Wal-Mart – What Makes Them America’s Number One Company?

America, land of “free-enterprise” has millions of companies in its market. The metropolitan statistical area of Houston, Texas in fact has over 600,000 businesses, most employing from 2 to 10 employees. As companies grow in the number of people they employ, fewer and fewer companies surround them. Most companies never grow beyond the smallest group size for many reasons. Some companies grow to become the target of the competition or the “model” on which the smarter more savvy managers base their practices to achieve “best of class” status in their industry or market. Wal*Mart has certainly earned its position at the pinnacle of American business and global retail dominance.

Founded by a retailer named Sam Walton with his brother in 1962, Wal*Mart has become that company to watch and emulate in the twenty first century. Walton, a “Ben Franklin” franchisee between 1945 and 1962 collaborated with his brother Bud Walton to found the first Wal*Mart in 1962 in rural Arkansas. Their strategy was simple. They opened discount-merchandising stores in rural America where big business and big retailers typically ignored “fly over” territory. The strategy of mass buying power and passing on the savings to customers took flight as the company grew steadily into the seventies and eighties.

As Walton situated stores in small towns with populations between 5,000 and 25,000 he implemented his plan “To put good-sized stores into little one-horse towns which everybody else was ignoring.” He thought that if they offered, “Prices as good or better than stores in cities that were four hours away by car…people would shop at home.” David Glass, CEO, explained, “We are always pushing from the inside out. We never jump and then back fill.”

Walton successfully instilled a small town friendly caring atmosphere in America’s number one company by indoctrinating “associates” in the idea that Wal*Mart “Has its own way of doing things.” He habitually shopped the competitors like K-Mart and Target. He would count the number of vehicles in their parking lots and “measure their shelf space.”

Sam Walton believed the number one key to the company’s success lay in the way the company treated their “associates.” He felt that if he wanted his associates to care for the customers then the associates must know that the company was taking care of them. Do to his foresight in people management the company many associates became wealthy as the stock price continued to climb the value turned everyday individuals in to wealthy people. Walton discouraged such shows of wealth claiming that such behavior did not promote the company’s reason for existence, to take care of the customer.

Walton described his management style as “Management by walking around.” Walton said about managing people that, “You’ve got to give folks responsibility, you’ve got to trust them, and you’ve got to check up on them.” This philosophy required sharing information and the numbers. The target was to empower associates, maintain technological superiority, and build loyalty within associates, customers and suppliers.

Free flow of information to associates gave associates a true and actual sense of ownership of the organization and allowed them to exercise authority to continually improve their processes especially their main institutional profit driver, supply chain management and process improvement. One of their key tools to managing an element of their chain, inventory, is called “traiting.”

Traiting in the Wal*Mart sense is described by Bradley and Ghemawat in their article as “A process which indexed product movements in the store to over a thousand store and market traits. The local store manager, using inventory and sales data, chose which products to display based on customer preferences, and allocated shelf space for a product category according to the demand at his or her store. Pairing inventory to exact store market demand eliminated or at least mitigated the need for advertised sales or “fire sales” allowing the company to brand it as the customers’ preferred venue for “everyday-low-prices.” Walton and later Glass insisted on lower than market average expenditures for advertising complimented with a “satisfaction guaranteed” policy to instill customer-buying loyalty.

Cost containment caused customer loyalty. In store operations, Wal*Mart, in 1993 incurred rental space of an average of 30 basis points lower than competitors. Its new store erection costs were substantially lower than competitors K-Mart and Target. Wal*Mart dedicated 15% less inventory space than the industry average thus allowing for more dedicated square footage for sales inventory. Square footage sales ranked around $300 per foot compared to $209 and $147 for Target and K-Mart respectively. Stores tended to stay open more flexibly than competitors, which also contributed to higher per square footage sales numbers.

The company organized each store into 36 departments and a department manager as a store within a store ran each department. The company had outpaced K-Mart by installing uniform product codes (UPC) electronic scanning equipment in 1988. Labor expense for individually labeling inventory was eliminated by installing shelf tags instead. The company spent $700 million dollars to connect the stores with headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas via satellite. Collecting and sharing such sales and inventory information allowed managers to pinpoint slow moving inventory and manage the supply chain by reducing purchased avoiding pileups and deep discounting.

The company manages the distribution chain. They instituted “cross-docking” to reduce and minimize inventory sitting in a warehouse. When an in-bound truck arrives at the warehouse, an out-bound truck is parked right next to it or close and shipments are offloaded from the inbound truck and moved directly to the out-bound truck thereby eliminating the need to sit in inventory. This method of moving it out as it arrived contributed to Wal*Mart’s almost one percentage point of sales less cost than the competition for like costs.

Wal*Mart treated its distribution chain as a profit center as well by strategically locating a warehouse or distribution point geographically where it could serve 150 stores and each truck leaving the warehouse can serve or deliver on the same route to four neighboring stores. Distribution gave store managers various delivery options as well as nighttime deliveries.

Wal*Mart manages its vendor relationships in a well-known “no-nonsense” manner. Unlike other retailers especially department stores, Wal*Mart buyers are not greeted and seated in a buyers’ office. Sam would not have preferred that haughty presentation and image. They are simply placed in a bare room with table and chairs. The company was sued administratively in 1992 when manufacturers’ representatives initiated unsuccessfully proceedings with the Federal Trade Commission. The company has not permitted a single vendor to account for greater than 3% of purchases further enhancing the leverage it exercises over companies.

Wal*Mart is a pioneer in information sharing and partnering with vendors. In its relationship with companies like GE and Proctor and Gamble, they interlinked computers to show real-time sales and inventory product specific data so that such firms could manage their own supply chain delivery. “They expanded their electronic data interchange to include forecasting, planning, and shipping applications.”

In 1992, Fortune magazine listed Wal*Mart as “one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.” David Glass, CEO, claims “There are no superstars at Wal*Mart” which could embellish the team environment. He said, “We’re a company of ordinary people overachieving.” The largest company in the United States is non-union. Associates are trusted and treated like owners and information is shared and entrusted to them. Vendors comment on the loyalty and dedication of their associates.

Associates are encouraged and rewarded for bright ideas, which in many other companies would go, unrecognized or stolen by owners or managers whom would steal credit. Stealing such credit and voiding the proper party to the credit only works to beat down associates and instill a feeling of worthlessness. Wal*Mart does just the opposite. Everyone is rewarded for profitability through contributions to the associates profit sharing account. In 1993 Sam instituted his “Yes we can Sam” program for ideas and then a “Shrink incentive plan” to reduce theft and inventory loss. The program allowed Wal*Mart to remain at least 3 tenths of a percent lower than the industry average in slippage.

Sam and David were smart enough to realize that they could not be in hundreds of stores all the time if at all so they decided to properly compensate each of the store managers who can earn in excess of a hundred thousand dollars annually. The company offers incentive pay on top for reaching and exceeding profitability and forecasting targets. The company offered health benefits to employee who work more than 28 hours weekly and also gives productivity and profitability bonuses to such hourly workers.

Tight fisted management names Sam Walton’s successors, David Glass and company. He instituted weekly Friday morning meetings where they shout and yell about individual items sold but before the meeting is adjourned, issues are resolved. Glass promotes the idea that “There is no hierarchy at Wal*Mart and that everyone’s ideas count and that no accomplishment is too small.”

The company began diversifying its store mixes in the early eighties by acquisition of other chains and opening Sam’s Clubs. The idea included offering only a limited number of stock-keeping units (SKUs). They financed inventory through accounts payable and generated net income principally by charging “members” for the annual privilege of entering and shopping at the “Club.”

