DNA Metalworks

Elementary School Christmas craft sale...would you do it?

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Hello all,

I am reletively new to the craft (less than a year) and have the opportunity to attend an elementary school Christmas craft sale.  The school is trying something different this year.  Instead of having the same old dollar store items for the kids to purchase as christmas gifts, they are inviting local craft vendors in to sell their wares.  The stipulation is that all items must be $10 or less.  The customers will be preschool - 5th grade (5 to 11 years old).  They will be shopping for their family and friends.  At first I thought it would be a good idea to do it, but now I am having second thoughts.  What kind of items would you consider for this event?  I am ok with not making a profit since it is for the kids, but hate to completely go into the hole!  I was thinking about heart, leaf, and cross pendants and key chains, small Christmas ornaments, and bottle openers, and any other ideas.  Several pros and cons that I can think of;  Help out the kids with a decent gift (we've all gotten the normal junk from our kids!); get my foot in the door for the actual craft fair that the school has (there is a lengthy waiting list); Mom and Dad may be so impressed that they commision something from me (wishful thinking!).  The cons are the cost vs selling price; will elementary school kids even consider products like this; how much inventory would I need in the event that they do consider something like this (a couple of hundred kids will be shopping).  As far as I can tell, I would have the only hand forged items at the event.  I look forward to any advice that this group has to offer, the good and bad. Thanks in advance.

Don

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I think you covered all of the pros and cons, now all you have to do is decide if the pros outweigh the cons for you. Two items that would influence my decision: 1) it's for the children, 2) it's good advertisement, don't forget to attach your card to the items.

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Besides Blacksmithing I am a hardcore baker, over 1,000 loaves of bread last school year.

It all started when I dropped off a few loaves of bread for a bake sale for an injured teacher. Before I knew it I was baking bread for half the school. My money from baking helps fund my blacksmithing. I did not expect to have so many people interested in the bread I was making, but my name got out there and it spread. I am now also baking for the school my wife works for. I see this as the same type of opportunity for you. It helps the students, and is good advertising for your blacksmithing. It could spread like wildfire. 

If you do it for the altruistic reason, then whatever comes of it will be profitable even if you just break even. 

Have a good one,

W

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First of all, welcome to IFI! If you haven't yet, please READ THIS FIRST!!!

That said, making lots and lots of leaf keychains and simple bottle openers will improve your hammer skills immensely. That will have a much greater payoff in the long run, even if you don't make a lot of money this time around.

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Welcome aboard Don, glad to have you. If you'll put your general location in the header you'll discover how many of the gang live within visiting distance. 

I think you've covered the pros and cons pretty darned well, good job! I think you're over valuing "costs" unless you have an expensive fuel situation say air freighting propane or coal to a remote location. That's not uncommon for some of our Alaskan smiths. 

Anyway, the steel costs is insignificant for pocket items like key/zipper fobs and bottle opener size products. A nice leaf key fob will take maybe 1" of 3/8" square HR making what 240 ea. from a $15 stick from a steel supplier? I never charge for materials on pocket products. People are actually paying for my time, the large increment is for experience rather than labor on any particular item. I used to be able to crank out nice leaf finial coat hooks start to finish in under 6 minutes while maintaining a patter with the audience. Faster at home without distractions. 

That said, I'm not comparing you and I here, once you have some experience, a little practice with a given product will let you crank them out fast enough labor costs will be negligible. Make sense?

The only product you mention I'd have to think about are bottle openers but I haven't made enough to know how much time they absorb but I'm way out of practice on the anvil. However, the cool thing about bottle openers is how much freedom to get creative they offer.

Just leave the thin sections for last to minimize the risk of burning them off.

Frosty The Lucky.

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City/Suburbia/country?  That might affect what to make along with whether this school is sitting in Redmond WA a mile from the Microsoft campus vs a place that isn't littered with kids carrying thousand dollar cell phones.

Been pondering this because it is an interesting quest.  Horse, leaf, and dragon (simplified) keychains would probably sell.  Horseshoe hearts--though the material to start with costs a little more.  Any way to put (cold stamp?) initials on simple twist keychains on site?  Kids might go for that custom touch.

