Remember email is the best way to get in touch with us . I usually do not answer my phone when manufacturing. I am mostly a one man shop and have a full plate most every week. I answer email before I go to bed or in very early morning. But please know some weeks it may be 72hrs before I or a family member replies. We all have busy schedules with school and work.
Update 9-5-14 Recent Changes
We have now moved the shop to where I can do everything in one location. This was a big change, but a much needed one. However, I am currently behind in ALL orders. But thankfully catching up daily. If you have an order with us, please know we are working on it. Most people are on our mailing list and already know this. But a few are not, so I put it here. I'm VERY thankful for the patience most people have shown. It's VERY much so appreciated. As you can imagine, it's been stressful getting back into the swing of things after having recovered from injury and other hurdles. But we are back on track.
After the injury, I've realized because I am a (mostly) a one man shop with now only occasional help, I can no longer offer wait times or back orders on any of our products. We have too many daily variables as a family to do that anymore.There has been a greater demand for our products than I had ever imagined 4 years ago when I started RBF. So now I have to change the way things are done and how we offer them. It saves our customers and myself undue stress.
I have many different mediums that I like to work in. I spent half my childhood and all my adult life learning how to work with metal, leather, wood, and plastics.
I recently had a guest remark the same thing that many people over the years have regarding my work at RBF; "HOW do you do it ALL?" Well the plain fact of the matter is, even working extremely long hour days, I can't anymore. It's just too much for one person. I have mostly split my days up in between Blacksmith work, leather work, and machining up until this point.
Machining had involved running back and forth to the shop in town. I'm so glad it's all in one place now. It's a huge time (and gasoline) saver.
I am the primary caretaker of my 7 year old Autistic son. That's why I am self employed. We recently succeeded in potty training (!). It took almost 5 years of daily training to get that success. I mention this because most people do not understand there are no "typical" days raising a developmentally challenged child. *My* days often consist of starting and stopping work all hours of the day and night to meet his needs. Not the way I prefer to work, but that's the limitation.
My daughter recently graduated High School (with honors!). Now it's college and working 12hr shifts and mandatory overtime at her new job. I took for granted the extra help in caring for my son and in the shop. It is simply not available anymore, so again it contributes to restructuring how we do business.
My wife has now taken over 99% of the communications at RBF. As anyone can imagine, it's hard for me to have a full work day fabricating if I spend 10-20 minutes responding each phone call or email. We have many customers, so if say 10-40 people contact me a day I lose several hours a day making products. My wife is a manager at her primary job with long hour work week, so again there may be some delay in responding to emails, texts, or calls. We don't ignore anyone, but as far as texts and calls go, it may be 3am before we have a moment to make contact. That's why email at email@example.com is the best way for us to communicate.
Even though we are an online business, we as individuals do not spend much time online. Just not much extra time in the day to do so.
Our family have discussed what the options were regarding the future of RBF.
The only (real) option regarding our products is to no longer take back orders and only offer what we have made ready to ship. That way if I get sick, injured, child issues, or "life happens" no one is made to wait.
So if you see it in the shopping cart marked; "Out of stock!", then it may not be purchased until marked "In stock!". The limit of our current shopping cart software does not allow me to put in stock quantities or show these automatically. So as we receive orders, I will manually mark them in or out. I'm hopefully upgrading software by Christmas sales season. It's one more thing on the great big "To Do List".
So here is the BIG announcement. Because I can no longer do it all, I had to weigh what I can realistically do given my circumstances. I've decided that I am primarily going to do machining, with occasionally doing limited forge work, and some leather. As well as random art pieces when the mood hits.
What this means is that the majority of our products will be shifting to more modern offerings like our recent popular Bushcraft knife. I will still occasionally offer the other forged and leather items, but not in great quantities. It's actually very hard hard to grind a straight line after pounding steel all day or cramped fingers from sewing leather. Machining is something I can start and stop during the day, and the least amount of wear and tear on my hands and body.
So look for our NEW products in mid October and please make sure you check the title to see if it's "Out of Stock" or "In Stock". If you see something out of stock that you are interested in, please do send us an email and we will add it to the work order and let you know when we have it back in stock so that you may purchase.
We think in the long term that this is the best and only way to go.
Again thank you for your business and your patience as we make these changes.
I sincerely thank all of you for
your business and your patience in 2013 & 2014.
Thank you VERY much for supporting our family with your purchases. You keep the lights on and allow us to improve and grow our craft to the best of our ability.
This month (December) we had record sales that had nothing to do with typical
Christmas purchases, but because of a video that was posted about one of
our products. We are all working very
hard to meet all the orders in a timely manner. It will likely be the
last week January before we fill the last one. We have been in business 3
years and never had as many orders in one month as we did in a 4 day
period. And right before Christmas!
As a small business owner I
learned many things. I learned our shopping cart is inadequate for out
of country orders and that manually updating the cart doesn't work when
dealing with a huge influx of orders with limited quantities. I'm
correcting that next year. Please have patience with us until we do.
We make 95% of all our products. I by myself make 90% of them. The
girls have their full time jobs, but always help when asked. I could not
ask for a more talented or supportive family. I'm hiring on someone
full time for the coming year to help me. Training of course will take
time. Please be patient with us as we go through our growing pains.
We have many new products that are being offered next year. Most of
which will now not be available until March. The items offered will
mostly be Bushcraft oriented using modern materials and different from
what you usually see from us. I've added these from the many requests I
have received. We will also of course have the same historical oriented
trekking gear that you are used to seeing from RBF with some new
additions as well.
