View Full Version : Update on my life - and what that means for my handle making

07-12-2013, 06:10 PM
Hi everyone,

Many of you had seen me complaining about my personal situation over the past year. And many of you have become friends over the years whether or not we personally met, so I just wanted to give a quick update to those of you who are interested, and also point out my current thoughts about how this will affect my handle making.

Long story short about the background: I got screwed out of my job at the university department I was working in, made it into the top 3 in half a dozen nationwide searches for a new job, but - these are my interpretations - my age and the fact that I have a different CV than people who grew up in the US system kept people from hiring me, even though I still think I am good at what I do. I was unemployed for almost a year for the first time in my life, skidding on the verge of bankruptcy all that time, threatened by homelessness if it weren't for good friends who took me in, and getting frustrated to the point of thinking about buying a gun and a bullet. I know some of you have been through worse, but for me it was the low point in my life so far.

Now it looks like things are starting at last to move forward again. I just started a new job at the State Health Department - far from what I want to do and my direct supervisor is a guy who could easily have been one of my students. The pay is less than 2/3 of my previous position which is a problem in Hawaii, but in a couple of months I hope to be financially stable enough again to at least get by and hopefully sleep better again... I also moved to a new shared place, got a new car, and hope to get my feet on the ground again by the end of the year. I will do my best in my new job but will also continue looking for university faculty positions in my field (local, mainland or anywhere else), so we will see what will happen.

While one could think that being unemployed gave me much more time for woodworking and handle making, I came to find that struggling with frustration and trying not to glide into deeper depression together with searching for employment and some freelancing to survive made it hard to find the discipline to really be productive. At the same time I kept taking on orders because I was panicking about my financial situation. As a result, I kept many of you waiting forever after ordering from me which must have been as annoying for you as it was adding to frustration on my side. So, at this point I want to sincerely apologize to all of you who have been waiting or gotten frustrated over dealing with me.

Hoping that with the new job some more structure will come back into my life, I want to do what I can to catch up but also will have to make a few changes. Here are my current thoughts:

- I still need some time to get to most of the individual handle orders on my custom list because I have committed to another large order that I need to get out first.
- Once I see that things are clearing up a bit (and I am hoping that will be in another 6-8 weeks or so), I will contact everybody on my order list to check if people are still interested to go through with orders after all this time. If you are one of them and have changed your mind or want to go through with it, please let me know and I will update my list accordingly.
- After clearing off my current orders, I will very likely stop to take full custom orders for a while. As much as I like to work with everyone to come up with designs, this is taking a lot of time and puts me under a lot of pressure to produce. Instead, I would like to go back to how I started and make handles in my own time after my own design ideas for some time again - less pressure for me and that will give me a better chance to get my feet on the ground in my day job again.
- If you are among those who have recently contacted me about custom handles, I will honor that and get you on the list, but please be aware that it will take some time before I will get all orders done.
- I may do a few things like putting up a poll to see what type of handles are in demand or offering 'half-finished' handles like Mike Henry does occasionally, i.e. handles that have been started and I can finish for a specific size if anybody wants it. If you are interested, you can always ask me to make something specific, I will just be more likely to say no than I was in the past. Chances will be better if you want 3 or more handles, simply because it is more efficient, or if you come with something like 'Can you make me 3 gyuto 240 handles in dark woods?' which leaves the the details to me and I don't have to hunt for materials I don't currently have.
- I may also start to sell off a little bit of my wood stash, just to raise some cash. There are no plans to become a regular wood seller, though.
- As it is, I need to sell a certain number of handles per month, just to cover the rent for the wood shop. After the end of the year, I will have to reevaluate where I am. If I am better off saving the rent than making handles, I may consider stopping this altogether. That's not what I want, I still enjoy making handles, I love interacting with you guys, and I would love to try new things, but except for the past year I actually lost quite a bit of money doing this (my wood buying addiction may have something to do with that...) and given my current situation I cannot afford that anymore. But we'll see how it goes.

Thanks if you managed to read up to here ;) And thanks again to all of you who supported me here on KKF in the past years, be it through direct encouragement, financial support, or even just saying kind words about my work - in times when so much else went wrong and there was no appreciation for my work in my day job, these meant and do mean a lot to me.


07-12-2013, 06:22 PM
Good to hear things are looking up.Can be hard to work in a lower position than you would like,i have been there a couple of times and i found I had to learn to shut up,smile ,nod and keep looking for the next adventure.

07-12-2013, 06:29 PM
All in all, great news! I'm happy to hear that you are at least employed. Focusing on doing good work can only make things better in the long run. Best of luck going forward!

Dave Martell
07-12-2013, 06:51 PM
Stefan, you're not just a great handlemeister and colleague, you're a great friend too. I'd hate to see you leave the handle making but I'd hate it worse to see you down and out so you do what you gotta do when you gotta do it and don't think twice about it. Just keep on rolling on.....

