Today's entry is unrelated to trumpets. This is a review of FeatureCam, which is part of the Delcam family of software designed to make cnc machining easier on 3-6 axis machines. I say easier, because cutting complex designs is never easy even with the very best equipment, software and training. Coming from RhinoCam, I can say with certainty that FeatureCam is a huge upgrade in almost every way.
_This is the third object I have cut with FC. This is a keychain I designed as a holiday gift for my neighbor who owns a machine shop across the street. I designed this in Rhino, saved it as an iges solid file and imported it directly into FeatureCam. After 20 minutes of creating features and adjusting cutting parameters, I had a post file for my VMC.
Below is the part in the vise just after it was cut. This program used the following endmills; .250 Rough, .125 Rough, .0625 Rough, .0313 Rough and .015 Finish (for the smallest text). Total cut time was 32:48, which was longer than expected due to running my spindle slower than capacity. Spindle speeds ranged from around 5,000 to 18,000 rpm. I always use coolant when cutting brass despite what most machinists recommend. My tools last longer and I definitely achieve a better surface finish with coolant.
These final photos show the keychain design after buffing and minimal surface finish blending. The raised text is 0.05" above the surface and the recessed text is .02" below. Check back for reviews of much more complicated trumpet parts in the coming weeks.
We've had the idea around HT to create a series of "How to" demonstrations on trumpet-related topics. Since projects like this take time and get lost in the shuffle of a very busy office dealing with multiple daily orders, I thought I'd start here in my blog. Feel free to chime in with suggestions on topics or critique my demonstrations.
A few topic ideas include;
I would like to say thank you to my Mother for giving birth to me. I know that sounds strange, but imagine if you were never born! It's her birthday today so I'm also grateful for my grandparents :)
Happy Born Day Mom!
I would like to wish my sister, Jenn Harrelson, of Jennuinely Sweet Cakes a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
check out her amazing cake creations here:
This message is for everyone. Yet it is mostly directed to those in a hurry to receive a unique custom-made brass instrument built to their exact specifications. Do you have what it takes to be patient? To illustrate, I would like to share with all of you one of my favorite holiday memories.
Two years ago, Cindy and I thought it would be fun to go ice skating at Rockefeller Center. I flew into Newark, met her in Rutherford then we took a bus into Manhattan and walked down to 5th and 48th. It was a cold sunny day in December and NYC was buzzing with Christmas shoppers. We arrived to find a very long line and a ton of people filling the square. After a brief huddle, we decided we definitely wanted to wait in line no matter how long it took to get on the ice. We were in the midst of making a great memory so nothing would stop us.
After we stood in line for about half an hour, we started asking people if they had noticed the line move. Nope, nobody noticed it move one inch. An hour went by, nothing. Then about 90 minutes into waiting, the line started moving...finally, we'll get close to the ice soon! Or not, we had moved up one row. We entertained each other as we passed the time and it eventually got dark. Hours went by and we forgot how cold we were, now it was time to find a restroom! After 4 hours (I am not exaggerating), we finally got into the little run down room at the bottom of the stairs to fork over our $42 plus the cost of renting skates! My day had begun at 5am getting on a plane to do this and, at maybe 7pm, we finally hit the ice.
That night was magical. Cindy wasn't much of an ice skater, so I mostly pulled her round and round the rink while we laughed and played. It was one of those moments that makes all of life's hard efforts worth while. We stayed on the ice for two hours only getting off because we couldn't stand anymore. Our photo in front of the lit up Christmas tree truly tells a thousand words. :)
I could have told you how much I disliked standing in the cold for hours on end amidst strangers who often cut in line using every trick in the book. How there were no restrooms and the employees were rude or did not attend to our needs. I could have suggested we leave and find something better to do. After all, NYC has a lot to offer over some expensive crowded ice time!
I could have remembered this experience as one of the worst customer service situations in all of history. But I didn't for two reasons...I was with someone who cared about my moment as much as I did hers AND I chose to make a good memory.
Hiring me to build your trumpet is very similar to skating at Rockefeller Center. I am 100% committed to fulfilling your needs and expectations in your new trumpet. After all, it is my trumpet too and I take great pride in everything I do. However, like waiting in line to skate, there is sound logic in place here. Not everyone will fit on the ice at one time and there is no room to make the ice rink any larger. There is magic there, you simply must wait your turn. And when it is your turn, the world is yours!
Some trumpets get on the ice (my work bench) once and then they are finished. But the special projects with receiver text or art must wait in line twice. There is no way around this. I am one man designing and building all of these parts myself. I could hire twenty people to man the phones in the office, yet calling will not speed up the process. Not even calling every single day for months, will your order go any faster. Most likely, it will slow down the entire waiting list because more of my bench time will be taken up working with Jen and Paul answering repetitive facebook messages and phone calls. I encourage you to check up on your order if you want to hear some news, but that does not mean there is news to be heard. ;) Ask Cindy herself, she waited an entire year for her trumpet with anxious phone calls, re-scheduling photo shoots and recordings that were missed again and again. Her horn was the most complicated ever at the time it was built and the build process was slow. Now ask her if it was worth the wait.
