What’s In the Store?
As mentioned in the last post, the KautzCraft Studio Store was never intended to take top billing with the search engines. It’s really just an outlet for the items I make in my studio. Lost wax silver cast jewelry. I am considering the addition of some of the nicer 3D printed items I create. I intend to not put limitations onto what items I may have to offer.
I built two complete fully operational e-commerce websites for the store. The original, which is named PrestaShop and another built with WordPress and WooCommerce. Both have a lot of upgrade for $$ premium features. My intention was to keep it cheap… but nice looking.
The winner is PrestaShop. WooCommerce looked good at first, but I discovered it was missing many of the included free features of the basic PrestaShop. The biggest issue was lack of an operational customer emailing system in WooCommerce. It is an extra cost add-in. Strangely, there are built-in email templates but nothing there to send them. Had me fooled for a while.
The choice has been made, so I will dig in and learn more about the operation of PrestaShop. It does have a very nice front-end look.
BTW, the “other” store, Ramblin’ Dan’s Store, operates using Zen Cart, another e-commerce webstore. It’s installed on a server in the AWS cloud and does a fine job with my machine tool sales. Oh yeah, emails work fine from there as well. Email operation is a standard (expected) feature, not an extra cost add-in.
Tweaking things is an e-commerce website is S.O.P. so it will be constantly under development. I do it because it is one of the things I like to do, as well as a must do.
Take a look at the store. The link is again the top menu bar of this website.
The KautzCraft Store website has now switched back to WordPress./WooCommerce. PrestaShop fizzled out and wouldn't upgrade or let me do store item edits. I think update changes in server PHP created the issues. Discovered (at least the present) WP/WC does send emails and all the features I want. It is actually a very nice ecommerce site, with very manageable features for my size and needs.
As mentioned in the previous article, I’ll repeat – I shut down the original KautzCraft Studio ecommerce website. Most of the software vendors, including the low cost and free ones, have starter “storefront” packages, but their prime reason for existence is not free software charity, but to promote additional cost ad-ins and “improvements” to the basic store package.
Hey! It’s a business just like mine. I understand. No problem.
But a really small on-line hobby craft business like mine can’t support the overhead for a truly professional, highly featured web presence. Nor do I wish to create that false image.
I have had continuing web presence storefronts for almost two decades. So, I am no newbie at the task. One (Ramblin’ Dan’s Store) for my Taig machine tools and the (now off-line) KautzCraft Studio.
Recent changes have been proposed (not yet implemented) for sales tax collection across state borders here in the USA. Unfortunately, it might filter down to individual tax districts within states, of which there are over 12,000 in the USA.
Buying out-of-state has always been seen as a tax-free purchase by consumers but most states required the purchaser (especially a business) to self-report the purchase and pay the tax. Yeah, that really works…
The current ruling is to shift the burden of this collection and reporting to the business. It’s up to the individual state and taxing district to determine how that would be done. The extreme diversity and complication of 50 to 12,000 different taxing systems is totally unmanageable by a business such as mine.
The requirement for multi-state taxing used to be a physical brick and mortar presence. (A building) The new ruling changes that to an “economic presence.” This will be based on some combination (states make their own criteria) of number of items and/or a specific dollar threshold. A number like $100,000 in sales. Some states are thinking or have implemented as low as $10,000 in sales.
Not only is this a new cost of management for the seller, the infrastructure to manage tens of thousands of internet sales within state tax systems must be implemented. Could this ever be managed in 12,000 taxing districts? Me thinks not.
Honestly, KautzCraft Studio is no where close to even the lowest ($10k) per state proposal, so I am far under the proposed tax RADAR. Even in my home state Texas, the in-state sales tax I collect and report is a pittance, and certainly a PITA for the government bureaucracy needed to collect it. So much so, I am only required to pay it once a year. But I spend $30 a month for bookkeeping to track it (as well as for income tax.) Far more than the total state sales tax I pay.
The whole system of website storefront software all the way down to individual states taxing is intended for large volume sales. Someone with (or desiring) a strong economic presence in the marketplace. Not a hobbyist selling a few wares.
The micro-business becomes collateral damage in such narrow-minded propositions.
The little <$10,000 volume sales, sole proprietor hobbyist, must play by the same rules and processes as the $1M major vendor. If we don’t report and play by the “big boy” rules, there is always the fear of some sort of “big brother” state and federal repercussion.
I don’t mind “keeping the books” it is necessary for many good reasons. The pending interstate sales tax (it’s not yet the law) could be a cloud of doom for very small interstate sellers. The (hinted) $100K/state “economic presence” threshold IS a workable solution for me.
