Archive for the ‘chess board’ Tag

Spring Fling Is Real   Leave a comment

Every year, we do a Spring Fling … a series of events in March/April/May/June. This year, we’ve got 10 events scheduled in 11 weeks.

It’s just a fling. Really. 7 of these events are our traditional duets, but 4 of them are solo events for me. I’m even doing a long holiday bachelor weekend in a double booth in Bishop, to celebrate Mule Days.

So, since we’re going a-vendoring in locales as exotic as Clovis, Montrose and Palos Verdes, I need to get to the shop. A bunch of special orders have been finished, thankfully, and a fair number of boards made it out of the shop simultaneously.

Thank goodness.

Here’s the first batch; please enjoy!

The Board Chronicles: Fresno Home & Garden Show 2018   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.

After 2 very uninspiring events, I’m hoping that the trek to Fresno will be a change in fortune.

Well, I’m a vendor. “Fortune” had better not be my goal.

But I digress.

We scheduled this event based on my success last year as a solo act. Read about 2017, here. This year, we initially planned for both of us to go, but Mrs M opted to stay home and make soaps & lotion while I went to the Home & Garden Show … that she doesn’t really believe is a good place for her, anyway.

So be it.

It’s the 32nd Annual Fresno Home & Garden Show. Last year, this was my Best. Solo. Event. Ever. I did it in a single booth, and I spent a bachelor’s weekend in Fresno.

That was high living, so you bet I’m returning for another round of fun.

New Ideas

  • I had a trailer, I had a double booth, and I had no canopy. I didn’t exactly travel light, but not having a canopy or 2 in the trailer – and no canopy weights! – is most unusual!
  • I took my largest-ever inventory of products to this event. 317 pieces were on display.
  • We booked the event this year as a double booth, and then opted for me to take it solo. This exhibits unprecedented flexibility on my part. Big booth? No problem. No Mrs M? No problem. Fresno? No problem.

Observations

  • I drove through rain about 60 miles south of Fresno, and I felt it following me. Rain was forecast for the first 2 days of this 3 day event. My booth is indoors, but so much of the show is not, I wondered if people would turn out in the rain. Only time will tell if I will match last year’s success.
  • Everything I said about set up last year is still true. This is a large complex, signage is minimal to non-existent, and you just have to feel your way. Luckily, my booth is in the same building as last year, and I drove right to it.
  • Well, sort of. Due to congestion, I had to have a 40 yard load in with the rolling carts. That’s not a big deal, but somewhat annoying when the load in is made more difficult by people just parking their cars wherever – and leaving them for their own convenience after they’re unloaded – with no concern for other vendors. You get a few entitled jerks, and everyone else suffers.
  • I suffered.
  • On Friday, we had rain. As predicted. Showers came every 2 or 3 hours, and the temperature was in the low 50s. My building was dry … but unheated. I just sat there and got cold. And bored. And when I’m bored, I get colder. It was a miserable day. Today sales on Friday = $80. Last year, sales were several times that. Friday was awful.
  • I went walk-about Saturday morning before opening, and looked at about 75% of the displays at the event. I found three (3!) different booths selling bottle openers with magnetic capability. Two booths were selling (IMHO) ugly rustic versions; one was selling something similar (but not as magical) as the ones that I sell. Still, this was the first time EVER that I have seen other woodworkers selling wanna-be MBOs.
  • He said he was a woodworker. “I mostly cut up old furniture and use the wood. We don’t have any furniture in the house anymore.”
  • Best t-shirt slogan of the weekend: “Rhinos are just chubby unicorns.”
  • I was walking behind a couple of women as they turned the corner in front of my booth.
    • Lady 1: Wow.
    • Lady 2: Someone has fun.
    • Lady 1: Beautiful.
    • Lady 2: Some people hang these.

How can I not smile?

  • Saturday had better weather, though it was still wet. Not as cold, fortunately (there’s that word again), so the day was much more pleasant. Sales, though were down from last year. Significantly down. As the day wore on, I was down 40%.
  • But, to use a baseball analogy (it’s Spring Training!), you play all 9 innings. In the last hour  of Saturday, a 3 generation Sikh family (the patriarch had such a wonderful beard!) came into the booth and bought 2 chess sets and 2 Lazy Susans. That transaction, the largest of the weekend, put me ahead of prior year at the end of Saturday … even though it was raining. Sunday, though, will tell the tale: that was the biggest sales day last year.
  • Sunday was a clear day. Blue skies, but still a bit crisp in the wind. Can I top last year’s best day of the event?
  • I do hate friends that turn to a shopper and say, “You don’t want to buy that.” I just want to scream “GET OUT OF MY BOOTH.”
  • But, I don’t.
  • Why is it that, now that I have chess boards, people will look at them, turn to me, and say, “Are these cutting boards?” Can I not ever WIN?
  • When a legacy customer walks into the booth, shops for several minutes, and then says to me, “I’ll just buy one today!” … well, OK, that’s a win.
  • Requests were for a mahjong board, a bread board, a pistachio board, a counter top, a cheese slicer (coming!) and a beef jerky board.
  • Sales were slow into the mid afternoon on Sunday, unfortunately. I sold 10 items, but all were priced at $50 or below, so I was down significantly from last year’s best day. Thankfully, I play all 9 innings.
  • The last sale of the day was my last Chess Board. I sold 6 Chess Boards at this event, and 5 of them sold with a new offering that’s not handmade by me: sets of imported chess pieces from India. So, again, I’m out of chess boards. This last batch of 10 that took me too many months to make only lasted for 6 events … and I sold most of them with chess pieces. At a Home & Garden Show. Go figure.
  • Again on Sunday, the tale was told in the final hour of the event. I had 3 nice sales that totaled over $400, and that is what made this event, again:

Best. Solo. Event. Ever.

