The Board Chronicles: Winterfest 2020   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.

I’ve got a history with this event, so I begin cautiously. After all, this is where the Flying Dry Soup Canopy took flight … and crushed Mrs M’s Handmade. That was in 2018.

But I came back in 2019. I note Mrs M declined the opportunity; I was solo.

So, this is year 3. Once again, Mrs M has declined the opportunity to join me in Arizona. Something about her “job.” As if that could be important.

So, what will Lake Havasu City have for me … and in my first event in 2020, our 7th year as vendors?

New Ideas

  • The weather forecast for this year is (at last) wonderful. Blue skies & highs in the 60s on Saturday, with more of the same on Sunday … until a storm blows in late in the day. About time we have good weather for this event!
  • I feel like everything is new at this event, since I haven’t done any event in 60 days. And, I haven’t done this physical setup with 2 pop-up canopies & me solo since … the Simi Valley Street Fair in 2019, and that was 8 months ago. I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing.
  • And, yes, that is new.

Observations

  • The load in at 6am on Saturday was just like last year: chaotic. I was yelled at for being in someone’s way by 6:10am. And … I was parked partially IN MY BOOTH. She just didn’t like that I narrowed her path to the width of a bit more than a parking spot – that was clearly marked, and unobstructed by me.
  • Such is the chaos that is Winterfest load in. I emptied the trailer ASAP, and moved my Jeep & trailer out of the line of fire.
  • Set up, unfortunately, takes as long as it takes. These days, my full set up in a double booth takes about 4 hours. I had walkers after about 2 hours. Fortunately, they were primarily dog walkers, and they are not my buyers.
  • The event started hot, and was traffic was significant a bit before my set up was complete. When I was done at 10am, traffic was good. Very good.
  • This event has 2 kinds of people in attendance: snow birds that winter in Arizona, and residents of Lake Havasu City … which are definitely weighted towards retirement age. Both have issues with my offerings: snow birds often have a need for me to ship to their home, because they are limited by the airlines for suitcase weight. Local residents don’t have that issue, but older people that are downsizing are not my crowd. People that cook & people with families that cook … those are my people.
  • I nearly had a fight break out over a Garlic Dipping Board that 2 ladies had their eyes on at the same time. It got a bit confusing, but eventually lady # 1 decided on something else, so lady # 2 got the GDB that she wanted. Meanwhile, lady # 1 changed her mind 4 times before finally making her selection. Eventually, her buddy asked me a question mid-transaction, causing me to lose track of where I was … and lady # 2 left, with me still having her credit card in the machine.
  • Oops.
  • She came back on Sunday to retrieve the card. And bought something else.
  • Last year, I met Mesquite Mary. She was an LA resident that was in the process of retiring to Lake Havasu City, where she and her husband have a 2nd home. There was a wonderful mesquite tree that they had to cut down … and she offered me the wood if I could use it.
  • Of course I could. She only asked that she get something that I made from the wood.
  • Of course I would.
  • But, come to find out, I couldn’t. The wood had laid out in her backyard for 2 years, and was just too old for me to use. Too many cracks.
  • I did give the wood to my buddy Charlie, and he was able to use the wood for turning, with cracks adding to the character of the wood. Charlie gave me a bowl he turned … and a year after I met her, I returned to Lake Havasu City with the bowl for Mary.
  • She was on the moon! So happy. I got a hug, even. Saturday was a happy day.
  • A young lady saw my Cracker Things, and didn’t think they were cute. Or clever. No, she thought they were bad ass. That’s good … but she didn’t buy one. That’s bad.
  • I met Rob Cook, who published Popular Woodworking in the ’90s. We had a great chat, and he complimented me on my work. Much appreciated from a real pro!
  • I started Sunday going walk about, and saw about half of the vendors. This is a chamber of commerce street festival … and it is *very* buy & sell. There is some handmade merchandise there, but not much. That can be a bad thing … a very bad thing … but in this case, the attendance is high enough that the event still works for me.
  • Thank goodness.
  • A Cracker Thing went to a party, I’m told. Don’t know anything about the party … but I do know that 3 ladies came to the booth on Sunday wanting to buy a Cracker Thing. Unfortunately, I had none. Sold out.
  • Sorry.
  • A couple looked at my Lazy Susans. We had a long conversation about the event, what they wanted … and how the event ended at 4 o’clock. The lady asked what my 4 o’clock cash price was for the Susan she wanted. I told her the price doesn’t change … still $80. She walked away.
  • Buy bye. My prices don’t change.
  • A couple wanted a custom cutting board for a wedding in a month. I turned it down … I have no time. No. Time.
  • T-shirt of the weekend: “I may be old, but I saw the great bands.” Made me laugh.
  • The event ended at 4 o’clock … and the weather began to turn. Clouds rolled in. Temperature dropped. Winds picked up a bit … and I knew I was in a race to get everything into the trailer before the storm hit.
  • I didn’t make it.
  • I was close. I was doing well, but I got to the part when I take the signs down when the wind started gusting. Signs hang on the walls … part of the weight that holds the canopies down. Wind. Gusts. I’m in a race. It got exciting at 6pm.
  • I won’t say I lost.
  • I won’t say the canopy flew … but it did hop. At the time, I had the signs down, but the mesh walls were still up, so there was a bit of a sail making the booth catch the wind. Luckily, I had some nice neighbors that leapt in to help, and with them holding things together for me, I quickly – well, as quickly as possible – dropped the mesh walls & collapsed the canopies. No more incidents.
  • I ended with 3 helpers, 2 broken fingernails (how did that happen?), booth hardware in 3 pockets, and a trailer finally loaded at 6:55pm. Finally.
  • The weekend was a success. In 3 years, this was the best one yet. That’s a great way to start off 2020.
  • Requests were for a TV tray, a custom counter top, shoe horns, smaller Lazy Susans (2 of those), Pegs & Jokers (on my list, honest!), a stamp dispenser, an English pub game called Shut the Box (?), and a wine rack.