Inventory costs at Sam’s Clubs was further reduced since only 30% of inventory was ever shipped from a Wal*Mart warehouse. 70% was sent directly from vendor. Since inventory was turned so frequently during the year, Sam’s Clubs really never paid for inventory until it was sold or even after.

Now, Glass has been quoted as telling managers “That if they didn’t think internationally, they were working for the wrong company,” Discount Store News, (June 1994). Furthermore, Glass mentioned to Business Week in 1992 that “You can’t replace Sam Walton, but he has prepared the company to run well whether he’s here or not.”

Essentially, Wal*Mart was founded by a man who was smart enough to realize that since he could not be everywhere to serve customers that he need to create and maintain an atmosphere where the people who worked for him wanted to make money and serve customers. As he grew the company he and his management staff continually assessed the supply chain and thought of and enacted pioneering ways many times considered unorthodox that created better and better customer value and lowered the cost of giving the customer what he wanted which was the purpose of the company to begin with not to mention why the company got paid. By encouraging idea cultivation from the grass roots of the organization, Wal*Mart has become the premier retailer at the bottom of the price pole.

This author recommends that Wal*Mart management look to diversify within the store by adding more of what it already does well, maximizing the life experience on the cheap within the store. Other ancillary services could be added to any unprofitable square footage like barber shop, dentists, etc…

Coaching Tools 101 – Which Coaching Tools to Use in Your Welcome Pack and Why!

Once a client has committed to coaching, they often have nothing to show for their courageous self-investment. This is one of the many challenges of the helping professions – that much of the work we do is 'intangible' or hard to quantify.

So, when you send professional-looking evaluations and coaching tools to your client, it's a great way of demonstrating what a wise investment your client has made. And even better, it gives them something tangible to see and hold onto, while making you appear professional and organized.

Now, you can always simply send them a Welcome email with your evaluations and coaching tools as attachments. But I thoroughly recommend sending your clients a Welcome Pack or binder in the (snail) mail which includes some printed out assessments or coaching tools. Get creative. A colorful folder with a hand-signed welcome letter, your branded materials and a small, fun welcome gift – pens, post-its or a notebook is ideal. It's an excellent way to surprise and delight your client, after all, who does not like to receive gifts in the mail?

Sending some kind of specific welcome ensures you have something to discuss and work on with your clients in the early sessions (while they're getting used to how coaching works) AND helps you get to know your clients – and then deliver value – faster.

It also means that from the day they receive their coaching tools they're already being trained, because they're learning about themselves. It gets them into the mind-set of working on themselves in between sessions (when you're not around) and helps them learn self-reliance.

So, what evaluations and coaching tools to use with a new client? Well, obviously it depends on the kind of coaching you're doing, but we all know that our lives, responsibilities and careers are inseparable. So, why not start by looking at how they live their lives currently and how they feel about that?

Here are the 5 coaching tools and assessments I recommend to begin with:

  1. The Wheel of Life . Boring? Au contraire. The Wheel of Life may be old hat to us coaches, but it's still new to most clients. It's a powerful visual that assists with goal-setting, helping clients to see how their 'whole' life interfaces and where they spend their time versus their 'real' priorities. I like to ask once it's complete, "So, looking at your Wheel of Life, is it a bumpy ride?"
  2. A Pondering Questions Sheet . Send at LEAST one page of powerful questions to get them thinking. Questions like, "What do you do to relax?" (maybe they do not!), "What have you given up on in life?", "How do you best learn?" Egypt, "What motivates you to go the extra mile?" As well as helping you get ideas on how best to coach them, it gets them used to asking themselves the bigger, deeper questions in life.
  3. An Initial Coaching Goals Sheet (where they tell you what they want to achieve from the coaching). Apart from being helpful to know what they're looking to achieve, how they complete this hints at areas they may need coaching around. For example, if the sheet is blank or very brief they probably need more hand-holding and personal 'discovery' work. If the sheet is detailed and though they may need help with limiting beliefs / behaviors or getting excited about their goals. And if the sheet is chock full of goals and ideas they may need help with slowing down, time management or even self-care.
  4. A Life Map . I LOVE this simple coaching tool that gives a quick overview of the ups and downs in their life as THEY see it. They draw a time line from left to right and put in peaks (positive impact) and troughs (negative impact) with a 'blip' size that corresponds to the impact of the event. They annotate each 'blip' and this gives you a very quick visual of their life lows and highlights. Help them explore their helicopter life view and gain valuable insights into their sensitivities, where limiting beliefs and fears may come from, what inspires and motivates them and more!
  5. Finally, I thoroughly recommend The Rocking Chair Life Vision Exercise . Your client imagines themselves at 90, happy, healthy in their rocking chair – and looking back over what they've achieved in life, what they're proud of. It's a deceptively simple exercise and a great leveler! Almost everyone sees themselves surrounded by family and friends with a cute house in the country somewhere, still fit, healthy and active. The exercise results different around the specific things people achieve with their lives – very handy for what I call 'reverse goal-setting'. It helps our clients understand their goals in the context of their lives, so that as they set goals NOW for the future they can ensure these goals align with their overall "Life Vision". And you, as coach, get a glimpse into what motivates them and what they really want from life.

There are many more assessments and coaching tools you could use. You may want to create or buy something specific to your niche – a food diary template, resume template, visualization or self-care questionnaire.

But the key thing is for the tools to be professionally presented and branded with your logo and contact details. That way you're reminding them of your relationship with them and if they share them with anyone else – you get free advertising!

Longer term, using evaluations and coaching tools as part of your coaching relationship helps your clients build a physical record of work you've done together, demonstrating concrete value from coaching and helping clients to see their lessons and progress. It's a bit like looking back over an old journal and seeing how far you've come!

So, enjoy bringing more of this dimension to your coaching practice. Clients who seek coaching want to find our more about themselves – help them do that with coaching tools!

Rolling Ball Sculptures in "Fracture," the Anthony Hopkins Movie

Rolling Ball Sculptures, both desktop and 6ft high are featured in the 2007 Anthony Hopkins movie “Fracture.” These elaborate rolling ball machines serve as dramatic metaphors for the character of Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) and the story, symbolic of the many complicated and cunning plot twists to come in this clever up-to-the-minute suspense thriller.

Anthony Hopkins plays Ted Crawford in the movie ‘Fracture’, a wealthy L.A. aeronautical engineer, a precise, meticulous man who builds these rolling ball sculptures for amusement. In the lounge of his smart designer house is one such rolling ball sculpture – known also as kinetic art (sculptures that have movement), approx 6ft high by 6ft wide with shiny metallic tracks and carved wooden wheels, where small glass balls skitter and roll in an elaborately choreographed dance – a beautiful piece of precision machinery and dramatic art.

The machines are also known as ‘Rubes’, originally depicted by the famous cartoonist and engineer Rube Goldberg, ‘complex devices that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways’. It is difficult for a writer to describe these sculptures – they are whimsical, not only functional but very visual with all the workings on display.

The writer of the ‘Fracture’ movie came upon the idea of using a rolling ball machine in the movie ‘Fracture’ whilst playing with his son who likes marble mazes. The marbles roll through a labyrinth of confusing tracks only to come out in unexpected places.

