Archive for the ‘end grain’ Tag

The Board Chronicles: Whiskey Flat Days 2018   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.

We did Whiskey Flat Days 3 years ago, but haven’t been able to get back since. This annual event is in Kernville, CA … which is between 2 of our favorite event sites in Tehachapi and Ridgecrest. This year, the calendar worked out so we were oh-so-ready for the elegantly named Whiskey Flat Days.

This year is the 61st Annual. It’s a small town vendor event, with a rodeo and carnival thrown in. Oh, and a frog jumping contest. A beard growing contest. A costume contest. And, I’m sure a lot more! This small community definitely turns out for the event … I mean, what else would you do in Kernville, in February?

New Ideas

  • This event has an odd structure over President’s Day weekend. The event runs Friday, 1p – dark. Saturday & Sunday run 9a – dark. And then, paradoxically, vendors are asked to open again on Monday, 9a – 1p. When we did this event 3 years ago, our Monday sales were $35. I think the Monday hours are to force vendors to stay another hotel night … or maybe just stay off the roads so tourists can leave Sunday evening without having to follow vendor vehicles.

Observations

  • I got the loading of the trailer going; pulled the Jeep over & hooked up. No problem. Loaded the trailer. Got Mrs M loaded, uh, so to speak, and turned the Jeep’s key. Clickety-clickety-click. And, just like that, we were delayed over an hour while I went to buy and then install a new battery. I covered foreshadowing last week, so I see no need to cover it again this week. Apparently, God had other plans.
  • We arrived in town right on time, actually. Had lunch at Cheryl’s Diner, and then went to the Chamber of Commerce to check in. We then went to our booth location and set up the “hard goods,” as we say: the canopy, tables, and display pieces. All product stayed in the trailer, as there was no security provided on this night. We were almost set up by dusk, and then headed off to find dinner.
  • We used the Trimline canopy this week, since it was an extended length event with a leisurely set-up time. After not using this canopy for 6 months, I forgot how the roof went together. Unfortunately. We had to backtrack a bit to get it done properly, but the canopy is so nice when it’s up. It takes more time, but it’s worth it.
  • I’ll keep saying that; Mrs M may believe it eventually.
  • The aisle is pretty narrow between the booths at this event: there’s only about 10′ between the booths. Friday, a larger-than-life veteran planted himself in the middle of the aisle, outside of his booth a few booths down from us, and proceeded to try and raise funds by selling coffee cups for his veteran-focused charity. I appreciate the charity’s goal, but the sales style? Yuck.
  • Thank goodness he did not return for the rest of the weekend.
  • That same charity, though, had a couple of booth workers that were also in the parade as Harley Davidson riders. They parked their bikes in the driveway across from our booth, and then roared off down the aisle at about 4pm on Saturday. Gas fumes led to zero Mrs M sales until the air finally cleared several minutes later. Oh, and the noise made small children cry. Where were the promoters?
  • Teen boy, pointing to his friend, asked Mrs M, “Do you have any lotion to fix his face?”
  • Random odd guy walked by my booth and called out, “Do you have anything good?” Confused by the oddity, I didn’t respond; he never broke stride and called out, “Didn’t think so.”
  • We had the first-ever opening of an actual beer bottle as my MBO demo. This event is characterized by a lot of public drinking; some do it as BYO, obviously!
  • Young lady was looking at my stuff. Her large, long-haired significant other loudly announced, “You don’t need no f***ing fancy board to cut stuff.” They left the booth before I could react. Mrs M leaned over to me, “And he probably beats her, too.”
  • The fact that this is supposed to be a family event did not deter many from using a limited vocabulary to express themselves.
  • Mrs M and I were talking, sotto voice, about the paucity of sales. She said, “I want you to beat me … oh, I knew it sounded bad when I said it.”
  • I did not, in either case.
  • A guy was in the booth, accompanied by a couple of friends. He was shopping for a gift for his wife that was back at their home in France. He liked a board, but one of his friends told him, in my booth, that it was a poor gift choice. “You should buy her clothing or jewelry.” I did not throw the “friend” out of the booth. I held my tongue. The guy ditched the friends & came back an hour later to buy the board.
  • Discretion can be a good thing.
  • When you are a vendor, you’re just like the hired help, I guess. People can be Oh. So. Rude.
  • Overheard:
    • Young Girl (hovering over ZooSoapia): “Mommy, buy me a soap!”
    • Mommy: “Don’t touch things! Lord, help me. This is why animals eat their young!”
  • Can you tell we just didn’t feel it at this event? Poor sales. Poor parenting on display. Bad language heard frequently. I’m from a small town. I like small towns, but Kernville didn’t show us anything good on this trip.
  • The Monday forecast was for lows overnight in the 20s, with high wind, rain or snow showers overnight and into the morning. Lotions freeze, so we were not interested in ruining product just so we could sit in the cold with no customers. We packed up Sunday night, went back to the motel (bringing the lotion inside for the night!), and then drove out Monday morning.
  • As we drove through town, I saw at least 4 canopies that were upside down and ruined by the overnight winds. Many booths had already packed up at 9am; many more were not open during the “official” event hours.
  • Requests were for a backgammon board, boards with no feet so they could have 2-sided use, and a cheese slicer.

The Food

  • Best Meal: The Fremont Deli came to our booth on Friday, and offered to deliver to our booth when we ordered lunch during the event. We took their offer on Saturday, and I got a very nice, hot Ham & Cheese. Delicious. 4 stars.
  • Honorable Mention: We had dinner Sunday night with our friend Delinda of Sweet Spot Home Decor. The restaurant (Kern River Brewing Co.) was not great … but the meal was a perfect way to relieve the stresses of a failed event. 2 stars.
  • Worst Meal: El Rio was the Mexican restaurant we found. The food’s not bad, really, but the place has zero atmosphere. The next night, we ate in the motel; we had carry out hot chicken from the grocery store deli, and that was better. YaknowhatImean? 1 star.
  • Final recommendation: Don’t go to Kernville for the food.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 281
  • Booth cost: $550
  • Food cost: $271
  • Travel cost: $146
  • Total sales: $1,126
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $159
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: none
  • # transactions: not nearly enough
  • # soap & lotion vendors: There were 5 handmade soap vendors at this event, which was entirely too many, IMHO. This event may “jury” some categories, and I use the term very loosely … but they didn’t count or care about how many soap makers they let in.
  • # woodworking vendors: There was one other cutting board maker there (!). He did different stuff as well, including boxes and spoons.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 10:0
  • Returning next year? Nope.

