Archive for August 2019

And The Signs Say….   2 comments

I’ve discovered that if I post signs on a booth’s exterior wall, then people don’t point and laugh at me so much.

Or so it seems.

The signs continue to entertain many, and it probably only seems that amused people are pointing at me and laughing at me.

Probably.

If you happen to be in Tehachapi for the Mountain Fest this weekend, please drop in. Mrs M will be there — with her stuff! We’ll be in our big triple booth this year; this is the 4th event where we now do a triple booth.

We need the space. I have more signs to show, after all!

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How Long Does It Take?   4 comments

It’s one of the most common questions I get asked.

“How long does it take to make a board?”

The easy answer is I have no idea. Truly. I know it takes hours as I work through my 8 steps:

The Process

Picking & Processing: the lumber has to be selected for the board. This is where the lumber is cut to shape, the various species are selected, and the wood is laid out in its final form. I then tape the boards together so they stay in order, awaiting the next step. It’s unusual for me to do more than 20 boards in a day.

12 boards … well, I made 13 … ready for glue-up.

Gluing: my least favorite step. It’s a mess. Glue flies everywhere. I have to put a faux top on my workbench, set up with glue, water, paper towels, a rubber roller & a green kitchen scrubby. Clamps have to be prepped, and 3x clamps go on every glue-up. Each piece lives in the clamps, under pressure, for somewhere between 4 and 24 hours. I know to glue up one piece takes 10 minutes – plus set up and clean up time. I have enough clamps to do 12 pieces, which means gluing is a 2 hour process. Every time.

The glue needs to have sufficient “open time” so I can apply the glue to all 13 strips, and then still have time to spread the glue before placing the strips into final position.

Shaping: after the pieces have dried and cured – for at least 24 hours – then they need to be smoothed with either the planer (up to 13″ wide) or the drum sander. Once smooth, each piece is cut to its final shape & size. Then, the pieces either go to the CNC for carving, or perhaps go to the router table or another machine for final touches.

Shaping can make dust fly, unfortunately.

Sanding: once the pieces are shaped, they are sanded using one of my 5 finish sanders (!). 3 of these are hand sanders … and every piece is hand sanded. I use as many as 6 different grits of sandpaper at this stage, depending on the needs of the piece. Cutting boards are sanded to a glass finish as I work up to 320 grit.

Sanding is never quick.

Branding: when I’m doing it right (and I’ve failed at this step too often in the last several months), every piece gets my logo laser engraved on the back. To do this, I put each piece into a container, separate each piece with paper or bubble wrap, and take each piece to my engraver.

Finishing: food products all get oiled & waxed. Hand rubbed. Hand finished. Non-food products get a lacquer or urethane finish (I use 3 different ones, depending on what I’m making). Curing again takes 24 hours, mimimum. Most cutting boards get non-skid rubber feet.

Photography: every piece is photographed. How else can I show them to you?

Wrapping: every piece is wrapped for transport. Cutting boards, and most other products, get a jute tie with a board card, showing the price, the species used in the piece, and care instructions for the board. Each piece is then re-packaged into containers for transport to the next event.

The Question

So, how long does it take?

I’ve said it takes as many as 8 or 10 hours for a big, end grain cutting board … but I have no idea.

Some artists insist the only accurate answer is “I’ve been a woodworker for over 40 years.” It’s only through the experience you’ve gained over time that you know how to do what you do … so, some say, it is fair to say that to make THIS piece, it’s taken me 40 years to get here.

I recently made a pair of pieces that brought that home to me.

While digging deep (and I mean deep) into the shop, I discovered a couple of old glue-ups that had been languishing. They were red oak panels that I think were made for my desk & book case … that I made in 2009.

Here’s my office desk … can you tell that I’m a reader?

So these extra panels were large … and I make signs. OK, so I’ll make 2 of my large signs, “Family” and “In This House.” These are typically made from cherry & left unpainted, like these:

CNC Sign 18 – 26 Family. Cherry. 12″ x 16″.
CNC Sign 18 – 50. Cherry. 13″ x 16″.

I cut the panels to shape … and discovered that they had been assembled with biscuits, which is an old school technique that helps keep a large panel flat. The edge of the panel, when I cut it, revealed a biscuit. Crap. I’ll have to fix that … by covering it. Problem. And when I have a problem, I often put the project aside.

I went ahead and carved the red oak panels, but the prominent grain on the panels didn’t look right to me. When a project doesn’t look right … I put it aside until I can think of the right solution. This can be the kiss of death. “Putting it aside” is always for weeks. It can be for months. Remember, these panels were originally put aside … and it’s been years.

Ten years.

I knew that these signs needed to be painted. I knew they needed to be framed. Each presented problems.

To paint the signs, I had to deal with the reason I seldom use red oak in the shop these days – and never use it for cutting boards. Red oak is too porous. When you paint it, the capillary action of the grain will transport paint easily, so you can’t get a clean edge like I’m used to with Hard Maple or Cherry. To paint these signs, therefore, I will have to lacquer them first, to fill the grain, then paint the entire sign, sand the paint off the surface to reveal the painted letters, and then lacquer the sign again for the top coat.