The movie writer appointed Mark Bischof, a Dutch artist, to advise and oversee the special effects team who constructed the rolling ball sculptures for ‘Fracture’. Bischof had been working on kinetic art for over 10 years and he designs the sculptures to exhibit the slow release of energy of a guided ball along metal tracks. He uses track switching mechanisms, loops, spirals, drop-trough and other devices to demonstrate various aspects of this energy – the sculptures are enthralling.

The writer Gers, said “It’s always best when you can find an external sign to show the inner person (talking of Ted Crawford, Anthony Hopkins) but when I wrote the paragraph, I never really imagined the complex machine they would have to build.”

Several configurations of Bischoff’s designs were built on set. Anderson, the special effects director and his team were honored and excited to step outside the normal realm of their duties of pyrotechnics, explosives and mechanical effects to build the 8-foot sculpture along with a same-size “stunt double” version. Together they designed the kinetic brass sculpture and its wooden base to compliment the dynamic architecture of Crawford’s unique house.

The large sculpture measures 8 feet high x 8 feet wide x 2 feet deep and uses two 12-volt electrical motors operated via remote control, weighing about 250 pounds. The manual desktop version is about 14 inches x 32 inches x 12 inches wide.

How Does Independence Lead to Job Success? 4 Independent Behaviours and One Way to Nurture Them

Many of us struggle within ourselves to “go with the flow” or to embrace our own independence. We are worried that we may damage relationships, create isolation and seem detached. So if we feel this way than how does independence lead to job success?

How Does Independence Lead To Job Success?

1. Independent people have a more positive attitude. This is so important when trying to achieve success. Ask any successful person in business and they will tell you that it is 90% attitude and 10% other factors that will determine your outcome. Work on your thinking habits and always expect the best result.

2. Independent people are more disciplined. They show up on time, they do their job and do it to satisfaction and they have the ability to prioritize their life. This discipline leaks into other areas of their life; their emotional and physical wellbeing, the wellbeing of their children and their spiritual wellbeing.

3. Independent people can deal better with rejection. They realize that rejection is not a reflection on them as a person and they do not let it affect their emotional health. When they are turned down for that raise or promotion, they have the ability to shake it off and try again.

4. Most importantly, independent people have goals and know that you can not accomplish much in life without goals. This is one of the best answers for “how does independence lead to job success?” Set goals, goals and more goals! Then you must make a plan on how to achieve those goals. Use your discipline and stick to it!

So take that independence of yours and embrace it!

How Can I Take Control Of My Employment?

Many people who can achieve this level of independence still wonder why they feel like they are not in control of their employment. How does independence lead to job success if you still feel “owned”? This is because many people who are independent are still entirely dependent on their jobs for financial security and therefore have no financial independence. So how do you remedy this? Use your personal independence to create your own financial security! I am not talking about earning millions; I am talking about ending the dependence you have on your job for your financial safety!

Small business ownership is the easy solution to creating your own financial independence. You are independent in every other aspect of your life, so why not your finances too? You do not need to quite your job, what you need to do is have a back up plan. When you can create success with a small home business, you become less fearful of job loss. You will not feel the pressure to fight for promotions and raises. You will not feel the stress of financial hardships. Your efficiency and performance will improve directly with your outlook on life.

If you came here wondering “how does independence lead to job success” I hope you have realized that your independence should be celebrated and most importantly, it should be nurtured. Don’t become a slave to someone else. Create more time for yourself and your family. Use that independence to create an avenue of freedom through your own success. Many people are surprised when that small home business they started to “supplement” their income becomes so successful that they no longer need that day job. It really does happen, believe me.

Benefits of an Outdoor Rabbit Hutch

If your family is considering adding rabbits as pets to the household quickly decide if you plan on keeping the bunnies indoors in a cage or outdoors in a special rabbit hutch. Having rabbits indoors is fine but you may need to rabbit-proof certain parts of the home that are not safe for rabbits and also provide daily cleaning to prevent the rabbits from soiling carpets, cushions and floors. Many people end up keeping their rabbits outside in a rabbit hutch since it is easier to maintain and provides a more natural setting for rabbits to grow up in.

The two biggest concerns when keeping rabbits outdoors is larger animal predators and cold weather. When unsupervised its very easy for larger animals, such as raccoons, to sneak up and try and run off with a snack. Also, at night the temperature can drop significantly and if your rabbit hutch isn’t insulated against attack and frigid air you can end up losing your pets overnight in a break in or freeze. When choosing a rabbit hutch to keep your rabbits make sure it is a durable hutch that can deter predator animals and also has sturdy doors and roofs to ensure all the rabbits inside are safe and warm at night.

Most rabbit owners and veterinarians agree that the ideal temperature for rabbits ranges between 45 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything over 85 or under 45 degrees is cause for concern and may require bringing the rabbits indoors or supplying fresh water throughout the day so the bunnies don’t dehydrate. Though not as needy as dogs and cats rabbits aren’t entirely self-sufficient and it takes careful vigilance by the owner to ensure they have a safe and healthy upbringing.

If you have an outdoor rabbit hutch and expect temperatures to drop make sure you cover the hutch with a warm blanket or towel at night. In addition to keeping clever predators away this layer of insulation can go a long way in keeping your furry friends warm. You may also want to include warm blankets in the hutch so rabbits can cuddle together at night creating a warmer environment for sleeping.

Consequently, when the weather gets warm it is imperative that you keep the hutch in a shaded area as extreme heat can cause havoc with their welfare. It is also wise to keep fresh, cold water around for drinking and to even wrap a bottle of ice water in a towel and keep it in the hutch for added coolness.

Large outdoor rabbit hutches are great living environments for raising rabbits and with the right hutch and accessories you’re ready to provide a loving home for your furry pet. Once you’ve factored in all the internal and external hazards and have made the necessary adjustments you can safely introduce your rabbits to their new hutch and let them become acquainted with their new surroundings.

Raising Deer – How to Bottle Feed a Whitetail Deer Fawn

My husband and I received our first Whitetail Fawn when she was a day old. A few weeks before bringing her home we applied through the Department of Natural Resources for our wildlife breeders license. You must obtain this, and the breeder numbers of the buck and doe that the fawn came from. We allowed this fawn to nurse from her mother for a 24 hours to receive some colostrum before bringing her home.

We placed her in a dog carrier for the transport home. The fawns are very scared and docile and are easily handled the first few days. She was kept in the house for her first 3 weeks and then moved to a dog pen outside. Whitetail deer can jump straight up from a very young age. We recommend at least a 4 ft. fence until 12 weeks of age and then a 9-10ft fence from then on.

Whitetail deer are fed goat milk replacer. This can be found at many feed or farm stores. For feeding, we used a regular baby bottle with a rubber nipple. A long red rubber nipple used to bottle feed goats and lambs may also be purchased. The bag of replacer will tell you how to mix the formula. We would mix a big batch and store it in a container in the refrigerator.

We started our fawn out on a 3 hour feeding schedule. It is very important that these fawns are fed at least 6 times per day for the first few weeks. Start with an ounce of formula. Our fawn just laid around for the first week and didn’t get up and move much. For feedings we placed her on a towel and fed her while she was lying down. We had many problems with her feedings. She did not take to the nipple well at all and we ended up using a syringe to force feed her for a few days. After she got the hang of it, she ate like a pro. It is advisable to add 1-2 tablespoons of plain yogurt to each bottle to prevent diarrhea. The diarrhea can be fatal to a fawn and you can lose them very fast. If the diarrhea still persists, talking to a wildlife or exotic veterinarian about medication may be necessary.