Boards sold: 10

Coasters: 2x

Cutting Boards: 2x

Trivets: 2x

Large Sous Chef: 1x

Soap Deck: 1x

Magic Bottle Opener: 1x

Small Board: 1x

The Board Chronicles: Lake Havasu Winter fest 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.

Well, faithful readers, I know you’re on pins and needles to see what happened after we were almost blown away.

Didn’t know? Then you should read Wind. Blows: A Special Edition of the Board Chronicles, which tells the story of the devastation wreaked on us at this event. Go ahead, follow the link & read.

I’ll wait.

This post, however, is the story of the event itself: the 33rd Annual Winterfest in Lake Havasu, AZ. This is a “big idea” event for us, so the investment was significant. We got there.

Hope it’s worth it!

New Ideas

  • As stated, this is our first interstate event. We had to register with the state of Arizona, as well as get a business license from Lake Havasu City. Unfortunately, I forgot to do both, so had to scramble at the last minute (and I do mean the last minute) to get both done properly.
  • My inventory is now over 300 pieces, which is a personal record. I’ve got a varied product line, with Hearts back in stock, 3 kinds of finishes on Word Blocks, and Coasters available for the first time.

Observations

  • After I scrambled to get the city license + the state registration, no one checked to make sure that we were following the rules. Which is how it always goes, it seems.
  • We did, however, get our first-ever fire inspection to ensure we had a fire extinguisher in the booth. I thanked the fireman for doing his job.
  • Oh so many lotion vendors there in the small part of the show that we did visit … and they were all making medical claims of one kind or another. I certainly hope these snake oil salesmen had a bad weekend. I mean, does anyone really think that there are potions to prevent Alzheimer’s that you can just buy on the street?
  • He said, picking up a clipboard: “Is this a cutting board?
    • I said: “No. It’s a clipboard.”
  • Another He said, looking at a cutting board for $150: “Is this price right?”
    • I said: “Yes.”
    • Another He said: “You must make these yourself.”
    • What do you say to that, other than, “I do.”
  • Yet Another He asked if I had cribbage boards. I pointed to the one on display.
    • Yet Another He asked: “How much?”
    • I said: “$40.”
    • Yet Another He said: “That’s a fair price.” (and he turned and left)
  • Arriving to find half of our booth destroyed on Sunday morning was not a good time, I assure you. We packed up Mrs M’s stuff, and moved it into the shade on the sidewalk. We decided to not pack up my stuff … we were there, and selling ANYTHING sounded better than sitting in the Jeep for the 5 hour drive and getting more depressed. So, we set Mrs M’s tables back up and moved my extra inventory onto those tables in what was now Mrs M’s open air booth. Of the things we put on display … nothing sold.
  • Luckily, other things did.
  • She said: “$80 for a Pig for me to chop an onion on? Oh, hell no.” (and she turned and left)
  • Requests were for a Jokers & Pegs set (no), a Wisconsin-shaped cribbage board (no), a flybox (He wanted a tool, not a keepsake. I don’t do utility boxes … and rarely do keepsake boxes!) and an RV sink board (2x).

The Food

  • Best Meal: We had a great meal at Azul Agave. I had the macho burrito. It was Sunday, after a horrible morning and an OK sales day. Glad that we got a smile at the end of a very trying day.
  • Honorable Mention: Breakfast at the Black Bear Diner is always a treat for us.
  • Worst Meal: It was about unmet expectations, really. We had dinner at Mario’s, which did not live up to its Yelp rating. The food was OK, but I expected more. We ate there Friday night, before our event, so that meal was a dramatic device called foreshadowing.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 617
  • Booth cost: $300
  • City License cost: $20
  • Food cost: $213
  • Travel cost: $233
  • Total sales: $1,487
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $400
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: none
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: given what happened to us, I’m surprised to say … none
  • Saturday alarm: 4a
  • Sunday alarm: 6:15a
  • # soap & lotion vendors: no clue. We saw about 25% of the vendors there.
  • # woodworking vendors: see above.
  • Returning next year? Totally unclear. I’m leaning pro; Mrs M is leaning no. The canopy … it’s not leaning anymore. It’s trash.

Boards sold: 18

2x Serving Trays

2x Medium Surfboards

2x Magic Bottle Openers

2x Hearts

1x Large Cheese & Cracker Server

1x Cribbage Board

1x Large Cutting Board

1x Coaster

1x Coaster Set

1x Cheese Board

1x Pig Cutting Board

Wind. Blows: A Special Edition Of The Board Chronicles   2 comments

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.

It was time to up our game.

Mrs M’s Handmade is now entering our 5th year of vendorhood. We started oh-so-humbly … and we’re still learning at every event. Unfortunately.

This year, we want to expand what we do. It’s our intention to do some bigger shows … and we scheduled ourselves for our first out-of-state event, Winterfest in Lake Havasu, AZ. That event is 300 miles from home, which is almost as far for us to travel as the events we’ve done in the bay area.

California’s a big state, you see. Going to Arizona from LA is closer. But, I digress.

We went to Arizona to go a-vendoring. What could go wrong?

Quoth The Fifth Element, Leeloo, “Wind blows ….”

This is the story of what happened while we slept.

