That’s No Garage, That’s My Shop   1 comment

Here’s the picnic table in its original wood stain, circa 1987.

It was about 15 years ago that I built my own workbench: a rite of passage for any woodworker.

After making my first project in Junior High, and then working my way through college building in the Mizzou scene shop, I was very much a DIYer throughout our early family years. After making bookcases out of plywood to hold our album collection in our first apartment, I continued to make things for our home. In our first house, it was about outdoor living: a wooden fence. A patio cover. The picnic table that I made is still with us, 32 years later.

The Easton Press collectible books are pretty. They read well, too.

In our second home, I really got busy. Space saver closets. A breakfast nook. More patio furniture. End tables. Loft beds for the boys. An entertainment center. A desk.

I’m sitting at that desk to write this post. It’s been my official office since I stopped my daily commuting on the LA Freeways in 2009.

It wasn’t until I decided to make a Christmas gift for my mother, though, that things began to get dicey.

Yes. I blame my mother.

Mom, you see, has this obsession with snowmen. I decided I would make her a snowman routed bowl, and that prompted a whole slew of other bowls in different shapes and sizes. I chronicled that process in one of my early blog posts, Making A Snowman.

Once I had made a couple of dozen bowls (!), I commented to who would become the elder Mrs M that the same technique for making bowls is how you would make cutting boards.

Major mistake, that. Life altering, even.

She immediately said, “Make me a cutting board.”

OK, so I made 5 in that first batch, and gave 4 of them away that Christmas. Velda’s board got another one of those early blog posts, which you can read, here. The picture is not very good, though; here’s a better picture from when I restored her board a couple of years later:

Velda’s Cutting Board. Goncalo Alves (Tigerwood), Black Walnut, Honey Locust, Jatoba & Cherry. Edge grain, and 2 years old as shown. 16″ x 21″ x 1-1/4″.

From there, it was just a hop & a skip to what has become Mr M’s Woodshop. Our 2 car garage hasn’t seen a car in more than a decade. It’s become the center of my seriously out of control hobby … with about 450 square feet of dedicated space.

The problem? The shop is bulging at the seams. I’m working in a mess right now. The main culprit, I’ve decided, are the piles & piles of end cuts and off cuts that I’ve collected and refuse to throw away. Hardwood doesn’t come in nice even-sized boards, unfortunately. Some are 8′ long. Some are 9′. Or 10′ … or any length up to 16′. The widths are similarly variable, from 4″ up to, in rare cases, 14″. When I do what I do, I inevitably have the odd bits & pieces left over, and those are the hardest parts to use. They require TLC. They require special sizes. They require individual glue-ups; there’s no efficiency here.

So, those cut offs keep waiting for the next open slot on the calendar to get cleaned up … and I keep filling those slots with special projects.

Like the 2 I’m working on this week.

Oh, and did I mention I’ve got a new tool coming? That tool is the solution to some of these cut-offs, thankfully, so I want to save those cut-offs until I have time to process then with the new tool.

It’s about time. It’s about space.

And I hope my result is better than that of the obscure 1967 TV series from the creator of “Gilligan’s Island” with that lyric for an opening theme.

So, in all of its glory, here is the over-used chaos I call my garage workshop, before its transformation with the mandatory cleaning and new tool placement that will be the solution to my problem.

I hope.

 

The Board Chronicles: Goleta Lemon Festival 2017   Leave a comment

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

The Goleta Lemon Festival is a comfortable, small community event with something for everyone.

There are rides & bounce houses for the kids ($30 wrist band for unlimited access). Free music for everyone on the big stage. Lemon-flavored beer. And, of course, this Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event has booths for local businesses and vendors. It’s not a huge event: there were perhaps 40 or 50 total booths. The atmosphere, though, is great. Temperatures are mild. What’s not to like?

Goleta is a coastal community in Santa Barbara county. One challenge is that Goleta is 90 minutes from home, and the hotel costs are significant. It’s hard to find a mid-priced motel under $250. Our hotel costs were higher than our event fees for this event, which is startling.

We felt so good about this event 2 years ago, when we last did it.

Well, perhaps I should say Mrs M felt good about it: she outsold me. That’s a relatively unusual thing, and she celebrates that victory to this day. It was her first $1,000 event – her best event EVER. She’s had bigger events since, of course, but she was anxious to return to the Lemon Festival.

When we last did the event, it was before Mrs M’s purpose-built display. It was before soap. Way before ZooSoapia. It was even before Magic Bottle Openers, so we both felt that we had upsides when we returned this year.

Expectations.

New Ideas

  • Mrs M had to work this weekend at her “job,” so we booked this event with the knowledge that I would be solo. We ended up with Mrs M driving up to help me set up Friday afternoon, which was a help. Then, Little Girl drove up to help me sell on Saturday. Sunday, I was solo: me alone in a 10×20 booth. The event on Sunday was 10 – 5, and then I had to tear down and load out. Alone.

