When I made the decision to retire it wasn’t easy. After all I’d been doing lawyers stuff for forty-three years and as you can imagine, it pretty much defined me professionally. What would I do with all my time? Would Bonnie and I have enough to live on? Could I stay active mentally and physically? Lastly what would it be like not getting on an Airplane and flying off to lord knows where to do lord knows what?
The good news on the first question; I am and always have been a woodworker, had built up quite a shop full of tools (almost to the degree it’s hard to move around) so I could always make furniture. Which I do. Before I walked out the door of my office for the last time, I had my first professional commission. My CFO has an amazingly high counter between her kitchen and dining room (fifty inches) and couldn’t find any stools tall enough to allow people to sit at the counter. Well, off I went to engineer appropriate stools that people could still be able to get up on. I figured the seat needed to be thirty-nine inches high (allowing for leg room under the counter). She wanted them rustic, she likes wine so what could an old wino use to make them uniquely hers? What else — wine barrels. Here is the finished product. They are rustic, fit her space and have their own built in step s so a person who doesn’t play for the LA Lakers can get up on them without jumping to make it up.
I’ll tell you, being a pretty precise person, working with barrel staves (curved irregularly and not the same width) is a real life lesson in how to put square pegs into round holes, each step and the foot rests all had to be cut to fit as none of the spaces between the legs, nor the slopes of the cuts to make the leg and step faces match. I used the top and bottom barrel bands to create a relatively uniform leg spread so that the stools wouldn’t be too tippy due to the height. In addition they made a great anchor for the steps, allowing them to support a persons weight as they climb up on to the stool seat.
As to how Bonnie and I were going to have enough to live on, furniture building is not going to be a solution to this problem. Just in materials, each of these stools cost about $100.00 when you count in the cost of lumber swivels, hardware, finish and the initial barrel. Assuming that I could charge say $250.00 each for them, which I didn’t, I would be working at about $0.15 per hour. If I add that to what I make writing this blog it looks like Bonnie and I will just have to make due with our retirement savings and hope it lasts as long as we do.
Now to the question of what it’s like not having to get on airplanes every week, that’s pure heaven. Don’t get me wrong we are doing some traveling (to see our kids and parts of Montana we’ve never seen in all the years we’ve lived her) but It’s been in a motorized four wheeled vehicle, with lots of creature comforts, and a good GPS navigation system. It certainly won’t be in my grandfathers 1960 Rambler with 40,000 original miles, it’s original interior which is in mint condition thanks to my grandmother terry cloth seat covers she sewed for it when it was new. It is not a summer road car (no air conditioning, sucks gas like a bandit, and it takes the strength of a teenager to steer it). I love the car but it’s a parade car . Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that someday I’ll be able to face airline travel, but for now being without it is alright by me.
So what the heck does this have to do with wine? Not much, I confess, except for using wine barrels as a raw material and my wine consuming lifestyle. I felt in the mood to post to my blog and today but could find nothing better to write about but what an old Wino does with his spare time.
Entertaining as always Robert. I love that you gave us a glimpse of the intricacies involved in converting a wine barrel to stools.
You’re so right about creativity and payment. I suspect that one can be both creative and a hustler, but some of us missed out on the hustle gene!
If you don’t get on an airplane (or two or three), you’ll miss visiting us and drinking great Georgian wines.
Where are you in Georgia? I didn’t even know that you had abandoned the Peoples Republic of Missoula. I might indeed have to get on a plane and visit you if you promise a wine tour of the Georgian wine country
In Tbilisi. We can promise a wine tour. Gary and Carol Graham were here two years ago on their motorcycles.
Echo the making money in the arts – ANY art. Unless, of course, it’s the art of winemaking and you’re good enough to be supported by Naked Wines!
Don’t get me started on making wine. There is actually a really good and fledgling wine industry in the Bitterroot Valley just a few miles south of Missoula, where I live. I am and have been toying with getting in the wine-making business (amateur) just for the experience. I am actually working on a post about one of the wineries down the valley as we speak.
Adjusting to any change takes time. It sounds to me like you are headed in the right direction. I must say I quite like your rustic stools. Practical, original, and also a conversation piece!
BTW Robert, no one ever said that one’s blog must always stay “on topic”. I appreciate learning a little more about you beyond your wine expertise. The craft of woodworking is not an easy talent for most people. I commend you. Salut.
I am indeed, though it has taken a bit longer than I thought. Creative ventures unless you are making simple thinks like coasters take a lot of love, even the simple ones take love, the bigger ones just take a lot more. One can never profit from love of creation, when you do it just becomes work all over again. The stools were a gift; she put up with me as her boss for a lot of years and deserves them.
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Sounds like you are adjusting to retirement just fine! There’s never a dull moment, if you aren’t a dull person; always some kind of fun and adventure to be had.
Nice stools, by the way. You’re right about the difficulty of making any real profit on hand crafted items. It’s best to do it for love.
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