The Best Laid Plans…

It’s true!  The best laid plans don’t always turn out as expected.  As the economy continued to lag three years ago, I put my woodworking business into a state of ‘hibernation’ (see ‘Woodworking and Hibernation’) and invested a considerable amount of time into re-organizing the shop (see ‘Will the Workshop Please Come to Order’), building a new workbench (see ‘Workbenches and Our Work’), doing other income-producing work (I collect field data for property tax assessments in the town where I live and occasionally assist in other towns),  and looking forward toward the time when the economy might be more supportive of doing a craft like woodworking.

During the fall of 2012, the signs were there:  tentative discussions about potential projects with some former clients, increased interest by retail stores in again receiving  new items, and a general sense that it was time to start making items again (see ‘Hibernation Ends’).

Little did I realize that during this same time frame, my aging (now 90 year old) mother would have to make the transition from nearly independent living to assisted care/nursing home living, and that the process would consume most of my time between travel, making arrangements, and beginning to manage all of her affairs.

Built-in Bookcase and Window Seat

Built-in Bookcase and Window Seat

As expected, there were several good woodworking projects (some photos here and below) that emerged early in 2013, but instead of becoming a focal point of the year, they had to be fit in between everything else that was going on, and there was little time for actively pursuing other new work. (A year ago, a new brochure intended to generate interest and hopefully attract new clients was nearly ready for printing and mailing.  It still is nearly ready.)

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Church Pulpit

During the same period of time my wife and I have continued to get nearer and nearer to retirement age (though I have no plans to retire from woodworking for some time!)  Approaching retirement age meant that we needed to get serious about finding a piece of land for building a retirement home, and start making plans for that home.  Our current home was great for raising kids, both of whom are nearly ‘out of the house,’ but it was never intended to become a retirement home from the time it was first built.  After a roughly 6 month search we found a beautiful 16 acre piece of property high up on a hill in Knox, Maine – the same town where my great grandparents and grandparents lived for their entire lives.  As we begin to engage in the process of designing a scaled down ‘connected farmstead’ for the property – “Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn (meaning workshop!) we are aware that even though construction is perhaps 1-2 years out, that woodworking time will certainly be limited until the construction is completed and I can begin to re-establish myself in a new location.

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Kitchen Island

During the ‘hibernation’ time, I pursued a lot of thoughts on design, and used this blog to express and explore many of them.  I hope to find some time to pursue these interests more in the coming year and hopefully tie some of these thoughts together before becoming fully involved in building a retirement home.  (The outline for the next blog is still on the blackboard in my office nook from over a year ago!)

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Virtual Pipe Organ in Process

While I was not able to do as much woodworking last year as I had anticipated and hoped for, I did manage to find some brief times between other concerns to continue to pursue another long-standing interest that uniquely combines music, electronics, design, and woodworking.  The project involves a Virtual Pipe Organ (known as a VPO) that has been in various stages of design, testing, construction, and ability to actually be played for several years.  A Virtual Pipe Organ leverages CD (or higher) quality sound samplings of real pipe organs combined with computer technology and an audio system to recreate the sounds of the original organ (often an organ of historic interest.) A VPO is, by nature, a sort of open-ended project with lots of room for exploring the mechanics (keyboards, pedalboards, stop controls, and a case to house them – all of which involve at least some woodworking), electronics (mostly MIDI), and audio systems for the sound.  I will be adding a section to this website shortly to post some photos and details of how I reconditioned and ‘midified’ some older pipe organ keyboards, designed and built the stop controls, reconditioned an old pedalboard (recently replaced with a new shop-built one) and built an often-modified case that remains more of a prototype than the finished case I hope to build some day.  You can link to my VPO pages here.

About Stuart Blanchard

Cabinetmaker
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One Response to The Best Laid Plans…

  1. Rich H says:

    Just beautiful! All these projects are super and I look forward to reading more. Thanks!

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