Pricing will go up in January 2014. There is no way
to avoid it. I have to pay someone to help do what I normally do alone
working 10-15hr days. Also, we bought materials and tooling over the
last few days and most of of raw materials have gone up, or been
discontinued and we had to buy more expensive alternatives to have the
same look and feel that people expect from an RBF product. The most a
product will go up, is $50 on our more involved packages. Others will go
up a few dollars or so. We still feel even with the increase that the
over all value is still a "bargain".
We sell complete well
made packages for what some craftsman sell just one well made item.
That's because I sincerely believe that all our products should be of
both above average quality and a value that the common man can afford. I
like to see our products in the hands of people who will use and
appreciate them in their personal adventures. And hopefully be passed
down to their kids and Grand kids with the same sense of pride that went
into making them.
I've said this before, but it's worth
repeating. I would never get on to Facebook, or have time to take pics
if it were not for my HTC phone. And I do not have it on me most of the
time when fabricating. I have broken enough phones, that I just don't
keep one handy all the time anymore. That said next year someone will be
answering phone calls, emails, and texts starting in mid January. Our
communication times will be greatly improved. As it stands right now, it
sometimes takes me 3 days (or more) to go through voice mails, emails,
FB messages, texts, etc to answer everyone. Please have patience with
me. I do always get back to people. I spend most of my day making stuff
or with my with my special needs son when he is home.
the commercial building where I do the machining part of my work has a
new Landlord. I was politely asked to move my shop to another area that
honestly is much better suited for our work. I have until the 31st to
move my shop to the other location. We are in the middle of a production
run for another company and set up to make that product. So all the
machines etc have to be carefully moved and reset up as we are producing
a product in stages. This will take a few days and with everything else
we have going on, I will be out of pocket until the 2nd of January. So
again, please be patient with me.
EVERYONE of my customers and
friends are very important to me. We can not express how much our
family has appreciated your support in growing our business and
bettering our crafts. We can only simply say THANK YOU!
Happy New Year & God Bless,
Regarding Custom Work
Dear Friends and Customers ,
We had a long discussion over what has worked best for *me* in this business and what has not. I had to make some really tough decisions.
First some background of what effects my work day. I have a neurological and central nervous system condition, that although is better, still has huge limitations that is way too lengthy to go into. I have friends and even family after 4 years that still don't understand what I live with day after day.
Some days I have neuropathies that I lose feeling in my hands and other issues that do not allow for a normal day of work. Most days I'm fine.
I also have an autistic son. Some days he is very needy for Dad and Dad only. I'll leave it at that. Parents with autistic children understand this and most other folks don't. We have come to realize this and accept it.
Stress is just one of many things that dramatically makes my personal condition worse in a very physical way.
The source of stress most common in my business last couple years are custom and bulk wholesale orders. Custom orders last couple of years have almost never been profitable for me. Challenging and fun , yes. Profitable, almost never. Wholesale orders for forged products when hand forging makes no sense anymore. All I did was wear out my body for half my income.
The market has dramatically changed too. Many people today want instant gratification. In my earlier years, this was less of an issue. Unfortunately now it is. I find I'm much more inclined to get something out right, instead of right now. The customers who understood this were a privilege to work for and were well pleased with their end product. Certainly sometime both (right vs right now) can be done in a reasonable period of time and sometimes it can not. Being a small business owner with limited resources, I choose not to have to potentially pay out of my pocket to make sure you get my best effort. I've done it many times over, and I'm just not willing to do it anymore. After many years in this industry, I finally know what my comfort zone is and what my personal limitations are.
I also find custom work kills my available cash flow. To do custom work I need to have misc. materials on hand for the job that might come next. With production work I have on hand exactly what I need. Less money gets tied up. Cash flow as anyone knows in business means life or death of a company. Made no sense to bottleneck cash flow in a non fruitful area. Allows for more actual work time also, because I'm not having to update the customer on their custom project. I don't mind doing this for companies we do production work for because it's a lot of product for one customer. But communicating with a multitude of people only cuts down on my fabrication time.
Time too is an issue. I do production and prototyping work so I have something to compare to. I can make 5-10 products in the same time it takes to do one custom project. The main issue is one or the other gets in the way of another getting out in a reasonable period of time. This had been a problem and thankfully one I no longer have to deal with after all custom orders have been caught up.
So after much discussion and personal thought on the subject I've decided it's a service I can no longer provide well, so I'm no able to offer it at all.
We have had really great success this year retailing and wholesaling our RBF products. And that is where my focus will be from here on out.
It's a hard decision to make, because I've done custom work my whole adult life and I enjoy the challenge. But it's the best one for both my customers and myself in the long run.
We really appreciate the support we have had and I am proud of the work I have done in 2013. More so than other years, because I finally feel like I'm where comfortable about what works for me.
I think in the long run it's a win/win decision to only offer ready made products and/or ones we make on a consistent basis for both the customer and myself. It allows me more time to do historical research and R&D to hopefully make a better mousetrap than the one we made yesterday.
After the last custom work is done before the end of the year, you will finally start seeing many new products on our webpage and at shows that have been on the back burner all year because of those commitments. I'm excited to finally be able to offer these new products to our customers.
Thanks for supporting our family, helping us grow and improve our craft.
~Dave of Red Barn Forge