Saturday was what we expected, really, only less. This very large vendor event has a Saturday morning setup, and we were there at 5:15am to line up for the 6am beginning of the process. We did what we do, and set up our booths, # 358 & 360, in the middle of McCulloch Blvd. We were ready for the crowds at 9am. People were there, which was great … but they didn’t buy much, unfortunately. Our vendor friends universally reported sales that were down significantly from last year. We ended Saturday at 5pm with a very, very disappointing sales total and complete exhaustion. We buttoned up the booths, put a table cloth over the soaps, and went to the motel to lick our wounds.

We knew that there was a windstorm forecast to hit at about 11pm, but we didn’t really worry about it. After all, we knew that we were prepared. Our weights were in place, our new Undercover canopies have thick, heavy side walls … we were ready.

We thought.

We were wrong.

We arrived before 8am on Sunday, because I wanted to tweak my display a bit. That’s what I would end up doing, but nothing else went according to plan.

Here’s the first thing I saw when we walked up to the booth:

My first look at the wind damage. No big deal, right?

This is a picture of the back corner of “my” booth (we do a double booth, so Mrs M has her side, and I have my side). See the upended table? That’s the back of my neighbor’s booth. My booth’s walls are what you see on the left side of the photo, and you’ll see that my canopy has shifted forward 3′. The booth did not go airborne, due to the weights that we had in place. However, the wind did push the sail formed by the wall of the booth forward, relentlessly, in spite of the weight. When the canopy was pushed and slid across the asphalt, the wall eventually rode up and over the top of the table. That, in turn, resulted in the boards I had stupidly left on the table getting knocked down. Only 3 pieces hit the pavement. Luckily.

Note that our weight is velcroed in place at the bottom of the canopy leg, just as it’s supposed to be. My neighbor’s booth is also secured, with the orange ratchet strap attached to the roof strut and holding a sandbag. Their booth (no walls) did not move, and did not protect my booth from the wind.

At this point, though, I was relieved. I had already seen canopies that were upended and destroyed in the wind, so I knew we were lucky that it was not worse. It took me a couple of thoughts to realize that the front of the booth – which looked perfect – was not all there. 10′ of our booth was missing. That’s when my focus shifted, and I saw this.

Velda’s booth, crushed by a flying canopy.

Here you see the opposite corner of my booth from the previous picture, and it was the front, center of our double booth. All you can see of Mrs M’s booth is the crumpled wall that’s on the pavement, and the leg and roof struts that have been folded parallel … they are no longer perpendicular. Mrs M’s Booth should be about 9′ tall; now it’s smashed.

Time slowed down. I surveyed the damage and realized that our day had just taken a very significant left turn.

Bad words may have been spoken at this point.

The booth behind Velda and her neighbor (a real estate agent) was a 10’x20′ booth selling dry soup mixes & such. The soup people had 2x 10′ canopies. They had bungeed the roofs together, and then secured the canopies with ratchet straps and DIY weights made from 4″ PVC pipe and, uh, stuff.

More on that later.

During the night, the wind lifted the dry soup canopies up, and then they flipped over and crushed Mrs M’s canopy, as well as that of her neighbor. Both Mrs M’s and the real estate agent’s canopies were properly weighted down and did not move from their spots. They did, however, get crushed by the Flying Dry Soup Canopy.

The Flying Dry Soup Canopy

This is the view from the far side of the real estate booth. That booth had a cheap EZ Up canopy … crushed flat. Note the 2 front center poles of the Flying Dry Soup Canopy: no weights are attached. These poles would have been front & center in the dry soup display, so the vendor did not put unsightly weights there.

Mistake. Big Mistake.

A DIY weight that really isn’t.

This is a picture of one of the weights that didn’t hold down the Flying Dry Soup Canopy. 2 things are wrong here:

  1. The weight itself is not properly secured. The weight should be connected to the ratchet strap through the eye hole mounted on the weight (now facing the pavement). Also, the weight must be secured to the leg itself. Otherwise, the wind will blow, the tent will shake … the weight will start swinging free of the leg, and then the pendulum effect will increase the power of the wind and speed the catastrophic failure of the canopy. As it did in this case!
  2. The weight itself is about 30″ tall. I have made weights somewhat similar to these. When I made my versions, I filled the 4″ PVC with concrete and rock. My DIY PVC weights did weigh 35 pounds when I put them on our bathroom scale. The pictured “weight,” however, was lifted by Velda using one arthritic finger. I estimate it was no more than 20 pounds; she believes it was under 10 pounds. I can guarantee it was not 50 pounds.

What’s important about 50 pounds? Here’s the relevant rule, which was a part of the event application signed by every vendor:

All vendors must have weights for any canopies in use. All four corners must have weights of at least 50lbs attached.

So, if you have 2x 10′ canopies side by side, you actually have 8 corners. When you put 50 pounds on each corner, you need 400 pounds of weight attached. In my opinion, the Flying Dry Soup Canopy did not have half of that.

The back of the Flying Dry Soup Canopy, now upside down and sitting in the middle of Mrs M’s booth. One weight is on the near corner; you can see the orange ratchet strap holding another on the far corner. But the back, middle?

So, we know there’s devastation here. Nothing to do but clean it up. With all of the involved vendors eventually helping, we took apart the offending canopies, untying the bungees and disconnecting the weights. Mrs M’s canopy could then be removed, to finally reveal the remains of her booth:

The top layers of Mrs M’s purpose built display did get pushed onto the ground, but the bottom layer was left alone. Under the tablecloth is the soap, which was totally undamaged. But as the asphalt underneath was revealed….

Amazingly, none of the wooden pieces were broken. Over 100 lotion bars were destroyed, as well as a small number of lotions and a single beard oil.

The saddest thing I saw broken:

So, nothing to do but get to it. Mrs M started cleaning up, and I started picking up.

Clean up, well in hand. 10am.

We cleaned up Mrs M’s booth entirely, and then decided that we should keep my booth open for the day. All of our costs were sunk; her stuff was safe. We would gain nothing by leaving for home, and if we stayed we just might sell a board or two.

That’s the story for the next installment of The Board Chronicles.