The reason most people lose fawns is because they do not know that they must wipe the deer’s behind after every feeding to stimulate urination and defecation. It is mandatory that this is done. Fawns cannot use their bodily functions on their own until about 4-6 weeks of age. They can easily become septic and die if the wiping is not done. We placed our fawn in a Rubbermaid tub with newspapers lining the bottom. We used baby wipes to wipe her and did this after every feeding.

At about 12 weeks of age you can wean the fawn from the bottle. We started offering deer pellets and water in a bowl from week 3 on. She began eating solids at about 8 weeks of age. We also feed clover hay, corn and soybeans to supplement her diet. Our bottle feeding schedule is as follows:

Day 1-3 2 ozs every 3 hours (force feeding as necessary)

Day 4-7 4 ozs 6 times a day

Day 8-14 6 ozs 6 times a day

Day 15-21 8 ozs 5 times a day

Day 22-28 8 ozs 5 times a day

Day 29-35 9 ozs 4 times a day

Day 36-42 10 ozs 3 times a day

Day 43-49 10 ozs 3 times a day

Day 50-56 12 ozs 2 times a day

Day 57-63 12 ozs 2 times a day

Day 64-84 16 ozs once a day

Keep in mind that every deer is different and adjustments may need to be made. The main problem with bottle feeding the overfeeding of the fawns. All deer farmer’s do things differently, we have found this system to be what works for us.

Success And Survival Tips From The Crocodile Island

Five friends went on a fishing trip down the Zambesi. Their terrifying story was dramatised recently on a UK Channel 4 program.

Arthur Taylor and Alistair Gellatly, two experienced Safari guides, planned the trip. They did not anticipate trouble.

Fay Taylor, Arthur’s English wife, and her parents Clive and Brenda Kelly went with them. Brenda was not keen to go but finally agreed as it was the last day of their visit to Zambia.

It nearly became the last day of their lives.

The Zambesi is an awe inspiring river. It has amazing bird life and a great diversity of animal life including hippos and huge crocodiles.

The atmosphere was very relaxed as they floated down river. Fay commented: “We passed so many schools of hippos and they were all lazing about. They looked so peaceful and placid.”

Brenda caught a fish. The group were planning to go to a shady spot to celebrate when the boat was hit by a hippo. All five went overboard and the boat was overturned.

Fay commented: “My subconscious was saying: ‘This is it; this is the end.'”

They had to face the fact that they were in the water of one of the most crocodile infested rivers in the world.

Fay was frightened: “To think about my bare dangly legs – it sent a chill through me to think that at any moment now one of us could be taken by a crocodile.”

Clive and Alistair clung on to the boat as the others were swept away by the current.

Arthur managed to grab Fay and Brenda as they struggled to keep their heads above water. Luckily, the current took them towards the middle of the river where there was a submerged island.

They reached a spot where they could stand with the water up to their knees. However, there was still a good chance of being eaten.

Alistair decided to swim for help and was swept three or four hundred metres down river. He swam into an inlet and his feet touched ground. He stood up and saw a crocodile in the water looking at him from about twenty yards away. It then submerged ominously.

Alistair described his thoughts:

“I didn’t quite know what to do. I decided to go for the croc and maybe chase it. I went under the water to see where the croc was. As I started to go for the croc, it came for me.

“It was going for my legs. I pushed it away with my left hand. It disappeared for a bit and then it latched straight on to my right arm. It was trying to really tear my arm off. I was getting pretty weak.

“I thought it was over but I had one last idea and reached into its mouth with my left arm to reach the flap that keeps water out of its throat. The second I reached in with my left hand it let go.”

The savage attack broke Alistair’s arm in three places and his shoulder joint was ripped from its socket: “I was very weak; I had lost a lot of blood.”

He made a tourniquet to save what was left.

Fay heard him shouting “Oh My God! Oh My God!” and thought he was just exhausted and relieved that he had got to the other side. He then yelled that he had been bitten by a croc.

Arthur said: “We weren’t sure whether he could survive for an hour let alone a day.”

Arthur decided that he, too, must go for help. He set out for the Zimbabwe side of the river. Fay told him that he would not help Alistair if he got himself eaten.

He realised that there were too many crocs on the bank and decided to return.

Meanwhile, Alistair moved away from the river to avoid another attack from the crocodile. He sat down under a tree. The slightest movement was agony.

Clive was still stranded in the middle of the river on the boat which was now beginning to sink. Fay saw the danger:

“My dad had no choice but to swim. If the boat went down in the night he would not have stood a chance.”

He was a poor swimmer and had to fight the current. Fay was terrified that a croc would take him before he reached her. To their enormous relief, he reached the sandbank safely.

Alistair, on shore, was threatened by gangrene. His wound was full of bacteria from the crocodile’s teeth. A friend of his lost his leg after being chewed by a lion even though he reached hospital within eight hours. If the gangrene didn’t get Alistair, the predators would.

Back in the river, any hope of being found before sunset was remote. Arthur thought about swimming towards the Zambian side to see how Alistair was but Fay stopped him:

“I knew I could not bear him to go and that I would not survive without him.”

Eventually, the group decided to head as a whole for the Zambian shore. However, Fay could not follow through with the plan. Now, they faced the prospect of a terrifying night on their submerged island with no hope of rescue.

They just stood shouting “Alistair!” until the sun went down and the hyenas started calling. After that, if he had called back, he would have attracted nearby predators.

Night is the most dangerous time in the African bush and leopards, lions and hyenas can smell the scent of blood from miles away.

Arthur gathered some stones to throw at any predators. I was once out at night in Zakuru, in Kenya, and noticed a pack of dogs not far from me. Like Alistair, I picked up some stones to throw at them if they came after me.

Unlike him I was able to walk fast and get back to a lodging house. I spent the night on the porch with a guard armed with a huge knife on the other side of the porch from me. At least, I could lie down and get some sleep.

Fay described conditions in the river:

“When it got dark the wind picked up and it really got cold. I was absolutely freezing and my teeth were chattering and I just couldn’t get warm.”

Arthur agreed:

“It was extremely cold. You are in extreme danger because there is a good chance a crocodile will come and get you in the night.”

They got in a ring and huddled together. They tried to keep a lookout on all sides.

Fay described their thoughts: “We were straining to see into the water and all the time you are thinking about crocodiles – huge snapping jaws and gaping mouths – it was just a terrifying thought.”

Clumps of floating vegetation looked like crocs. They hit one clump with the paddle until they realised it was just leaves and branches.

Back on shore, Alistair was worried that he had left a blood trail that would attract lions and hyenas. He heard grazing and looked up and saw a buffalo:

“It looked right at me. Buffaloes can be really dangerous and have killed a lot of people. For some reason it came and lay down about ten yards away. I just can’t believe it happened. It was like a little sentry lying there – a big sentry.”

In the river, Fay thought about the reality of the situation:

“The darkness all around us made you realize just how vulnerable you were in that great vastness. You were nothing. Things were just out of your control.”

Arthur, too, realized how vulnerable they were:

“We knew we might not make it till the morning. Fay was worried that she might never see her kids again.”

They heard a crocodile slapping its tail in the water as it came nearer. They could clearly see the jagged edge of its tail. Big panic!

Arthur hit the water with the paddle and the croc veered off into the main stream. They were on tenterhooks after that in case another came by.

Alistair, on shore, knew he should keep awake but could not. He might slip into unconsciousness and be dead by morning. He just could not keep awake.

Back on the submerged island, everyone was suffering. Arthur described their condition:

“Standing for such a long time, you get really tired. Our backs were aching and we were freezing cold.”

Arthur wanted to sit down in the water which was warmer than the air above it.

