Thursday, April 19, 2012

Magical Wood Meeting Review

     At our April meeting we had quite an interesting presentation by Lupe Nielsen that covered many aspects of woodworking many of us may have never thought of.  The focus of her presentation centered around this extremely rare (one of eight known to exist) poster promoting an 1895 Magic Show by a famous magician of the time, Kellar.

1895 Poster ($15,000 and could be yours!)

     That's the teaser, let me re-cap the beginning of the meeting first.  It's always nice to see new faces at our meeting and last night was no different.  I got about half of their names and added it to the mailing list for the blog and announcements.  Have to hang my head, after sending out at least 3 announcements to all of you about the dues guess who forgot to bring them in --- yep, your's truly.  I'm sure Jamie will collect them next month.  Try to remember on your own because if I remind you guys again I'll probably forget my own.
     As is customary, we all went around the room with introductions and any brief recap to share what we've been up to with the rest of the group.  I noticed a few others had brought in some Show & Tell materials but we decided to hold them until after Lupe's talk.  That turned out to be a wise decision as Lupe had a very energetic and well planned talk to share with us.
     Take a close look at the poster, see the book with the owl sitting on it at the right?  The book is sitting on the stand that Lupe has spent much time designing and building and will soon be marketing.  Which version; well, she seems to be shooting for 3.0 at this point but we'll see!  It was quite enjoyable to hear the background and her point of view as to why this project came about.  Allow me to backtrack just a little.

The Star of the Evening (other than Lupe)

     Lupe started her presentation with a bit of background as to how she became interested in magic to begin with.  Seems that at 13 years of age she became involved with a theater company making the scenery and working back stage.  During this time she also became interested in something called Stone Lithography and the history of magic.  This was the connection that lead her to her future husband, Norm Nielsen, who is a well known magician here in Las Vegas and has one of the premier collections of magical memorabilia.  Not only have the two of them traveled the world performing their magic but they also have a business creating, making, and selling magic props and reproduction posters.
     Enter a company called Passion Books, they publish large and pricey, coffee table books (17 pounds, $200.00) on a variety of subjects.  They contacted Norm to see about getting some images for the book and although they had a half a million budget Norm and Lupe didn't give them free reign of their collection.  This book is filled with images and posters of magicians throughout out history and the world.  In a conversation with another magician, when Lupe mentioned that she was taking woodworking classes with Jamie it was suggested that she build the stand shown in the poster and market it as an ideal companion piece to the book --- the seed has been planted.

The Stand, The Poster, The Computer, and of course; Lupe

     Lupe's presentation was extremely well organized.  She's set a pretty high standard for the rest of us to follow but I won't be bringing in the computer when I get into cabinet scrapers in June!  When you check out the stand the legs are the most complicated and interesting feature of it.  They are made in two pieces and joined with a Festool Domino floating tenon machine.  To make them symmetrical templates were the way to go:

Leg Templates

     Lupe did a great job explaining the thought process and problems that will always occur when you build a project.  Doing a one of a kind piece you can "fly by the seat of your pants" a bit but since this will eventually be marketed and produced on a limited basis every step needs to be well planned out and documented.

The Top with Upgraded Tiger Striping 

     Nicely thought out wooden supports will hold the top at an angle so the book can be displayed.

It's really not that tall, Ted's on his knees!

     The part of the presentation that many of us were waiting for is how about the cost.  If you do custom work pricing is always a challenge.  Not too difficult to calculate material costs but the time factor is tough.  Most folks prescribe to the philosophy that says: "Time is Money".  I like Art Espenet Carpenter's take on it the says instead: "Time is Care".  Don't get me wrong, making money at this craft is very important but there needs to be a balance. I'm guessing that I'm not the only one who has missed a bid on a project and discovered you made less than minimum wage for it -- always a learning experience.  Because Lupe is planning to go into a limited production on these the time becomes a critical factor.  You have to balance what you want to earn on these to what the public is willing to pay for them.  
     I'm wondering if the rest of you thought the CNC costs were as interesting as I did?  Although I have the reputation of being a hand tool guy who uses power tools for the grunt work the whole technology in woodworking today is pretty fascinating.  I heard more than one person mention to just send the plans to China and let them work it out.  I know of business's that have done just that.  Lupe told us that a local CNC shop would do the set up and initial programming for the legs at $60.00 per hour and estimated roughly four hours time to accomplish that.  Once they have that done their hourly rate is $85.00 and they estimated they could produce about 12 legs in an hours time --- that's HUGE!!  As she mentioned, the first prototype took her about 85 hours to complete and obviously, the second, third, and so on will take less time as the process is learned but, 12 legs in an hour, no way.
     So, the bottom line is that as this project continues she's looking to produce a dozen of them with a retail price of $2450.00 which does not include shipping and handling.  For the person ready to buy a collectable book like the Magic Book this wouldn't be a stretch to add to their investment.  It's a really cool looking piece of woodworking and I think all of you would agree when I say "congratulations Lupe, you done good".
Lupe's Final Word

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to take a moment and thank all of the woodworkers that attended the meeting. You guys are the best audience anyone could have. :-) Thank you also for the little “tips and tricks” you gave me to make this project even better.

    There is one correction I would like to make: The publishing company is not “Passion”. The name of it is TASCHEN, and it is based in Germany. They are one of the largest coffee table companies in the world, and they specialize in books featuring art, architecture, photography, erotica and numerous artsy subjects. Their marketing tries to appeal to a high-end clientele. The link to their website is:

    The details of the poster I showed you are:
    Name of poster: Kellar “Collage”
    Date: 1895
    Lithographer: Strobridge Lithograph Company, Cincinnati, Ohio
    Size: 1-sheet (measures 28.5” x 38.5”)
    Because we have not seen any of these go on auction in quite a while, the $15K estimate would be a minimum should this particular poster go to auction, based on the amounts other posters of this magician have obtained.

    These types of posters are called “stone lithographs” because the “plates” that were used to make them were made out of limestone. There was one slab of limestone used per color. So there was a red stone, a blue stone, a yellow stone, a black stone, and so on. They all had registration marks, and the posters were printed one color at a time. The colors and designs stayed on the stones with chemicals that attracted or repel the inks from their respective areas within the artwork.

    Although it sounds complicated, this was the known and preferred method of printing prior to the 1930s. The posters were cheap at the time. They were printed on highly acidic paper, and they were meant to advertise a show or product. Remember, there was no radio or television at the time, so poster artists had to be pretty clever to attract people to what they were advertising. These posters were glued to walls of buildings or billboard areas and they were covered with subsequent advertisements or eventually ripped off the walls. The reason they are collectible is because very few of these remain, and the aforementioned printing method does not exist anymore, except for academic purposes in a handful of universities and for entertainment (I think there is a stone press at the Paris Hotel here in Las Vegas).

    There are hundreds of stone lithographs out there. The more valuable ones tend to be scarce, or have something significant about them that gives them a higher perceived value - like the subject they advertise or the artist that designed them. Some French lithographs from the 19th century from artists like Jules Chéret or Toulouse Lautrec are highly valued and exquisite in their artwork. In the world of magic, the subject matter is important. Posters of Harry Houdini or Alexander Herrmann are great pieces. The lithographic company is also important. Strobridge was probably one of the finest American printing companies of the time, and when you compare posters from this period, their posters do stand out in terms of attention to detail and quality of their artwork.

    Thank you again everyone for your support. I specially would like to thank my friend and teacher, Jamie Yocono, for her encouragement and patience with me during my woodworking journey. See you next month!