The simple truth, there are 200+ individual extremely important people ordering very custom trumpets each year and ONLY ONE OF ME. Just like the ice rink, you will not all fit on my bench. I must take each of you individually, one at a time, sometimes more than once, maybe more than twice and for the Summit One and Art projects, as many as 14 times! It cannot all be done at once due to the nature of the building process. I have dedicated 80-100 hours/week of my life to your individual unique needs in your trumpet orders. I AM FULLY COMMITTED TO YOU.
I receive a great deal of beautifully written praise and testimony on a daily basis. In fact, my collection of notes and letters is in the thousands. Sometimes these are written by people who have only briefly tried one of my horns or accessories, yet they feel compelled to share. Happy customers raving about their new equipment is really good for business and boosts company morale, so we look forward to hearing from our clients. However, a small percentage of soon to be new owners crack under the anticipation of receiving their dream horn. Patience is perhaps not a refined trait or possibly forgotten in our world of fast anything if you flash the cash. That attitude doesn't get you any further ahead in my shop. I guess I'm old-fashioned in some ways and waiting in line has always been a fair system.
So every month or so, someone calls or writes quite upset that their 4-month order is now overdue. In almost every case of a late order, either all orders are running behind for good reason OR they modified their order to include elements that add to the wait time. In both cases, manufacturing is a physical process that cannot be easily rushed. Getting upset about this does nothing to solve any problems. When this happens I usually wonder how anyone (no matter your stature in the "trumpet" world) could say or do some of the negative things I have heard and witnessed. Did they lack the simple patience, understanding and mutual respect for a process that is both logical, necessary and inherently slow? Would they rather I rushed every horn out the door cutting corners? Am I expected to compete with the speed by which their fingers can type an angry message and press send to all of the world via facebook or an online forum? Would anyone want a trumpet built that fast and easy?
I have heard complaints that my work is too slow since I began working when I was 11 years old. Take a moment to consider the facts and someone out there may someday realize that I could in fact be very productive and efficient...maybe even prolific. Very few people comment on speedy production of their dream horn, but if you could see everything I design and build in a week, you may start to wonder why anyone would say I am, "slow".
I challenge anyone reading this to introduce me to the one person (not a factory) on this planet that will produce the trumpet you ordered built with better craftsmanship, design and care, faster and with better customer service. I'll make it easy, just give me the name of the person that will build you a simple custom horn with no innovations in less than six months. There's only one of me and it is somewhat on your shoulders to give me the benefit of the doubt now and then. I am the one taking all the risk learning new techniques, manufacturing processes and putting up the capital to purchase machinery year after year to make your dream trumpet a reality. I have a proven track record of extremely satisfied customers from all walks of life in over 50 countries. I am here for you.
Happy Holidays and please remember Rockefeller Center :)
This morning I looked at a servo bar feeder to add to the new cnc lathe. You'd be surprised how every little thing adds up to a lot of money on a new machining process. I was lucky enough in my months of shopping to buy my lathe at a fraction of it's original price tag because it was used 6 months and we're in a machine-buying slump. It's a good thing I didn't pay the $140,000-$250,000 price tag of a comparable machine made in Germany. I saved by buying a high quality Taiwan machine slightly used. But then you add all the things necessary to make this machine run at capacity efficiently and the nickels and dimes start to add up.
A new bar feeder runs around $28,000-$35,000 new, but once again I got lucky. I asked a friend who has a machine shop nearby if he knew of anyone selling a bar feeder. It turns out his friend has a brand new 1997 bar feeder for sale for $4500. It is bolted to his shop floor right next to a lathe like mine, but was never hooked up. Either I'm extremely lucky or America is selling off its capacity to produce quality products. I suspect both are true. I just saved around $28,000 finding this one tool!
Software is another expense that doesn't come cheap. Sadly, I've been advised by several people to simply download bootleg software rather than purchasing through the manufacturer, Delcam. I'm honest and this is not an option, so $19,000 later I have the right software for the job. Yes, the software that converts my drawings into motion code for my machine cost as much as a decent car! Too bad I'm still driving a '97.
I wasn't so lucky with spindle collets. I need at least 6 to get started and around 25 once I have every part in production. These don't come with the machine, yet they're necessary to cut anything. And they're only available new at $165 each. That adds up to over $4000! Next on my list are cutters and holders, which will add up to another $3000+ to get started. Then to add the 4 high speed electric spindles is another $12,145 and there's no option of finding these used or at a lower price. Add in the cost of spindle liners ($2000), live tooling ($3000) shipping ($1600) and rigging ($400) and you now have the price to plug this machine in and turn it on to cut the first part.
If I had bought everything new, the price would have been at least $217,000. After all of this, I need to continue to buy cutters, metal stock, pay for more electricity, pay people to run the lathe (in this case, me), finish, plate, stock and ship the parts, build new website pages, create and buy packaging and build new displays in our showroom and shows to hold the new products.
Maybe this explains why none of my competitors are jumping into the modular trumpet mouthpiece business. Yet I see all of this as a great opportunity to solve some real problems. I am putting everything I have into the new 5MM Modular Mouthpiece line just like I've put 100% of my effort and capital into my trumpet business for the past 10 years. And I'm confident there will be a real impact on the personal playing achievements of thousands of individual musicians. It will all be worth the years of time, energy and risk...it's been worth it all along. I guess that's why I don't mind getting nickel and dimed on a machine that offers endless possibilities!