The Food

  • Best Meal: Saturday night pizza from Rosati’s. Recommended.
  • Worst Meal: Saturday breakfast was 2 hardboiled eggs. I don’t love eating immediately after I wake up … and once the set up started, that’s all I did.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 612
  • Booth cost: $350
  • Food cost: $95
  • Travel cost: $505
  • Total sales: $2,590
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 0
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 0
  • Saturday alarm: 5:00a
  • Sunday alarm: 7:00a
  • # transactions: 34
  • # soap & lotion vendors: none that I saw in the half of the event that I walked
  • # woodworking vendors: none that I saw (!) in the half of the event that I walked
  • Returning next year? Yes. I left my first deposit for 2021.

Boards sold: 48

  • Cutting Boards: 3
  • Garlic Dipping Boards: 4
  • Trivets: 7
  • Serving Pieces: 3
  • Signs: 8
  • Cracker Things: 7
  • Charcuterie Board: 1
  • Lazy Susans: 4
  • Cheese Slicers: 5
  • Cribbage Board: 1
  • Pizza Server: 1
  • Bread Saws: 2
  • Sous Chef Boards: 2

Cribbage Is My #1 Game   Leave a comment

Cribbage boards are a top seller for me. That’s a wonderful thing … but it created a problem over the holidays. I sold too many.

So, I had to make more.

That solves the problem, pretty much.

The problem is that my inventory needs to be broad, my time is precious … and I’m yet to catch up with anything. I’m still behind with cribbage boards: I have 3 special orders to do, as well as holes in my existing inventory that need to be filled.

It’s always something. And that, my friends, is a wonderful problem to have.

In Search Of New Signs   Leave a comment

At most events, people tell me about signs that I SHOULD make. Usually, they’re wrong.

I make signs about Food. Family. And, Wine/Beer/Liquor.