Still unknown is what will happen to our financial losses caused by the Flying Dry Soup Canopy. We do have their insurance information, and do expect to be compensated for the losses that we incurred. Will that happen? No clue.

Want to read about an even worse event weekend? The link’s below, When Nature Fights Back….

We expanded “my” booth into Mrs M’s booth space when we finally tweaked my display. There’s still cleanup needed, however.

More

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

 

 

The Things New Cutting Board Makers Always Ask: The Finishing   3 comments

This is part 2 in a series of 2 posts, dedicated to helping new cutting board makers do what they want to do. For part 1, go here. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Once you’ve glued wood together, you need to know how to finish your cutting board. Unfortunately, you’ve got a lot of options on how to make a cutting board, and those options will multiply as you move towards the finish line.

9. How do you finish a cutting board?

The recommended best practice is to apply mineral oil to the raw wood. Some immerse the board in a mineral oil bath for several minutes; others wipe on the oil in one or more applications.

The purpose of the oil is to supplement/replace the natural oils in the wood. Those oils will dry out over time, plus the soap and water used to clean the board will leach out those oils. So, for long life, you need to oil a cutting board. Talk to a chef: commercial kitchens oil their boards every day.

Note that the mineral oil has nothing to do with the anti-bacterial properties of a wooden cutting board.

10. Why mineral oil? Why not (insert other oil here)?

Mineral oil is shelf stable and will not go bad. It is FDA approved for human consumption (it’s a laxative). Oils that are grown, such as canola, coconut or olive oil will all eventually go rancid. They are not recommended for cutting board treatment.

11. How do you seal a cutting board?

You don’t.

You oil the board with mineral oil. If you “seal” the board with a varnish or polyurethane, then that coating will flake off when you carve on the board, and will mix with your food. No one recommends that you eat varnish or poly, so don’t use them on cutting boards.

12. What’s Board Butter?

It’s a mix of beeswax and mineral oil that can be used as a topcoat over a board that’s already treated with mineral oil. The beeswax, also FDA approved, gives another layer of protection to the wood, and will help to repel water. Different woodworkers prefer different formulas for their board butter … but if they include any ingredients not approved for human consumption, like polyurethane, then they would not be good to use.

I prefer a mix of 2 parts mineral oil to one part locally-harvested beeswax, which results in an applesauce-like texture when you apply it. Some like their board butter stiffer, which requires heating it prior to application.

13. Should a cutting board have feet?

Cutting Board 16 – End 029a. Detail of the finger hold on the edge of the board.

Perhaps.

Some prefer their boards to have non-skid feet. Some prefer to leave the board ready for 2-sided use, which means they have to find some way to keep it from sliding during use.

14. Should a cutting board have handles?

Probably. Especially if a board has no feet, it really helps to have a way to easily pick it up. I put routed hand holds – or finger holds – on just about all of my boards.

15. Should a cutting board have a juice groove?

This is another philosophical discussion.

Some prefer juice grooves. In my home, however, the cook says that if you’re properly cooking your meat you really want the juices to stay IN the meat, so if you’re carving the meat and juice is running out, you haven’t let the meat rest long enough. So, in my home, no grooves.

In the booth, however, I sell boards with grooves on them. Really big grooves, sometimes.

16. What should a cutting board cost?

Carving Board – the poultry side. The graduated ribs of the oval are perfect to hold the fowl in place as you carve.

I don’t think there’s a really good answer to this question. Some craftsmen try and hold to a certain cost per square inch (foolish) or cubic inch (better). I find these methods to be a waste of my time. But that’s me.

Hard Maple costs me about $4.25 a board foot. Black Walnut costs me about $9.00 a board foot. Goncalo Alves costs me about $14.00 a board foot. When I’m pricing a board, I think about the cost of the lumber I used … and round up. Then I add in my other costs, for sandpaper, mineral oil & such … and round up. Overhead costs such as electricity, saw blade sharpening and tool purchases have to be factored in. Those are my hard costs.

What’s your time worth? An honest answer to that question will drive you out of the cutting board business rather quickly, I believe.

And all of this is before you consider variable costs such as event fees, transportation costs, insurance….

After you know your costs, you need to come up with a price that works for you, and then find an audience that believes that price works for them as well. When you sell a board, then that’s the price that you agreed on with your customer. Right, wrong or indifferent, that’s how pricing works.

I sell cheese boards (approximately 8″ x 11″ x 5/8″) for $35 – $50 depending on their exact size and wood design. Plain maple boards would be cheaper than boards made with more expensive woods like Bloodwood, Mesquite and Purpleheart.

I sell cutting boards (12″ x 16″ x 1-1/4″) for $75 – $140 depending on their wood design, if they have a juice groove, etc. Large cutting boards (16″ x 21″ x 1-1/2″) sell for $275 and up.

Note that these are my prices as I head into 2018. If wood costs go up, then my prices will as well.

Prices – and wood costs – vary by region. End grain boards will cost more than edge grain boards. Some hobbyists charge less because they can. Some professionals charge more because they must.

What should you charge? I don’t know.

17. Can you make a living selling cutting boards?

Not in my experience. I’m having a lot of fun, but paying the mortgage? Not so much.

 

Cutting Board 16 – End 038. Black Walnut, Yellowheart & Hickory. End Grain, Large Custom Juice Groove. 20″ x 26″ x 1-1/2″. Commissioned Piece.

Cutting Board 15 – 094. Jatoba, Black Walnut, Yellowheart, Jarrah, & Jatoba. 13″ x 19″ x 1-1/2″. Commissioned piece; replacement board fitted in a counter top.

More

The Things New Cutting Board Makers Always Ask: The Making

The Woods In The Woodshop

So You Want To Buy A Cutting Board….

Cutting Boards: What Kind Do You Want?

Cutting Boards: Care & Cleaning

Cutting Boards: Restoration

The Things New Cutting Board Makers Always Ask: The Making   1 comment

This is part 1 in a series of 2 posts, dedicated to helping new cutting board makers do what they want to do. For part 2, there’s a link at the bottom of this post.

