Archive for the ‘Woodworking’ Category

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!

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.


New: Clocks   1 comment

“Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?”

Those memorable words helped fuel my college years, sung by one of my favorite bands, the Chicago Transit Authority. You’ll find a link at the bottom of this post to a video of this signature tune.

If you are needing to know the time … I’m here to help. Clocks are the newest products to make it out of the garage woodshop. If you think people should know how to read a traditional clock … I’m here to help.

I’ve designed a small clock collection with 2 designs. Some have all of the numbers, some don’t. Woods used are Bloodwood, Hard Maple and Cherry. Each clock has a quartz movement, and comes with the AA battery to keep the time flowing for you. Each clock is 11″ across at its widest point.

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Posted May 4, 2019 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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The Cheese Slicer Success   Leave a comment

After a successful debut for this new product, it was back to the shop to make more before I ran out. 16 started … 15 made it to the finish line. One had a facial blowout along the way, so that one found its way to the recycling barrel.

These slicers are between 6″ and 7″ wide, and all are 11″ long. They’ve got non-skid rubber feet, and are now Mrs M approved.

She chose one of these (it’s in the first picture) to go into her personal collection. She doesn’t do that often, so I’ll take that sign of approval when I can!

If you’re in the mood for some expertly sliced cheese, you’ll find these at the Simi Valley Street Fair this Saturday. You’ll find me in booths 1901 and 1902.

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New: Cheese Slicers

The Return Of LSPs   1 comment

It’s been almost a year since I made Large Serving Pieces, or LSPs. I sold out of them months ago, of course, but I never quite got around to making more.

The set-up to make these is unique, and the nibbling away at the underside of the board to make the cove cuts that I’m so happy with … well, it takes awhile. And, today, it’s probably the dirtiest job I do in the shop. I made 15 of these LSPs this time. It took most of a day to do the primary shaping, and I covered the shop in dust.

Detail of Large Serving Piece 18 – 05.

The cove cuts are done by taking the work piece across the blade at an oblique angle … and that launches the dust to the left of the blade before the dust collector has much of a chance to get it. Further, these are open-faced cuts, so the above-the-table dust collection that I’ve recently added is disconnected. This cut that can only be done with the blade fully exposed.

Dust flies. A lot of dust flies.

That’s just a hazard of what I do. While making the cove cuts, I used a very large pushing device to keep my hand away from the cutting edge. I wore hearing protection and eye protection … next time, I’ll add a dust mask, too.

Because, you see, there will be a next time. I really enjoy making these unique pieces – even though birthing that unique design creates a bit of disruption on the shop!

All LSPs come with non-skid rubber feet held on with stainless steel screws. They have a food-ready finish: mineral oil + board butter, which is made with locally harvested beeswax.

I Love Making Big Ones   1 comment

Big cutting boards are a challenge … and the most satisfying when I reach the finish line.

Every cook needs a good cutting board, and these are the best. Here’s why:

  • End grain boards are like butcher’s blocks – a design that has been used for centuries. These boards are harder than edge grain boards (where you cut on the sides of the boards, actually scoring wood fibers). Here, you cut on the ends of the boards, with the grain pointing up.
  • End grain boards show less wear. And, when you oil these, they self heal. These boards look great sitting out on a counter.
  • Juice grooves are an option for these boards. It’s a philosophical question, really … so some have grooves, and some don’t. You’re an adult, you get to choose.
  • All boards have non-skid rubber feet, held on with stainless steel screws.
  • All boards have routed finger holds so they’re easy to pick up and move around.

The first board is one of my favorite “colorific” designs. I’ve now made this board twice, though each iteration had a different wood design. That’s normal for me: there are very few designs that I do repeatedly. Two designs here that I am repeating are the “Basic Cutting Board,” which is the simple Hard Maple/Black Walnut/Cherry design that there are 2 versions of, below. I try to always have that classic design on hand.

The other design that I’ve come to really like is is the third board, Cutting Board 19 – 303, which is Black Walnut, Hard Maple, Jatoba & Mesquite. I love the color blend on the edge, and the top notch work surface of Hard Maple in the center. Of course, I’m now out of Mesquite, so ….

Come see these and others this weekend in Santa Clarita! Mrs M and I will be at the KHTS Home & Garden Show in Central Park, Saturday & Sunday. We’re right by the free plant giveaway (yes, free) in the middle of the outdoor exhibits. It’s all a part of Santa Clarita’s official Arbor Day celebration. Come say hi!

New: Cheese Slicers   4 comments


These have been in my head for 18 months.

Crowded, it was.

Finally, these have sprung to life after I sat on the hardware for way, way too long.

Painful, it was.

These cheese slicers are each 7″ x 11″ x 7/8″. The slicer is a stainless steel wire that sits in the slot until it’s called upon to guillotine the cheese. In the first use of these, we found that they were interactive: perfect entertainment for a 7 year old boy.

Fun, it was.

This first run features 2 colors of handles: black and chrome. Each of the slicers has non-skid rubber feet held on with stainless steel screws, as does just about everything I make.

Want to see these live? You’ll have to be in Lake Havasu City, AZ this weekend for Winterfest. I know I’ll be there. Come join me!

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