Heirloom objects commemorating military life

Command Performance_Mcguire Shadowbox

Shadow Box for a retired Master Chief in the Navy

In recent years, the word ‘heirloom’ has crept into the vernacular of everyday speech. From heirloom vegetables at grocery stores to home décor magazine touting heirloom objects found at flea markets, often times the intention is more buzz than substance. There is no history or story being told. But how does something become an heirloom? And what about the creation of new heirlooms, an object specifically intended to begin its life cycle today, to commemorate the current life yet to outlive us all in the hands of great-great-grandchildren and beyond?

Command Performance_Double Decker Hat Box

Double decker hat box

ShopBot users Tim and Lalane Haenisch’s military objects represent this new heirloom era but possess sincerity and are tailored to a family tree. The military, specifically the Navy’s foundation, reflects a tradition of objects weighted with meaning, and particular gestures, significant and historical. Tim and Lalane know all about this having lived the military lifestyle while Tim completed 21 years of active duty in the Navy, retiring as Senior Chief. For years their side business, Command Performance, has made many objects such as custom pens, tap handles for a San Diego-based hard cider company, and other one-off items, but their heart and true passion lies in creating shadow boxes for military personnel, from hat boxes to plaques to sea chests for retirees. Each as personal and built with intention as a quilt sewn from a loved one’s weathered clothing. “I want to capture the summary of a person’s career, to tell the complete story of a person’s military life and their service to our country,’ says Tim.




Command Performance_In work1

This current project, a shadow box end table, Tim is finishing within a tight 7-day deadline for a retiring coast guard officer.

The shadow box tradition is very old, and Tim and Lalane carry on this tradition, but with modern day tools and processes. One project they completed was a 4’x’2’x2’ solid wood sea chest with an array of 3D military insignias carved using Aspire and their ShopBot Desktop. As Tim tells it, back in the day on wooden ships, crewmembers would assemble a trunk (or box) full of objects from a retiring sailor’s ship life—memorabilia that reflected his lifetime at sea. When the sailor ‘went ashore,’ that trunk would be physically carried off the ship: The object and action representing  the containment and then passage of the person’s narratives.

Tim’s background in woodworking and custom cabinetry combine effortlessly with Lalane’s eye for design and assemblage. They gain new clients mostly through word of mouth, so they rely on the objects to speak for themselves. “I want people to say, ‘Wow, where did you get that?!’ when they see the boxes at retirement parties,” Tim explains. They pride themselves on listening to each client’s stories, knowing that they have to retell that story through the object.




Command Performance_Navy Diver Coin Rack

Tim and Lalane’s Challenge Coin holder was a new product they introduced after purchasing their Desktop. Challenge Coins are given in response to going above and beyond call of duty. Most officers have their own personalized coins. Tim and Lalane have received a quite a few as a thank you.


Command_Performance- box3

A sea chest has 3-d carved panels custom fit together to create 4 feet of artwork. The customer didn’t want a traditional shadow box so Tim suggested a sea chest with a 4-inch deep front panel. The inside is cedar, which stores old uniforms.


When Lalane first meets with a new client, they bring all of the items they wish to be presented in the piece Command Performance is creating, which is sometimes 35+ years worth of items. Over the years, Lalane developed ‘style books’ to show new clients since some aren’t sure how to present their life stories. Others walk in with a clear vision. She also shows them the assortment of lacquers and stains available.  If they want their ship’s emblem or their previous or current rank’s logo, then Tim works with CNC Military Emblems to create the 3D file. Often their customers may be off at sea, so being able to utilize Aspire’s features to email them a virtual rendering has been invaluable, especially for fact checking dates and names before creating the final piece.

Creating everything by hand and power tools, Tim began his research for a CNC system in 2012 after a friend did some 3D carvings on his company’s industrial CNC machine for Tim. First he came across the CarveWright system, but after reading reviews he realized it wasn’t a good match and neither were commercial grade machines. Then he began to see ShopBot’s name. Tim reflects, “at that point, I’d been doing woodworking for 15-16 years and had been blessed that every time I invested in a new tool it paid for itself.” This stayed true: Since purchasing their machine, it’s paid for itself threefold. He has integrated 3D carving into almost every product and has added to their repertoire. Even his 2D process has changed. “Using my scroll saw to cut out military emblems used to include around 150 blade changes. An eagle’s wings could be around 70 changes”. Now he can setup the Desktop and run it while making the rest of the shadow box.


Command_Performance- Julian Hard Cider

Julian Hard Cider tap pulls commissioned by the company for every location their hard cider is available.

Tim and Lalane plan to purchase a laser to continue to expand their product line. He’s also got his eye on the new ShopBot Desktop MAX. Knowing that a laser may increase business, and given that his actual full-time job is as a systems engineer at a software company, he may need the extra robotic employee.

“It’s not about the woodworking. It is about what’s inside the box and how it is presented. The woodworking is just a nice cover on the book,” reflects Tim, “We want to touch people’s hearts.” That’s pride: knowing the new heirloom reflects Navy Pride and tradition and the sacrifices made to earn the ribbons, the uniforms, and Purple Hearts. A family’s military life bundled into something that reaches far into the future.


Command_Performance- Ammo Box Style Hat Box

An ammo-box stylized Hat Box

Command_Performance- Lalane2

Lalane completing the final arrangement of a shadow box’s objects.












See more of Tim and Lalane’s work or to get in contact with them, see their Facebook page: Command Performance

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