Cutting Board 17 – 109. Hard Maple, Edge Grain. 11″ x 14″ x 1-1/8″.

Building a cutting board is a rite of passage for many woodworking hobbyists. Many of those hobbyists ask the very same questions. Here, then, is a complete list of common answers to those common questions.

1. What size should a cutting board be?

The size that the cook wants. That’s the best answer to this all too common question.

Personally, I define a “cutting board” as a board that’s about 12″ x 16″ x 1-1/4″. However, I know that many of my “cheese boards” and “small boards” are purchased to be used as cutting boards, and those boards can be as small as 8″ x 10″ x 5/8″. Big enough to slice a tomato? You bet. Big enough for meal prep to serve a family of 4? Not so much.

I sell the most “cutting boards” at the 12″ x 16″ x 1-1/4″ size, but I sell many more “cheese boards.” Of course, that may be because they cost less than half what a “cutting board” does.

2. What woods should I use in a cutting board?

Cutting Board 17 – 424. Bubinga, Cherry, Purpleheart & Hard Maple. End grain, juice groove. 17″ x 21-1/2″ x 1-1/2″.

Really, just about any wood will be OK. Go to a high school woodshop where they are making cutting boards, and you’ll see that they use whatever they have at hand. That doesn’t mean the boards are good, but the wood is cheap.

A study at the University of Wisconsin – Madison examined the natural anti-bacterial properties of several wood species, and they were found to be comparable. That’s one reason why wood is used to make the very best cutting boards.

The FDA says that commercial cutting boards should be made from Hard Maple or its equivalent. Hard Maple is a close-grained wood (meaning not very porous), that has proven to be an excellent cutting surface for centuries. Butcher blocks are made from Hard Maple. That’s the gold standard.

3. What woods should I NOT use in a cutting board?

Avoid woods that are a lot softer than Hard Maple. Avoid woods that are much more porous than Hard Maple. Always avoid:

  • Used woods … where have they been? What has been sprayed on these woods? Do you want your food prepped on this wood? You don’t know where it’s been.
  • Treated woods, such as wood from pallets or rot-resistant manufactured woods. Poisons are injected into these woods.
  • Laminated woods, like Bamboo. Bamboo is a bulbous grass that when properly harvested and laminated, can make hard lumber. However, the character of this wood is such that it will dull knives. Bamboo is not a good cutting board wood. It’s VERY CHEAP in the countries where it is grown, but it does not make a good cutting board.

4. Can I use Oak in a cutting board?

This is a great philosophical debate in some woodworking circles. Let’s start with a truth: Red Oak and White Oak are not actual species. Rather, they are collections of harvested lumber that are graded by the lumber mill to be in the Red or White Oak category. Red Oak is generally more red (duh), and White Oak has some very distinctive grain patterns made famous in Mission style furniture (there’s a wonderful article about the 2 categories of Oak, on the Wood Database site). However, there is no hard line separating Red & White Oak, and some pieces are difficult to categorize.

Red Oak is an extremely porous wood, so it fails the FDA recommendation to use Hard Maple or its equivalent. White Oak is much less porous (whisky is aged in white oak barrels!), so some argue it’s OK to use (true in the heartwood, but less so in the sapwood).

My recommendation: do not use any Oak in cutting boards. There are better, prettier woods to use.

5. What are the best woods to use?

Cutting Board 16 – End 040. Bubinga, Cherry, Bloodwood, Goncalo Alves, Canarywood, Padauk, Purpleheart, Yellowheart & Hard Maple. 16″ x 21″ x 1-1/2″.

There is something called the Janka hardness scale, that measures how hard wood is. Hard Maple gets a score of 1450. That’s my gold standard.

Some people use much softer Hard Woods in cutting boards, like Cherry (Janka score of 950) or Black Walnut (1010). Some people see nothing wrong with using Alder (590) or Box Elder (720), which are both considered Soft Woods.

6. What glue should I use to make a cutting board?

Glues have come a long way since hide glue was used a hundred years ago.

Most woodworkers use Titebond II or Titebond III. You’ll find both are commonly available; both are approved by the FDA for food contact surfaces. Titebond II is less expensive, somewhat less water resistant, and has a shorter “open” time before it sets. Titebond III costs more, has a bit more water resistance, and has a longer “open” time. Please note that the manufacturer gives these specifications:

  • Clamp the joint for a minimum of 60 minutes.
  • Do not stress the joint for a minimum of 24 hours (so, no machining for a day after a glue up)
  • It is not possible to “starve the joint” by applying too much clamping pressure.

Some woodworkers elect to use all sorts of glues, such as Gorilla Glue.

You’re an adult, you get to choose.

7. Can I glue face grain to edge grain to end grain?

This question frustrates me a lot. Many people are passionate about this topic, and woodworking forums are full of posts from people that love to insult others that don’t have the spectacular insight that they claim to have.

Taylor Swift sang about it: Haters gonna hate.

Cutting Board 17 – 101. Jatoba, Hard Maple, Cherry & Canarywood. Edge Grain with Bread Board Ends. In-counter replacement, commissioned piece. 16″ x 21″ x 3/4″.

Here’s a fact: wood expands & contracts at a greater rate across the grain than it does along the length of the board (“with the grain”). So, when you glue end grain to edge/face grain, you have a potential for the wood to break when those uneven amounts of contraction cause the laminated piece to burst apart. Read an exhaustive explanation, here.

So, gluing end grain to edge grain can end poorly. Putting a frame around a cutting board, gluing the ends of the cutting surface to the edge grain of the frame is a bad idea. Not recommended.

However, it’s also true that cutting boards with bread board ends have been made successfully for decades, and are a part of many kitchens. I recommend bread board ends for cutting boards less than 1″ thick; the cross grain ends help to keep those cutting boards flat.

8. Can I run an end grain cutting board through a planer?

No.