Fay said: “You can’t sit down because you will get wet and then cold and get hypothermia. We’ve just got to get through this. We have two children to think about and they need us.

“When daylight came, it was a relief because we had made it through the night but we were worried that Alistair had bled to death. Physically and mentally we were just exhausted. “

After almost twenty hours stranded in the water the group were desperate. They were thinking it was another day and somebody had got to come past.

They saw what looked like a white boat but it was just white birds flying towards them. Their hopes were shattered.

Fay commented: “We just felt helpless – completely helpless.”

Meanwhile Alistair was woken from his sleep by safari ants gnawing viciously at his wounds:

“It was pain like needles all over the place especially on my arm. I realised there were ants biting me.”

Their bites triggered a surge of adrenalin which snapped him out of his unconsciousness and probably saved his life. Alistair forced himself to hobble on. It was not twenty four hours since the crocodile attack.

He thought he heard the sound of a boat and staggered down to the river but could not see anyone. He fell asleep on the bank despite the threat of crocodiles. On the ‘island’ the others were beginning to lose hope.

When Alistair woke he saw a couple and a boat parked on the other side of the river. He was unable to shout and they moved away.

On the river his friends could do nothing but await their fate but suddenly Brenda spotted two canoes. Incredibly some canoeists had ventured this far down the river. Fay and the others were overjoyed.

“They had seen us and thought: ‘What strange people fishing in the middle of the river.’ I can’t tell you how we felt. It was just a sense of relief. We were going to be alright. It was also still worry for Alistair.”

Later the couple with the boat came back and spotted Alistair on the bank. They took him to safety where he was reunited with the others. He lived on and even his arm was saved in hospital.

All five survived. Arthur and Alistair still go fishing on the same stretch of river. Clive and Brenda still visit Africa regularly but won’t go fishing any morel Fay spends most of her weekends in the bush but she rarely goes out on the river:

“I always feel anxious when I get in a boat even after all these years. It was just such a terrible experience but we all survived – all five of us.”

Several success and survival lessons emerge from their story.

Keep clear of lonely and dangerous areas whether on a river or in the city.

Keep aware of everything that is going on around you.

Walk or swim to the safest areas available.

Don’t give up when a crocodile or some other equivalent ‘monster’ grabs you! Keep fighting while you still can. “Do not go gentle into that good night!”

There is safety in numbers! Watch each other’s backs!

Stay alert and aware all night if necessary.

Appreciate being able to have a good night’s sleep whenever you want.

Sometimes waiting for help can be wiser than risky attempts to help yourself.

Perhaps the key lesson is to appreciate just how easy and pleasant our lives are. We can lie down in a comfortable, warm bed whenever we want without worrying about a crocodile coming to eat us!

Success and greater rewards often follow appreciation and gratitude for what we already possess.

I will try to remember the story of crocodile island every day and night so that I can daily enjoy the fact that I am not stuck in the middle of a river with killer crocs all around me!

Why You Should Consider A Career As a Licensed Plumber in Singapore

To most of us in Singapore, a career choice will most likely be between working for a large MNC, financial institutions like banks or join our local government in public services (as our local government pays quite well). Of course, there will be some entrepreneurs who may start their own business but rarely will one consider trades such as plumbing and water works as such trades are considered unglamorous and with low pay. However, in this article, I highlighted some information on supply and demand related to this trade which may change your perception and even consider building a career in the plumbing industry.

Firstly, let us examine the demand of plumbing services in Singapore. There are about 1119600* residential households in year 2009. The housing boom in year 2010 saw more houses added this year as well as more housing projects to be completed in year 2011 and 2012. With just a low estimate of 1% of the local household requiring some plumbing services daily, this is a whopping 12,000 plumbing cases to attend to. This figure excludes plumbing works required for new construction projects, commercial offices, HDB upgrading projects as well as current business owners who face plumbing emergencies in their offices or shops. If we add this to the residential households ‘demand, you can easily see that there are plenty more of plumbing jobs required daily.

In Singapore, all plumbing works can only be done by a licensed plumber. Looking at the supply side, a check with Pub- Singapore’ national water agency saw only about 800 plus** licensed plumbers in Singapore. This low supply of plumbers means that each plumber will have more than enough jobs to handle daily. Besides that, due to the huge demand of plumbing services from the construction industry in Singapore, a high percentage of licensed plumbers are only involved in commercial projects as mentioned above, further reducing the already low supply of licensed plumbers. A simple estimation means that each plumber can easily be called for 3-5 jobs daily.

Lastly, we look at the compensation of plumbers for their works. Plumber charges can range from $60 to clear a simple chokage to more than $1,000 to repair and relay the water pipes. If we take any average of $150 per plumbing job, this can easily work out to be a daily wage of $450 to $750. Multiply this by an average of 23 working days; this is a whopping $10,350 to $17,250! This is so much higher than the average wage in Singapore and can even match the compensation of many high level management executives.

If you can ignore the unglamorous part of this trade as well as the smelly mess, it can really be profitable to be a licensed plumber in Singapore. The next time you engage a Singapore plumber, don’t be fooled by his simple dressing and casual appearance, his bank account can be so much fatter than yours.

*Source: Singapore Department of Statistics

**Source: PUB- Singapore’ national water agency.

Graphology at Home – Lesson 14 – The Letter A

Each sign in an analysis has meaning, but is reliable only as one aspect of the total analysis. So although the following letters are strong indicators by themselves, they cannot be regarded as proof of any fact about the writer until they are properly weighed.

There are many different ways of forming the letters of the alphabet:


o Picture the letter a (or any letter for that matter) with two hooks. A hook by nature grabs, hence it shows greed. The double hook implies avarice.

o Imagine the left leg extended far to the left (past). The fact that there is also a blotch hints of a “blotch” in the writer’s past, which is very much on his mind.

o Consider the letter that is called a block letter. Its construction is simplified, showing intelligence and culture. Most books use block letters, and this may be an unconscious imitation.

o The markings on top of the letter are inexact and unnecessary. This shows inexactness on the part of the writer, but the fact that he did write the letter in such a manner shows him to be an unusual character.

o Picture the letter that shows a large loop with a knot. Loops made bigger than necessary to read the letter show pride. This particular form has been found among writers who take pride in their families.

o Imagine a knot in the letter. This shows toughness, hardness-someone who is apt to be thorough in what he undertakes and will not give up easily.

o Consider that the starting point of the letter is thick and close to the body, not extended to the left. The thick writing shows a materialistic nature.

o Capital letters, among other things, show an image of ego. Thus, the thin, narrow capital letter indicates shyness.

o Picture the left leg considerably longer than the right one, as if the man were running. It shows aggression and ambition.

o A round block letter depicts a form of construction of some kind and therefore shows a constructive thinker.

o The letter may be constructed in a square fashion, showing an interest in architecture or in mechanically related fields. The shape itself looks like a building brick.

o Imagine the left leg longer than the right, as the letter we spoke of above, but it descends deeper. This is the meddler. Because of the position he gets himself into, the writer will become argumentative when the person he is annoying flares up at him.

o Consider the capital A in the form of a small a. Since the capital letter shows the ego of the writer, a small letter indicates humility and modesty.

o When the bar of the A is missing, it shows carelessness and neglect. There are times when the A bar may be omitted and not have these meanings-when the writer is in a hurry, for instance-but if the writer always forms his A’s like this, it implies slovenliness.

o Picture the arc that points back to the capital letter (the ego) and therefore shows egotism.