If you have a welder, there was a snowman welded up from nuts posted last year (iirc) on this site that would be a really good one to make up.

Some sort of horseshoe based stocking holder?

The problem is, I am getting old. All the things I can think of were uncommon  treasures 40 years ago but with the advent of dollar store level chinese goods, people can get more junk than they ever need.  There are few "treasures" these days.  In 1975 I made "icicle" tree ornaments by taking a piece of flat cut tapered acrylic, heating, and twisting.  Sold almost 100 at the Jr. High Christmas bazaar.  Now such things are pennies each from the big box store.

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Tree ornaments, coat hooks, stocking hooks for the fireplace, candle holders, etc .

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Flattened double headed nail "swords" to sell for 50 cents or a dollar or to give away.  If you take the time to drill a hole and put a jump ring on them they can be pendants. Give the "blade" a slight bend and they can be pirate cutlasses or cavalry sabers.  Also, some simple hair ornaments can be done reasonably in steel or bronze (brazing rods) for the under $10 limitation.

Let us know how things go.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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First of all, I would like to thank everyone for the comments.  You folks gave me a lot to think about.  I'll try to hit all of the suggestions left for me;

Sorry for not having my location in the post, I overlooked it.  I am from southern Ohio, just outside of Athens.  The school district is pretty rural, not a lot of disposable income.  

Les L,  for the kids is definatley on the top of my list.  Attaching the card to the item is a great idea.

Steven NY, that is awesome to hear about your bread business.  That is what I was hoping could happen from this event (doubltful that it would be on your scale though!).

JHCC, I couldn't agree with you more about the practice.  The good thing is that this would be practice with a purpose.

Frosty, you bring up great points about the insignificance of the material expense.  I am overthinkinig cost, especially given the fact that most all of my material is drops from steel suppliers that I can get on the cheap.  Propane is my biggest expense, but that has a lot to do with my son (11 years old) as my forging partner ( he is the "A" in DNA metalworks, kind of a play on our initials (Aiden) and that he is my son).  He tends to heat, beat, and repeat way more than neccessary!  But the experience far outweighs the cost.  I'm not as fast as you are with cranking out products, but I am getting quicker.  And as JHCC said, this would be great practice.

Kozzy, I like your horseshoe project ideas.  I will check into the cost.  I will check into personalizing on site,   I'm sure that would be a great selling point.  The welded projects are on my radar also.  My son is the welder of the team, he is actually a better welder than I am.  He just made a cat face out of washers, nuts, and nails for his little girlyfriends birthday.  I will post a picture when I get a chance.  It really came out good.

Glenn, thanks for the ideas.  Stocking hooks... at a christmas sale, why didn't I think of that?  That's why it is good to ask for advice, I get stuck in the same products and don't see the obvious ones in front of me.  Thanks again.

George N M, I would love to do the nail swords (especially since I feel like I have 100's of them sitting around.  That was one of my son's first project for hammer control), but I don't think the school would let me.  A few years back, he drew a picture of a hunter, and they made him cut the gun off of the picture.  I am going to check though.  I have the hair decorations on my list too, thank you.

Sorry for being long winded, just wanted to show my appreciation to the responders.  I guess looking at everything, the biggest con that I didn't list is fear of failing.  That one should be on the top, but is hard to admit.  I've have not done any craft shows yet, let alone for kids.  I think my stuff looks good and everyone else that sees it thinks it is good.  I will be submitting some of my work to the organizers for approval, so I guess they will tell me for sure whether it is good or not.  I probably just need to suck it up and try to do it, stop overthinking everything.  Thanks again for all of the advice.

Don

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You are more than welcome. Best of luck, and keep us posted. Photos are good!

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I think the kids may like hand forged goods. My 6 year old nephew loves to look at my work and asks lots of questions about how I made things. I made him a horseshoe heart hook that he hangs his back pack on and he seems real proud of it. 

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May want to consider a couple of drawer pulls (horizontal), or handles for things or doors (vertical), for Dad's garage.  

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Yeah that's a good idea Glenn. I also think the keychains would do well. My kids used to make or buy me keychains when they were little. I still have all of them. Quick and easy to make with a simple design as well

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Small, fast, and cheap? I like icicle Christmas tree ornaments. Light square stock, put a point on both ends, twist, close one end into a pigtail or a loop.  You want them to be fairly light, so the stock should be fairly small. 

