Signing Off…In a Manner of Speaking

SIGNINGWORK1Last Christmas I asked my wife for a branding iron. You’ve probably seen them before in woodworking catalogs. I decided that if I had one, I’d be more inclined to sign my projects. It’s not that I’ve never signed my stuff before. I usually put my initials and a date on the bottoms of turnings. Somehow they seem more like signature pieces than, say, a table or cabinet. But, most of my larger woodworking projects have left the shop without any initials whatsoever.

Truth be told, I’m not really a “grandstanding” sort of guy. I wasn’t that kid in school with his hand up first, and I didn’t cut in front of the lunch line. Even now, I’m still pretty content to take my turn when it comes. Signing woodworking projects has seemed a bit, well, forward of me. So, that branding iron has sat in my tool chest unused for most of this past year.

But, Scott Phillips, host of the “American Woodshop,” has given me a change of heart about that. Not too long ago I was watching an episode of his where he made a very matter-of-fact suggestion at the end of the show: “Be sure to sign your work so everyone will know it came from your shop.”

Hmm. That advice gave me pause.  After stewing over it for a while, it actually makes a lot of sense for at least four reasons:

1) In our mass-produced, volume-driven culture, a signature proves that what you’ve built is actually hand-made—flaws and all. It’s unique. There aren’t many products these days that show the hand of the maker. Ours do.

2) A signature can declare that you’re proud of what you built. If you’ve cut corners on your project or given some aspect of it short shrift, that signature won’t feel so good in the end. On the other hand, leaving your mark on a well-made piece actually feels great. You deserve to take pride in it, even if you’re the only one who knows the signature is there.

SIGNINGWORK23) Parlaying on #2, a signature can help draw customers to you. If you’re trying to hang a shingle out as a woodworker, it can be your calling card.

4) Finally, when the day comes that we’re all pushing up daisies, a signature will continue to grace our projects for as long as they last. All the more reason to take your time, obsess over the details and do a good job on everything you make.

So, thanks for nudge, Scott. I’ve got that branding iron hot these days and signing off on what I build. You know what? It feels pretty darn good.

I encourage you all to do the same.

Catch you in the shop,

Chris Marshall, Field Editor

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About Chris Marshall

Chris Marshall has been writing for Woodworker's Journal as a contributing editor and field editor since 2001. Prior to that, he spent five years developing home improvement and woodworking books. He's written five of them and has served as a contributing writer on many more. A wood and tool junkie since childhood, Chris thoroughly enjoys building projects and reviewing woodworking tools for the Journal. When he's not assembling new machinery, sawing parts, taking photos or crunching text for an upcoming story, he enjoys spending time with his family and a houseful of pets at their home in rural Ohio.

2 thoughts on “Signing Off…In a Manner of Speaking

  1. Been using a branding iron for years. Just dawned on me, that I havn’t been putting at least the year, if not the month on my projects. Even I have forgotten when I made a certain item.

  2. I recieved a branding iron from a friend as a gift froma friend who is genuienly impressed by the patience, planning and modest skills shown on some of the projects I’ve made. For a while he often asked if i’d used it yet. Like the author i was not really pushing to grandstand over it. However when I used it the first time-mostly to be able to tell him I’d used it- it made me feel pretty proud and i wanted to track down a number of items i’d never signed.

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