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SQ - Volume 2, Number 1 1997

Volume 2, Number 1 • 1997

Randy Willis

April Sparr

Contributing Writers
Art Aguilar
Jim Jones
Billy Willis


Siphon vs. Pressure Pots

Words To Live By
Living in the Driver's Seat

Sales Strategies
The Art of Moving Product into the Marketplace

Tips and Secrets
Blasting Bits  

Words To Live By
Living in the Driver's Seat
by Randy Willis, ownerParkng.gif (15654 bytes)

Driving. Described by advertisers as a utopia of peace and serenity, or the thrill of a lifetime. Of course those of us living in the real world often deem it as a necessary evil, lusting over any kind of vehicle to make it more pleasurable. Like life, driving in its purest form is about getting from point A to point B. Many of us like to do this as quickly as possible. Many others don’t care. From time to time however, driving supersedes this nominal pretense and actually becomes enjoyable. So should life! It’s true that the spirit of the day often causes our lives to resemble a rat race. This being the case, we tend to grind gears, get into accidents, or burn out all together. As with the rules of the road and vehicle maintenance, this kind of thing is almost always avoidable.

Safety First:
Simply put, drive safely. Be aware of road conditions. Keep an eye out for grandma in the slow lane and for the bone head coming from behind at 95 mph. Traveling in the same lane for the past 50 miles does not mean we won’t have to switch lanes in the next 2. We must be aware of what’s going on in the lives of those closest to us. We can’t afford to be so consumed with the affairs of our own person that we fail to recognize disaster when it’s about to hit. Pay attention and avoid getting side swiped by the unexpected. Know the state of family and business, how those around you are reacting to their own travels. Most of the hurt we experience in life is self-inflicted by an unwillingness to recognize the need for change.

Check Your Rear View Mirror:
Sometimes understanding where we are going requires realizing where we came from. Be appreciative of what you do have. Gratitude produces thankfulness for what you no longer are and for what you’ve now become.

Adjust Your Seat:
Get comfortable with making decisions.

Change your Oil:
Remove distractions. Stick to what matters. Festering over what did or did not happen only clogs pipes and causes burnout.

Keep Your Gas Tank Full:
Refuel by taking care of yourself spirit, soul, and body. Eat right, exercise. Do something you haven’t done before. Drive home a different way, get a new haircut. A fresh perspective may be all you need for that added edge.

Don’t Idle Too Long:
Make decisions and get over offenses as quick as possible. Overheating, wasting time and fuel, are roadblocks on the road of life.

Avoid Grinding Gears:
Learn from your mistakes. Character weaknesses are often a strength taken to an extreme. To be a better driver may require receiving new instruction. Be willing to recognize bad habits producing undesirable results.

Get Rid of Back Seat Drivers:
Rid yourself of negativity. Avoid those who constantly gripe and complain. The road of life is hazardous enough without surrounding yourself with a "can’t do" attitude.

Practice Basic Speed Laws:
Don’t get ahead of yourself, keep your priorities straight.

Signal Before Changing Lanes:
Don’t expect others to read your mind. Communicate your ideas and thoughts before making changes. As a business owner, I can not expect my employees to travel at the same pace and direction I am going if I fail to communicate the vision.

Enjoy the Ride!


Siphon versus Pressure Pots
by Art Aguilar, contributing writer

Drink.jpg (8417 bytes)There is a saying about artists only being as good as the tools they have to work with. The same is true of a professional sandcarver. Using the wrong tools may produce frustrating, unsatisfactory work. A co-worker of mine told of a situation that one of our customers experienced, illustrating my point: A little hesitant, a gentlemen approached our booth at a recent trade show; "We can’t get your stencils to work," he stated very matter-of-factly. After a quick demonstration, the problem pointed to the difference between his siphon blaster and our recommended pressure pot. The man stood amazed as he witnessed the difference in depth, detail, and the ease of use we handled his stencils with. He had heard the promises of our photo resist, but was never quite able to obtain them with his siphon system. Needless to say, he walked away with one of our pressure pots. Although the results yield a world of differences, there are those that don’t yet understand the distinction between the two systems.

Siphon vs. Pressure PotsRocket.jpg (7254 bytes)
A pressure pot is a system in which the abrasive is in a closed pressurized tank with one hose carrying a mixture of compressed air and abrasive from the tank to the nozzle. Before blasting, the user will preset abrasive to air flow at a 50/50 proportion. He or she will then decide how much pressure to blast at, usually between 25-45 psi for most glass and crystal items. The user will then step on a foot pedal to begin abrasive flow and step off to stop the flow. In contrast, a siphon system requires two hoses connecting to a gun which has a nozzle and an air jet. One hose is for compressed air and one for the siphoned abrasive. Siphon blasters require much higher pressures (60-80 psi) to yield the same results as a pressure pot because the abrasive is being "sucked" up and "spit" at the blasted item rather than accurately carving under pressure.