That’s it.

I don’t make signs about pets. I don’t make signs about politics. I don’t make signs about how awful my wife is: I don’t lie. My signs are truthful, from my perspective. My signs are family friendly … because they should be.

I will custom make a sign for people; no problem. But the signs that hand in my booth are about food, family, & drinking. Good times. Good people.

That’s it.

These signs are replacements for those sold late in the year, plus a couple of new ones: the quotes from George Carlin and Ernest Hemingway.

All of these signs will be at my next event … in 3 weeks, at the Fresno Home & Garden Show. I hope to see you there!

The Rest Of The Stuff   Leave a comment

When the shop is humming, I make a wide variety of things.

Oh, I do most of my pieces in batches … I might make 24 cheese slicers at once, or perhaps 6 large cutting boards. But when I start a new batch of things, I typically do 50 or so glue ups (which takes a couple of days). Since some glue ups (what I call “blanks” before they are cut to final shape) are cut into 2 different pieces, I often end up with about 75 pieces being worked on in the shop at the same time.

One blank makes 2 Cheese Boards. One blank makes 4 Coasters. One blank makes 6 Cracker Things. Cutting Boards are always made one at a time, as are handled boards (“Sous Chef Boards”), Cribbage Boards, Signs….

I always like to take what the lumber gives me … which means sometimes I’ll find a board that tells me exactly what I have to do with that piece RIGHT NOW. That’s how the Black Walnut Charcuterie with live edges got made: I found the unusual and perfect board, and I had to make that singular piece.

Other times, something will happen that makes a piece fall out of the production cycle. Perhaps it has a problem that has to get fixed, I run out of time to get everything to the finish line, or maybe it just gets forgotten amidst the chaos.

It happens.

In any event, here’s a collection of recent pieces that made it to the finish line. To quote Bill Murray in Groundhog Day: “I’m versatile.”

Handles Are A Good Thing   1 comment

With this new batch of boards, I’ve accomplished 2 goals for 2020:

  1. I’ve got a beginning inventory – again – of handled boards
  2. I’ve put together a good photography indoor set up that I can use

I was most disappointed in the photography for the last post. Just like with these photos, it was done indoors … but I used a white background that was totally over-exposed when I did the shots. Having dark boards in front of a very light background is not good … this set up was much better, and the colors of the individual boards are very realistic in these photos.

Thank goodness.

All of the new handled boards will be at this weekend’s event in Lake Havasu City, AZ … Winterfest. It will be my 3rd annual trip to this event, and I hope to see you there!

A Charcuterie Board   Leave a comment

I recently read in a woodworker’s forum that the reason to use the term charcuterie is just so you can charge more for the board.

Hogwash.

When I started making boards, I didn’t even know what “charcuterie” was. It’s a French term for prepared meats, such as bacon, ham, sausage, etc. And, in reality, any board can be used for charcuterie, just as any board can be used for cutting, cheese & crackers, fruits, or what have you.

Any of my boards, anyway.

These boards are my choice for charcuterie. I love the curvy edges. The board just feels right in your hand.

Your mileage may vary, of course. Buy one of these, and you can call them anything you want!

Getting It Handled   3 comments

These aren’t a new idea.

These aren’t really a new design … but they are definitely a bit different. The handle is longer. There’s a juice groove on most of them. Not quite new, I think, but definitely different.

I’ve got a plan, you see.

I call these boards Sous Chef boards, as I think they are mobile. Give one to your assistant to chop an onion … and then they can carry the board to their workspace, chop away, and then return to you so the onion can be added to your work.

It’s good to have help. And, a mobile board works best with a handle, I think.

So, here’s the first batch in a long time of handled boards. But, wait, there’s more.

I’m making 3 other related designs with handles, and combining them with a 4th serving piece/cutting board that’s going to be my next post. When all 5 of these boards are done, I’ll be making a new interactive display to hold them all.

Big display. Big idea.

