You’ve Got To Have Cheese….   Leave a comment

I’m in search of the perfect cheese & cracker server. This year, I’ve added Cracker Things … and Cheese Slicers.

I’ve gotten closer to my goal, one step at a time.

Cheese Slicers require some unique machining: at this point, it’s the only piece I make that requires a drill press. I have to make a vertical 3.75″ x 1/4″ hole in a 3/4″ board. Centering the hold, vertically, is a challenge.

After the hole is drilled, I have to make a sloping cut on the table saw to make sure the cheese wire can be captured by the handle without damage to the wire. That’s a key point, and when not done properly is the reason why many cheese slicers have wires that fail too quickly.

Thank goodness I have my lifetime guarantee: if something happens to the slicer, I’ll fix it. In my lifetime.

Gallows humor, in a cheese slicer. Who knew?

Big Cutting Boards   3 comments

The thing about making big cutting boards … is I can only make them when I sell them.

After all, if I keep making them … storage would be an issue. In my small shop, that’s no trivial matter. I have no room!

So, I’m pleased to say that I keep selling big cutting boards, and I had to make more to keep my inventory at a good level.

That’s a very good thing. I love making big cutting boards, AKA BDBs.

BDB = Big Damn Cutting Boards.

These are approximately 16″ x 21″ x 1.5″, which is the size I end up with when I start with a “blank” that’s 16x24x1.75″. Two glue-ups, 3 sanding machines, one table router and lots and lots of hand work later, these are the hand rubbed beauties that I am left with.

Ends. Odds. Other.   2 comments

One of my pet peeves is when a person enters my booth, looks at my work, and says, “this is a good way to use scrap.”

In a cooler moment, I can reflect on the word “scrap.” In a cooler moment, I can say without reservation,

I. Do. Not. Use. Scrap.

At. All.

It’s all in the definition. Some people call anything that’s not an 8′ board … scrap. To them, you use lumber to make a table or build a house … and when you cut a piece, what’s left is scrap. Every time.

Hogwash.

When I get hardwood to use, the first thing I do is cut it. Typically, I cut lumber (which is generally somewhere between 9′ and 16′ long, and 4″ to 10″ wide) into 6′ lengths, which are easier for me to process and store. When I’m ready to cut those 6′ lengths (or the shorter lengths I get when I cut a 10′ piece into 2 pieces), I cut them into pieces no longer than 24″. Those are easiest for me to work with in my small shop.

I collect pieces that are between 18 and 23″ long in one cabinet, and those “end cuts” or “off cuts” are eventually made into pieces like these surfboards, Lazy Susans, or trivets.

They are not scrap.

I save shorter pieces, too, down to 12″ in length. The smallest pieces go to Dr H, who turns them into pens that are gifted to people around the world. And anything shorter than 12″ and narrower than 3/4″ … well, that’s scrap, because it’s too small to use.

I don’t use scrap. I start with lumber, and I end up here:

The Cracker’s The Thing   1 comment

With all due apologies to Shakespeare, Cracker Things are proving that the cracker’s the thing!

I took Cracker Things to the Harvest Festival in Sacramento … and sold so many at that one event, I had no choice but to make more.

It’s a wonderful problem to have.

Cracker Things are always on a colorful base of many hardwoods. The crackers go into an angular holder that’s 10-1/2″ long, and perfect for holding crackers of all sizes, and keeping them neatly in place during your next party … even if it’s a party for 1.

Our last event of 2019 is this Saturday at Valencia High School. This event is a fundrasier for the award-winning VHS Choir, and you’ll find both Mrs M’s soaps & lotions and my food-ready products on display. Hope to see you there!

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New: Cracker Things

The Board Chronicles: Boutique Fantastique 2019   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.

Home.

This is the heritage holiday boutique in Santa Clarita.

The PTSO takes over the gym (after the basketball team relinquishes ownership at 5pm Friday). The PTSO then spreads tarps over the entire floor, tapes out the spaces for 100+ vendor booths and tries to get home before midnight.

The next morning, the gates open for load in at 6:30am. As vendors drive up to the gym, they are met by hordes of students there to support the event that funds many scholarships. This is the biggest school event that we’ve encountered, and it’s a joy to be there.

Our 3 kids graduated from Saugus High … and this event raises over $10,000 each year for the SHS scholarship fund.

You bet we want to be support this event. What’s not to like?

This event has really never been a slam dunk success for us (2017, 2016, 2015), but it’s perfect in every non-financial way: we sleep in our own bed. The event is 3 miles from home. We see a LOT of familiar faces, have found a multitude of local, year-round supporters, and have fostered a great number of friendships at this event.

We’re in. No doubt.