The Difference
We often say the difference between the two is like taking a bullet and throwing it at someone, (siphon system) or sticking the same bullet in a gun and pulling the trigger (pressure pot). One could also say the difference is like sucking through a straw or launching a rocket. Which ever analogy you choose to remember illustrates the point when it comes to carving excellent product.

Advantages of pressure pots over a siphon system are as follows: 1. Faster - about four times faster than a siphon. 2. Particle Velocity Range - many pressure pots are designed to operate from 1 - 125 psi.3. Control of Abrasive Flow Rate - the abrasive valve and the choke valve permit accurate control of the abrasive flow rate.4. Operator Fatigue Reduced - pressure pot blast nozzles and hoses are more compact and lightweight, making it easier to use. Since most pressure pots have a foot switch, this eliminates cramping in the hands from siphon trigger systems.5. Longer Abrasive Life - blasting at higher pressure (as with a siphon system) greatly reduces abrasive life. Pressure pots distribute more abrasive at lower pressure, resulting in lower abrasive breakdown.

Some disadvantages of a pressure pots are:1. Higher Price - pressure pots are generally more expensive (by a few hundred dollars) than a siphon system of similar size.2. Recycling Method - in siphon systems, the abrasive is continuously recycled until the user replaces it with new abrasive. Pressure pots take about 2-3 minutes to refill manually.

The Bottom Line
Pressure pots are faster, require less air and have more accurate adjustments over siphon blasters. Siphon systems use nozzles twice the size of pressure pots causing them to be far less efficient and consume more then twice the air of a pressure pot. Additionally, siphon systems require larger compressors for continuous operation causing them to work much harder. Our customer who was not experiencing the promised results of our photo resist with his siphon system had several problems to overcome: First, the higher blasting pressure was causing his detail to blow off before he could blast to his desired depth. Second, the larger nozzle (typical of siphon systems) was giving him a problem when it came to shading and adding shape and curve to his carve, consequently limiting the type of work he could successfully produce. Next, what items he could produce, looked mediocre in comparison to what was possible with a pressure pot. Lastly, he was producing product four times slower than he could have been doing with his pressure pot. For this customer, a pressure pot meant a more excellent end piece at a comparable higher price, equaling an increased bottom line in his day to day business. Happier customers, new versatility... well worth his investment for a pressure pot. If you are planning to generate a profit from your hobby or business, a pressure pot should be your first consideration. The benefits far outweigh the additional investment for most applications.

Tips & Secrets
Blasting Bits
by Billy Willis, contributing writer

Clearing Away the Dust
1. Well maintained dust collector bags will increase suction in your blast cabinet, removing free floating dust inside the cabinet. Simply shake your dust collector bags weekly or bi-weekly so as not to allow small particles of dust to get trapped in the fiber of the bags. Poor maintained bags cause dust particles to pass through the fiber of the bags, loosing the weave and allowing more particles to escape into your environment.

2. Vent your exhaust away from you dust collector.

3. Replace bags as necessary. Properly maintained bags should last up to 12 months.

4. Keep your unit running about a minute before loading and unloading product and while draining the abrasive.

5. Replace worn abrasive. This will decease the amount of dust created, giving you a cleaner work environment and a better cut.

Why Is My Pressure Pot Shooting Bursts of Sand?
"Why is my pressure pot not working? It’s worked for weeks and I haven’t touched anything. I step on the foot pedal and bursts of sand shoots out and 30 seconds later there is nothing but air coming out." Adjust your pressure pot valves. "We have never had to adjust our valves before, why should I have to now?" A simple increase or decrease in blast pressure, and or a change of abrasive will impact your settings. Additionally, wear to your blast nozzle and blasting hose will merit an adjustment to your valve settings. Be aware that proper adjustments to your valve settings will enable you to get the most out of your pressure pot.

Setting Pressure Pot Valves
There are two very important valves on your pressure pot that create the sand to air mixture:

Vlv-Air.jpg (21311 bytes)1. Air Valve - located at the top of the pressure pot closest to the side of the pressure tank. This valve supplies air to the blasting line and gives the abrasive it’s propulsion. If your air valve setting is too lean, you will have bursts of sand shooting out your nozzle. Lean air mixture will also cause the abrasive to cut slower. "My foot pedal is broken! I step on it and 30 seconds later the sand stops and I have to release it and step on it again." This has nothing to do with your foot pedal. If your air valve setting is open too wide, your abrasive will begin to shoot well, but after a few seconds it will diminish to all air.


2. Sand Valve - located at the bottom of the pressure pot closest to the side of the pressure tank. This valve regulates the amount of abrasive you are etching with. Set this at 50% wide. No further adjustment should be made. In cases where the valve is set more then halfway open, the lower portion of the valve will fill with sand while your pot is idle, resulting in bursting of abrasive until the line is cleared.