Observations

  • I was a lonely, lonely man.
  • But that was on Sunday. Saturday was a different experience.
  • The first entertainment act was a local vocal school, and it started – the event started – with a young Annie wannabe that was definitely not ready for prime time. Humble beginnings, indeed.
  • Act #2 was Ukulele Jim. I observed that anyone with an instrument in their name was clearly serious about their craft. Our booth neighbor asked how many hours of practice had to happen before you could put your instrument in your name. 5,000 hours? More?
  • It was suggested to me that I make deviled egg platters. Challenge accepted.
  • It was suggested to me that I make cutting boards colored like a dive flag. I see the interest … maybe.
  • Sold my first mother/daughter matched set of boards. They both liked the same board on the table, and I just happened to have its mate under the table.
  • Requests were for a heart-shaped board (sigh), chess boards (sigh), small boards with juice grooves (sigh) and small boards with holes for hanging (sigh). I need more time. Other requests were for a board with a crumb catcher (common in Europe, they said) and a cutting board only 1/4″ thick.
  • One of the challenges of working an event solo is dealing with personal needs. How do you get food? Once you have it, how do you get time to eat, without a mouth full when a customer asks a question?
  • And, yes, there are bathroom challenges. I finally bribed a customer with a bar of soap so she would watch my booth for 3 minutes while I sought relief.
  • In the end, my sales were down from my anemic 2015. Mrs M’s sales were up a tad, so she had another $1,000 weekend … which, at this point, is just no big deal. This was a disappointing event for us with below average sales and high travel costs.
  • No cutting boards sold this weekend. No sale over $100. That’s unusual.
  • We ate $79 in singles at this event. That’s unprecedented, and speaks to the number of small transactions that were for Mrs M’s products. Good thing we travel with $100 in singles!
  • Load out was OK, but it does take longer when we put up our FULL display and there’s only me to tear it down. I took the canopies down just after twilight … it was 7:35p. I was loaded at about 8, so it was a 3 hour load out. The drive home was about 90 minutes, and with my stop to pick up dinner, I was home at 9:45p.
  • High living.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: “Free” plastic omelettes at the Best Western means I followed Mrs M’s standing recommendation and made faux Bacon McMuffins with salsa. You get what you pay for here.

Saturday Lunch: Chicken Quesadilla, which was very good … even for fair food.

Saturday Snack: Nope.

Saturday Dinner: The best Yelp-rated pizza place in Goleta delivered. Woodstock pizza was good … but I won’t recommend their whole wheat crust.

Sunday Breakfast: “Free” frittatas weren’t plastic, but they were tasteless. Faux Sausage McMuffins this time. Yuck.

Sunday Lunch: Since I was anchored to the booth, I brought Lunchables & Pepperidge Farm cookies from the grocery store. I did not suffer.

Sunday Snack: Did I mention the Pepperidge Farm cookies?

Sunday Dinner: McDonald’s # 1, eaten on the road. High living.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 382
  • Booth cost: $450
  • Food cost: $143
  • Travel cost: $685
  • Total sales: $1,745
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $467
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 6a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 103
  • # soap & lotion vendors: there was a lemon-themed local roller ball team of makers that wore very nice lemon print dresses; they owned local & lemon.
  • # woodworking vendors: there was a toy maker
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 13:1
  • Returning next year? doubt it

Boards sold: 14

Cheese Boards: 4

Magic Bottle Openers: 3

Small Boards: 2

Letter Clipboard: 2

Small Surfboard: 1

Medium Surfboard:  1

Custom Order: 1

Special Orders Caught Up!   1 comment

I have this love/hate relationship with special orders.

I love being a part of weddings. Making a handmade wedding gift for a client is truly fulfilling in a unique way. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of some couple’s oh-so-special day?

On the other hand, I hate the time pressure that’s inevitable with special orders. Even if people don’t specify an impossible deadline, I always have a date in mind that I tell them the board should be done by …

And it’s always too soon.

Well, it seems that way, in any event.

The reality of my situation is that I have so much to do, there’s never time to not be doing.

It’s a wonderful problem to have!

So, with these special orders, I’m about as caught up as I ever am. Still in the shop are 2 more that just need feet attached to be done. There are 4 more awaiting construction, one restoration to finish … and then there are the 2 big corporate orders to complete in October. And don’t forget, 2 of our biggest events of the year are in October.

So, yes, I’ve got more to do … even as I celebrate some of what I’ve done.

Big, Small & Cheesy   Leave a comment

Yes, these are cutting boards. Or they can be.

Yes, these are serving pieces. Or they can be.

The big boards are great cutting boards, or course … the Hickory board is particularly fetching, I think. Great cutting board. The dark, squarish board with Pau Ferro didn’t photograph well, but it’s subtlety is not lost in direct light.

And then there are the smaller boards that I call cheese boards. They all can be cutting boards, though they are small if you intend to do more than slice a tomato or cut a lemon. For some, they are perfect for cutting boards. I’m told.

So, adults get to choose in my booth. I will tell them what I call a piece … and then they tell me what they call them.

That’s the thing about being an adult. You get a vote.

The 200th Cutting Board, Again   1 comment

Back again.

