Frequently Asked Questions
What is your philosophy of woodworking?
I most enjoy the process of taking an idea or sketch from a 2-dimensional concept to a 3-dimensional reality. For me the biggest thrill is watching it take shape and evolve. I love to solve the problems that arise and enjoy the small detail changes that occur on the way that take the idea from good to great. I see what I do as more in line with the work of an artist than that of a craftsman. I am not a purist.
A lot of woodworking philosophy eventually boils down to the concept of “quality”. This is something that is easier to recognize than define and is often very fluid with changing tastes, styles, and technologies.
There are many woodworkers who believe that for a piece to be “quality” everything must be done in a manner as close as possible to the way our forefathers did the work in the age before electricity… i.e. with only hand tools, no metal fasteners, 100% solid wood, and with as many beautiful joints as possible…etc… etc… Some go as far as to harvest their own wood and air dry it prior to use. I have no problem with this approach and there are some excellent craftsmen out there.
I tend to use materials and traditional joinery not only for purpose and visual effect, but mostly when a design seems best complimented by the materials and joinery. For instance, some more contemporary designs might need plywood components because of inherent flaws that would exist in the construction due to solid wood’s natural tendency to move with relative moisture in the atmosphere. I guess what I am trying to say is that the design is most important to me not the method or means which created the design. Yet, with that being said I am not comfortable putting nails in visible places or using particle board. For me that would lower the quality.
In my opinion “quality” is more than the strict use of hand tools, the sole use of solid wood, or an abundance of traditional joints. I really think each woodworker must decide what is most important to them and why they are working with wood in the first place. Everything one makes is an extension of themselves with all their unique tastes and biases. In the same way the purchaser of the item must decide what it is that they value. I believe “Quality” is the convergence of design, materials, joinery, and finish and a certain amount of subjectivity from the one estimating the value and quality. For instance, a person who believes that solid wood and the sole use of hand tools represents quality would have trouble seeing value and “quality” in a piece made with veneer. I see these differences more in line with that of oil paints verses water colors or stylistic differences between a romantic artist and modern artist. Both have an intrinsic value and both can be beautiful, well executed, and made of excellent paints and canvas. In this case the notion of “quality” is now almost entirely resting on one’s own subjective belief as to what is valuable or meaningful.
I most value design and functionality. I consider the items I make to be functional works of art. In other words, if I make a lamp it is a work of art that provides light etc… I like both solid wood and veneer but I value natural wood more than stained wood. For instance, I would rather use walnut than use oak or maple and stain it to look like walnut. I enjoy mixing species of wood to create contrast with their natural colors, textures, and grain patterns. I like the beauty of well executed and well placed joinery but sometimes I value the visual simplicity of hidden joinery more. I like solving the wood movement issues that arise when using solid wood but sometimes I prefer the simplicity a stable man made product, such as plywood, affords me. I enjoy adding metal hardware components such as slides, hinges, and pulls and like to mix in auxiliary materials such as glass or acrylic. I have no qualms with mixing design styles and periods. I value work produced by an artist or craftsmen over work mass produced in factories.
To some the above statements are anathema to centuries of tradition and and to others I am living in a restrictive box. I strive to innovate by not letting go of the past but by also looking to the future. At the end of the day I am doing what I love, working with concepts that inspire me, and co-laboring with my clients to create pieces that will last for generations.
What are your lead times?
The construction time of a given project can vary widely due to many factors ranging from the difficulty of the wood being worked to the level of design detail. Another factor affecting project lead time is whether or not I am building the design for the first time or if it is something that I am recreating from an earlier design I have already built.
A smaller project such as a lamp may have a lead time from 3 to 6 weeks, whereas a larger project such as a bed could take many months.
An average piece with average detail, such as a credenza, will take approximately 8 to 12 weeks.
In general one can assume that projects involving large amounts of or exclusive use of solid wood will take longer than those that incorporate engineered products such as plywood. It is also true that designs requiring large amounts of hand work will take longer to complete. On the other hand, time can usually be saved by building two or more units at the same time rather than one now and one later.
I will be able to provide a client with a fairly accurate lead time if I have built a design before and my client is wanting me to reproduce it, however if the requested design is something I am building from scratch my lead time will be an estimate and could vary depending on the above mentioned factors.
I make every effort to provide accurate lead times but I make no guarantees that I can meet a deadline. Custom work takes large amounts of time and there are always unforeseen obstacles in every stage of a project. If you are concerned about having a piece made by a given deadline I will make every effort to meet that deadline but my best advice is give me as much time as possible and remember that this is one-of-a-kind work.
How do you prioritize your projects?
Being that I am a one man shop, I can only work on one project at a time. This means that I have to juggle the current work I have in process while also producing bids for future work.
I typically take projects in the order they come to me. For instance, if I am approached by 3 clients in a given week, I will work to submit my bids and take the work in the order the bids come back to me.