Not safely. No.

I know, I know, you have seen it done on You Tube. You’ve perhaps even done it yourself a time or three, and nothing bad ever happened to you. I have also planed an end grain board, and nothing bad happened.

I was lucky.

The simple truth is that the shearing force of a planer – any kind of planer – does not play well with the very hard but brittle structure of an end grain board. And, wood being wood, some end grain boards will break when sent through a planer. They may crack, and they may break apart rather spectacularly.

Daniel Clement, from Manheim, PA, planed an end grain board on his DeWalt 733 planer. Unfortunately, he had the spectacular happen: “It was scary … the thing shot out at 30-40 mph down my driveway.”

Daniel Clement’s flying missile of a cutting board, after the planer was done with it.

 

Scott Ross had run 80 end grain boards through his 20″ segmented head planer … and then this chaos board broke apart when he planed it.

These common questions take you through the first several steps of designing and making a cutting board. To learn about how to finish your new board, follow the link below.

Cutting Board 17 – 121. Hard Maple, Canarywood & Bloodwood. Edge Grain. 13″ x 17″ x 1-1/8″.

Cutting Board 17 – 108. Goncalo Alves, Black Walnut, Honey Locust, Jatoba & Cherry. Edge Grain. 11″ x 17″ x 1″.

More

The Things New Cutting Board Makers Always Ask: The Finishing

The Woods In The Woodshop

So You Want To Buy A Cutting Board….

Cutting Boards: What Kind Do You Want?

Cutting Boards: Care & Cleaning

Cutting Boards: Restoration

So You Want To Buy A Cutting Board….   2 comments

Every home has a kitchen. Every kitchen has at least one cutting board. When the cook – or the cook’s really good friend – decides they need a new board, then the conversation begins.

Let’s start with the pretty.

There are 2 basic kinds of cutting boards, which are called edge grain (they are “stripey”) and end grain (they have lots of small squares, and often remind people of quilts or chess boards).

Edge grain cutting board. Cutting Board 17 – 141. Yellowheart, Canarywood, Hard Maple & Jatoba. 14″ x 18″ x 1-1/4″.

End grain cutting board. Cutting Board 17 – 433. Jatoba, Hard Maple & Canarywood. End grain. 16″ x 21″ x 1-1/2″. Commissioned piece.

Both can be great cutting boards. The end grain boards are like the classic butcher block, and they do show less wear over time. With an end grain, you cut on the ends of the boards. The grain of the wood is facing up, and the knife goes between the grain when you cut. Then, when you oil the board, the grain heals itself and the cuts almost disappear.

With edge grain, on the other hand, you actually score wood fibers when you cut. However, I only use very hard wood, and they don’t mark as easily as a plastic or soft wood board that many people are used to.

So, that’s the first question for you to answer:

  1. Do you like stripes or squares?

Edge grain boards (stripes) will be less expensive, as they are easier to make. End grain boards take more time in the shop, and require a lot more sanding to make smooth. I prefer end grain boards personally; I enjoy the challenge of making them. Velda’s main board, though, is an edge grain. She likes stripes … so that’s what she’s got.

Once you answer that first question, the questions get a bit easier.

Second question:

2. What size do you want?

Boards come in many sizes. For me, I call “cutting boards” anything that’s 12″ x 16″ or larger. Normally, I make 3 sizes: 12″ x 16″, 14″ x 18″, and 16″ x 21″. Those are counter top boards, and many people leave them on their counter for daily use. I do make larger boards upon request, but I don’t keep larger sizes in my inventory.

Some people prefer smaller boards: if you’re only going to slice an onion or trim the crust from a sandwich, you may want what I call a Cheese Board (about 8″ x 11″ and thin, at 5/8″. Small. Lightweight.) or a Small Board (about 6″ x 11″ x 1″. More robust, but still small enough to move around easily.)

Cheese Board 16 – 054. Purpleheart, Birds Eye Maple, Goncalo Alves, Jatoba, Bloodwood & Yellowheart. 9″ x 11″ x 3/4″.

 

Small Board 17 – 246. Hard Maple, Padauk & Purpleheart. 10″ x 11″ x 1″.

Again, no wrong answers here. Some people want a larger, counter top board for daily use, and then supplement it with a few small boards for individual needs. Some people, cooking for one, only want a small board. That’s OK; you’re an adult. You get to choose.

A good cutting board should be at least 1″ thick, I believe. That makes it strong enough to become a reliable kitchen tool. Thinner boards are fine for cutting … but not pounding. The thickest boards I normally make are 1-1/2″. That’s as thick as they need to be for function. If you want a thicker board because you want the look of a big, thick hunk of wood on the counter, no problem. I can make it – and you’ll have to lift it to clean it. Your option.

I do make handled cutting boards, which I call Sous Chef boards. Those are made to be mobile, and move from counter to table to stove top as needed. I also make in-counter boards, commonly called bread boards because they have “bread board ends.” These relatively thin boards are made for 2-sided use, and often are stored in a slot under the counter top, above the silverware drawer. Both the Sous Chef boards and the in-counter boards do not have the non-skid rubber feet found on the other boards described on this page.

Sous Chef 17 – 917. Purpleheart & Birdseye Maple. Large size, with the work space approximately 11″ x 15″, with the handle extending for an additional 6″.

Sous Chef 17 – 902. Bubinga & Hard Maple. The work surface is 9″ x 12″, with the handle extending another 4″.

Cutting Board 17 – 129. Black Walnut, Birdseye Maple & Padauk. Bread board ends. 16″ x 20″ x 3/4″. Commissioned Piece.

Next question:

3. Do you want a juice groove?

Juice grooves help catch the, uh, juices and crumbs that you generate as you work on your cutting board. Cooks that are moving meat from the grill to the kitchen often find that a juice groove will help contain the liquids that flow from juicy meat. Some just like to keep their counter tidy; even tomatoes leak a bit when they are diced.