New Ideas

  • Velda traveled to spend a week with her mother, returning on the night before this event. She anticipated she might be, uh, challenged to stay awake during the boutique, so she elected to do a (somewhat) smaller presentation, limited to her traditional wooden display on a 6′ table. Therefore, she “gave” me the other space in the booth so I could have more than just a 10×10.
  • Since this was a unique set up, I did a floorplan for how we could best use the 10×20 space. I identified the number of tables we would need: 10. Then, I only brought 9. I’ve never brought too few tables to an event before.
  • Making their debut at this event for me were Cheese Slicers, Garlic Dipping Boards, Carnivore Boards, Cribbage Boards, CNC Signs and the just-produced, aptly named Cracker Things. It appears I’ve been busy since our last appearance at Boutique Fantastique!

Observations

  • This event is a well-oiled machine right now. I arrived at the parking lot at 5:45a to line up for the gate to open. There are about 10 unloading slots (and only 2 for a trailer), so you have to wait to get in. Once you’re in, there are MANY students to carry your gear to your booth space while you go park your car. I was unloading at 6:30a, parked at 7a, and began set up with Mrs M.
  • It took all of 3 hours this morning. We had a unique set up, with mesh walls, the Trimline framework, 9 tables … and I stacked 9 containers to mimic my 10th table. Covered the containers with a table cloth, and it worked well. Hmmmmmmm.
  • Back story: Mrs M hates it when I put multiple copies of the same sign up for sale. I generally do this with 2 signs: “Why Limit HAPPY To An Hour?” and “The Answer is BEER. No One Cares What The Question Was.” I put up different colors of each sign; I make about 6 versions of each. HAPPY and BEER are always gold, but the other copy could be red, blue (2 shades), green (2 shades), black or purple.
  • Mrs M hates it when I post all of those copies on the walls. Today, with the ticking clock measuring our set up time, she was right to observe that putting up multiple copies would spend time I might not have to get the signs up before our opening at 10a.
  • I put up just 2 of each.
  • First question of the day: “Do you have more of these?
  • Second question of the day: “What other colors do you have?”
  • Yes, I did say I told you so. Who could blame me?
  • Well, we know who could, and who did.
  • Fabulous weather for this event: mid-80s both days. And I do know that Californians love to do their holiday shopping when it’s in the 80s.
  • This event blew up on Saturday; I had my best day ever at Boutique Fantastique. Was it because my display was bigger? Because we were absent last year? Because all of my swell new products (which were the top sellers)? No clue. I had a good day. A very good day. Most vendors reported strong sales.
  • Mrs M, on the other hand, had a slow weekend. Not a good combination with her jet lag.
  • Were her sales down because of the smaller display? Because she didn’t put price tags up on Saturday? Because our neighbor put a big furry waterfall of clothing outside of her booth, blocking the view to Mrs M’s display? There’s no way to know. But maybe next year….
  • Cracker Things were a hit. # 1 comment from multiple ladies in the booth: “Those are cute!”
  • I take that as a win.
  • I generally assume I’ll sell no cutting boards this weekend, which has been basically true in the past. This is probably because the students are selling their work by the front door, and every Mom/Cousin/Aunt has to buy the board that their student made. That’s all good. This year, though, I sold 4x cutting boards, all of which were bigger sizes than the students make.
  • I take that as a win.
  • Load out was smooth. Mrs M and I got the merchandise put away, then she went home to nap. Students showed up to help me do the rest, and the work moved quickly as other vendors left and I gained more help. When I went to go move the trailer to the loading zone, 100% of my gear was on the curb waiting when I drove up. 4 guys helped me load … and I was home 2 hours after the Boutique closed.
  • HUGE win. HUGE.

The Food

  • Best Meal: The youngest Mrs M, AKA MrsMowry, joined us for dinner with her beau, AKA the Engineer, on Saturday night. The Mrs M’s collaborated and stirred up a pasta surprise. The Mr M’s watched football and drank whiskey.
  • Honorable Mention: I forget how good Jersey Mike’s sandwiches are. They sell 4″ subs at the Boutique, and that was my lunch both days.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 24
  • Booth cost: $275
  • Food cost: $24
  • Travel cost: $0
  • Total sales: $3,035
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 3
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • Saturday alarm: 5a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: we had a good Saturday, but Sunday was slow. Too slow for jet-lagged Mrs M
  • # soap & lotion vendors: 2 other vendors were “soap adjacent”
  • # woodworking vendors: several vendors had wooden objects on display, but the only real “competitor” I had was the high school woodshop, which sells small student-made cutting boards to fund wood purchases for the program. I am a supporter.
  • Returning next year? Yup.

