I spent the first 15 years of my working life as a cameraman for—and then producer of—television commercials. In that career, your “film reel” was more important than your resume. It was a collection of a dozen or so of your best TV spots. By the same logic, when I finally switched over to woodworking, and started my own cabinet shop, I found that I would land more jobs when I could show a potential client photographs of our work. Over time, I carried an increasingly larger photo album in my attaché.
Eventually, our commercial listing in the phone book became a less and less effective means of advertising. The World Wide Web was becoming a far superior way to search for local businesses, and it had a much better format to showcase (and describe) our services—we could use more (and better) pictures, there’s no limit on copy, etc.
So, I contacted a friend who was capable of writing HTML (“Web page language”) and began designing a website I believed would impress the hell out of people. I worked my ass off configuring that site, and drove my friend crazy getting the layout just right (much like we used to do when creating a print ad for a magazine). Of course, I included a large photo gallery of our work, and even though the site became a great place I could “send” people to, we still weren’t getting the hundreds of new phone calls I had imagined we would.
We continued that way for a few years, while still running our small (4-in. high) advertisement in the phone book (which now included our website address); but as the competition increased, with more websites coming online every day, I discovered that I needed to learn what was being called “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO). There are too many elements involved to fully describe it here, but, simply put: the more people that visit your site, the more likely Google is to list your website on (hopefully) the first page of search results for your category (“carpenters,” “cabinet makers,” etc).
Stick with me here . . . I’m actually leading up to something.
Statistics show that spending on video marketing is up. The supposition is that, just as photographs inherently attract more searchers to a Web page than one consisting of copy (words) alone, video is even more of a magnet than photos. Videos are entertaining, and they are about as close as you can get to actually being there.
Last year, we were commissioned to design and construct “A Trestle Table with Built-in Seating,” and I decided to record the project from beginning to end. I kept my camera loaded and ready to go, and I ran into the shop and shot a couple of “takes” whenever my sons were at an important stage of construction. I even took the video camera with me when we installed the pieces in the client’s home.
After the project was complete, it was time to put together a video that would hold people’s attention. I spent a lot of time getting the voice-over just right, and even added some classical background music. When I felt that the “story” required lengthier explanation than I had footage for, I used the initial renderings I had drawn for the client, and (while the camera was running) used a pencil to “point out” the different parts of the drawings I was referring to.
Here’s the finished video:
When editing a video, it is important to strike a balance between going slow enough for viewers to understand what you’re describing, but never so slow as to lose their interest. Like anything else, it requires some time and effort to do well, but a video has the potential to act like a salesman for your company; and, once completed, it continues to spread the word, for a long time to come.
I thought this might be a good place to include a few shots of a trestle table I built for my own kitchen. Although it looks like an antique (worn/aged), and it’s heavy in girth, its details are more purposely “worked,” looking perhaps like a piece saved from an ancient European castle or monastery. I love the character really old pieces have, so I began by obtaining enough reclaimed wood (from a place about an hour north of us that specializes in 100 year-old-plus material) to construct the table.
I found some extra-thick pieces for the table top. These old “ten/quarter” (2 1/2-in.) pine planks were the second story floor boards of a dairy barn, erected in the 1790s, that was located just outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Apparently, the dairy was on the first floor and the second floor housed some heavy machinery—horse drawn wagons and such—hence the need for such massive floor boards. There was a “white wash” coating on the bottom of the boards because they also acted as the ceiling of the ground floor dairy.
Anyway, for the table top, I arranged these thick planks to establish the most handsome surfaces on the top faces and outside edges, trying to sand as little of the aged patina as possible.
Using some thicker timbers from the same building, I designed and cut corner blocks, legs, and feet with an assortment of curved profiles I felt were fitting and handsome.
I’ve included this table of mine to help demonstrate the range of looks that can be achieved, from a “Colonial Revival” farm table to (perhaps) a nobleman’s dining surface.
While we’re on the subject, I’d like to describe a single aspect of these tables that bothers me to this day. It’s about the breadboard ends. I love to incorporate breadboard end caps—they help keep the surface flat, they “dress” the end grain on the top’s planks, and they just look cooler (one man’s opinion). BUT . . .
It’s been my experience that our table top’s center section will invariably shrink, leaving a protruding breadboard end. This is because my shop is always more humid than my clients’ kitchens, and, quite frankly, it’s too difficult to keep my shop any drier.
On a 36-in. wide table, whose planks will shrink by a quarter inch (on each side), I suppose I could build a table whose breadboard is a half inch smaller, so that when the planks shrink (to match the moisture content of the home), the edges are never more than an 1/8 in. misaligned one way or the other through summer and winter. I’ve seen a lot of commercial work (factory-made tables, cabinet face frames, etc.) that round-over/ease the edges where two surfaces meet to minimize the look of the inaccuracy, but . . . 1) I dislike that look (for instance, I refuse to do a V-groove where a cabinet’s side wall meets its face frame edge), and 2) when I first present a finished table to a client, I’d be in the unenviable position of having to explain why it appears like I’ve made the breadboard too short.
So, although I consider myself a high-end woodworker, the learning process never really stops.
I can’t help but wonder if one of you guys (or girls, for that matter) had a way to solve this problem without having to compromise too much on the table’s appearance. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment below!
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Russell Hudson is the owner of Hudson Cabinetmaking, Inc. He began his career in television advertising and switched to woodworking because of his love of design and building things. His father had a shop in the basement and, he suspects, that’s where the seed was planted.
Hudson Cabinetmaking specializes in high-end cabinetry and furniture. Both of Russell’s sons (Russ and Brian) have become highly skilled cabinetmakers, and share their father’s desire to make it an art form.
Through photographing, video taping, and writing (in blogs and articles) about the projects for their website, Russell finds himself in advertising once again. Apparently, “no acquired skill goes to waste.”
Besides filmmaking and woodwork, Russell plays guitar and piano, loves fishing (he makes his own rods, and ties his own trout flies), loves the wilderness and indigenous cultures, has rebuilt every square inch of their home, is still crazy about his wife, and doubts he’ll ever find enough time to do all the things he’s interested in. He is also, perhaps, clinically insane, but doesn’t consider it a drawback.