If you wanted to save time, I suppose you could twist a long piece, then cut, and put your points on after, but I've usually done them one at a time. The finish takes longer than the forging.  Look good brass brushed too.  Also, make sure the loop is centered so the icicles don't lean.

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Kids watch TV, and I am sure many have heard about Forged in Fire so items made by a blacksmith would be of interest to them.

I don't know about key fobs, I have a bunch of them just sitting around with no keys on them. With a lot of cars having fobs for the doors today that can also be an issue of a metal item rubbing up against a plastic one. Now if the fob was a bottle opener........ I have seen the simple hook style bottle opener fobs go quick at trade shows when out on the tables for advertising.   Keep them small and light.

Hair barrettes for sisters and moms, same for keeping them lightweight. I have long thin hair myself (.002" in diameter), and my ponytail is very small in diameter when I pull it back for work. It is maybe 5/8" in diameter, and a friend's is like 1"+,  so they would be able to fit a range of hair weights. These can be done cold for the most part with some heating for tapering, or flaring the ends.

Belt buckles, kept simple design wise they could be done quickly. I saw pictures of a buckle making jig that worked in a vise. The rod was bent into a U, and put through the holes in the spit plate base forming the belt loop. The rods were then twisted and forged on top of the plate using a torch. When done, the vise was opened and the loop was released. Soft iron wire used to bundle rebar, brass, copper would work easily.

Jewelry trees for hanging necklaces

Spoon rests for in the kitchen

simple candle holders

Simple flowers like Daisies

Hoof picks if you are in a horse area

Bottle openers

Metal puzzles, the kind that they are intertwined pieces,and you have to figure out how to disassemble them

 

 

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Bracelets and pendant necklaces can be knocked out pretty quickly.

Garden items like Shepherd's hooks for hanging bird feeders.

Dinner triangles could be jigged up.

Mason jar handles to make them into drinking mugs.

Fishing rod holders

Mason jar lanterns , candle dropped in on a holder.

Flint and steel strikers, if you have some good flint available.

 

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Sorry for the lack of response to all of the great comments, life has been pretty busy lately.  I appreciate all of the comments and the ideas.  I just had a curve ball thrown at me (and the rest of the crafters I would assume) today when they sent out the registration forms.  The craft fair for the children is from 8am - 3pm, they then decided to extend it and make it open to the public from 3pm - 7pm.  I questioned whether the $10 limit ended when it opened to the public, it does not.  I am more than willing to help out the kids by lowering the prices so that they can give good gifts, I'm not so sure about doing it for the public.  They also said that the sellers should plan for 800 kids to be attending the craft fair during the student portion, and I can't imagine how many adults would come out for the public portion knowing that there is a $10 limit on all gifts.  I have no idea what kind of inventory would be needed for this event, I can't even make an educated guess.  I think I am going to pass on this event and see how it goes for the other vendors, then I can make my decision for next year if they do it the same way.  Thanks again for all of the comments, I hope I did not waste anyone's time.  On the plus side, I did get a lot of great ideas and information for future events.  Thank you to everyone who helped.  I will update if anything changes.

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Never a waste of time when you can brainstorm and list items to help others in the future. 226 people have viewed this thread in just 7 days already.

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Another way to "budget" for such a sale is to keep little projects around to work on when a major project is heating/cooling/etc. I like to have at least two projects in the forge; an important one and a less important one.  However over a year the pile of "trinkets" builds up for the sale and you don't feel like you have just done production work for a week to get ready.

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I am 16 and have been hammering for a little bit more than 3 years. The more you make, the better you will get. You may or may not make money but you will certainly be learning. If you make a few buck to buy a tool or metal then great. If you don't make money just consider your small loss to be tuition. There are very few hobbies that you stand a chance at making anything back - but smithing is one of them.

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To add to Thomas' comment:  Sometimes making one or two small things is a good physical and mental warm up when you start the forge.  It helps me get into the smithing mindset, particularly if I have been otherwise engaged for awhile. 

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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