o Imagine the left leg stretching out to the left, showing a strong attachment to the past. Often these writers have a difficult time getting started on projects or even everyday things.

o Consider (a) crossings that are both inexact and their lack of completion forms what graphologists call open-mouthed ovals, which shows talkativeness. The more open the ovals are, the more talkative the writer is. When these letters are a regular feature of someone’s writing, he can be said to be both open and honest. However, if there were no oval letters closed, it would be best not to tell the writer any secrets-he may have difficulty keeping them.

o Of course, all these writers represent only different degrees of open-mindedness and openness; there are those who thirst for knowledge, and those who are merely curious; those whom we call frank, and those who are tactless; but none of them can be called selfish. A few overdo the openness, too. To entrust such a writer with a delicate secret may be disastrous, for he probably is not able even to hide his own; and since the opening exposes the lower zone, this may suggest a quality of indelicacy, possibly the exhibitionism of a libertine.

o Picture the letter showing an angular form. This indicates rigidity and hardness.

o Imagine the low ‘A’ bar. Like the low t bar, it shows an inferiority complex. Since the capital letter reflects the ego, this low bar hints at reduced self-esteem.

o Consider the letter that shows a peculiar shape. Whenever strange looking shapes appear, we see sexual perversion and a strong sexual imagination. (However, these letters should be compared with the rest of the writing.) If this distortion is what he thinks the letter should be, imagine what he thinks a sexual relationship should be.

o Picture the letter resembling an A bar, which in reality is an in-turned arc, piercing the capital (the ego). The writer is destroying his ego, showing strong depression and suicidal tendencies.

o A similar meaning is indicated when the A bar strongly descends -its very direction implies that the writer is down in the dumps.

o The letter, which is encircled several times, reflects the feeling of living in one’s own world of imagination. The writer is trying to protect himself by not allowing anyone else in. If anyone ever does penetrate, he will not find it easy to change the writer’s ideas.

o Loops by nature are showy; therefore, such a writer discloses vanity. (Note: Do not confuse loops with knots, which show a different meaning).

o The upward rounded stroke reveals the performer, the entertainer. You can almost see him bowing to the audience as he makes this flamboyant upward stroke.

o Imagine the letter, which is ink-filled, pasty, and blotchy. It shows sensuality, as if the writer’s guts were pouring out on the page from the passion inside him.

o Consider the oval letter open at the bottom. (Before you can analyze this letter, you must make certain that it was not the writing tool that erred. Pens do sometimes “gap.”) This shows the embezzler, the crook, the hypocrite. The fact that there is something missing in its construction implies a similar lack in the writer’s makeup. What is missing is honesty, as though there were a hole inside him, where everything decent fell through.

o Picture the left side of the oval open. This writer cleverly conceals this side of his nature (the opening is tiny), but his motive is strictly for himself, and he is greedy. Obviously, he is also untrustworthy. Often people who write like this are found to be neurotic.

o Imagine the person who writes as if he were bending away from something that may hurt him; this reveals himself as touchy and sensitive. The inward, bent right stroke shows him protecting himself.

o Consider the letter that is knotted (not to be confused with a loop). The knot shows that, although the letter was already closed, the writer added the knot, just to make sure. It shows secretiveness, reserved manner, introversion, and one who rarely allows people to get to know him. When coupled with other signs in the writing, this form often appears in the writing of dishonest people.

o Letters may be written quite square-shaped. People who write in this fashion show an aptitude for construction and mechanical ability.

9 Things Every Beginner Should Know Before Starting Karate Lessons

Here is a list of 9 tips every beginner should know when starting karate lessons. If you know these tips going in you will have more knowledge than 95% of all beginners. When people first begin their martial arts training they have preconceived thoughts about what they will be doing in a typical karate class. Although the tips I mention might vary slightly between schools, if you know this information ahead of time you can’t go wrong!

1. It is common courtesy to address instructors as sir, ma’am, or sensei. By doing this you show that you have respect for the instructor and you understand the discipline side of the martial arts. Karate lessons will help you learn discipline and respect as you gain experience as a martial artist.

2. A karate school is often referred to as a Dojo, Dojang, school, or training hall. Dojo is short for dojang and it simply means a place where people gather to train in the martial arts.

3. Bowing is a sign of mutual respect towards another person. Many Americans relate “bowing” to bowing down to authority or that someone is better than they are. This is not at all the case in the martial arts, it’s a mutual sign of respect. Depending on how traditional the school is, you should bow when you enter and leave the training hall, when you start and finish class, and when speaking with your instructor. This will vary by school so don’t be afraid to ask.

4. Always be polite and respectful to others. This should be a mantra you live by anyway; however, in a martial arts training hall its a rule! Lose your ego, treat others as you wish to be treated, you know, the basics. Once you walk through the door and enter the dojo, you are no longer a doctor, mom, dad, lawyer, cashier, etc., you are a student.

5. Watch a class before signing up so you see what is taught at the school. This is a common mistake by beginners, they sign up for the first place they visit only to realize this was not the type of training they were looking for. If the instructor is extremely pushy and won’t let you watch a class or try one for free, this should be a sign. I realize schools have to make money, every business does! If your program is great you won’t have to pressure people into signing up!

6. Have the right attitude- martial arts is not about “kicking someones butt”! Karate lessons will build confidence and help to build self-esteem. It’s a great workout and it will help you lose weight and get in shape, all of this is true! The goal is to learn how to be a strong martial artist and if you have to defend yourself you need to be good at it. Protecting yourself and your family, absolutely! Training to start fights and kick butt, not at all! Now, don’t get me wrong, fighting in the ring is not only great experience, it allows you to put your skills to the test in the right forum, not on the street for fun.

7. You must be open to learning- if you already know everything why are you there? Many younger students come in with the attitude that they already know a lot based on practicing what they see on TV. You may know a few things based on research and that is great; however, to improve you must be open to learning. The day will soon come where you test for your next rank and have plenty of time to show your skills.

8. Work hard and always do your best! Martial arts will help you to push your boundaries and do things you never thought were possible. By working hard and safely pushing yourself you will expand your mind and body and grow as a martial artist. The more you give, the more you will get in return!

9. Help others as you grow and develop as a martial artist. Part of learning and improving your life is also giving back to others. I don’t mean you should walk around and correct everyone and be a know it all, that is not the point. But I do mean helping others achieve their goals, improve techniques, and become better martial artists.

Different Kinds of Career Paths in Plumbing

Plumbing is one career area that is both diverse in the types of job tasks and the job areas where plumbers can be found working. When most people think of plumbers, they think of professionals that deal with broken water pipes and blockages in the sewer lines. However, there is much more involved in the plumbing industry which has resulted in many types of plumbing career paths that people can pursue as professional plumbers.

Today, there are more plumbing opportunities available in a wide variety of business areas where both male and female plumbers can be found working. For instance, plumbers can be found working in large construction companies, home renovation companies, as government contractors, and in national plumbing chains.

The job functions of plumbers will vary according to the type of plumbing career and the particular business sector. For instance, commercial plumbers can be found repairing and managing waste systems and water systems in commercial buildings and properties, government facilities, and large buildings in the process of being constructed such as business buildings, apartment buildings, and large buildings designed for shopping malls, hotels…etc.

Another career area where plumbers can work is municipal governments in the municipality’s large waste management system. As well, plumbers will work in conjunction with building and home inspectors by inspecting plumbing systems to make sure they are in top working condition and safe. They can also be found working with home contractors to determine where to lay plumbing pipes for such devices as washing machines, dishwashers, pools, and wells. As well, many plumbers will operate their own plumbing business which is very rewarding.