07-12-2013, 06:58 PM
Stefan, very glad to hear things are looking up, even if it's not quite what you had hoped for. Steady employment and income will give you a chance to search for something more long-term at a more leisurely pace. As far as handles go, if they result in more pressure on you versus being a way to unwind, then it probably would be a good idea to step back at least a little. And whatever you decide to do now will not be irreversible. Just do what you need to do to help yourself get past the troubles of the past year.

07-12-2013, 06:58 PM
Its good to hear there is light not to far ahead. With a bit of good fortune, I hope to see more handles from your shop, your work is top notch, it would be a shame to see it stop. Besides everybody needs a passion that isn't "work", to help with the perceived level of sanity!

07-12-2013, 07:44 PM
I hope the best for you. We love your work and you are a stand up guy. I hope everything works out for you and you get that job that you want and deserve.

07-12-2013, 09:11 PM
Great news Stefan! :bliss:

Do what you gotta do to makes things right. You know we're all behind you 100% here.

07-12-2013, 10:49 PM
I havent been on the forum long enough to see your struggles, but I am truly glad to see that your life is turning around.

07-12-2013, 10:54 PM
Stefan: Best wishes, and thank you for sharing. Mahalo for being part of this forum. Eric

Pensacola Tiger
07-12-2013, 11:00 PM

I'm glad to hear things are taking a turn for the better. Wishing you only the best.


07-13-2013, 06:36 AM
Hey Stefan, glad to hear things are slowly getting better, life has its ups and downs but it looks like you're on a good path and although your new job isn't what you expected or dreamed of you'll never know - things lead to other things and there might be positive surprises in the end! All the best!

07-13-2013, 08:28 AM
I'm glad to hear things are looking better! your handles has serving me so well for years...... I am sending you my best wishes!!

07-13-2013, 09:41 AM
When one door closes another opens, hang in there Stefan!

07-13-2013, 12:11 PM
What Tremendous character
Thank you for the inspiration.

07-13-2013, 01:39 PM
Encouraging news.

Take care of yourself, Stefan.

07-13-2013, 06:46 PM
Thanks for your support, guys!


07-13-2013, 07:53 PM
:viking::doublethumbsup::viking::2thumbsup::beer: IMUA :helicop:

Dream Burls
07-13-2013, 08:22 PM
Happy to see that things are turning around for you. We're all rooting for you.

07-13-2013, 08:27 PM
Hmmm. Wish I would have known all this before I started bothering you with orders! Glad to hear you're getting a handle on things though. Oh man. I'm going to hell for that one.

Marko Tsourkan
07-13-2013, 11:22 PM
Good to hear things are moving along.


07-14-2013, 12:37 AM
That just made my day Stefan, good to hear you are on the right path. It might not be what you wanted to do, but it could be a good thing. When my father got laid off at 60, he didn't know what to do, he finally got a job, working more, harder, and for less money, hasn't golfed like he used to, and he couldn't be happier. So, I'm not going to say it could be a great thing, but you never know. Good to hear you didn't have to leave Hawaii either. Good luck!

07-14-2013, 01:22 AM
This is great news Stefan.
But do you really think we'd just "let" you quit making handles?
You're a made guy, there's only one way out.

07-14-2013, 08:53 AM
Stefan. if I can give you a little piece of advice, when thing start to look dark and depressing just remember.....YOU LIVE IN FREAKING HAWAII MAN!

If your still thinking about selling some wood I'd be interested in working something out.

This is great news Stefan.
But do you really think we'd just "let" you quit making handles?
You're a made guy, there's only one way out.

Nerd, that is hilarious! Especially when you imagine those words coming out of that red muppets mouth.

07-14-2013, 01:07 PM
Stefan. if I can give you a little piece of advice, when thing start to look dark and depressing just remember.....YOU LIVE IN FREAKING HAWAII MAN!

I almost mentioned this, but know that when you're really depressed, the scenery doesn't matter much. That said, the last time I was in Hawaii (Maui I think, or Kauai), I seriously considered not leaving, to the point that I was thinking how little I could get away with earning (working at a hotel or something) to cover food and shelter. If I had to do one thing every day for the rest of my life, it would be sitting on the beach in Hawaii with a good book (and, if possible, a cocktail or four).

07-15-2013, 04:03 AM
Thanks for the update, good to hear there's a light. Your thinking on your handle work all makes sense too.
I actually know someone who just started work at the same place as a consultant.. Wonder if it's for the same project. Crazy small world, I should PM you a name.

07-15-2013, 11:28 AM
anything we can do collectively or individually to support you Stephan?.

07-15-2013, 01:08 PM
anything we can do collectively or individually to support you Stephan?.

:plus1: I'm just across the water bro


07-15-2013, 02:33 PM
Thanks everyone for the encouragement here and in the PMs! If all goes as planned, I will struggle another 2 months to come up with money for the rent and then things should be somewhat stable. Unless you are a dean in a School of Public Health/Psychology or you know next week's lottery numbers, there is not much you can do to help at this point. ;) But all the comments and notes I received mean a lot to me!