January 2015 Update, by Schuyler
Jason here. I asked Schuyler to write an update this time, instead of us. Here it is:
This is Schuyler, speaking for Schuyler.
Hey, everyone. It's been a long time. I wrote and rewrote this, but finally decided that there were 2 things I wanted to address. First, just the practical side of what's happening with the picks, and then a bit about what's been happening with me. Like it or not, my personal life is inexorably tied to the life of this project, hence, I'd like to offer a small update.
Right now, in my basement, I have the materials for a few more full sets of picks, and a couple dozen smaller sets. This tracks with the way I planned out the pick sheets. We primarily produce full 20 piece sets, but every sheet has some extra picks so that we'll build up 5 and 10 piece sets as we go along. During the first few rounds of production we were bouncing back and forth between having more picks or more handles, but right now we've hit a pretty good equilibrium. We have some money in the pick production account, so once this batch is out the door, we should be able to go forward with another batch in fairly short order.
As I have discussed in the now-somewhat-distant past, the spring steel picks I am producing need to be better cared for than stainless steel picks. Initially I tried to help this process by applying stainless steel handles to the spring steel picks, which has worked quite nicely, but I did decide to take things a bit further by mixing in some graphite to the tumbling process. Graphite is great for lubrication of locks, and also helps with rust prevention. Typically I've done this after the picks have been welded and deburred, just as a last polishing round. However, I decided to apply the process to the bare picks in this last round, only to find that the coating, despite being very thin, inhibits the welder from arcing through the handles and pick. So, I've had to clean, weld and re-tumble those, but not a big time suck, really, just a hiccup.
The welding itself is probably the biggest area in which production could improve. With the help from friends in the locksport community & Jason Scott, I've been reaching out to a number of welders. At this point, we have a welder who is interested & able to tackle the welding of the picks. I have been going back and forth with them via email, sending pictures, etc. Next up, they will be working with some samples of the picks and we'll figure out if they can handle the welding for us, at a price per pick that we can actually afford. I'll keep you & the board updated. I would LOVE to have that in place for the next order of picks, as welding has long been the biggest pain point in this process. Here is a picture of my current welding setup:
That jig has been through the war, probably time to make a fresh one, which isn't so bad, but the welder itself has definitely seen better days. It's been a trooper, but hopefully you can tell that I had to wire a switch into it myself, which worked! But still, it's not particularly quick, and getting consistently strong, but smooth welds has been difficult. We had a big problem at the start of the current batch where I welded for days, then started practice picking with the picks to see how they were holding up, and the welds started popping. I overcompensated with heavier welds, which of course were smooth, so those had to be ground down, then tumbled, and polished, and occasionally even sanded. You can see how a mistake in welding creates larger issues. If, for any reason, we're not able to afford professional welding, I do think it's time to improve the welding setup I have in my home, especially now that I have a dedicated area to do this work (more on that in the personal update), and in particular I want to be in a situation where more than one person could work on the welding at one time. Even if that is just having a bunch of jigs available, that could be a simple way to speed up the welding process.
Also, a quick update for the $250 backers. The collection of writing, notes, etc. is just about complete. You will be receiving a digital copy of it, first, with physical copies to follow.
There have been some rough times. There have been some awesome times. Since getting out of the hospital, I have had one more very significant down phase that got out of control. That said, I have been stable and healthy for a while. I moved from Vermont back down to Massachusetts, married my amazing wife, Amy, and have been doing contract design work, and some exciting research. Now that I'm both mentally stable, and geographically stable, I am back in the job market, as contract work has been good, but Amy & I are both looking for the added stability a traditional recurring paycheck will bring. I also have dedicated workshop space in our basement where I have my tumbler, welding equipment, grinders, etc. all situated.
I am medicated full time, now, and will be seeing a new doctor in my new area in a couple weeks to transition back into therapy as well. The upheaval of the last few years seems to finally be at an end, and with it, I would like to see this project find a positive resolution as well. Many people have told me to throw in the towel and focus on my own well being. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that, but, frankly, I am doing both. We have continued to ship picks, and we have fulfilled lock libraries.
There have also been long delays, and the board has had to stay on me. When I am silent, when there are delays, know that I am not sacrificing my health for this project, but just the opposite. Today, though, I genuinely believe I can finally have the best of both. I am healthy, happy and excited to be communicating with all of you directly for the first time in so long. Jason & I shipped a few pick sets just this week, and I plan to keep turning out more. Every set that goes out the door feels amazing.
Thank you, all, for supporting my work the first time around, and even more so to those of you who are sticking it out, and continue to support me even now. I'll likely never be able to express how much it means to me.