Juice grooves are often small and pretty much non-functional, in my opinion. I make juice grooves larger than many craftsman … and have made them very large on my meat carving board.

Carving Board – the poultry side. The graduated ribs of the oval are perfect to hold the fowl in place as you carve.

Carving Board – the beef and pork side. Hard Maple. 14″ x 19″ x 1-1/4″.

Next question:

4. What kinds of wood do you want in your board?

I use about 25 species of wood, all chosen for their beauty as well as their suitability to make an exceptional cutting board.

Please note that I *never* color a wood artificially. I use fresh, all natural lumber and only treat it with FDA-approved mineral oil and beeswax. The oil and wax protect the wood from water; a properly treated cutting board will last for decades. Read about the care of your cutting board here.

The FDA says a commercial cutting board should be made from Hard Maple or its equivalent. Hard Maple is “close grained.” An alternative would be Red Oak, which is a common hardwood, but is very “open grained.” I do not put Red Oak in cutting boards for that reason.

The woods I do use are all selected for their hardness and beauty. Some boards I make are plain – perhaps even made from just one wood, like Black Walnut. Others are what I call colorific. No wrong answer here.

For a gallery of things I’ve made that highlight most of the woods I use, go here.

Final question:

5. Are you picking up the board from my home in Santa Clarita, or where should I ship it?

Happy to ship the board as needed. I charge you my direct shipping costs only.

Here are the features common to every board:

  • The board is saturated with food-grade mineral oil, which is FDA approved. This is the only oil I recommend you use to treat your board.
  • I finish each board with a top coat of hand-rubbed “board butter,” which is a combination of locally-harvested beeswax mixed with mineral oil. Both the oil and the wax help the board repel water.
  • Non-skid rubber feet held on with stainless steel screws.
  • Routed fingerholds on 2 edges.

All of these boards are made by me in my shop. If you want to order a board from my current inventory, tell me what you’re looking for and I’ll give you some options. Want to come by the house to see what I’ve got? No problem; we’ll set an appointment.

If you want a custom board, I’ll talk to you about the design that you want. I’ll send you options, and then you can choose the exact wood design that you want. From that point, I’ll start your board when I make my next batch. Generally, I can custom make a board to your specific desires and deliver it in about a month. Or maybe 6 weeks. Sometimes that becomes longer if I have projects backed up, and as the holidays approach, all bets are off. I do my best to communicate how work is progressing; you’re welcome to ask me for updates any time.

Thank you for considering my cutting boards. This totally out of control hobby is a labor of love for me, and I appreciate your support.

 

 

 

The Board Chronicles: VHS Softball Holiday Boutique 2017   2 comments

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.

I blame Velda.

Of course.

This event came at us late, after we’d booked our 4th quarter. It’s a first time event.

It’s a rule: Don’t. Do. First. Time. Events.

But, the organizer did help us get into the Boutique Fantastique at Saugus High 4 years ago, and she definitely wanted us to be a part of her new event that’s a fundraiser for the Valencia High softball team.

But it’s on a bad date, just 9 days before Christmas and halfway through Hanukkah (too late for holiday shopping, right?).

Oh, and they’re getting seventy (70) vendors for this first time event. That’s way too many unless the crowd is enormous.

For a first time event.

And, did I mention, Velda had to work at her “job” this weekend? So, I would be solo at the event.

However, she said to do it. It fit on the calendar. What was I supposed to do?

I know: just do the event and get it over with.

New Ideas

  • We teamed up with our friend Nicole, who makes lovely ceramics. She made 2 versions of soap dishes, which are now offered for the first time by Mrs M.
  • 6:30a load-in, and Mrs M took pity on me. She’ll help me set up, and then leave do go to her “job.” I appreciate the help, truly.
  • I have no expectations for this event. Well, I want to cover costs, certainly, but beyond that … no expectations. I’ve stated sales could be anywhere between $500 and $1,500. I don’t care. No expectations.
  • Gretchen Wilson, who hales from Pocahontas, IL, said it very well: “I’m here for the party.”

Observations

  • Event # 15 of 15 in our 4th quarter.
  • Sunday about 6p, it’ll be party time. But until then … back to business.
  • Can I nominate the graphic for this event as the worst of the year? They need a little bit of Christmas spirit to go with their mascot. Or, perhaps, instead of their mascot. IMHO.
  • Sports marketing is not my thing, so I’ll concentrate on marketing something I know about … like lotion bars.
  • Load in was at 6:30a; I was there a few minutes early, and the organizer led me into parking right by the gym. Load in was as easy as it could be.
  • Except for the student volunteers … who didn’t arrive until 6:45a. Don’t know why their call time wasn’t at 6:15a, but I don’t make the rules. I was mostly loaded in before the volunteers offered to help me.
  • In the end, load in was easy, and Mrs M helped with set up as much as she could.
  • The event started at 10a, and I had customers that came to see me fill the opening hours. It was 12n before I could look at the clock. Sales were not brisk, but I was busy helping people. Far beyond my expectations, luckily.
  • I finally got lunch at 1p, and was promptly ‘whelmed again by ladies clamoring for lotion bars. Happy to help; my sandwich had to wait.
  • Mostly, the aisles were empty. My neighbor hadn’t made her booth fee at the end of Saturday. Some did OK, others were frustrated. I was just happy that the party was coming.
  • Sunday, the aisles were empty. As expected.
  • Vendors started disappearing Saturday night, actually; not all returned for Sunday. Some vendors had started packing at 2p on Sunday, which is sad. The event wasn’t generating many sales, true, but when vendors start to leave any customers that are there just see “over.” The rules were clear: don’t leave before 4p, or you won’t be asked back. I wonder if the organizers were, uh, organized enough – and have the backbone – to enforce that rule.
  • My last customer came to the booth and bought several gift bags from Mrs M … at 4:03pm. We never leave early.
  • Load out was about like load in: Mrs M helped, thankfully. Student volunteers were absent, though one Dad did help us quite a bit. I was surprised that this event, conceived as a large money maker for the softball team, did not have the full support of the team, the coaches & parents. Perhaps they’d like to return to the mandatory selling of tickets to a different fundraiser, as they’ve done in year’s past?
  • Our “success” at this event was driven by repeat customers coming to find us, often at our specific invitation. That’s why we had the sales that we did.
  • Remember how I said sales could be from $500 to $1,500? We ended up near the high end of that range, because of our legacy customers. Had we relied on the customers brought by the promoter, we would have been near the low end of the range … and only achieved that because the other vendors were so bored, they went shopping in Mrs M’s booth. Thankfully.