Boards sold: 34

  • Cutting Boards: 4
  • Cracker Thing: 8
  • Cheese Slicers: 6
  • CNC Signs: 3
  • Lazy Susans: 3
  • Surfboard: 1
  • Garlic Dipping Boards: 5
  • Trivets: 2
  • Special Order: 1
  • Heart: 1
  • Cheese Board: 1

Everyone Likes To Play With These   Leave a comment

I started making cheese slicers in January … and it’s very clear that people like to pretend they are slicing cheese when they see them in the booth.

They lift the handle. The lower the handle. They comment to their companions, “Look, a cheese slicer!”

It’s an interactive display. The slicers invite touch, which I love. When people touch the kitchen tools that I’m making, they tend to like them.

I know some vendors stand at the front of their booth and hand items to people as they pass by, to “make” them touch them. I don’t do that; I will not be an annoying huckster.

My sales may suffer, honestly, but I don’t care. I have to do what I do.

And what I do, is make things that are so delectable that people want to touch them. That’s me being me.

That catharsis out of the way … here are the latest slicers, hopefully available for touching at a holiday boutique near you!

All of these slicers are approximately 7″ wide x 11″ long. They have non-skid rubber feet. Cost is $45 for any of these slicers. A frequent question is about replacement wires, which I do offer for sale at my cost. Those wires are also available (at a higher cost, I would add) from CheeseSlicing.com.

Cutting Boards, Coasters & Lazy Susans   1 comment

I’ve been busy … but it always seems to be not quite enough.

I keep making stuff, I keep selling stuff … and I’ve never felt caught up in the 6 years that I’ve been doing this. I’m certainly not ahead, as I don’t have extra inventory to replace what I sell. So, when I have a good weekend where I sell 34 pieces (!), I have to get right back into the shop and make sure I have at least 34 more for the next event.

At least I have a goal! Maybe next year I can get ahead. Dreams are a wonderful thing….

New: Cracker Things   4 comments

You know I’m in search of the perfect serving piece for Cheese & Crackers … and I’ve got several variations in the booth at every event. All good.

The corollary to making cheese boards, of course, is what to do with the crackers. For most people, that’s either a pile of crackers on the board, or a small bowl or two.

That’s never really satisfied me. I’ve always thought there had to be a better way … and I’ve got one I’m excited about.

I’ve gotten some comments about the name, but I’m sticking with it.

The base of the Cracker Things is a multi-colored selection of exotic woods. Most have an assymetrical, “chaos” design. Others are symetrical, but are always very colorful. The cracker holders, currently, are made from Hard Maple, Cherry, Black Walnut and Sapele.

Each Cracker Thing is 11″ long, which happens to be the length of the cheese boards that I make. They are 4″ wide and 2-1/2″ high … not including the crackers.

I was very happy when lady after lady entered the booth this weekend, and the universal comment was, “Those are cute!”

They are great gifts; I’m introducing them at $35 each. After one event … I know I have to make more.

That’s a lovely problem to have.

Making My Assistant Work   Leave a comment

I need help.

Ask Mrs M. She’ll tell you that I need a lot of help.

It’s just me in the shop, of course … me and my CNC (computer numerically controlled router). I call it my assistant, and I get it to work by pushing a button (well, a lot of buttons, actually). Then, it stays busy while I’m doing something else.

Oh, it needs supervision from time to time – mainly when I’ve made a mistake. Some of those mistakes are simple programming fixes … some make more firewood. A few mistakes break things (mainly router bits). Luckily, those mistakes are not that common, and the results of my “collaboration” with my assistant have proven to be rather popular.

Thankfully! I would hate to have all of those electrons getting lazy in the shop.

Spice Up Your Presentation   Leave a comment

Serving pieces help turn an impressive array into a finished presentation.

I quickly learned that cutting boards are great … but many people need serving pieces to complete the process of getting great food to the table.

And, of course, if the food looks good when it’s served, that will help it taste fantastic as well.

We are a visual people. Food needs to look, smell, feel and, finally, taste good to maximize our eating experience. I may not be an expert … but I know good food when I have it!

Sometimes, a pair of serving pieces is required. In this case, it’s the flip side of a 5 Section Server, paired with the flip side of a Garlic Dipping Board.
A surfboard is the base for this presentation.
The first board I sold was a cheese board. It’s just a small cutting board, really … but it can be so much more when you have a presentation in mind!

There’s really no wrong answer here … my job is to provide a variety of options so your table can look wonderful. I’ve done some research into what makes a good presentation of cheese & crackers, or charcuterie, or whatever … the link is below. Enjoy!

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How To Fill Your Cheese Board

Velda’s Bruschetta

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