So you see, it’s all in process, but I’m going to get it handled.

Choosing: A Very Good Idea   Leave a comment

This was one of my Mrs M’s best ideas of 2019.

The idea was so good, fortunately, that I was required to make a LOT of them. A good problem to have, yes?

Garlic Dipping Boards, for the win. These are 2-sided boards. One side has a carve-out to sit the Great Garlic Grater into, and the other side is plain … to be used for charcuterie, or serving bread, or whatever you like. You’re an adult, you get to choose.

There are 2 shapes of Great Garlic Graters, hexagonal & square. The buyer also gets to choose which shape, then the color of the GGG, and then the wood design of the Garlic Dipping Board to pair with it. Choosing is part of the fun.

Some say that I make the choosing very hard … and I believe that is my job. You see, I get to choose, too.

New: Dough Boards With Hooks   2 comments

These boards are called many things: bread boards. Pasta boards. And, dough boards.

These purpose-built boards can be used for cutting boards, but they are really intended to do 2 things:

  1. Provide a flat surface for rolling out dough
  2. Catch the edge of the counter, and don’t move as you push the dough with your rolling pin

These boards are designed for 2-sided use. One side is plain, but the other has an engraved ruler and graduated circles to help you roll out the perfect-sized circles of dough for pie crusts … or whatever.

The “hooks” are the boards at the top & bottom of the board that are mounted on opposite sides. The one at the bottom will catch the edge of your counter when you work your dough, keeping your board stable. At the same time, the one at the top of the board will keep you from going off the edge. These aren’t literally hooks, but that’s the traditional name of this device. I’ve attached the hooks with dowel joinery.

Another traditional name with these boards are the “bread board ends.” These are the boards on each side that run perpendicular to the horizontal pieces of the main work surface. These are attached with tenon and mortise joinery; the tenon runs the length of the board. The cross grain strength of these boards will keep this relatively thin board flat. There’s a good explanation of this traditional woodworking element, below.

Each board is 18″ square and 3/4″ thick. One of these was a custom order; the other will go with me to my first show this year … Winterfest in Lake Havasu City, AZ, next month.

More

Breadboard Ends

Grandma Mowry’s Chocolate Pie

The Board Chronicles: Harvest Festival Sacramento 2019   2 comments

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.

** ** **

A note about my absence. After a few months of getting more and more behind … I’ve been working on catching up.

Today, I have! Here’s the latest installment of The Board Chronicles. And, stay tuned, there are big plans for 2020!

Enjoy, and thank you for your patience!

** ** **

Harvest Festivals are very big events in our region. There are 9 of them in a year, spread between northern & southern California (and 1 in Las Vegas). This highly successful series of events features handmade goods only (well, almost), and are scheduled in the key 4th quarter.

The costs are high, but the rewards can be very high as well. After initially planning to do several HFs this year, I eventually settled on doing just one, as all of the others had a conflict of some sort. Plus, I was pretty busy …

I did 2 Harvest Festivals in 2018. However, both were impacted by the Camp Fire, so they probably weren’t a perfect indicator of what I can do at a Harvest Festival. Still, the Sacramento event was very, very good for me in 2018.

Time to see if I can up my game a bit more with my almost “complete” product line, as I now define it!

New Ideas

  • My set-up is much like last year, with a double booth utilizing mesh walls hung from the Trimline frame without the canopy. No Mrs M: Harvest Festivals are 100% me.
  • New products this year include Cheese Slicers, Garlic Dipping Boards and Cracker Things.
  • Last year, the guidance for how to sell at this event from the promoter got me to thinking, and I tried – but failed – to produce engraved price signage for all products. This year, that is complete, with price signage for everything from Carnivore Boards to Bread Saws to Cribbage Boards. Look at the booth shots, below, and you’ll see the little wooden signs on every table I have.
  • Some larger display pieces now have signs integrated, such as the pieces for Surfboards and Large Serving Pieces. My signage is now better.