Addition, 12/18/17

The Signal covered the event, complete with a picture of me and another of Mrs M’s products. They didn’t identify me well, nor did I even know the Signal was photographing me! In any event, here’s the link.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Bagels & cream cheese, at home.

Saturday Lunch: Jersey Mike’s small sub … not enough.

Saturday Snack: Nope.

Saturday Dinner: Backyard Grub & Brew. New place, to me, and well worth the visit. I had short ribs. Yum.

Sunday Breakfast: Santa Clarita’s 2nd best breakfast burrito, from Jimmy Dean’s

Sunday Lunch: The Heart Attack sandwich from the smoked meat vendor that was outside. It was better than average … not great.

Sunday Snack: Mrs M gave me a can of nuts to eat, so I did.

Sunday Dinner: We we went to a new place, Mama’s Table, for comfort food. We were about the only people there, but the food was good. Definitely recommended.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 12
  • Booth cost: $210
  • Food cost: $16
  • Travel cost: $9
  • Total sales: $1,291
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,056
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 1
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 5:15a
  • Sunday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 35
  • # soap & lotion vendors: one other, who was doing the “organic, natural” thing.
  • # woodworking vendors: 2 others. 1 was making American flags in various derivations, and the other was a first-timer making cutting boards.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 10:0
  • Returning next year? maybe

Boards sold: 10

Trivets: 4

Custom Order: 1

Lazy Susan: 2

Magic Bottle Opener: 1

Cheese Board: 1

Large Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

 

Nothing Trivial About Trivets   2 comments

When I introduce a new product, I usually make one or two. Prototypes, if you will, just to prove that I can make them, and then to see if anyone cares.

Trivets were such a thing. I started with just a few, and most were made from a single species. As those sold, I another batch, but most of them, again, were made from a single species.

Each time, I made just 2 that were made with wood combinations, and those sold first both times.

This time, I went crazy with wood combinations.  I even made some chaos trivets, with no symmetrical pattern.

It appears that people like my trivets. They are unusual, and since I know that people like it when I combine different woods, I got just a bit, uh, inspired this time.

These trivets are 8-1/2″ square, and about 3/4″ thick. They’re treated with mineral oil to help protect the wood, and they are ready to protect your table and your counter from the hot stuff you are cooking.

 

The Final Pieces For 2017   Leave a comment

Well … not quite.

These are the last pieces I made to sell this year, but there are a few more special orders that will be completed by Christmas.

I promised.

There will also be a couple that may not be done until New Years … that’s OK, that was promised, as well.

But back to this potpourri of wooden things.

I started with lumber, and ended up here. These pieces were actually finished over the last few weeks. But, I didn’t have time to photograph, process and publish them, until now.

Since there’s only one event left this year – the Valencia High Softball Boutique & Silent Auction, December 16 & 17 at Valencia High – I don’t expect these pieces to sell this year. Here, you’ll see chess boards, lazy Susans, cutting boards, cheese boards and small boards.

That’s good: I’ll need something for next year, when this all starts up again.

But that’s a worry for another day. Please enjoy the latest pieces to make it out of the Woodshop!

The Board Chronicles: Trailer Park Holiday Boutique 2017   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.

Trailer Park is a company you’ve probably never heard of … but you’ve seen their work. This company makes movie trailers, and also does in-theater marketing (the posters & stand-up pieces that you see in the theater).

They open their cafeteria up in December to do a holiday boutique for their employees, and I was invited to take my stuff, and Mrs M’s stuff, to the boutique.

The office is in downtown Hollywood – opposite the Chinese Theater – so traffic was a challenge. It was especially so, given that the new Star Wars movie opens tomorrow, and workers were on Hollywood Boulevard rolling out the red carpet on the afternoon of this event. I walked through the chaos that is Hollywood & Highland, and took a couple of pictures of what was going on:

From the cafeteria window, I could see the Chinese Theater courtyard that had C3PO & R2D2 posing for pictures. The area was blocked off … and security was handled by 2 storm troopers. Good choice, that.

It’s just another day in Hollywood.

New Ideas

  • A double table top display on a Thursday afternoon in an office … haven’t done that before!
  • I showed up in the loading zone behind the building, and Trailer Park sent escorts with rolling carts to take everything up in the elevator. They were required to “badge” the elevator so it would go to the 7th floor.

Observations

  • Event # 14 of 15 in our 4th quarter. I am so done.
  • I am so done.
  • I arrived on time (of course), but that was too early. They needed more time to clear the cafeteria from lunch so we could have the tables. No problem … I can set up in 45 minutes. I think.
  • I could.
  • Constant traffic, and small sales, as expected at an in-office event like this. Worth my time, probably, but no one is getting rich here.

The Food

Thursday Lunch: a peanut butter sandwich, on the road. Of course.

Thursday Snack: nope.

Thursday Dinner: Tomato rice soup & grilled cheese from Mrs M. Yum.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 52
  • Booth cost: $0
  • Food cost: $0
  • Travel cost: $27
  • Total sales: $402
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $375
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: many
  • Saturday alarm: nope
  • # transactions: 13x
  • # soap & lotion vendors: One other, doing an all-natural presentation with bars selling for $14 (!).
  • # woodworking vendors: just me
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 4:1
  • Returning next year? maybe

Boards sold: 5

Small Boards: 2

Cheese Board: 1

Magic Bottle Opener: 1

Trivet: 1

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