthetics of their products. For example, he said that by simply spending $5 more for a quality metal knob instead of a cheap plastic knob can increase the perceived value of a tool by $100. That’s pretty impressive.

They’re also looking at the overall design and visual appeal of the tools in addition to their function and features. The 14″ band saw pictured here is one example. There are no exposed fasteners as you look at the front of the saw. The doors have pleasing curves rather than the bland square features of other saws. They’re little things but I have to agree that they leave a positive impression of the quality of the tool.

And JET isn’t forgetting about how well the tool works and functions. They’re paying attention to details that make a difference in how the tool performs. One striking example is as simple as the location of the dust ports on the new band saw. They’re located to catch the majority of sawdust before gumming up the tires on the wheels.

Finally, I learned that JET will be targeting a younger audience with its upbeat advertisements. They’re also tweaking the design of the JET logo and will be experimenting with the trademark white paint color. All in all, JET/Powermatic is investing heavily in the woodworking market and I’m very interested to see how they revamp their product lines in the coming months and years.

 

My Name is Randy and I’m a Messaholic

Hi. My name is Randy and I’m a messaholic. I wish for a support group for guys like me. I’m a professional yet I’m ashamed to let anyone see my shop. I see all of these shops in magazines where everything is spotless and neat.

I can spend two days cleaning and organizing my shop. But within two hours of starting a new project, I can’t find one square foot of space on my benchtop. Why is that? Does anyone else share this problem? If so, have you been able to overcome it? How?

My shop takes up a little more than two thirds of a two-car garage. In that shop I have a table saw, 12″ planer, router table, scroll saw, 14″ band saw, 36″ x 80″ bench (made from an old solid-core door), a 30″ x 72″ woodworking bench with drawers underneath, a 24″ x 48″ cabinet that houses my benchtop radial-arm drill press and mortiser, plus a spindle sander. That’s not to mention all the bits and pieces of this and that strewn about and tucked into every nook and cranny. So even when everything is in it’s place (wherever that may be), it’s still hard to navigate around my shop.

I did make a major step toward a cure for my condition a few years ago. I took a few days to really try hard to find a permanent home for all of the stuff that typically clutters my bench — hand tools, rules, marking tools, power drills and drivers, wood scraps, sanding supplies, and just about anything else you could imagine. It helps tremendously to know where a tool belongs. This way, when you need it, you know exactly where to find it.

That is if you put it back where it belongs the last time you used it. And this is where a lot of my “condition” exhibits itself. When I’m in the middle of a project, I typically don’t take the time to put everything back where it belongs. I figure I’ll need it again soon anyway, so why bother. The problem is, I end up spending time later looking for it amongst the clutter on my benchtop…or drill press table…or router table. That ends up taking longer than if I had taken the time to put it away in the first place.

I’m trying hard to teach myself to take 15 minutes or so at the end of my time in the shop every day to put things back in their proper place. It’s against my nature. Usually I’m tired or frustrated and just want to call it quits for the day.

I know…I should just suck it up and “do the right thing.” I’ll try. Really, I will.

In the meantime, I have to work up the nerve to throw away the 7,259 board feet of scraps I can’t just seem to part with.

So tell me…what’s your secret to keeping your shop clutter-free? Or do you suffer from the same condition?

I’m dying to know. Leave me a comment.