The framing is a simple process; I’m once again framing my chess boards, so I know the steps to do a frame with mitered corners. It’s not my favorite thing to do, though … and when I don’t love doing something, I tend to put it aside.

Weeks. Months. Years.

These 2 signs finally overcame my inertia. They finally overcame my lengthy thought processes. They overcame being put aside.

I’m quite happy with the result.

And, I’m also certain I know the answer to the question for these pieces. How long did it take to make them?

Ten years. It took 10 years to make these signs.

CNC Sign 19 – 712 Family
CNC Sign 19 – 713 In This House

New: Cribbage For 2 … And California!   Leave a comment

It took me forever to get these done.

I had the idea. I had the design.

I even had the California boards done for months … but didn’t have the bases done.

For months.

Finally, though, I had my breakthrough and finally got 2 pairs of 2-person Cribbage boards done.

As with all of my boards, the base holds the cards & pegs. The tops are interchangeable, so you can choose the bottom and top that you most like.

The standard “race track” 2-player version is a common design; it’s the board that most people have used. The California board is my own design. Every California I make will have yellow wood in it … California is the Golden State, after all.

Half of these are now sold (note that I neglected to photograph one of the 2-player sets … and it’s sold. Sorry!). I was intrigued that the purchaser of the California set went stripey-stripey. No plain wooden pieces for her California!

I continue to add to the collection of custom 3- and 4-player boards. More of those designs will soon follow; check out the links below to see the other cribbage boards I have made.

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The Cribbage Obsession

This Cribbage Thing Is Catching On

New: Garlic Dipping Boards   Leave a comment

I was going to a foodie event … and I wanted to be prepared.

I talked to my buddy Nicole, the potter, and she agreed to make a batch of great garlic graters for me, in 2 shapes. My job: to find a board design that incorporated the great graters that I could live with … and Mrs M would allow me to make.

Something like that, anyway. She doesn’t get to tell me what to do, but after 41 years of marriage, she’s still trying.

She’s very trying.

But I digress.

I had to design the perfect well to put the great graters into, so I went to the CNC and started making shapes of different sizes and depths to see what would fit the samples that Nicole gave me the best.

It was not a quick process.

I finally settled on the proper dimensions, and decided to make most of the boards in the long, skinny, curvy shape you see above … that was inevitably called a surfboard by my California customers.

Dude! Not a surfboard! The nose would just dig in! But, alas, customers get to call boards what they want … after they buy them.

I ended up with 3 different shapes, and the buying process was very interactive. Customers got to choose the board they liked, then choose the great grater that either matched – or didn’t match. They got to choose their own custom set. I love that.

Here’s how they work: you peel a clove of garlic, and then rub it against the rough center of the great grater. It really pulverizes the garlic! Then, you pour in olive oil and add balsamic and spices to taste … serve with bread, and you’ve got a great appetizer!

Rub a raw clove of garlic on the grater.
I finished a batch of bread saws just for this event!
Add olive oil, spices to taste. Serve with sliced bread for a great appetizer!

I’m happy to report that the majority of these sold at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. I immediately texted Nicole to get a larger order of great graters for my Christmas shoppers. I sure hope that people buy these when they’re not in Gilroy!

Recovery: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles   1 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.

When I left you, dear readers, I had a rental car and was in a hotel in Gilroy, trying to imagine what should be next. That was Monday. If you need to catch up, you need to read about our experiences at this year’s Gilroy Garlic Festival. Read about it, here. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Since that fateful Sunday evening just 5 days ago, I’ve driven several hundred miles, finally gotten all of my stuff back … and am now sitting at home. Here is what happened:

Velda & I spent Monday watching the news and trying to figure out what to do. We networked with other vendors and read email updates that we began to get. The Garlic Festival website had a dedicated link to news as well.

CNN was carrying all of the Gilroy press conferences live at this point, and we were eager viewers. We learned that the entire Christmas Hill Park was now considered a crime scene, and that the entire area was now under FBI protection. It appeared that it would be days before anything could be recovered from inside the park – where the jeep and trailer were parked, and the booth was set up with all of my wooden pieces on display, open to the elements 24/7.

Remembering the Enterprise Rent-a-car slogan (“We’ll pick you up!”), we took them up on that offer and got a rental. We stayed near Gilroy on Monday night, which was an extra night in the motel, plus food (an accurate accounting will follow in the formal event review, but for now, you’ll just get approximations). $200.

We communicated with our final customer of the day, who had bought a beautiful, large Black Walnut cutting board and left it with us for pickup later … until we were all interrupted by the idiot with the gun. The buyers, luckily, lived in Gilroy, and we agreed that we would see each other when we returned, so they could get their cutting board … which was currently in the FBI’s protective custody.

