11 October, 2009

FEATURED SHOP - usnavyretiredvet

When I was a child I loved to do puzzles.  When my own daughter was born I enjoyed watching her learn to put the puzzle pieces in their proper places.  I have often times bought wooden puzzles as gifts for they seem to create an unending source of entertainment!

My Featured Shop this week is usnavyretiredvet. Check out his shop at http://usnavyretiredvet.etsy.com/

Chuck makes the most beautiful wooden puzzles for children.   At a time when product recalls for children's products has escalated dramatically, it seemed  appropriate to feature handmade wooden puzzles.  With the holidays approaching so quickly, they would make a wonderful gift.  His puzzles are all made of 3/4" hardwood and he uses only non toxic Food Grade Mineral Oil to finish them.  Chuck's puzzles contain no lead or phthalates.

Here is an interview done with usnavyretiredvet!

How long have you been working with wood?   How did you get started? I took woodshop class in middle school and high school and loved it. I received A's on everything I made. That was 51 years ago. I had no opportunity to do any woodworking after that until 4-5 years ago, when I slowly built up a wood shop in my basement and started making puzzles for children. I began selling them on Etsy in March 2007.

Where do the designs for your puzzles come from? The designs I use come from various places: free pattern sites, pay pattern sites that allow selling the finished product, and mostly from free clipart sites. When I find a suitable image, I edit it in Adobe Photo Deluxe.

Could you walk us through the process of creating a wooden puzzle from start to finish?  In the photo editor, I erase everything except the outline and major features, then draw in the interlocking puzzle pieces. I print out the finished pattern onto self-adhesive paper for attachment to the wood. After cutting a piece of wood to the appropriate size, I sand both sides, then wrap the wood with blue painter's tape. I also wrap it in clear packing tape. Both tapes help keep the scroll saw blade from burning the wood. I then attach the self-adhesive paper pattern to the taped wood, drill any interior access holes for the blade entry, drill out the eyes or other larger circles with drill bits and/or Forstner bits. I then proceed to cut the puzzle on my scroll saw. When the puzzle is cut, I remove the tape, and sand all edges with a flap sander to keep little fingers from getting cut on the edges. I then tie monofilament fishing line to each piece, dip each piece in a shallow pan of food-grade Mineral oil, lay them on a couple layers of paper towels and newspaper, wipe off any excess oil, then hang the pieces to dry in front of a fan for 2-3 days. And they're done, ready for shipping.

You have been extremely successful on Etsy.  To what, in particular, do you attribute that success?  I think my success comes from offering a quality product that I would give my own grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I also try to respond immediately to all queries, and purchase orders, keeping my customers advised at each step - receipt of orders, receipt of payment, shipping date, tracking numbers, etc. Good, friendly customer service is appreciated by all my buyers. I also offer a "no questions asked" return policy, and a lifetime guarantee on all my puzzles.

Here's a true example of my level of customer service. I had a customer who questioned the shipping fee after receipt of her puzzles. I explained the need for estimating the shipping cost of sending multiple puzzles, since I didn't know the total weight of her order when I listed the individual puzzles. Also, there is a small handling charge I add for each shipment. Without waiting for a reply, I refunded her total purchase price with shipping and handling via PayPal, and did not ask for the puzzles to be returned. I never heard from her regarding any "thank you", and just put it down to the cost of doing business, and keeping my feedback record clean. I leave positive feedback for every buyer as soon as payment is verified, since they have completed their contract requirements at that time. As J. C. Penny's motto stated..."The customer is always right". I always give people the benefit of any doubt, and trust them until they prove I shouldn't.

I hope that you will visit Chuck's shop at http://usnavyretiredvet.etsy.com/ and keep his puzzles in mind for the upcoming holidays.  Don't forget to BUY HANDMADE!

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