  • The double booth at this event helped me sell 13 different items on display. I need more real estate, but do we really want to do a triple booth when I share with Mrs M?

The Food

  • Best Meal: BJs Brewhouse was just down the street from my hotel, and I had their wonderfully cold wedge salad and then the Parmesan Crusted Chicken. This was a good meal.
  • Honorable Mention: I found DiCicco’s Family Italian Restaurant a mile further down the road, and that was a great way to unwind after a difficult day a-vendoring. Highly recommended!
  • Worst Meal: The “free” breakfast at the Best Western on Friday. Paper-thin bacon with scrambled eggs. The curiosity of the meal is that they buy bread that’s too big to fit into the toaster. What are they thinking?

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 397
  • Booth cost: $1,000
  • Food cost: $103
  • Travel cost: $343
  • Total sales: $2,164
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $512
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: 2. One lady asked me where leaks in the roof were, and another pair dropped off solicitations for their next 2 shows. No introductions. No personal contact.
  • Saturday alarm: Nope
  • Sunday alarm: Nope
  • # transactions: 25 spread over 25 hours.  However, 41% of total sales were done in the final hours on Saturday and Sunday.
  • # soap & lotion vendors: I didn’t see the entire show, but there were a couple in my building. Neither had the presentation that Mrs M did … well, that she might have had. Since she wasn’t there, she had nuttin’.
  • # woodworking vendors: There was another cutting board guy that I found; he had a small, artsy display. He offered nothing larger than a small board, by my definition.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 34:1
  • Returning next year? Yes.

Boards sold: 35

Coasters: 8

Chess Board: 6

Clipboards: 4

Trivets: 3

Heart-shaped Board: 3

Cheese & Cracker Servers: 2

Lazy Susans: 2

Cutting Board: 1

3D Carved Sign: 1

Cheese Board: 1

Magic Bottle Opener: 1

Word Block: 1

Custom Order: 1

The Chess Board Solution   Leave a comment

As I contemplated what I needed to build for our fall events, it should surprise no one that chess boards are on the list.

High on the list.

After all, it’s my # 1 most requested item. It’s a wonder I don’t make more of them … and that begged the question. Exactly how many chess boards have I made?

The easy answer: not enough.

The complete answer is I’m averaging about 5 chess boards each year. No wonder people are clamoring for more: I’m just not making enough.

In an effort to fix that problem, I’ve (finally) completed 8 chess boards for our December events. I’ve never had this many chess boards before!

All of these chess boards are unique: it’s what I do. They have a contrasting wooden keyline surrounding the tournament-quality 2″ playing squares.

Rubber feet complete the chess boards. All that’s missing, of course, are the playing pieces, and those will be supplied by the new owners of these boards.

Your Move   Leave a comment

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with chess since SJ kicked my butt in the 6th grade. I’ve never been a student of the game, but I have learned enough to make tournament-quality chess boards.

Good thing, since it’s my # 1 most requested item. To my chagrin.

However, I’ve battled my demons, worked though my shop chaos, and have now brought these boards to the finish line.

Each of these 5 boards has the playing surface mounted proud of the frame.

Because that’s how a chess board should be, I believe. Proud.

Each of the 5 are different, of course, because too much repetition doesn’t make for a good game.

One is a commissioned piece, but when the buyer saw this collection, he bought 2 more. The remaining 2 will be at this weekend’s KHTS Home & Garden Show at Central Park in Santa Clarita. We’ll be in the front of the “KHTS Marketplace; their section for vendors with handmade goods. It’s right by the free tree giveaway in honor of Arbor Day, sponsored by the city of Santa Clarita. This event is our only Spring Fling in Santa Clarita – for updated event listings, just click on the menu link for “Mr & Mrs M’s Upcoming Events.” Hope to see you at one of these events.

It’s your move.

Chess Boards, At Long Last   Leave a comment

Mr-Ms-Logo---LargeIt’s been my # 1 request for quite some time, and I’ve finally gotten the first batch of chess boards out of the shop. It took a while.

Each of the boards are made with 2″ squares and a 1″ contrasting border surrounding the playing area. The border is 1″ thick, and does have non-marring rubber feet underneath to ensure a steady surface for the games.

Finish is mineral oil with a top coat of locally-harvested beeswax mixed with mineral oil. Yes, that’s the same finish as my cutting boards, and there is no real reason that these chess boards should be food ready … the oil finishes the woods in a natural coating that’s easily refreshed, so I stuck with the same procedure as the 30+ food-grade boards I was finishing in the garage woodshop at the same time.

I am not selling chess pieces currently, though Mrs. M is already in my ear about that. If you happen to know a carver or a turner that wants to make some great chess pieces for me, I’m interested!

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