Hello World!

Mountain Makers Leather Patch Logo Baseball Hat

If you’re reading this within a few weeks of its posting, you’re probably practicing social distancing or stay-at-home quarantine as protection from the COVID-19 outbreak. If you’re reading this further into the future, hopefully things are under control and getting back to some type of new normal. As of this post, we’re just hoping to get to the midpoint of the crisis.

While we’re waiting for some better news, it’s a good time to write some content. After all it’s just another way to make something, right?

Impressionist View
Impressionist view from our front porch

So what is Mountain Makers all about? My wife Dawn and I are makers. We live and work in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, in a valley town that sits at one of the entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Townsend is often called “the peaceful side of the Smokies”. We can vouch for that and it’s one of the reasons we call this place our home. By the way, if you’re interested, you can check out Dawn’s personal blog at http://jadaroo.com. She did a great job of telling our Tennessee homesteading story and it should provide some background on how we got here.

Now I’ve always been a tinkerer, fixer-upper and a constantly curious person, even though I know what can happen to curious cats. Luckily, we survived our many DIY adventures. Through a lot of self-teaching, a balance of trial and error, successes and failures, I developed a keen interest for exploring creative things and technology. Along the way, I acquired “a particular set of skills” as an apparent side effect.

Over the course of some decades (yep, been around a while), my professional life provided years of learning experiences in software development, computers, video production, 3D modeling and animation, graphic design and business management.

I did my time in the corporate world, for a large technology company, at a desk, in a cubicle, surrounded by thousands of coworkers.

I am a founder and a partner at a digital marketing agency, where my ongoing role involves R&D and managing technology that our team uses to produce its creative work. I continue to do this via remote control from my mini command center (man cave) in the mountains.

Command & Control (aka Man Cave)
Command & Control (aka Man Cave)

I thoroughly enjoy anything that requires me to solve problems or create new ideas. Being involved in a creative agency got me involved with brainstorming marketing solutions, producing visual media, then delivering that digital content using images, animation, videos or web applications.

Woodworking has always been a visceral passion, something that escalated from a lifelong hobby into a new business. It also involves problem solving and creativity, to design and make new things or to just make things better. Compared to developing software, one “feature” I’ve learned to like about woodworking is that projects have a definite end once they are delivered. When made with care, they can last generations. Sure, there can still be bugs in the woodwork, but those don’t get fixed with software updates.

I’m not ashamed to admit it. I look at tools and tech the same obsessive way. I have an addiction. Whether it’s digital or analog, hand or power tools, gadgets and jigs, software or hardware, even kitchen and garden tools, I’m hooked by anything that helps turn a creative idea into reality.

Digital shop tools
Our small but modern workshop

With all the tech and resources available today, it’s a wonderful time to be involved with a craft like woodworking, or in a broader sense, to be a maker of things. That’s the essence of Mountain Makers: we make things, mostly from wood but sometimes other stuff.

Dawn gravitates towards the more traditional tools and techniques for her craft. Her tool belt primarily consists of hand tools and some power tools. She’s also the “finisher”, responsible for the final touches and details of our work. She takes things I make and makes them look great. For us, It’s all about balancing form and functionality.

I consider myself “tool agnostic”, far from being a purist when it comes to the tools I use. I’m a firm believer in the adage of using the right tool for each task but I like to keep my tool options open. For instance, dovetail joints can be made with hand tools, a router dovetail jig, or with a CNC cutter. Having multiple tool choices is very liberating and lets creativity flow more freely.

Mountain Makers Shop View 2
Mountain Makers Shop View

Each tool has to prove its usefulness before it can take up valuable space in our small but mighty shop. We have most of the essential tools you would expect: chisels, hand saws & planes, jointer, thickness planer, table saw, miter saw, routers, band saw, drill press, lathe, etc. We recently added CNCs, a laser cutter and 3D printers to the mix. These digital tools are part of what I like to call our robot helpers. They significantly expand our creative options and give us small scale manufacturing capabilities. Domo arigato, mister roboto.

Mountain Makers Shop View 1
Another Mountain Makers Shop View

We designated 2020 as a “break-in” period for Mountain Makers. Think of it like software beta testing. After years in the making, we’re gradually releasing ourselves into the world, optimizing things and figuring out how to best run this new business. This includes understanding important things like production & manufacturing limits, material cost, and the art of estimating projects. It also gives us more time for mastering new techniques, experimenting, and prototyping ideas.

Since we managed to keep your interest this far, hopefully you’ll stay connected with us to see what comes out of our shop, whether it’s something we made, an Instagram post, or another story we have to share.

Down the road, we plan to share a shop tour, walk-throughs showcasing some of our projects, tool highlights and explaining what the heck is “wabi-sabi”.

If reading this raised more questions, you want to know something else about us or you have project collaboration in mind,  post a reply or send us a note .

That’s all for now, since makers gotta make!

Maker Chief
Mountain Makers