I require a non-refundable $250 deposit in the event that I am in the middle of a project and I have a new client that wants to hold a space in line after my current project is finished. This deposit allows me to plan for the future and assures my future client that they are on my schedule. The $250 deposit will count toward the total project quote and will be applied toward the balance owed at the end of the job.
Should a client place the $250 deposit and then decide to back out, they will forfeit the deposit and their place in line.
Can you ship items out of state or out of country?
Yes. I am willing to personally deliver an item within about a 300 mile radius of Oklahoma City. I can also crate items to be shipped by a common carrier any where in the USA. I am willing to ship internationally on a case by case basis. The cost of shipping will be added onto the sale price of an item and paid for by the purchaser unless other arrangements have been agreed to. You will know the total cost of the item and any shipping charges prior to the item leaving my shop. All items shipped by a third party carrier will be insured. I will not ship anything until I have been paid in full. Please see my terms and policies concerning shipping, warranty, and returns for more details.
What finishes are available?
I typically use a brushed on marine grade spar varnish or a sprayed on water based polyurethane.
The spar varnish product contains a UV protector that helps reduce damage from sun light, especially to exotic hardwoods. This finish is more costly due to the lengthy dry times between coats and the labor of brushing the finish.
The sprayed water based polyurethane contains a color additive to imitate the warmth of an oil based finish. This product looks similar to the spar varnish but does not contain the UV protectors.
I am able to provide other finishes and I may at my discretion outsource the finish part to another tradesman whom I feel can provide better quality than I can.
I can also provide the piece with no finish if a client wishes to have the finish applied by a third party of their choice.
What does the process of commissioning a piece typically look like?
Once contacted by a client regarding a commissioned work a multi step process unfolds. Typically the client and I will have at least one or more face to face meetings to discuss ideas of design, wood choice, and auxiliary components – such as glass, metal, or hardware. I will show them photos of past work, any current projects being made in my shop, samples of different species of wood, and cross sections of designs I have created in the past. This initial visit or follow up visits may take place at the client’s home or work place so that I can get a feel for how the piece will fit into its surrounding environment.
After the initial consultation I will generally prepare multiple sketches of ideas either by hand or computer to more easily convey the design detail to the client. Once the ideas are presented there usually follows a period of making changes to the original concept to better suit the client’s preferences. Once the client is satisfied with the overall design, material choices, finish choices, and hardware options I will estimate the cost of the piece. (I usually do not charge for the design process or the creation of drawings but the drawings remain my property and will not be released into the client’s possession in either hard copy or electronic format unless I am compensated for the time required to create them.)
Once the price is agreed upon I require half of the funds up front to commence work. Any changes made to the project once it has begun will require a change of work order and additional fees may be added to the final bill. The client will know these additional fees prior to proceeding with the change of work order. Often times my clients like to wait to pick the knobs and pulls until the piece is near completion. If a hardware budget was not agreed upon prior to beginning the project the client will assume the cost of the knobs and pulls but I will install them at no additional charge. If the project seems that it might take longer than a month I will typically work with the client to arrange some sort of installment plan to keep a positive cash flow coming in while I am working so that I can support my family and overhead. The client is not expected to make payment in full until the project is completed to their satisfaction and delivered. No project will delivered into a client’s possession until payment in full has been made.
Client’s are welcome to stop by my shop anytime to see the work in progress or wait and see the finished result upon delivery.
Is your furniture made by CNC Router?
No, at this time I do not own a CNC router and I do not intend to purchase one. I am building high end luxury products that I consider to be hand made works of art. Although, the CNC would be a great aid in my work I could not justify its cost and I feel that I would greatly miss the enjoyment I get out of working with my hands and mind to solve the problems that woodworkers have struggled with for generations. If the bulk of my work was kitchen cabinets and trying to compete for the lowest bid I might reconsider.
All of my work and designs are produced by standard woodworking machines that have been around for quite some time and multitudes of hand tools that have been around for centuries. This means that if I want to make an ellipse, I have to figure out the math and techniques to do it. The accuracy and time saving capacity of a CNC router would be nice but I feel that I could not call my furniture “hand made” if I used one. The extent of my computer use in woodworking is to occasionally use design software to solve compound angle and difficult trigonometry problems or to produce drawings for a client.
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Controller. A CNC Router is the most typical woodworking machine employing this technology. It is basically a machine about the size of small truck that has a flat table and a router suspended on some sort of a gantry style crane system. Material (typically sheet goods, such as plywood) are held onto the table by vacuum. The router is able to move in 3 or more axis. The machine is hooked to a computer station and a prearranged cut list or instructions are sent to the machine to tell it what to do.