Updated Pressure Pot Settings Information

Sales Strategies
The Art of Moving Product into the Market Place
by Jim Jones, CCA manager

Notice the title says, "the art of," that is because marketing is creative. It can be every bit as creative as producing the product. Most of you have no problem with the creative process of producing product. However, many of you have problems with the creative process of marketing your product. As I give you a specific ideas for specific products, expand that idea into whatever you are doing. Remember, a good marketing idea is just an idea until you act on it. You need to put the legs on your marketing plan. Wagon.jpg (15345 bytes)

Know Your Neighbors
Have you ever noticed that in today’s fast paced society, many of us don’t even know our neighbors. I hope this is not indicative of where you live, but it is especially true in Southern California. One of the best ways (and least expensive) to promote yourself as a sandcarver, is to introduce other people to what you do. Make your abilities and products known to them: Get other people marketing for you through "word-of-mouth." Who better to do this then your neighbors? A customer of ours took my advice and went next door to meet his neighbor: While he was there, he also had an opportunity to meet his neighbor’s neighbor (who happened to be a high level executive for a large corporation) whom became very interested in sandcarved product. The end result of that meeting was a lucrative contract for my customer to produce a large volume of carved product for his neighbor’s company. In addition, he obtained the contract for most of their promotional items.

Join a Club
Have you ever heard of the Optimists Club, the Shriners, the Elks, or the Moose Lodge? These are Philanthropic organizations known for their charitable deeds. The likelihood of a sandcarver in their membership is slim to none and the fact that these types of groups and clubs often want the product you produce for recognition and awards, leaves you with a very good edge. Better yet, you don’t have to join them; you just have to let them know who you are and what you do. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to walk into the front door of a large company like Coca-Cola and become their exclusive producer of sandcarved product. What you want to do is join your local Chamber of Commerce or Jr. Chamber. That is where the corporate executives will be and where they will be looking to find you. Remember, the Chambers themselves are also involved in projects that can use the products you produce.

Understanding Your Market
Let’s take a look at the obvious: sandcarving is visual. Even if it is just a simple personalization, it’s visual. Most of the time, there will be design work involving a logo, custom art, or a generic pattern such as you would find in our Stock Design Catalog. To the extent that you might control the artwork, it is important for you to understand what art is popular in your area. Is it southwest or art deco? Are you in a environmentally or industrially influenced area? If you carve what your region enjoys looking at (or likes to think about), you have a better chance of selling your product.

Making Samples
As a marketing idea or concept, the previous is a generalization. This next idea is very specific: When you want to sell into a specific company, personalize a sample for that company. Don’t take a mug carved with a Chevrolet logo to the Ford agency and expect them to see the value of giving one to every new customer. Likewise, when you personalize samples for a specific sale you don’t get, do not give your sample to the company unless you believe it will generate a future sale. Keep the sample for advertisement purposes (which then becomes a tax write off) and add it to your sample case.

Visualizationspecs.jpg (7468 bytes)
Let’s say you want to produce product for the wedding industry. You want to carve wedding invitations on display plates and carve toasting flutes, such as seen on page 29 of the CCA™ Catalog. You may also want to produce curved beveled glass with picture frames as seen on page 11 of the catalog. You may even want to introduce a totally unique product specific for your region. So the question remains, how do you get your ideas seen and sold? The answer is just as obvious as personalizing your samples; carve the pieces and get them where they will be seen by those who will want the product. Take your samples to the bridal gown shops and jewelry stores that sell a lot of wedding rings. Get them in party supply stores and tuxedo shops that cater to wedding receptions and ask the proprietor for a small display area. The response you get will vary, but likely surprise you. This is when you become a marketing negotiator: the shop may want to give you space and have you handle all sales through your catalog, sign, business card, etc., without them having to receive a percentage or involve themselves in the process. They may want you to handle all sales and they receive a small percentage, or they may want to handle all sales themselves and receive a larger percentage. Any way you approach it, you are going to make money. A good sample location will produce a good number of sales and since the suggested retail price on this product is approximately five times what you buy and produce the product for, there is plenty of room for negotiation with the proprietor. The above idea is easily expanded into the Tourist/Gift Industry. I have intentionally stayed away from the obvious ideas of marketing. Industry advertisement, targeting a certain market, or using a marketing group are all good ideas, but they can be costly. However, I do believe you need to get into your local yellow pages as soon as you can. Incidentally, do not list yourself under sandblasting. You will have the best response if you list yourself under glass engravers or something similar.

Due to the amount of questions I receive, I am going to touch lightly on the subject of Catalogs. A high quality, professional looking catalog, such as the one provided to the Crystal Carver Association™ members, is the most versatile marketing tool you can have. When you are able to provide a prospective customer with a high quality catalog to purchase from, it will place you above the competition. A quality catalog will give you the air of professionalism that you deserve as a producer of fine sandcarved product. As those of you know who have looked into having them put together for you, a good one is very expensive.

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