We decided to drive home with the rental on Tuesday, and drop it off in Santa Clarita. $200.

Gas, $40.

On our way home, we learned at 2:45p – when we were 4 hours away from Gilroy – that we could pick up the Jeep if we were there by 6:30p. No way we could make that, and having the Jeep wasn’t that helpful anyway in the near term. The trailer had to stay with the booth – and the product was not accessible. Yet. We decided to keep on the road to home and do nothing, for now.

Wednesday was more of the same. I called the offered information number … and got the main receptionist for the city of Gilroy. No help there. Velda got a call from an FBI agent, who verified that she did not see the perpetrator.

We saw nothing.

Our near-complete lack of information, and general confusion continued throughout the week. Official announcements were typically made shortly before the time period that you were allowed to do something, so you really had no advance notice when anything would change. No. Idea.

Late Wednesday, an update landed on the website saying that “sometime” on Thursday the vendors on our side of the park would be able to recover their property. No other information was given. No time. No schedule. Nothing. We were cautioned that we would need an ID or driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration for the vehicles before they could be recovered. Well, OK, then.

Velda & I agreed that we would pack up Wednesday night and drive north Thursday morning. We would take the opportunity as it presented itself.

Velda, who had her fair share of anxiety – and then some – woke up at 2:15a. She puttered in the kitchen. At about 4a, she starting making the bed with me still in it and that’s when I got up.

We were on the road shortly after 5a. We drove her car, with the plan being that she would drive it home while I drove the Jeep & trailer home. Gas to & fro, $80. Wear & tear … well, we’re way beyond accounting for that on this one.

We were in line behind a flatbed produce truck. I have no idea why.

When we were almost to Gilroy, we learned that we could get access to the park after 1p. Since it was shortly after 9a, we had some time to kill. We ended up at the Gilroy outlet mall, and Velda did a bit of shopping. I read a book. We ate lunch (she made our lunches at 3a, I think it was). We headed out at about noon, and we were at the gate at 12:15p. A CHP officer was manning the barricade, and he told us where to wait. We got in line; about 10 cars were ahead of us.

Soon after we got in line, an FBI agent came out to talk to everyone in line and tell them what to expect:

  • You would be individually escorted at all times
  • You were not allowed to do anything but recover your property that was located on what’s called the “park side” of the park … where our booth was.
  • Everything in your booth had already been examined by the FBI.
  • All cash in the booth had already been photographed, logged and removed by the FBI (we had left none).
  • All valuables were similarly removed from the booth, we were told (so my cutting boards were not considered valuable. This is SO WRONG.).
  • They had already arrested some people that tried to sneak through the protective line of police. The crime scene was still being managed by the FBI (how stupid do you have to be to try and sneak onto a crime scene while the police are still there?).

We finally got to go in a little after 2p.

Each car had to be checked in by the FBI. A form had to be filed with my ID info for each of my 2 vehicles. Velda was also identified with legal ID and logged into their system. While in the park, we had a nice FBI agent named Matt (badged & armed) by our side at all times. Our trailer was an additional wrinkle; but we got a ride in an FBI cart to the Jeep, where I could then hook up the trailer, drive to the booth and begin to do what we were there to do. Velda took the pictures … this is exactly how we found the booth. The empty containers in front of the booth, the products and the canopy were set up exactly how we had left them Sunday evening.

This is the area of our booth after it was removed. The mostly brown grass was the walkway between my tables. The green grass was under the tablecloths. The rectangles of dead grass are where my empty containers were sitting under the tables. As you can see, most of the other vendors were already out of the park, but work continues.

There was some minor damage to most of the boards due to exposure to the elements; they’ll need to be refinished. Unfortunately.

Thursday evening, we went to our motel for the evening & I took a shower, thankfully. We went out to dinner, and then found our customer to present her with the board, now liberated from protective custody.

Motel, $140. Food, $52.

We got up Friday morning, had our horrible but “free” breakfast at the motel, put gas in both cars and got on the road. We’re now home with the Jeep, trailer & my boards. The trailer is in the driveway … and now I have to fix all of the damage.

But not today.

I need to repair 200+ boards before my next event in 14 days. Costs … let’s call it a day or more, and at least $100 for supplies (sandpaper, oil, beeswax, lacquer).

Home again.

We now know that the FBI investigation will continue for perhaps another week; all booths and property left on the other side of the park (the “ranch side”) are still in place. Those vendors must simply wait.

We now know that our last customers of the day – the couple that bought the nice Black Walnut end grain cutting board – were RIGHT THERE when the shooting happened. They saw it all. They ran for their lives, and, fortunately, were not injured. They are also 100% certain that the shooter acted alone. There was no accomplice. There was no 2nd shooter.

There was just one stupid, crazed gunman who wreaked havoc on a community.

More

Terror: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles

Shredded: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles

Wind. Blows: A Special Edition of the Board Chronicles

It’s My Birthday: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles

When Nature Fights Back: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles

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