On that assumption, I am developing a new low overhead (cost) web storefront I can personally manage. A place to display my wares and make them available to my immediate circle of friends, and contacts, and beyond. I do not need or desire to look like a million-dollar business. Simply a professional looking e-store of hand-crafted products with the ability for customers to make a purchase.
There will be a link from here to the NEW STORE, in the menu bar, when I put this plan in-motion.
Bought a new URL for this website. A URL is a “Uniform Resource Locator” also known as an Internet address. For the first time I picked a URL that is not the common .com, .org, or .net. It is KautzCraft.Studio. The capital letters are not necessary. Just makes it easier to read. http://kautzcraft.studio is the correct form.
The previous URL for this website was kautzcraft.com. I still own that URL but is currently tied to the old hosting service until a few days into the year 2020. Either URL points to the same website. A simple behind-the-scene trick.
It matches my website title, so it is a keeper.
I have also taken down my KautzCraft Store website. Its URL now points here. I may in time, reactivate the store with a much simpler and easier to maintain website. The software I chose was far more interested in promoting and selling store software upgrades than providing the simple presentation service I desire. Meaning, it was far more “professional” than my needs.
My creative works remain available for purchase, but an Internet storefront is not the way to market my craft. I will find an easier alternative.
Lost at Sea
Fused Deposition Modeling
This is the mainstream hobbyist process for what is generally called three-dimensional printing. Abbreviated as “FDM”. Thermo-plastic is heated past its meting point and extruded through a print head moving in 2-1/2 dimensions. Layer upon layer is built up into a three-dimensional object.
Its best application is rapid prototyping objects that will be manufactured by traditional processes with more durable materials. The process of 3D printing is faster and cheaper for size and shape prototypes. Next best application is simply plastic modeling. In many uses, it is a satisfactory way to make something in plastic. In my opinion it is not a replacement for injection molding plastic for high volume mass production of durable plastic items.
As a hobbyist / artist (hobbyist slash artist) who loves to make things, I jumped into the sea of 3D printing when I discovered the hardware (printers) had become very affordable for hobbyist. Mine were in the $300-$400 range plus supplies. Supplies are mostly but not entirely the plastic filament sold on spools at $50-$25 depending on brand and supposed quality.
I have melted well over a hundred spools of plastic filament over several years. I have invested considerable time and material expense and have had a lot of enjoyment as well as occasional frustration making many things of plastic.
I also experimented with a printing process that uses a plastic based resin that cures to a solid form with Ultra-Violet light exposure. It too is a multiple layer process. It is extremely messy and complex but produces higher quality (smaller layer) plastic items. Object size is limited in my use by the size of the print area.
I published several website blogs dedicated to three-dimensional printing. The one survivor is https://dimensionalprint.org/. Some of my other blogs also contain reference and writeups on my 3D printing activities. Suffice to say, It has been an interesting and rewarding journey. I have been totally involved with the process at a hobbyist level and have become very proficient with the design and making of plastic items.
I coined a term I now use and have used it as the identity for most of the items I have made. That term is Plastic Junque. Junque is a fancy spelling of junk. I have personally realized the bottom line for me is that I have made some “plastic” items of functional value that “should be plastic” and a huge number of junk items that are toys, or display thingies of little or no lasting value.
Lasting value to me is something I have created that represents my human skills and abilities to produce heirloom quality objects that will exist well past my demise. Printed plastic “Junque” doesn’t fill that vision of lasting worth and value. Push start and a “replicator” machine makes the item.
I can design (draw) something but an automated machine totally “makes” it. No human craftsmanship. It’s the single print and done that disturbs me. Make 20 different parts, then assemble, is better. But still, it is plastic. Like the glued plastic model kits I assembled as a kid. Interesting but no real value. Destined to become landfill junk.
What to Do
No, not stop making the Junque. Plastic has its place. I have tried very hard to find an excuse for three-dimensional printing. I discovered an excuse is not required. It is what it is, plastic. When I need something made from plastic, I have mastered a process that will produce it.
My realization is plastic does not replace all conventional material and methods for producing high quality items of enduring value.
The coronation crown for the monarch of Britain will never be made from FDM plastic, but a cheap imitation scale model might.
That illustrates my point. Do I want to continue making only imitation plastic Junque, or a historic crown of gold and jewels fit for a real queen or king?
I don’t see crown-making in my future. Silver crafting (wax carving), wood working, metal craft (machine shop) are all at my avail. The “Sirens of Greek Mythology” are calling for my return from the plastic seas of Junque, to high quality items produced using a real craftsman process and tools. Will I just crash on the rocks?
No, it’s from where I came, and I know their tricks. Just lash me to the mast until we get to port. I have some work to do when I get back home…