Observations

  • Big ideas require a time commitment. Set up is on Thursday, the event is Friday – Sunday (with tear down), and then I drive home on Monday. That’s 5 hotel nights, Wednesday – Monday. Some scrimp on the hotel cost by driving Sunday night after working a full day, or arriving later on set up day, but that’s not how I roll. Go big or stay home, if you will.
  • Several products are missing this year: Magic Bottle Openers, Serving Trays, Sous Chef boards and California Bears. Not having California Bears while in the state capitol … is a bad plan. I’ve been out of MBOs all year, and they used to be my #1 seller. Another bad plan.
  • I need more time in the shop.
  • Sold a charcuterie board to a guy that wants to mount a watchmaker’s lathe on it and hang it on the wall as a display piece. Well, OK, then.
  • Friday started hot and stayed hot. Lots of traffic on this work day in November. Sales were over $2,500 on this day, and that’s rare air for me. Rumor was that Friday attendance (you have to pay to get into a HF) set a new record.
  • Saturday got better, as you would expect. I got ‘whelmed several times. When people are 3 deep with product in their hands, waiting on me to wrap and do the transaction … life is good.
  • Sold 2 Foodie denition signs to one person. Don’t know them … but I bet they eat well.
CNC Sign 19 – 732 Foodie
  • Put up the unique In This House sign I made from Red Oak and Sapele, and it sold very quickly once it was out of the container. Hmmmmm.
CNC Sign 19 – 713 In This House
  • There was a lot more traffic on this day, but there were a lot of requests for discounts, too. I don’t get offended when people ask for a discount … but I don’t change my prices, either. It wouldn’t be fair to all of the people that pay the published price. Shows like this are not swap meets; people may expect to haggle, but I will not oblige them. My prices don’t change.
  • Cracker Things are the odd thing I’ve added this year, and they continue to surprise me with how popular they are. I hear the words over and over: CTs are “cute” and “clever.” I’ll take that for the win.
  • Now I have to come up with another cute & clever idea for 2020. No pressure.
  • Sunday sales fell precipitously, but this event delivered in a serious way. For the first time ever, I sold 100 pieces at a single event.
  • 100 pieces. I bring about 300 pieces to most events … so that means I sold about 30% of my total inventory in Sacramento.
  • Oh, and our biggest event of the year for each of the last 5 years is in 2 weeks! I have a LOT of product to make in that time.
  • But, that pressure was for another day. As I added up the results, there was a smile on my face. A big smile.

Best. Solo. Event. Ever.

  • And, as I write this in 2020, I know one more thing:

Best. Event. In. 2019.

  • I certainly plan to do more Harvest Festivals in 2020!

The Food

  • Best Meal: Nope. Given the other costs I had for this event, I did my best to stay in the hotel room and eat frozen food from the microwave.
  • Best Meal: After finding how bad traffic was to get to the grocery store from my hotel, though, I definitely tried Uber Eats delivery. It was easy. It had a convenience cost, but it was worth it. After a full day of fun in my booth, I was tired!

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 754
  • Booth cost: $1,590
  • Food cost: $182
  • Travel cost: $508
  • Total sales: $6,019
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 1
  • # soap & lotion vendors: Several. This is a very competitive marketplace. Very competitive.
  • # woodworking vendors: See the above comment. Lots of woodworkers are here.
  • Returning next year? Absolutely, and I intend to be cute and clever, too.

Boards sold: 100

  • Cheese Boards: 11
  • Trivets: 19
  • Charcuterie Board: 1
  • Signs: 11
  • Cribbage Boards: 5
  • Cutting Boards: 5
  • Cheese Slicers: 9
  • Lazy Susans: 6
  • Coaster Sets: 2
  • Bread Saws: 3
  • Small Boards: 4
  • Hearts: 2
  • Cracker Things: 15
  • Surfboards: 2
  • Garlic Dipping Boards: 4
  • Serving Piece: 1
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