Plumbers have the option of specializing in a number of specific career areas such as pipe-layers, pipe-fitters, sprinkler-fitters, and steamfitters. Their tasks will include installing and working on various pipe systems. For instance pipe-layers will lay pipes for drainage, water, sewer, or gas systems. Pipe-fitters will work with low pressure and high pressure pipes that are used for commercial purposes such as central air conditioning or heating. Steamfitters work with pipes that carry substances such as gases that are in an extremely high-pressure state. Sprinkler-fitters install automated sprinkler systems in buildings such as office buildings and apartment building as part of a fire alarm system. Plumbers can also have a career in the Air Force where they can utilize their plumbing skills and education to install and maintain water, waste water and gas systems.

Plumbers have always served an important role in society, not only in keeping our home plumbing systems safe and in good working order, but they also play an important role in commercial and governmental organizations. Many plumbing career opportunities will require undertaking intensive education and training to become certified as a professional plumber. A career as a plumber is challenging and financially and personally rewarding. Plumbing is one career area that offers many opportunities for those seeking a financially, challenging, and rewarding career. Whether it is a home, commercial, or another organization that requires the skills of a professional plumber, you will have peace of mind knowing that your project is in safe hands.

Summerizing Your Snow Blower

It's time to put your snow blower away for the season. Chances are you've already stuck it in the corner of your garage or shed and happily forgot about it but, trust me, drag it outside and take a little time to prep it for proper storage.

Beside, it's a lot easier to work on it in the natural sunlight of your driveway or back yard than in the thick of a major Winter snow storm. It will not take long at all if you have been taking good care of it. First of all, buy yourself a spark plug, some Winter weight oil such as 5W 20 or 5W30, the same year round oil that most cars use these days. Also, buy some fuel preservative such as Sta-Bi, Store Safe or any other comparable brand.

First off, change the spark plug even though it looks good. It's worth the few bucks for the added benefit of a hot spark on a cold day. It would not hurt to snug down the head bolts in case any of them have become loose. If you do not have a torque wrench, just snug them down while choking up on the wrench handle so as not to over-due it. Use a criss-cross pattern for even distribution.

Chances are the bolts will not even move but it's worth the extra 2 minutes. Top off the gas tank with fresh fuel, leaving enough room for the gas conservative recommendations and start the snow blower up and let it run for 10 minutes or so in order for the conservative to make it's way into the carburetor and it's small orifices and cavities where un-attended fuel turns to varnish and creates a no-start situation come the first snow fall.

Note: There is another school of thought that says to drain the fuel tank and run the carburetor completely out of fuel for storage. In my opinion, flip a coin and do whatever you want. They both prevent the problem of stale fuel plugging up your carburetor.

Next, take advantage of the warm engine to drain the hot engine oil while the nasty sediments are properly suspended and drain out with the old oil instead of staying behind in the bottom of the oil pan. Dispose of the oil properly at your local auto repair shop.

If you're up to it, replace any worn or stretched drive belts and rubber faced drive disc if your snow blower has one. Otherwise, save that for your local servicing dealer. Lubricate all external pivot points on the levers, cables, linkage, etc. with some WD-40, white lithium grease or an appropriate substitute. All those small pivot holes dry out and become elongated over time if they are never lubricated.

That's it. Enjoy your summer!

How to Put a Hole in a Glass Bottle

Over the years, I have found my self in situations where I have needed to put a hole in glass bottles or just glass. From craft projects for the kids, fixing up the garage, or helping my friend make soda bottle wind chimes we have settled on our top 3 methods! Here is how to put a hole in a glass bottle! Remember all methods will require some patience, so make sure you have set aside some time to complete your project!

Method 1

By far the Diamond drill works best! YOU can purchase these from several different places, we have found eBay to be the cheapest! Make sure you cover the bottom of the bottle in tape and leave a circular shape open in your desired location. Proceed using your drill on a very low speed! Be patient! You can also pick up some drilling oil to help with all the cutting. *water works too!

Method 2

Using a Round Tapered file and Drill. My husband refers to it as the rat tail file. Anyway, you need to get some turpentine and place some into a small oil can that has one of those squirt tops. You will use this to apply applications in between filing. This is a slow process so make sure you use the slowest setting on your drill. Remember to let the friction of the file do the work, don’t try to rush the process by pushing down firmly.

Method 3

Duct tape and lighter! I have not personally tried this, but my friend swears by it. She makes a lot of glass wind chimes and says this is the only way to go. Its easy and nearly costless! First, cover the bottom of your bottle in duct tape. Remove your desired circle, then make sure you wet the surrounding edges of the tape, along with your fingers. *She suggests to keep a glass of water handy, so if your fingers get hot you can just dip them in the glass. Next, use your lighter and heat up the bottom of the bottle, and once it gets super hot place it directly in cold water. Sometimes your circle will not break out all the way, but you can Finnish off with a file, or a ball peen hammer!

All of the above methods, will take some patience! There is no quick way! I have heard of other methods, but these are the safest for your bottle. Any method containing alcohol or acetone combined with lighting will cause major stress points or fractures in your bottle. I hope that you will find this useful and have some new knowledge of how to put a hole in a glass bottle. Remember slow and steady always wins the race!

Woodworking With Mahogany – Tips When Working With the Revered Species of Wood

Mahogany is known greatly as one of the most beautiful species of wood. You don’t need to be an expert in building furniture to appreciate its beauty because even the plainest boards look stunning with their deep and coppery-red shade. Since the 1500s, people have found that mahogany wood has a lot of qualities which are more than suitable for fine furniture making. If you’ll be woodworking with mahogany, you should know a couple of things about this type of wood.

Types of Mahogany

When making your mahogany project, know that there are four Latin American species which fall under the genus Swietenia. You have the bigleaf mahogany, Caribbean mahogany, Venezuelan mahogany and the Honduran Mahogany. If you’re selecting on the type you should be using, you’ll find that most experts will greatly recommend the bigleaf because the dub it as the “real” mahogany. Mahogany can also go by the names caoba or acajou and has a higher value for being a prized type of wood.

Benefits of Using Mahogany

If you’re looking for a wood that’s not just beautiful, but is also fairly easy to work with, you won’t regret using mahogany for projects. Most woodworkers say that mahogany’s easy to handle whether you’re using hand or power tools. Unlike some types of hardwoods, mahogany easily takes glue, screws, and nails. When it comes to stains, mahogany takes it excellently and will give you a beautiful high-gloss finish. When woodworking with mahogany heartwood, you’d be impressed on how strong and durable it will be and you may use it for veneers, boat decks, and just about anything.

Buying Mahogany

When buying your lumber check out the wood’s grade rating from the National Hardwood Lumber Association and definitely ask for Selects, FAS, or FAS 1-face grades because these are top notch indicators of quality for hardwoods.

You should also inspect the price range and always ask the opinion from hardwood dealers. Go to different stores and dealers to compare price differences between the grade ratings. It will help you decide whether the highest grade of mahogany is really needed for the project you’re working on as it can also be more expensive.

Age does matter so ask how it will impact your project. Compare the shades – you’ll find either red to light pink or even yellow if it’s freshly cut. If you want older varieties, look for those which are dark red to brown.

Proper Sanding and Finishing Mahogany

Remember that when woodworking with mahogany, gradual sanding is key. Start with a 120-grid and make a decision whether you’d like to have a very smooth finish and close up the pores on your wood’s grain. If you’ll use a wood filler, always read the instructions when mixing with a paint thinner. Fillers usually dry completely for at least 24 hours before you can start sanding again using a 150-grit sandpaper.

