Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mass Production...sort of

I’ve been selective is scavenging empty wooden cigar boxes at my local cigar emporium. One particular brand of cigars comes in boxes that are made from thick sapele wood. The tops are extra thick and ideal for carving. I decided the size of the box would make a great tea bag caddy. I carved the top in an Oriental fashion with the Chinese (also Japanese) symbol for tea. I was pretty pleased with the result, but there were a few things I thought I could improve upon if I did another one. Then I thought, since I have more of the same size cigar boxes, why not make two more. It was an experiment in mass production on a small scale.

Perhaps I could make lots of these tea bag caddies and sell them at craft shows, or give them away as gifts. I hear stories of other artisans who make many pieces of the same design and give them away. One ambitious person actually made several hundred small band saw boxes; one for every guest at his daughter’s wedding.

The result of my experiment was that I came to the realization that mass production is not for me. For one thing, carving boxes does not lend itself to mass production. It’s not like baking cookies or making a jar of peach jam for each of your relatives and friends. Other than using the same design, there is no economy of scale in carving since there are just as many wood chips removed no matter how many boxes you carve.

Even if there was a time benefit, I just don’t like making the same thing over and over again. I like to experiment with new approaches and different techniques. After I made the second tea bag caddy, the third one really became a chore. As I was making it I was thinking of all the other creations in my head that I could be making instead of this duplicate. I guess I’ll just stick to individual pieces.