Well we are a quarter of the way into a new year and we have some big changes under way for 2023. Last year was a decent year for sales, it was not our best year, but certainly was not our worst. We are working to make 2023 our best year yet. We have been wanting to make some changes to the business and this is the year we are actually going to get them done. As the saying goes “even if you're on the right track, you have to keep moving or you’ll get run over”.
In an effort to expand the products we make at the shop, I am working on some new styles of fireplace tool sets. They will be higher end sets, which will have a higher price point. The fireplace sets provide me with an opportunity to be more creative and use my growing skill set to build more elaborate projects. I find satisfaction in production work, building the same thing again and again, getting my process down to the point that I can make things that are almost exactly the same. But my creative side suffers if I do too much production work without a balance of creativity. We sold a lot of personalized fire pokers in 2022, which is great, but building and shipping individual pokers is not as productive as shipping full fireplace sets. Hopefully moving towards bigger products will give us a little more bang for our buck, both financially and creatively.
I am currently finishing up my Level 2 certification through the California Blacksmith Association (CBA). I started on it four years ago, but we have moved into a new shop and have had a pandemic since then. The Level 2 Cert. has forced me to push my skills in new directions and will get me one step closer to being a CBA instructor. It consists of a riveted steel rectangle with two S shaped scrolls inside of it. Additionally, in the past four years the CBA has added a forge welded fire poker and a few tools to the list of requirements. I have built literally hundreds of fire pokers, it's a bit comical that I have to build one to pass my Level 2, but this one proved to be a worthy challenge. I forge welded two pieces of steel together end to end, and forge welded a collar onto a basket twist. I did all of the work with my induction forge. When I started I wasn't even sure my equipment was capable of doing what I needed done. It's nice to have the bar raised and have new challenges, but it's taking me a bit longer than I expected to complete it.
Before Christmas I had a custom request from one of our clients for a larger than normal shovel pan with a short handle. It was a really fun project. In fact it was so fun, Amy got one for Christmas. The sheet metal work I did on the shovel pan was a little out of my wheelhouse. I normally press my shovel blanks into a die I build for that purpose, then hammer out any wrinkles. For the bigger shovels I had to hand hammer them into shape and the more I hammered, the harder it was to keep the proper shape. Moving sheet metal is much different then the bar stock that I am accustomed to working with. Sheet metal shrinks and stretches in ways I don't fully understand yet. It has sparked an interest in learning more about shaping sheet metal. Luckily I am friends with a very talented artist that has shaped sheet metal sculptures for years, he has agreed to teach me as much as he can. We have started with the basics, using an English Wheel and a hammer and sandbag to shape metal. I am really looking forward to adding this skill to my capabilities in the shop.
The biggest change this year will be changing the name of the business to Four Kings Forge. We have been discussing a name change for a few years now. Amy is spending a lot of time and effort to move the website to Shopify, so we thought it was a good time to make the change. The business is a true family business involving everyone in the family so it seems only appropriate that the name includes all four of us. It has our family name in the title so we won’t need a DBA and most importantly it’s easier to remember.
Every year I tell myself “This is the Year!!… This is the year I start making bigger projects, being more creative, become more financially stable”, there is always something new I hope for the year. Three months in we are doing pretty good on what we want to improve for the year. Amy already has our taxes done and has done most of the work to move the website and change the name. I am making progress on new projects. As we keep the momentum going we will achieve lots of improvements this year.