Once you’re done sanding, use a staining brush or even an ordinary cotton cloth to apply your stain – be sure to wipe of the excess. Finally, apply a protective coat such as trung oil, shellac, or polyurethane to complete your masterpiece.

Painting With Gouache

Several people have accessed my web site over the last few years as a result of doing web searches on painting in gouache (pronounced “gwosh”, or “goo-wash”), probably lead there by the numerous gouache paintings listed on the site. There is some conflicting information published on this topic. Consequently, this article is to help you better understand this opaque watercolor medium based on over thirty-five years of experience in using it and as a professional art educator.

Purportedly, the ancient Egyptians first employed this paint and its use was later refined by the Italians, where we get the word originating as aguazzo, or guazzo. This is said to refer to “mud”, or “watercolor paint, splash”. It is some times used interchangeably as bodycolor and designer’s colors. Guazzo also supposedly was an idiom to describe the 16th Century technique of applying oils over tempera paint. None-the-less, gouache paints were exploited by illuminated manuscript artists and was later popular with some European decorative, as well as, landscape and nature artists, such as Albrecht Durer. Because opaque paints dry fast and can be applied with a flat, even tone, during the nineteen hundreds gouache was often the favorite of architectural and advertising illustrators; hence the paint got its moniker “designer’s colors.”

A gouache paint body is composed of several elements, including pigment and an opacity agent. These density additives differ depending on the manufacturer. Some contain blanc fixe (French for permanent white); in this case its barium sulfate (also used as a filler in papers). Other makers incorporate calcium carbonate, more commonly known as chalk, or a “precipitated” (technical for synthetic) chalk. When the water container for rinsing brushes in during this painting process is emptied, one can see the thickening material as sludge on the bottom of the container. Gum arabic is the binding agent all gouache paint makers embrace to coalesce the ingredients. In some cases glycerin and preservatives are also mixed in. The principle differences between transparent watercolors and opaque is the addition of a chalky substance and the amount of gum arabic; gouache contains a higher concentration of the latter. When gouache is applied as an impasto, it’s the gum arabic that can give the dried painting a pearly patina. If used too thick, as with tempera, the paint will crack. Normally, a gouache painting will have a dull surface appearance. This makes it ideal for photographic reproductive purposes and is another reason why it has been popular with illustrators.

A few sources I’ve read say that gouache comes only in tubes. That is not so. I’ve got a Pelikan brand pan set that I acquired in my teens when I first started using this type of paint in the mid 1970’s. These pans, called a “cake” form, have the advantage of being able to acquire replaceable color cakes and a built in palette. Because gouache paints can be rewet and worked when dry, as cakes become empty you can squeeze tube paints into the cake receptacles. Tubes of gouache are said to have a shelf life of 3 to 5 years, that’s when the tubes solidify. When this occurs I break open the tubes and use the dried form just as I do the cake variety. Sometimes I will use a single edge razor blade to shave off needed amounts into a palette. Apparently gouache also can be purchased as a liquid, but only in small jars of black or white. These are probably the only two available because they are the two colors used in largest quantities and the heavy opacity content causes settling in the jars.

A few advantages and uses of gouache have already been addressed, yet there are more. Because gouache painting materials are easily transportable and dry fast, as with transparent colors, they are ideal for plein air (painting outdoors) pieces and some artists have used gouache as preliminary sketches for larger oils. As stated earlier gouache can be rewet after it dries, so, plein air paintings can be reworked back in the studio. This quality also allows colors to be gradually blended and mixed on the painting’s surface. Furthermore, gouache works fine on tinted papers and may also serve as an underpainting for pastels.

The transparent watercolor techniques of wet-on-wet, dry brush and spattering can also be accomplished with gouache. However, due to the opacity material paints do not bleed, or blossom, as much in wet-on-wet as transparent colors. Liquid masking agents may also be used for blocking out areas to leave white, though most gouache artists just take advantage of white paint. As you may know, “glazing” in painting is the process of painting a thin, diluted layer of color over another. Once again, because of the chalky substance in gouache, many believe you cannot use glazing with gouache. However, to solve the problem of the base paint mixing with the diluted paint as the glaze is brushed on. I spray a single layer of fixative (the same stuff used on pencils, chalk, and pastels to keep them from smearing) over the work and let it dry. Then I glaze over an area, particularly for shadows. There are two concerns in doing this. First of all the fixative cannot be too thick or else the paint you put over the top will bead up and not cover. The second also must be kept in mind and planned for. It can change the color, especially washing out thin layers of white areas. I will address this again when I talk about finishing paintings. Additionally, I’ve also satisfactorily used gouache for air brushing, as in the paintings “Family Outing” and “Morning Stretch”.

The ability to be mixed with other water base paints is another admirable characteristic of gouache, especially with transparent watercolors. It’s been said that gouache does not mix well with acrylics because the paint will glob up, think of it as curdling, as cottage cheese. I have never had this problem, but then I don’t use a lot of gouache from tubes added directly with acrylic paint, only small amounts. The way I mix them works quite well. However, since acrylic dries as plastic with a slick surface, in order to paint gouache over acrylics, a thin layer of fixative needs to be applied to let the gouache bind.

Any watercolor papers used for transparent watercolor painting may be used with gouache. Hot pressed, or smooth toothed papers of 140 pounds or thicker work well. I prefer to use mounted rag paper called watercolor board made by Crescent. Another paper I’ve had success with is a four ply rag paper used in museum mounting. This paper I wet and then stretch over a wooden frame made of one by two’s. The softened cotton paper is then stretched and stapled just as you would canvas.

When it comes to finishing and displaying gouache paintings there are numerous issues to consider. The most common way to approach framing gouache is to handle the same as you do transparent watercolors, matted and framed under glass. In the mid 1980’s I stopped using this method for three reasons. A gouache painting, “Misty Warm December”, I had entered in a National Wildlife Art Collector’s Society exhibit in Minneapolis, Minnesota was disqualified from competition by the judges because they thought the original was a print, no brush strokes were apparent on the surface of the paper, it had an even, flat surface appearance and was under a white mat.

The second reason has two inherent issues that arise with shipping paintings under glass. One is increased expense of transportation due to weight compared to paintings not under glass and the other is breakage. To address these problems I took a look at how acrylics were handled. Gouache paintings can be finished with any acrylic varnish medium; however, a few layers of fixative must be sprayed on so the paint is not smeared by the acrylic varnish. This will eliminate the dull, chalky appearance of gouache and the pieces will look like oils. These pictures I then put directly into frames without glass. For some reason, I’ve noticed that pictures with a high gloss varnish tend to sell faster than others.

The third reason I prefer to acrylic varnish over gouache is the richness and depth it brings to the color qualities of the finished product. This obviously means that the colors will change somewhat. Consequently, you need to practice with this technique several times to be familiar with how it affects paints. When it comes to creating the illusion of water and make it truly feel wet, there is no other type of paint I’ve worked with that will do the same job. Since whites tend to wash out, to get strong whites and other bright colors I mix in acrylics.

As with any watercolor, transparent or opaque, no matter how the work is framed when it comes to displaying them make sure that they are out of direct sunlight and are not under long term exposure in fluorescent lights, as these give off a low level UV radiation that will eventually fade the colors, unless they are under UV protective glass.

Hopefully, you’ve gained some insight into this versatile medium of gouache and are not afraid to try it yourself. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.