It’s simply lovely to have a bit of shop time that lets me catch up. Inventory is once again over 200 pieces, if only for a short while. A bit of creativity can get sparked when I have shop time, thank goodness. And that’s when things can get pretty.

This board was a special order. I was tasked to make an in-counter replacement board, and it needed a splash of Bird’s Eye Maple in a field of brown. It was going to match another piece in its new home, I was told, and the board needed to be just right.

So, OK! I first had to find that perfect piece of Bird’s Eye, and then I had to design a board around it. I take what the wood gives me. And in this case, I’m happy to get this board to an owner who appreciates the uniqueness of the wood.

This is the front:

 

Cutting Board 17 – 129. Black Walnut, Padauk and Bird’s Eye Maple. 16″ x 20″ x 3/4″. Commissioned piece.

And this is the back:

Cutting Board 17 – 129. Detail of the back of the board, including my logo in the lower right corner.

 

When she picked it up, the new owner of the board said that it will never be cut on. With wood this pretty, I entirely support that decision!

More

The 250th Cutting Board (4/18/17)

The 200th Cutting Board, 6th Time ‘Round (2/9/17)

The 200th Cutting Board, 5th Time ‘Round (11/30/16)

The 200th Cutting Board, 4th Time ‘Round (10/7/16)

The 200th Cutting Board, Third Time ‘Round (8/5/16)

The 200th Cutting Board, 8 Months Later (4/9/16)

The 200th Cutting Board (9/18/15)

Simply Great Coffee   4 comments

I worked in the Mizzou theater to help pay my way though college. In my freshman year, I worked in the scene shop making sets and props: it’s where I first used power tools. I helped make step units, platforms on legs, wall units, and all sorts of oddball things like giant crown molding and a curved staircase handrail.

Everything in the scene shop was made for the shows, and the pieces were retired at the end of every show’s run. Temporary constructions.

Flash forward for a, uh, few years, and I was asked to make promotional furniture for a limited run at Circle K.

Some branding events were being developed for certain stores in North Carolina that served “Simply Great Coffee,” and I was asked to help change the look of the stores for the events. Instead of the plastic counters, they wanted real wood counters. They wanted engraved signage. And, they wanted the pieces to be mobile so they could move from store to store.

An architectural firm in North Carolina was hired to go measure the stores and take reference photos. My client developed renderings of what they wanted, and then left the woodworking to me.

OK, go.

I made 9 pieces:

  • A 2′ x 10′ counter, made to slide on top of the existing counter. The trickiest part of the design was the in-counter trash chute that had to mate up with the existing trash chute.
  • Three 1′-9″ x 5′ pieces, called “parallel toppers” that were to slide on top of existing desk-like counters, each covering one of the plastic counters and its associated back splash.
  • Two 24″ diameter round engraved signs to hang in the windows.
  • One 30″ coffee table, also engraved.
  • Two highboy cocktail tables, which needed to come apart for travel.

My engraver, Lavene & Co, added some engraved napkin holders and coasters to complete the look. She also engraved the signage and the coffee table, as you will see.

The pieces needed to be completed in 30 days, and then picked up from my house wrapped in packing blankets for transport to North Carolina.

I made the deadline, the pieces journeyed safely across the country … and the results were exactly what the client wanted!

“I Start With Lumber.”   4 comments

The garage woodshop has been pretty crazy for the last few weeks.

  • Inventory is down – critically down – and our fall events begin NEXT WEEK.
  • Panic has set in.
  • The new tool is on order, and shop space has to be cleared for it. Unfortunately the shop is bursting at the seams right now with lumber. That’s a good thing … but it’s gotta go. I need to make stuff from the lumber, so I have space for the new tool.
  • Which is on order.
  • Tic. Tic. Tic.

Here are a few boards which made it to the finish line this week. There are oh so many more coming … and some new surprises, too! … but first things first.

Nine boards, humbly submitted for your consideration.

Towering Above The Snake   Leave a comment

There are few views more dramatic than the sudden elevation of the Grand Teton range beyond the Snake River. Towering 7,000 feet over the valley, the rugged mountains dominate the landscape at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Snow, storms, seasonal color or the soft glow of sunrise transform the scene, making it one of the most photogenic places in the world. Photo by Kyle Miller. Posted on Tumblr by the US Department of the Interior on 7/16/17.

More

Grand Teton National Park

A Stunning Sunset

Cottonwood Creek

Sunrise On The Tetons

The Oxbow Bend

Posted August 31, 2017 by henrymowry in National Parks

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Blame The Space Race   Leave a comment

In 1962, NASA acquired 140,000 acres of land, water and marshes adjacent to Cape Canaveral to establish the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Despite the massive undertaking of sending a man to the moon, not all the land was needed, so the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established on the unused portions. Today, you can see manatees, tropical birds, turtles, otters, bobcats and yes, the occasional rocket launch. Photo by Jose Torres. Posted on Tumblr by the US Department of the Interior, 8/29/17.

Posted August 30, 2017 by henrymowry in Photography

Summer Color   Leave a comment

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