Archive for the ‘CNC’ Tag

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.

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

I Keep Making New Stuff   Leave a comment

This is a pot pourri of recent boards that made it to the finish line.

The first cutting board was a special order, and it’s the first piece I’m completed that uses Mesquite. Further down in this group is a Lazy Susan that better showcases this wood that’s uncommon in Southern California.

At the bottom of this group are a pair of “Family” signs that are the first of the true 3D carving signs that I’ve gotten to the finish line. Both of these are made from Hard Maple, though one of them is made from a dark wood that’s got some curly figure in it … unusual for Maple.

I got disorganized enough that a few pieces made it out of the shop and to last week’s event … and were sold before I got their pictures. That has not happened before!

I’ve got 4 more Lazy Susans in the shop that just might be finished for this weekend’s event … but I’ve got several custom orders that will be my focus this week.

A New Twist On Powerful Words   Leave a comment

The “Word Blocks” that I created on the CNC continue to evolve. Here’s my third finishing style.

As you may recall, the original Words were made from Cherry, and then simply oiled. The results were great, I thought, but I was informed that they were very traditional, and that modern decor required things to be less natural & more colorful.

Well, OK, then. Can do.

As I completed these Word Blocks, it took me back to painting sets at the University of Missouri. I worked my way through school doing set building and lighting: it’s where I first used power tools. Mr M’s Woodshop exists because of my experience at Mizzou.

It’s also where I first used a paint sprayer to mix multiple colors and deliver a visually textured surface. Those paint skills had gone dormant, save for a fling with painting our living room 20 years ago. Luckily, I could call upon the experience again to make these Word Blocks. Can’t wait to see how they are received, as compared to the other styles.

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New: Powerful Words

Powerful Words Can Be Pretty, Too

Powerful Words Can Be Pretty, Too   2 comments

I’ve been making my word blocks, and saw that natural wood was not the only way to go. It’s time to switch it up.

For the first time, I’m offering painted wood for sale. That’s a big idea for me.

In this case, I’ve made the 3 dimensional carved words on the CNC, just as I did the original batch that premiered last month. Those words were made from Cherry, and finished with mineral oil. These new words are made from Redwood, and I’ve teamed up with a couple of artists to help me paint them.

I’ve helped the artists by making frames for their fine art canvases … they’re helping me by bringing their sense of color and composition to the Woodshop.

It takes a village.

Here are pictures of the frames that will soon be adorning the homes of the discerning art collector community. They’ll be covered with canvas, of course: these are not art, no matter what a woodworker might think!

But I digress.

These new words are unique; no two are alike. I think you’ll agree that these unique expressions have power. After all, words do.

 

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New: Powerful Words

Trays To Serve   3 comments

I’m calling this a win.

I started out making 3 serving trays, as a reaction to my failure as a teen-aged woodworker. You can read that story, here.

Those 3 serving trays sold at 2 events. That’s a fairly good result for a serving piece … especially a serving piece made by someone with a checkered past making a serving tray, like yours truly.

So, there was nothing to do but go back to the shop and make some more and see if I could replicate the success. These 10 serving trays were the result. Now, I have 2 different styles of handles and a wide, wide range of woods featured in these 10 boards. There are woods from 5 continents being used!

I’m enjoying making these serving trays, and I’m hopeful that the teen-aged me didn’t make an appearance when I was making these in the shop. If that happened, the result could be less than ideal.

Somehow, I’m not worried.

If any of these catch your fancy, you’ll find all of them this weekend at Santa Clarita’s Fine Craft Show in Old Orchard Park. Hours are 10a – 5p on Saturday, and 10a – 3p on Sunday. Hope to see you there!

Cutting Boards, Bears & MBOs   2 comments

It’s go time.

The holiday season is UPON us, and the shop has been humming to try and keep up.

I’m failing, mind you, but I’m doing my best.

This week, I’m focused on cleaning up loose ends, and moving things to the finish line as QUICKLY as I can. And, again, I feel like I’m failing, but I’m doing my best.

I’m staring at 5 weekends of events. Every weekend through 12/17 is booked … 8 events in 5 weeks.

I think I’ve earned my crazy, how about you?

And, that doesn’t include the corporate gifts and movie industry general purpose boxes (“apple boxes”) that I’ve agreed to make, either.

So, I’m a bit wacky these days. I’m counting down to 12/24 … and praying I don’t miss any deliveries too badly. Just about everything has to be delivered by Christmas, and I’m focused on making that happen!

New: Powerful Words   2 comments

When I decided to buy a CNC, this was one of the first ideas that I wanted to make.

After spending most of my career in journalism, I have an affinity for the written word. And I’ve always been struck by the complexity and beauty of the type setting machines first employed by newspapers. (See what I did there? Struck by typesetting? Humor, coming at you!)

Words are powerful.

These word blocks are 3-dimensional carvings. Each requires about 30 minutes on the CNC, which uses 2 different routing bits when I make them. All of these shown are all made from Cherry, AKA Black Cherry or American Cherry. There’s a 2nd batch now in production made from Redwood … but that’s a story for another day.

I’ve made over 30 words, which I have in stock. You can buy these, or you can order your words as well. I can still make special orders for holiday delivery.

I struggled with how to price these (by the letter? by the inch?), and finally settled for simplicity. Each block is $35, regardless of length. There is a volume deal: 2 words for $60, and 3 words for $75.

 

Posted November 16, 2017 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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New: Trivets   3 comments

It’s not an uncommon question when I am at an event: “Can I use this board as a trivet?”

The quick answer is you could, but you probably would not want to. Wood can scorch, and a solid board has no way to dissipate heat. I fear putting really hot stuff on a cheese board or cutting board will eventually cause the glue to fail. The board will crack.

Then I saw the work of my pal Betsy, who makes and sells boards in the Houston area. She makes trivets similar to these using templates that she’s developed … but I thought there should be an easier way.

I pushed the button.

After spending some time in my CNC design software (I use Aspire), I finalized this design. I glued up 4 different wood designs … and I now have trivets!

These are just in time for this weekend’s big event, the California Avocado Festival. If you’re out and about this weekend and find yourself in Carpinteria, please come see us. If you can tear yourself away from staring at the World’s Largest Vat Of Guacamole, you’ll find us in the handmade section, of course.

Trivet 17 – 04. Cherry. 8-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ x 3/4″.

Trivet 17 – 01. White Oak. 8-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ x 3/4″.

Trivet 17 – 02. Hard Maple & Black Walnut. 8-1/2″ x 8-1/2″ x 3/4″.

Trivet 17 – 03. Hard Maple. 9″ x 9″ x 3/4″.

New: Cribbage Boards   2 comments

It’s my 2nd most requested game board.

Note that I still haven’t finished any of my most requested game board, but those are coming soon, honest.

I tried to make cribbage boards several months ago using a plex template and a drill press … the results were less than spectacular. I put those efforts on the shelf while I thought about my next step.

Then, I bought a CNC.

Then, I found this template with my google machine.

Then, I pushed the button.

These are simple boards. Coming soon, I’ll be using a different template with some 3D carving & personalization available. Big plans!

Cribbage 17 – 01. Goncalo Alves, Hard Maple, Cherry, Red Oak, Yellowheart and Black Walnut. 6″ x 16″.

Cribbage 17 – 02. Bubinga. Non-skid rubber feet. 5″ x 15″.

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