Sequels…we love ‘em. We can’t wait for the next Marvel movie to come out (or DC Comics movie, depending on your loyalty). Whether it’s The Matrix, Spider-Man or Sing, we flock to the theatres to watch them.
Here at R & R Woodcrafts, we have our own sequel story. After the successful delivery of over 1000 personalized Cherry hardwood coin racks to the USAFA Class of 2019, we wrote a blog about it. (“We’ve Got Spirit…Do You?”).
Matt, a Spirit Mission 2022 committee member read it and was so impressed, he wanted to do the same thing for his daughter’s class. He contacted us in May of 2019 to get the ball rolling early.
Matt also oversaw special donors to the Class of 2022 Spirit Mission called the “Co-Pilots.” He had us make coin racks for these special people. The coin racks were smaller than our regular ones, but only had one slot for coins. We also laser-engraved a donor’s name on each piece, and a graphic of the chapel. We had taken a photo of the historic architecture when we had delivered the 2019 coin racks and turned it into a high-resolution graphic, thanks to Rich’s expertise.
The group loved the gifts, and Matt worked to get a contract for 100’s Night 2022. In Fall of 2019, they offered us a contract for 1050 coin racks. We accepted the mission!
Covid was an interesting plot change from Spirit Mission 1, offering us varied challenges.
Supply issues slowed us down. The price of wood skyrocketed. Our family got Covid. We rested a few days and then got back to work! Having a home business meant we could quarantine and keep working! Thank goodness we all are in good health, so our symptoms were very mild. Rich’s 84-year-old mom also had COVID, and Rich caught her outside. “Mimi, what are you doing outside?! You should be in bed.” She replied, “I have to put the chickens away!”
Another change from last time was our work force. All of our children flew the nest! Thankfully, they come back to visit and were still able to assist us.
Heather helped again with sanding and packing. Kaity was an amazing jack-of-all trades, sanding, staining, stamping the backs, packing and teaching a new group of part-time help to sand. She also took care of farm chores at times so I could devote all my time to lasering. Since our kids have flown the coop, I have taken over the care and feeding of our farm animals. Chris worked the joiner machine and did some cutting and sanding. Mimi again made amazing meals for us.
New this time was that I learned some new skills in the woodshop. Last time I helped a little with finish sanding and I did most of the staining. I didn’t sand this time but did stain.
I was excited to learn how to use some of the shop equipment!
First, I got to stamp our logo on the back of each coin rack. I had used the branding iron before, but it had been a while. I centered the wooden piece upside down under the heated iron. Next I pulled the iron firmly onto the wood, holding it there for a few seconds. Then I pulled it down even harder and left it another few seconds. I could see and smell the cherry wood burning, then lifted the iron.
I stacked the coin racks in domino fashion, being careful to let the branded spot cool down.
Once they were cool, I stacked them so that they slanted upwards, three rows on top of each other. I felt like I was playing Jenga!
Secondly, I used the joiner. Rich showed me what to do. I turned the dust collection unit on with a remote, and then pushed the button for the joiner, and it loudly growled to life. I took a coin rack that Rich had glued (he glued a small rectangular strip onto a larger flat piece), setting it flat on the long metal table. I could see a circular blade spinning in the center of the table. Using a handle-shaped piece of wood, I pushed the coin rack over the spinning blade. I did this a second time. It is this process that levels the base of each coin rack.
Then I stood the coin rack on its side and ran the back of it along the spinning blade. This smoothed the spots where it had been glued together, removing excess glue to allow future sanding to be more efficient.
It made me feel good to help Rich out in this way, as he always works so hard. And I gained new confidence in working with electric machinery.
Despite mine, Rich’s and the kids’ work, we knew we were going to need more help. We sent out a request for part-time help with final sanding. Covid was making it hard to find jobs, so some local teenagers eagerly accepted the challenge. We could not have done it without your hard work, Kenny, Alexander, Landon and Ian! They even got a little farm work in, helping us catch sheep and a pig!
A note on sanding: It is this process that makes or breaks a woodworking project. Quality products should NEVER have visible planing or cross-grain sanding marks. All of the coin racks were hand-sanded at the end with 120, then 220 grit sandpaper at about 10 minutes per coin rack. Most manufacturers do not do this. This is standard practice on ALL our products.
Rich and I picked up the rental van. This time we decided we could get a little smaller vehicle, as prices were higher. This van was shorter than the first one.
As we loaded the small white boxes into the white van, it was getting fuller and fuller. It almost looked as though they were not all going to fit. Would we have to rent a trailer to pull behind?
As the girls and I kept bringing boxes for Rich to pack, and he miraculously kept finding nooks and crannies to place them in, I told them, “If anyone can figure out how to pack them all in there, it will be Dad!” And he did! There’s a reason I call him Superman (besides the fact that when he was younger and we lived in Okinawa, Kadena AB, women would stop us and want their picture taken with him, as he looked remarkably like Christopher Reeves!).
Kaity stayed and house-sat, literally keeping the home fires burning, as we heat with wood, and Rich and I were on the road again.
Some things haven’t changed…gas is 20 cents cheaper in Kansas than Colorado, and the Kansas highways are smoother! Can anyone solve this mystery?
The last time we took this trip to Colorado Springs, we thought we were in the movie “Frozen” as we encountered a snowstorm.
This time felt more like “Smoky and the Bandit” when we found ourselves in the middle of a car chase!
We were outside of Limon, Colorado on Hwy 24when Rich noticed a police car about 2 miles behind him with his lights on. He wondered what was going on, and I asked him if he was speeding. I had been working on my computer so wasn’t really paying attention.
It seemed like they were following another car that was behind us. It started weaving in and out and then when the driver turned a corner, his door opened, and a bunch of small packages were shoved out onto the road.
The police car kept following this guy. The driver passed us, and the police car kept following him!
Six more police cars passed us and other drivers. We thought,” There’s going to be a blockade up ahead.”
As we neared the small town of Matherson, we watched as the eight police cars converged on this car as it drove onto a side road and into a parking lot. Policemen were drawing guns as we decided that would be a good time to leave!
Scary! We still have not seen anything in the news. We did get some video, but it wasn’t very good, so we won’t be sending it to any news stations.
We arrived safely in the Springs and met with AOG as we are working on the next phase of the “Legacy Saber Project” (this will be in my next blog post!). Then we headed for Embassy Suites, where we were staying.
Last time we stayed in a cute Air BNB but the scene for Spirit Mission 2 was actually an historic location. When R & R first got started in the eighties, Rich’s brother Rob had taken over the business while Rich pursued his military career. Rob and his family would stay at the Embassy Suites when they delivered saber cases, and cadets would meet him there to pick up their orders.
Today was the closing scene for our sequel as we met with Gina, the P.O.C. for the Spirit Mission at Arnold Hall.
She laughed as she saw all the boxes jammed into the van. Rich unloaded the boxes onto carts as Gina pushed them into the Hall and to the meeting room. I helped her unload them and stack them onto the large conference table.
I tried to sort them into stacks by squadron around the room.
The stacks grew taller as we filled up the tabletop. Finally, we were done, and several cadets came to the rescue to help Gina sort them. Many more were coming after lunch to help.
Last time, the gifts were taken to the dorm rooms, where Firsties found them after their special 100s Night dinner.
This time, they were given to them at the dinner.
What stayed the same between Spirit Mission 1 and 2 was that we felt extremely honored to be a part of this special gift to the Firsties. Well done, Class of 2022! We are proud of you.
Other Class Spirit Missions…”Support the Arts.” We’d love to do a special project for you too.