Saturday, October 15, 2011

The end of our busy season

Our busy season officially ended last Tuesday, when we sent the last shipment off to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. Here's what the last few nutty days were like.

The chaos in our upstairs workroom. We do a LOT of assembling up here and things tend to, well, pile up.

Here we've finished gluing handles onto the bodies of the tankards, and are crating them up to take them outside to shoot. (With varnish. Not bullets.)

Before shooting, we use a Dremel to smooth any rough spots on the handles, like this one... well as smooth the inside lip. This is before:

And this is after:

Here's our final production run, with some pieces Dremelled (they're the ones without rubber bands).

We shoot the tankards once with a high gloss varnish. (That's the spray gun in the center.)

Then we scratch the outside with 0000-grade steel wool...

...and then shoot them a second time.

(It was during this interval while the tankards were drying that we hastily cut some firewood earlier this week.)

Next we got ready to coat the insides. A gooseneck lamp for each of us...

...and we started coating.

With the four of us working, we had 120 pieces coated within a couple of hours.

We let these air-dry for a couple of hours, then second-coated them. As we finished second-coating, we arranged the wet tankards under three card tables grouped together...

...and draped old sheets to tent them.

We put a space heater at one end to force-circulate warm air through the tankards to get the insides to dry quicker. Normally we don't have to do this, but we were crunched for time. The tankards have to air-dry for at least a day before we can bake them, but we only had about ten hours (during the night) for them to dry; hence the tent.

I got up early the next morning (about 4 am) in order to start baking the tankards. We literally bake them in the oven to force-cure the lining. We can only fit 30 standard tankards in the oven at one time, and each batch must bake for 1 1/2 hours.

After they bake, we take them out of the oven (and put in another batch), let them cool, and fill them with water for half an hour or so, to test for leaks. After this we card each tankard with a guarantee card and stack them according to style.

Shipping box ready to pack...

Younger Daughter acted as runner while packing the first box -- she brought tankards to the table, where I wrapped them...

...and Don packed them.

Invoices and shipping labels. Unfortunately due to the Columbus Day holiday, these had to ship on Tuesday instead of Monday...which meant they had to go FedEx 3rd Day Air (cha-ching!) instead of FedEx Ground. Oh well.

But that's it! For better or worse, our season is done.

We won't rest on our laurels, however. We intend to put up a temporary retail page as soon as we have another production run of pieces finished. But first we have a zillion things we need to do around the farm before the snow flies -- work on the barn, split firewood, move the cattle, insulate portions of the shop (which hopefully will allow us to work on tankards all winter long), etc. And maybe -- just maybe -- enjoy a bit of much-needed down time.


  1. GOOD LUCK with that "down time" ritual.

  2. Down time? "Kess keh say, 'down time?'"

    (That's the only French I know.)

    It always feels good to meet a deadline. Now you can breathe for a minute before the biggest deadline of all comes calling - Mother Nature.

    Just Me

  3. Me thinks you need another oven in your new barn. :o)

  4. I almost hate to tell you this, but Columbus day is normal pickup and delivery for FedEx. I just double checked their web site. Maybe this will help next year.

    Retired FedEx Express

  5. Anonymous/Just Me - that's "ques que c'est"...but we all got your point - teeheee!

  6. Your Tankards are lovely, we have a renaissance festival in our area that we have never been to, it draws a HUGE crowd do your have your tankards with a vendor there? Huntersville,NC just outside of Charlotte, NC

  7. Debby -- no, we don't have a vendor there. If you know someone who is interested in vending our products, by all means let us know!

    - Patrice

  8. You once asked about other things you could make to sell.How about a full set of dishes made like the tankards that people could order from a web site?

  9. I bought two tankards from your family last winter, and I must say that they have been quite to conversation pieces. We absolutely love them! :-)

  10. "crunch time"...seems all of us crafters experience that...and it always feels so good to be finished or caught up on it enough to have that little bit of "down time". i have to say this though...i did not like seeing your heater so close to those sheets and varnish fumes...begging for trouble patrice?

  11. Kymber - I learned it as "qu'est-ce que c'est", short for "que est ce que ce est". However, I'm in Cajun-French territory. Has it been further shortened there to "ques que c'est"?

  12. Anon 7:32: Nope, no worries with the space heater. Notice how the sheets are draped so the vent for the heater is on the outside. Also, there are no varnish fumes -- the varnish has long since dried. The wet inside coating (which is a food-safe epoxy resin) isn't volatile.

    - Patrice

  13. I was just wondering if you have the information on how these are made available at your sales point? I had no idea it was such a complex process. I think patrons would appreciate knowing the creative process and skill that goes into these beautiful tankards. I think the idea of the plates or chargers to match is a good one.

  14. Patrice:

    kymber showed me the tankards before, they are more beautiful now that i can see the whole process - craftsmanship like that is awe-inspiring!!

    i need one (or 20 ;-)

    beautiful work, just stunning!

  15. What sort of epoxy coating? I figured it had to be something food-safe/dishwasher(or at least hot water)resistant. Any fasteners, or are they entirely glued together? Two jobs ago, I would ocassionally build props for the drama department, usually on a deadline,and limited materials(stuff I found in the junkpile.A known good food safe epoxy brand is a good thing to keep in mind(I still build props for parties and things,tho' most end to be metal/plastic and seldom wood. The tankards look cool..

  16. Anon 12:18, we use a two-part food-safe epoxy resin made by a company called Plasite. We do NOT recommend our pieces be put into the dishwasher; the constant soaking and blasting action of the water isn't good for the wood. The parts are put together with wood glue.

    - Patrice