These machines range from about $45,000 for a decent entry model up to $500,000 or more for high end models. The benefit of the CNC router is that once you learn to program it all that is necessary is to put wood in the machine, send it instructions, and receive the component pieces in about 10 to 30 minutes with an accuracy to about 0.001″. It saves materials because it can cut out odd shapes that generally would have to be processed on multiple other machines to get the desired result. It also saves man power. CNC manufacturers and salesmen often claim that one CNC router can do the work of 4 people. This technology is the primary reason why mass produced furniture is so cheap and why some manufacturing jobs are beginning to return to the USA.
Is woodworking your hobby or do you do it as a career?
Woodworking is my passion and it is my sole occupation. This is the way in which I support my family. If it were not my occupation it would definitely be my primary hobby.
How did you get into woodworking?
I have many relatives going back a few generations who were carpenters, cabinet makers, and home builders. As a child I played with Legos non stop and wanted to be an architect.
In high school I took drafting courses and eventually enrolled in a concurrent Vo-Tech program for drafting and design. My goal was to pursue architecture in college with the eventual goal of designing skyscrapers. One day while shadowing a student architect in a neighborhood he was building for his employer I became disillusioned at all the cheap corner cutting, poor design, and cookie cutter homes.
Music had been a passion in the background and I decided to enroll in college for music composition with the eventual goal of earning a doctorate and teaching music composition. I worked various jobs while in school, one of them being as a general handyman for a home builder. In 2008, while completing the final semester of my masters in music, my main professor and his wife hired me to remodel their kitchen. I took the job and it quickly turned into a three room remodel from floor to ceiling, involving the removal of walls. I enjoyed working with my hands and the problem solving involved. By the end of the job the ression of 2008 had hit and I was self employed in the remodel business with a back up degree in music composition. By the time I finished my masters in music I realized that I did not want a teaching job. Unfortunately, in music as with many other liberal arts it is very difficult to find a job unless it is teaching, which usually requires a doctorate to have any sort of long term job security.
I made the decision to pursue remodel work and gradually realized that my true passion is design and construction related to woodworking. I have slowly tried to steer my business toward that of studio art furniture and away from remodeling and cabinet work.
In a round about way I have sort of become an architect on a small scale. I absolutely love what I do, and do not regret any of the changes and events that have led me to this place.
Do you build with imported materials?
In today’s global supply chain it is hard to find anything that is not imported or at least partially made from imported components.
Some of the hardware I use such as slides, hinges, and pulls are made in various countries around the world. I do not use any plywood made or imported from China due to its incredibly poor quality. I use a baltic birch plywood from time to time which originates from the Baltic Sea region of Russia and Finland. This product is a very high quality and stable plywood consisting of a veneer core made of thin plys. Obviously, any non native tree species such as Purple Heart, Sapele, Zebra Wood etc… do not grow in the USA and must be imported. It is possible to get Sapele plywood made in the USA but the logs that the veneer was cut from would be imported.
I strive to support the US economy and will pick “Made in USA” unless the alternative is better quality, better designed, or it is impossible to get what is needed from a US company.
I am not in the habit of building with cheap materials to cut costs. I am a firm believer in “you get what you pay for.” Cheaper materials and components are cheaper for a reason. They usually are a knock off of something better and more expensive and they usually do not have the life span of the product they are imitating.
It is my advice to pay for quality of upfront, if you don’t you will pay for it later.
Do you build designs by other people?
To this point in time I have not built anything (furniture related) that I did not have the complete or majority influence over the design. I am willing to build the designs of designers, architects, or any other client per their specifications with no influence of my own on a case by case basis.
Do you build reproductions of antiques?
I do not build reproductions of antiques. I enjoy the process of building something new more than matching something that already exists. Some woodworkers love to match something from the past, taking great joy and satisfaction in attempting to duplicate it so well that it might pass for the original. This takes a considerable talent and patience. I most enjoy the process of conceiving a design on paper and watching it evolve and mature into a completed piece that is brand new.
How many employees do you have?
I have no employees. Geometric Innovations LLC is a limited liability corporation founded by and ran by Jarrett Maxwell. It is a one man operation.
Do you outsource any of your work or buy components to add to your work?
I typically build as much as possible in my shop. I will use a larger shop in town to do tasks such as wide belt sanding, mainly because a decent wide belt sander costs around $15,000. That kind of investment for as little as I would use it does not make sense. Being that I am a woodworker by trade, I will outsource all metal and glass work to a specialist in that field. I occasionally outsource the finish part of a job to save time. I do this in particular if the finish is something I have little or no experience applying.
Outsourcing has become a way in which smaller shops can compete with larger shops in the market place. For instance, a company that makes nothing but cabinet doors all day long can usually do it better, faster, and cheaper. In order to acheive the better, faster, and cheaper these shops usually only have a limited amount of options available.
I will occasionally outsource cabinet doors or corbels for a kitchen cabinet job but my furniture and furniture components are nearly always 100% made by me. This gives me a greater control over the design and the quality.