Friday, August 10, 2007

Rose Brand and Shop Supplies

No shop is complete without a Rose Brand catalog ( or 800.223.1624). They have a variety of just about anything and its a convenient source. The other nice thing about their catalog and site is that they explain, and give out info about many of their products.

A couple of things I noticed while browsing through the catalog this morning was a layout protractor that is 36" wide by 18" tall. I know when I have laid out odd shapes that would have been a convenient way to accurately layout precise angles. In fact, the difficultly in layout in angles is so problematic that it is often side stepped by alternative layout methods.

The square grid kraft paper also caught my eye, but its a little pricey at 120 a roll. With the availability and financial feasibility of plotting now, it seems cheaper (depending on scale of course) to actually plot a given layout instead of laying it out by hand on paper. Both technical require pouncing and / or transfer to the lumber or material it is applied to, so the savings isn't there.

In a similar vein, it is like the caster donuts they sell. A set of 4 is $29. Pretty expensive for a small shop considering its basically scrap plywood. Even with labor costs to fabricate the blocks, 4 would cost less than 29 for a set. In shops big enough for a CNC router, the cost would be minimal as you could cut a whole sheet at once. Yet, if you compare the price to the cost of the hamper, 29 more so they stack and you don't have to deal with it doesn't seem bad either.

So you have multiple variables. At what point is it more efficient to buy a part versus make a part. Time (labor costs), costs of materials, costs of specialized tools (like a CNC router) are all components. Not much of a budget, but lots of available labor equals a choice much different than having some budget, but a pressed timeline. A shop I worked at once watered down all of the simple green to clean steel, and then paid people hourly to clean the steel with the watered down cleaner. Weighing the cost of a gallon of Simple green against the hourly rate of the carpenters meant that this supposedly budget saving trick really meant they paid more money out (in terms of labor), and had less available time to do other projects. But it defies the simple logic that making the cleaner stretch further is a cost savings. When money is available there are different types of questions... Time becomes the most important factor. How many projects are in the shop, how many loose ends, who is available.

I know that some think it is perhaps silly to spend time thinking about these things, but I disagree. There aren't rules that work in every situation that guarantee a best choice. A small shop with no time may want to find the money to purchase something that will make their production schedule easier. A busy shop may build something they could purchase to keep people busy during a slow period. To idly dismiss all of the options based on preconceived notions, or past experiences is the danger here, as only then can you be sure that it isn't necessarily the best option to fit your shops needs.

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