“No want to do! No can do, not legal!” He has special valuable equipment he does not want unknow metals in. There are safety liability issues. The metals could contain lead for example. Melting points and properties are unknown, so how would he dial it in with the computer? He’d have to experiment, his insurance does not allow experimenting. That’s also lots of unknown shop time hours.
A high loss is not hurting me. The metals are free. I have no employees to be concerned about. No safety issues to factor in. No permits or inspections to wait on or pay for. My costs are relatively low. Coins are different then my usual jewelry casting however. The value of finished jewelry is much higher. I could lose 90% of my jewelry castings, and still make a profit, but not with coins!
I end up with half an hour total time per coin. So making more than about 100 would not work well. What I offer is low production, unique, each different and ‘rare.’ I mention this for artists interested in taking on such a project. Keep in mind what you can offer, the strengths and then what can not be offered very easily.
The concept from the beginning was to have a product that looks ‘old,’ like it might have been done 100 years ago in Alaska, as part of commemorating our history. Having never made a coin I only guessed at the end result. I knew for sure this would have a primitive look. I had issues from the beginning but knew I would. A design that works, and mold that reproduces right, with some casting unknowns.
I had to order a new better sonic cleaner. I also use an unknown tool in my trade, a water jet, designed to clean spots out of laundry by commercial cleaners. A $20 tool if you know about it.
With ‘safe,’ being the priority and moving right along…cut the sprues off, do a rough sand, put in the roughest tumble grit for a day. Well, better to just see the video. Sand better, then next grit, look at closer, sort, fix, move to a more final shine, call it an end product. A few are mixed metals… I learned how to turn an oops into a more valuable product. When being asked, “How do you do that?” Where do I begin, if it’s an honest conversation? “Go back to square one and start all over?” Usually first questions are, “Is that safe?” “Is his recommended?” “Who or where did you learn this?” The pat short reply to it all is, “magic!” “Meet OZ! The great and powerful! Do not pay attention to that man behind the curtain! Step right this way and be amazed!” I hear “A humbug!” I reply “Correct!” With pride.
So, here we have a finished product. Important is that the words on the coin be readable.
I did consider there could be a lot of issues, so agreed to a low run, not the 500 requested. I figured I could come up with 50. This is an agreement between two people, no contract, just a handshake. No payment unless satisfied. I in fact asked for a lot of money! I wanted an understanding what this will be worth to me when done. Call it a test, to see if there is an agreement and willingness to pay full value. It’s not about the money, but neither do I wish to be played for a sucker.
There is a committee in charge of this grand celebration, involving the city council. Kat is on this council! Word gets out about some coin project and we hear, “It can be done cheaper in China!” Is Nenana about cheap cheap and cheaper overseas? Mis Stake- the ‘secret’ ‘Kat’ is not discussing cost! Nor about donating, giving away the coins. The committee may expect a design submission, a vote, a plan, involvement, credit. There might be liability questions, proper permits, submitted bids. I in fact did not want this project, turned it down. To much politics. To much heartache with anticipated questions. To many hurt feelings if I left out the airplane, or proper exact Indian translations.
Kat and I stare at the final product and it is everything she dreamed of, as the ‘metal man of magic,’ said was possible. I did not count my hours, but a couple of hundred, and guessing a half an hour hand work into each coin. It’s time to get paid.
My real payment was, “it’s all I expected and more, they are beautiful Miles!” Flattery? I do need some amount of $ to cover my costs. I suggest some trades we could work out. She makes glass beads I use in my art, garden produce she puts up. There is art I have, that she needs she could buy. We are and always have been a subsistence village. Subsistence is about trades, helping and looking out for each other as a tradition. This is part of what Kat and I are celebrating, not the value of the almighty dollar!
This Project is a labor of love. Would someone get up at 4:00 am and eagerly jump out of bed to solve problems, on salary? I tell Kat how it was for me and what Nenana means….
“In the end I settled on Nenana for the same reason many did, and still do. A good place to camp” I add “But also a good place to settle - call home, care about.” Nenana is a border line between the wilderness and civilization. This road and rail bridge here is still the only River crossing and end of the road system for 1,000 river miles to the ocean. It is the end of the line for the barge system from the ocean. Nenana is a port. From here dog winter trails go all the way to Nome with no roads, with 800 miles by trail.
Yet Fairbanks, the second largest city in Alaska is an easy 55 miles, hour away. In Nenana I can have cheap utilities, be hooked into the civilized systems with phone, internet, mail, so a way to sell my art, get supplies fast and cheap. I sell wilderness to civilization. One of the few communities not in a borough, that owns it’s airport. There is some economic opportunity and a civilized standard of life compared to most similar remote villages.
The best of both worlds. Cheap property, low taxes. Yes, in reality, also the worse of both worlds. All the rules and regulations civilization wishes to impose on all of us. All the weekend warrior hunters and wanna-be survivalists showing up as tourists with easy access to our wilds. Without the knowledge or wilderness ethics. The rich show up to shoot our trophy moose, catch our salmon, harvest our timber, suck our oil up. Now we are not as rich in resources as we once were. When I arrived, 1,000 residence. Now reduced to a struggling 300. Raped and plundered and bowing the value of the dollar. However we have always been a feast famine, boom bust, community and state.
Our coin is not about what it cost, nor to be closely examined for it’s perfection or lack of. Kat and I created a coin with a message we want to endure. I tell her my view…
“It’s about recycling and repurposing.” She nods and replies, “And trust, protecting our resources, a way of life where we help each other, trade, barter, provide necessities, value pride.” “Kat, not pride in a perfect job! Pride in giving of time and heart, to share. Loving each other for who we are, being self-reliant.” We did not wish to get overly sentimental! Two Nenana characters decided to do something. Made it happen. Like those who first put up a tripod on our ice, or built an impossible bridge across a river…”Kat, no one knew what cement would do at 60 below zero, so it was decided to span the river with no supports in the water, never been done before.” Imagine the liability issues and what committees had to say! People with a dream built the roads, the bridge, the rail, the trails, the oil pipeline, and came to Alaska for homestead land, gold, freedom, Dreams. A Jack London and Robert Service life, the Natives were already living. We want our coin to say all this. This post began with phase one the design, with the video . Progressed to another post, phase 2, the casting and a video. This might be the last, the end product with a video.
Yes I agree, it’s just a stupid coin. All these words, all the hoop-la, all this heart and emotion. I just hope, well that you enjoy what it is you do for fun and a living. Love life, give it your best…. Anyhow, wave my hand in dismissal, project over, time to move along to another idea. I have a few concepts for custom knives I want to get going on. Never been done before. Have a nice day.