Archive for the ‘Woodworking’ Category

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!

More

How To Fill Your Cheese Board

Velda’s Bruschetta

Flipping A Dipping Board   Leave a comment

I started making Garlic Dipping Boards just a few months ago, and they’re a hit. If you missed the story of the Boards and their Great Garlic Graters, then please follow the link to read about the launch of the GDBs.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The “A” side, if you will, is perfect for sliced bread, oil, garlic and your favorite spices for dipping.

However, there are times that you need a presentation board … without the Great Garlic Grater.

Got’cha covered. These Boards are made to flip … unlike most of the cutting boards I make, these are made to use on both sides.

The “B” side is perfect for charcuterie, bread, or an appetizer like Velda’s Bruschetta. And, yes, they were delicious. I love photo shoots.

24 new boards just made it to the finish line in time for this weekend’s event, and they’re shown below. I have paired each board with one of the Great Garlic Graters (12 Boards have square Graters, and 12 have hexagonal Graters). But, you get to choose the set that you like when you make your selections. Some people like a matching/complementary Grater, and some people prefer a more, uh, colorful statement in their pairing.

You’re an adult, you get to choose.

If you see one you like, don’t delay: 3 are already spoken for!

More

Velda’s Bruschetta

New: Garlic Dipping Boards

Made To Be Of Use   Leave a comment

I love making big cutting boards.

I love it more when people actually use them. They are made to be of use, after all.

Here’s a wide variety of cutting boards that I have ready for this weekend’s event. Every person that does what I do has heard it, “Oh, these are too pretty to use!”

No, they’re not. And even if they are … I can ugly them up for you, if you like.

No one has ever took me up on that offer.

Surfboards: Mr M’s Epic Quiver   2 comments

I’ve stared at a surfboard display for 4 years.

We go, every year, to a party in Carpinteria … it’s the California Avocado Festival. It features the world’s largest vat of guacamole.

Vat. Guacamole.

But I digress.

Every year, our booth is opposite a shop that does surfboard rentals, and they display their quiver of boards in front of the shop.

That display has been working on me for 4 years.

I had been displaying my surfboard-shaped cutting boards … in a crate. This is one step up from a display where you just throw the boards out on a table & call it good.

I call that the vomit display. I hate those.

I knew I could do better, and I finally spent some time thinking about the surfboard display I’ve been staring at all of these years.

The California Avocado Festival is this weekend, and I’m excited to have a new display for my new surfboards. I’ve got 2 shapes in 3 sizes: in addition to the traditional (for me) flat bottomed board, I also now have fish-tail boards.

Hope to see you in Carpinteria!

The new display will have its debut this weekend!

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!

More

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.

More

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!

Every Heart Is Unique   Leave a comment

When I design a piece, I always think about what I’m making. I mean, wouldn’t you?

When I make hearts, I know a few things to be true:

  1. Every heart is unique.
  2. Every heart has Bloodwood in it.
  3. People love to pick up a heart, turn to their beloved, and show them their big heart. Some even show their beating heart.

People have fun with my hearts, and I have to remember to keep making them. Like so many things, these have been sold out since last year … and I’m just catching up. In May.

I’m almost caught up. Almost.

Final thought: some people ask me if these are cutting boards. I always ask if they want people cutting on their heart. Making boards like these, you see, is really a philosophical endeavor for me.

Meanwhile, here are 16 hearts, submitted for your consideration.


%d bloggers like this: