Archive for the ‘from Mr M’s Woodshop’ Tag

Day 16: Shop Problems   Leave a comment


Mrs M’s left brain helped create 15 sets of chaos boards, that are “picked and processed,” ready for glue up. These will be cheese boards, cutting boards and maybe even a bread board.

I remember the tipping point, but that is far, far in my rear view mirror.

I have a problem.

I have wood everywhere. Everywhere! The spaces I use for 24″ cut offs are full, and so suddenly I’m awash in them … because when the spaces are full, I start keeping the cut offs on the drill press table. Or the drum sander extensions. Or the router table. Then, when I have to use that tool, I have to move the cut offs to get to it … and then move them back.

It’s chaos.

After commenting on my problem at the breakfast table, Mrs M volunteered to come help.

Mrs M. Volunteered. For The Woodshop.

So, clearly, it was going to be a wacky day.

With all due deference to Jeanne Robertson and her Left Brain (there’s a great link below if you’re unfamiliar with Jeanne Robertson. Enjoy!), Mrs M brought her Left Brain into the garage woodshop and commenced to putting together some chaos boards – the ones with no real pattern. Almost everything I do has a bilateral symmetry, but Mrs M uses her Left Brain to balance some boards without symmetry, hence chaos boards. Some people appreciate the chaos more than the symmetry, thankfully, so I occasionally make a batch with Mrs M’s help, and using cut offs is the best way to do it.

With Mrs M’s help, we created a lot of space for future cut offs, and picked & processed about 30 new boards. And the day was just getting started.

From there, I needed to put away some blanks that I’d finished that were ready for my next special order for engraving. I also had several 4′ boards (I have Honey Locust again!) that needed to be put away for longer term storage; I was tripping over them as much as I was the cut offs I had just dealt with. That meant I had to pull out my short stock cart.

I use my lumber rack to store boards that are at least 6′ long. Shorter boards either stay on the floor, to get used first, or they go into the short stock cart for storage. When I need a 30″ board, or a 48″ board, that’s where I go. It tucks in beside the drill press, and has to be rolled out to access the storage beside it.

Which is fine … until this time, when I pulled on the cart to roll it, the framework came free from the rolling base. I had used too few screws, it seemed, and one of them had pulled entirely through the plywood base. Oops.

Screws. Plywood. I spare no time to make shop cabinetry. I cobbled together this cart in about 5 minutes … about 15 years ago. It lasted that long, so I believe my craftsmanship was fully paid for. However, now I needed to fix the cart quickly, because I had 4′ boards cascading across Mrs M’s path to the freezer. That wasn’t going to work for her, so I had better fix the problem if I had any hope of seeing Left Brain in my shop again.

So, you guessed it. I had a 5 minute solution. One piece of plywood, and longer screws – more screws – and I believe my short stock cart is good for another 20 years.

And, since I was in problem solving mode, it was on to problem # 4 for the day.

Two years ago, I purchased some 24″ parallel face clamps while they were on sale and never built a storage rack for them. I use these clamps on every glue up, so they see constant use … but between glue ups, they were on the floor, leaned against the storage rack beside the existing clamp rack (that only held 17 clamps).

Note: you never have enough clamps.

After purchasing those clamps on sale 2 years ago – and then even more clamps on sale 1 year ago! – I still had no permanent home for these 16 clamps. Dealing with this little bit of chaos for 2 years is bad enough, but I was rushing through putting them “away” after my last glue up of 2016, and I dropped one clamp in exactly the wrong way, and snapped the handle off. That was a $50 mistake.

That was enough to get my attention, so I solved my final problem of the day by banishing the camping chair rack to the shed, and replacing it in the garage woodshop with a purpose-built clamp rack.

It’s made out of plywood and screws. Right?



The Very Spice Of Life   1 comment


William Cowper, 1731-1800. This portrait by Lemuel Francis Abbott currently resides in London’s National Portrait Gallery.

The most famous poet of his time was the author of this sentiment. William Cowper, a British poet, is credited with the first published instance:

Variety’s the very spice of life

That gives it all its flavour.

From the multi-volume poetic work The Task (1785), Book II, “The Timepiece”

Other famous lines from this influential poet include:

God moves in a mysterious way

Olney Hymns, 1779

I am monarch of all I survey

“Verses Supposed to be Written by Alexander Selkirk”, 1782

It may have taken a celebrated wordsmith to capture the phrase for all time, but there’s no doubt that the glory of variety has been embraced by our society.

So have no doubt, we’re spicy.

And, in my own small way, here’s my current contribution that will help some people celebrate their search for spice.

Serving Pieces   Leave a comment

I was recently reminded that any board can be used as a serving piece … cutting boards, Lazy Susans, cheese boards, whatever.

I love it when people teach me how they want to use the board, and it’s not a traditional way!

Here are some serving pieces. Maybe. How would you use them?

Big & Small   Leave a comment

Mr-Ms-Logo---LargeLarge boards are spectacular, of course, but small boards can be just as important in a busy kitchen. Most cooks have several cutting boards … and having a pair of small boards to accompany the large counter-top board is most efficient.

Here, there are several small boards which might end up as cutting boards … or might end up as serving pieces. There’s no wrong answer as far as I’m concerned … if the boards make your home a better place, then there’s a smile on both of our faces!

These boards – and about 100 others – will be at the 30th Annual Bakersfield Home & Garden Show this Friday – Sunday, February 19 – 21. For more information, please visit their website, here.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, yes, Mrs M will be there, too! You’ll find us in booths 454/455.

Getting Serious About Cutting Boards   5 comments

Mr-Ms-Logo---LargeIt’s February, so it’s time to get serious. It’s been a nice couple of months without any events … but those days are gone.

Our first event is this weekend, so these boards were finished this evening in anticipation of a great weekend in Bakersfield.

Which is not something you hear said too often, by the way.

These end grain boards include some very large cutting boards (including a rather spectacular Jarrah & Bloodwood board that my photography simply does not capture) as well as some large chaos boards. These are full size cutting boards of many designs and sizes, so there’s something here for everyone … well, something for 10 homes. Let’s just leave it at that!

Soap Drying Rack   28 comments

Mr-Ms-Logo---LargeA family dinner was in the offing. It was an all-too-rare gathering of the clan, complete with the Intern. Velda was all atwitter with house preparation … and there was a problem.

The dining room table was full of drying soap and it had to go somewhere. And somehow, for that matter, since many of the bars were just sitting on butcher paper.

No problem: we’d been talking about me making her a Soap Drying Rack for, uh, months, and now I was on a clock. I had agreed to suspend my dislike of doing one-off projects in order to survive the paradigm, “Happy Wife, Happy Life.” Cutting board construction would have to wait.

That meant she had to commit to dimensions, as I can’t build what I can’t measure. The rack is 24″ square and 5′-10″ tall. It’s on locking casters to move (or not) as needed.

The 14 removable shelves each have slat bottoms with 3/4″ gaps between the slats to help with air movement.  The unit is encased in screen cloth to help keep air-borne schmutz off the soap as it is drying. Since drying will take 6-8 weeks per batch, the bars will be sitting in the open air for a long time!

The rack will hold more than 1,000 bars of soap. Mrs M needs to get busy.

This is a tool: it’s not a piece of furniture. Therefore, I built it with utility in mind much more than aesthetics. One of the implications of that is that the wood selected was based on 1) what was on hand, 2) what was the right size for minimal milling, and 3) what was cost effective. Extremely cost effective = no trip to the lumber yard to build the project. Therefore, the woods are several species from deep in the lumber rack. I used redwood, pine, red oak and oak-veneered plywood.

NEWSFLASH, 9/28/2020 – I now sell a version of this Soap Drying Rack that can be shipped! If you’re interested in a purchase, go to Mr M’s Woodshop, here.


Click here to buy: Soap Drying Racks

13 Things I Need In The Shop   3 comments

1. A light switch by the door. Wouldn’t it be great to throw one switch and have a lit shop?

2. My startle reflex needs to re-calibrate now that I have galvanized ducting above my head for dust collection. The first time a wood chip bounced down the metal pipe, I ducked & covered. Don’t really need to be doing that.

3. A really, really good splinter removal kit. The well-used hemostat that my surgeon gave me just isn’t getting it done these days. Yes, it was a gift from my surgeon who thought I might need it, and he’s been proven right again and again. If you don’t know the scary story of my surgery, read The Table Saw.

4. A sign or a mascot is needed to give the place personality. Because, clearly, I don’t have enough as it is.

5. The old pegboard’s got to go, and when I redo the workbench I’ll make a place for my cabinets filled with screws and hardware. I’ve got 7 different little cabinets holding drawers and drawers of totally essential stuff, and only 2 cabinets have good, ready access. I need to fix this before I dump a whole cabinet. Again.

6. I need to make a new lid for my table saw. I used that table surface all of the time … and abused the cover so much it fell apart. That was months ago … I’m sure I’ll have time to build another one. Soon, right?

7. Resurface the workbench & build a new glue box to do the assembly on. I just need to find a piece of melamine for the cover, and I’ll be set. As long as the Lady doesn’t make me use it to make a soap mold, that is.

8. A desk for when customers come by. I’m not sure talking over the table saw is regarded as “quaint” by everyone.

9. I now have 33 parallel face clamps, which is great, because I now can do 11 simultaneous glue-ups. Unfortunately, I only have mounted storage for 17 clamps, so there is a problem in the making here. I’ve also got 4 quick-release clamps with absolutely no place to store them. It’s well known that you never have enough clamps in your shop … and you never have enough storage for the clamps you have. I hate it when I’m a living proof of concept.

10. I need a place to hang my apron (yes, I now wear an apron in the shop). I’m currently hanging it off a cabinet knob when the work is done, but when I do that, I can’t access the lower cabinet to turn off my tunes. I think I need a strategically placed nail … something I so rarely use these days.

11. To complete the shop transformation, I have a few building projects for this year. These will be done. Eventually.

  • Router Table Cabinet (replacing a plain metal stand)
  • Sanding Disc Storage (new tools = new sizes of discs to store, but it was SO worth it!)
  • Drum Sander Storage (improving upon a plain metal stand)
  • Main Storage Cabinets/Workbench (the original owner of my garage woodshop built this cabinetry … and the shop won’t truly be mine until I build it correctly)

12. A place to hang my warning light (AKA Dust Sentry) for the dust collector. When the barrel is full, the light goes disco. Only problem: there’s no good place to hang it. Every shop needs a good place to go disco.

13. I don’t have a clock in the shop, because I don’t need one. It’s time that I need.

Mr M's Woodshop

Posted January 22, 2016 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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Installing Oneida’s V3000 Dust Collection System   13 comments

I had planned for this moment for months. It was time to install the most expensive tool to ever come into my shop: Oneida’s V3000 Dust Collection System.

After using my 1-1/2 horsepower dust collector from Sears until it wouldn’t start anymore … and then, needing a temporary solution, buying a comparable used system by Delta that leaked as much dust as it collected … it was at long last time to upgrade.

And this Oneida system had better be a significant upgrade, knowing what it cost! So, here’s the story:

I’d researched this purchase for about a year … I knew I had a dust problem, and I knew that the only solution was a better dust collection system. For me, that meant 2 things:

  1. A better machine to suck up the dust and keep it contained
  2. Improved ductwork to not leak air and dust … and provide a better environment for the machine to do its work

After a lot of soul-searching, I decided to buy an Oneida system. That company’s dust collectors had stellar reviews, and there was a general consensus that their customer service was top-notch. Further, they had a lot of resources on their website that I appreciated. Airflow through ductwork is best understood by researching the underlying science, so I had work to do before understanding what I needed to do from the cutting edge to the collection bag.

I looked at every system I could find before getting down to the semi-finalists. I decided not to buy Grizzly, Jet or Laguna. They had mixed reviews (Laguna’s were the best of these 3) … and their machines were louder and less effective than Oneida’s. Oneida had machines with a HEPA rating (meaning effective collection down to very small particles of dust), and they weren’t that much more expensive.

Since my old system still ran, I was content to wait for a sale that might catch my eye in December or January. I wasn’t in a big rush. Then, a couple of weeks later, they offered units with a bonus remote and bonus Dust Sentry to tell you when the barrel is full. Those are about $150 in bonuses. Sold.

I called customer service, asked for sales, and got Anna on the phone. I described my situation: a small, one-man shop. Since it was just me, I only operated one tool at a time. 5 tools were connected: table saw, band saw, drum sander, router table & drill press. A 6th tool drop was for the work bench & was used for the portable tools that sat on the bench as I used them. My longest duct run was about 25′. Anna was great to work with; she eventually recommended the V3000. That’s the system that I had previously identified as a good choice, so we had a winner. A few decisions:

  1. wall mount, or floor stand?
  2. 2 or 3 horsepower?
  3. 35 gallon barrel, or 55 gallon barrel for the dust?
  4. fiber or steel barrel?

I went with the floor stand, as I don’t have a wall. The upgrade from 2 to 3 hp was only $100, so I chose that … because more power is almost always the right answer. I stuck with the standard 35 gallon barrel, because who wants to lift 55 gallons of sawdust? Finally, I stayed with the fiber barrel because I’m cheap.

I ordered the system on November 30, but asked them to not deliver until after Christmas, as the shop was going to be FULL of activity until then. No problem.

Two more details had to be ready for the install: electrical service and ductwork. Luckily, I know a guy.

I asked the Mechanical Engineer if he was available next weekend, and he made the mistake of saying he had no plans. I went to the Building Inspector, and asked him what he knew about ductwork. “Everything,” he replied. That was the right answer. When I asked, “Wanna come help me next Saturday?”, he said OK. Since he also knew how to install a 250v service into my previously upgraded electrical panel, we could do the majority of the install in one day. We thought.

I then had to decide what kind of ductwork I wanted. My first dust collection system was done with 4″ PVC, which then transitioned to 4″ flex hose or 2-1/2″ flex hose as needed for each tool. There was a “blast gate” in front of each machine, that was kept closed when the machine was not in use & allowed the dust collection to happen through the single open gate for the machine in use. Unless I forgot another gate because I couldn’t see it. Also, the gates were right by the machines – not at the end of the rigid pipes, as they should be to maximize performance of the dust collector.

See, I learned things doing my research.

The new machine delivered a 7″ opening, and Oneida recommends using galvanized ductwork as much as possible, as it lessens fire risk from static generated in PVC pipes. They wanted to sell me the ductwork, in fact, and offered a free installation plan if I would just tell them about my shop. I filled out the forms, and they proposed selling me the ductwork for $1,100 (with “free” shipping!).

I decided to not accept their offer. I sourced many of the joints for the ductwork through Amazon, and then bought the galvanized pipes and a very few joints from Home Depot. I had to buy a crimper, aluminum tape and such … but my total cost was under $500 by using a total DIY approach, and re-using most of the flex hose and some of the PVC connections from the old system.

Big cardboard boxes started arriving with galvanized joints wrapped in bubble wrap, which I found a bit odd, but the joints were undented and sturdy. I needed a lot of different joinery to take the single 7″ port from the dust collector and split that into 6 different 4″ and 2-1/2″ openings. By the time the V3000 arrived, I had 8 boxes of stuff from Amazon, and they were joined by 8 really big boxes from Oneida.

The pre-delivery instructions emailed with my Oneida order confirmationĀ  were very specific: do not sign for the order until you open and inspect every box. If the delivery man won’t wait, then accept the order as “damaged.”STOP

The very nice UPS man brought me 7 boxes, and abruptly left. I didn’t sign for anything. Well, OK, then. The boxes did seem undamaged; I opened them and found everything to be well cushioned and in good shape. Didn’t find the impeller, though … which was a 70+ pound box that arrived the next day.

The instructions were also very specific to look for the boxes with the green stickers:

Open This First

There was no such sticker on any box.

I didn’t have the room to spread out everything and inspect part by part, but the system had arrived in plenty of time for The Big Install on January 2.

That day, after we fortified ourselves with Jimmy Dean’s burritos, the work began. Step one was to roll all of the tools out of the garage and into the driveway, along with portable clutter in our way. I had boxed the off cuts and end cuts that I’ve been accumulating; those went out as well. The work bench had been cleared, so the shop was cleaner than it had been in years. Time to make it better.

Each box was emptied and contents were laid out on the driveway. We needed a lot of space to get organized! The galvanized pipes were still in the Jeep, but it was parked in the driveway, so everything was handy. The last box to be emptied was the hardest to unpack: the heavy impeller. Come to find out, it was packed with some kind of blow-in, instantly hardening foam wrapped in plastic. We had to carefully break the foam away from the motor housing and impeller, not knowing the exact shape of the piece to be revealed. That was the most challenging bit of unpacking, but between the 3 of us we figured it out.

Time to get into the instructions. We started with the stand, and quickly progressed to the cyclone where the bolded instructions said it well:

Parts of this procedure require at least two people to complete. Use extreme caution and good sense when assembling this unit. Parts of it are very heavy.

With hope that good sense was available, we proceeded.

The instructions were fairly well written, but annoyingly switched to French in the middle of every single instruction point. This may be a standard way to write technical directions in some areas, but it was most annoying to me. I would read a line or 3 of English instructions, and then the words would turn to gibberish in my mind before I realized I was now reading French. That one year of high school French is far, far behind me, so it made no sense when I read instructions like this:

10. Line up the holes in housing with the holes in the motor plate. Then attach using the provided (8) 5/16″ flange bolts (AFB155155). You will need a sturdy step ladder for this. / Aligner les trous de logement avec les trous dans la boulons….

That stated, the instructions were pretty clear; I’d give them a B+. We did have to take one assembly apart twice to get the right bolts in place (they used similar-sized bolts that were poorly described, IMHO. We worked through the problem, but it could have been avoided had they chosen bolts that were clearly different for each assembly). Further, the hardware wasn’t shipped in the same box as the parts being assembled; you had to find the hardware in other boxes. When we finally got ALL of the hardware out, we got going very well. Assembly started at about 9am; we were largely done with the assembly of the dust collector, including installing the electrical outlet and the major ductwork, by 4pm. We even had the time for a trip to Home Depot to buy the electrical hardware we needed.

We were very careful doing our ductwork: the goal was leak-free pipes going to each tool. Therefore, every galvanized joint:

  1. Got caulk between the pieces being joined
  2. 3 screws were used to hold together every joint
  3. Aluminum tape was applied outside of the joints to seal them

The result: leak-free pipes to every blast gate. This is so much better than my previous PVC ductwork!

By the time we quit at 6pm, almost all of the ductwork was done, save for a couple of tweaks that would require another trip to Home Depot. I also needed an upgrade to my router table fence dust collection hardware, so I had to order a piece. Final assembly of all ductwork was completed a couple of weeks later. I did have trouble installing the Dust Sentry in the thin metal lid of the fiber barrel: my brand new 3/4″ bit tore the metal, rather than drilling it. I managed to get a hole that worked, and then sealed the rough edges, but I wish Oneida would have drilled this hole for me.

After using this system for a couple of weeks, it’s clear that this is a massive upgrade for me. I had no idea how bad my previous dust collector was until I started using the V3000. It is an amazing system. It’s quieter than my older system that had only half the horsepower. I had gotten used to brushing dust off of my drum sander, for example, because the conveyor belt and work surface was always dusty after exiting the drum. Now, the entire assembly is dust free, because my dust collector is removing and containing almost all of the dust before it exits the machine.

And, oh my goodness, changing the bag in the dust collector is a breeze! I was using the planer, which always generates a great deal of sawdust for the collector. The Dust Sentry started flashing to alert me that the barrel was full, so I opened it up, and sure enough, it was! Changing the bag was so simple. It’s no longer The Worst Job In The Shop! This is a huge change, and so appreciated.

My shop will never be dust free … but my goodness, it is so much better now with the V3000.

Why? You Ask Why?   2 comments

I’ve been asked why I do woodworking. It’s a fair question: it’s hardly a common pursuit, and when you add to that the way Mrs M’s Handmade has embraced going to pop-up events and craft fairs, it’s very clear Velda & I have entered into a different subculture.

Very different.

And with the embrace of making handcrafted objets d’art, we cheerfully deprive ourselves of sleep. We have braved heat, cold and wet. It’s seldom easy: it’s work, in other words. Our “hobby” is real work.

We’ve both got real jobs. Interesting jobs. Rewarding jobs. But, both the Lady & I feel the need to scratch an itch in a different part of our brain with our free time.

After all, we could be doing more gardening (and if you could look at our drought-stricken Southern California yard, you would know we should be). We could be spending more time decorating our house (those popcorn ceilings have GOT to go. Someday. When I have time.). We could be watching TV.

We could be doing lots of things.

But, Velda enlisted Alley, and they choose to make small batch skin care products for those suffering from dry skin. Rough skin. Muscle aches. Chapped lips. Whatever. This year, Velda’s already spent many hours researching how to make better soap, and doing it. And when we figure it out with MrsMowry, all of those Mrs M products will be in a brand new booth display & coming soon to a craft fair … and website … near you. Promise.

I choose to make things that interest me, and I make them out of wood. But why am I creating cutting boards, serving pieces, toys and other things in the garage woodshop, and then offering them to people?

Here’s why. I get to hear fabulous stories about how I have helped create wonderful memories.

Here’s today’s story from my long-time friend, the anonymous Grandmother:

When the Grandkids arrived for our Christmas celebration they discovered that we had “re-stocked” the toys and books in our sun room that is their “playroom.” The blocks were a HIT! This young lady spent a good deal of time enjoying them. I saw, but did not get there in time with the camera, the 5 kids making a TALL tower, and then filling the room with laughter as it came toppling down.

So, for me, the question is not why. It’s who wouldn’t, when you get to have a hand in creating a picture like this?

Building Blocks.

Building Blocks.

Posted January 11, 2016 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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13 Things Learned In The Shop   2 comments

Mr Ms Brand 04I’ve had an incredible year in the shop. In fact, I’ve had too much of a year in the shop, so I have taken a couple of days off before I re-engage, finish the few projects remaining from 2015, and fully focus my attention on making 2016 bigger and better.

During my time off, I’ve had a chance to think about what I do, and what I’ve learned as I’ve made my hobby self-sustaining. (It’s not profitable yet, but I am at least paying my expenses!)

From every perspective, 2015 was a very, very good year. Here are 13 things I’ve learned:

1. Spreading glue is something I do a lot of … and I thought I was getting smart when I switched from traditional brushes to a silicon brush. After wearing out my forearms brushing for a couple of years, I switched to a rubber roller to spread glue … and it is SO much better. More even. Quicker. Easier. I’ve still got the silicon brush for unusual projects, but my 2″ roller is now my “go to” for glue spreading.

2. There are 3 ways to increase profits: increase volume, increase prices, and decrease expenses. Eventually, you have to do all 3 to be successful. This is simple … but not so easy when it’s just you selling stuff and it’s comfortable to change nothing. Not so easy when you’re selling to strangers, family and friends, from a different location every week. After a lifetime of selling everything from accordion lessons to signs on roller coasters to advertising to custom software, who knew I could sell retail?

3. Buying wood is essential to what I do, and I continue to develop new sources for good wood. In 2015, I used 18 different species of wood. I mainly buy from 4 lumber yards spread around LA, but I’ve bought from 3 others. I’ve ordered over the ‘net from one supplier, and called another directly, to order 3 specific species I can’t source locally. I have also bought wood from guys advertising stuff out of their garage. I have worked with local sawyers with portable mills. When you need a volume of wood at a reasonable price, you’ve got to work at it. Oh, and then you need to understand the cost of the wood you have on hand, so that when you use it, you charge a reasonable price for the end result of all of this shopping for wood. New species used in 2015:

  • Bloodwood
  • Caribbean Rosewood
  • Mahogany

4. There’s nothing like a good tool to make the work go faster and the end result better. I had resisted buying expensive sanders for years … even as I read the reviews telling me that Festool random orbital sanders (ROSs), and the companion “dust extractor” shop vacs were the best. With the constant, uh, observations from Mrs M that I was leaving dust everywhere when I went in the house, I finally decided that getting rid of my old ROSs and replacing them with the Festool sanders that everyone said were the best was the only way to solve the problem. The tools are not cheap, and the HEPA filter shop vac Dust Extractor was also not cheap … but when used in combination, oh my. What took me so long to fix the problem? If you use an ROS a lot, and you are creating too much uncontained dust, you need to buy Festool. Just do it quicker than I did.

5. I talk about dirty jobs like I’m a Mike Rowe wanna-be (which I am, but I digress). Dust collection is essential in a woodshop, and I definitely reached a point of no return last year: fix the problem, or fill our house & my lungs with dust. I’m happy to report that after using one underpowered dust collection system for many years, I did retire it (well, it quit). I then bought a cheap, used but comparable system as a temporary solution. Finally, I bought a very good system in December that was installed in January. I have now fixed my dust collection problem. It took a lot of research, some expert help, and several nickels, but I got there.

6. You have to see it to work it. Shops are dark until they are properly lit. With the change in the dust collection system, I moved one flourescent strip that will improve light on my tool line, and I’ve added a magnetic-based flex light as well. I need to install one more focused light over the table saw, and then I’ll be able to see everything everywhere while I work, whether the garage woodshop door is open or not, whether it’s daylight or not. And that will be a vast improvement over the way it’s been.

7. In SoCal, most people use garages for things other than storing cars. Our garage hasn’t seen a car for a long time … but it has seen Webelos meetings. Backpack storage. It’s been a way station for the kids’ stuff when they moved. To optimize the space for the woodshop, I’ve had to (shudder) move stuff out of the way, and put long term storage items, or things used once a year, on the top shelf in order to clear space for the stuff I’m using regularly. Sounds simple … but if you keep not using things in the middle of the wall, or right under the workbench, then it’s time to move stuff. Which is now done.

8. Get small. Use cut offs. Part of my great stride in efficiency in 2015 was to standardize many of my approaches: I made most cutting boards using 24″ lengths, for example. That works great, but it does generate a significant amount of odd and ends that are cut off from the longer boards. Further, some 24″ lengths are found to have defects in the middle or the ends resulting in 18″ boards. Or 16″ boards. All of those shorter lengths must be used, or that crash you hear will be another wood cascade getting the better of me. In 2016, I’m going to use up all of my cut offs. Well, maybe not all. But I will use enough that small wooden end pieces under 24″ in length are no longer stored in every nook and cranny I can create or imagine.

9. It’s a big world out there. Think differently. If you only make designs that you like, or would want in your home, then you’ll miss a whole lot of people that want different things (People want different things. Who knew?). In 2014, I learned that people wanted cutting boards for their RVs, so I started making smaller cutting boards. This year, I learned that there’s a world of sizes, shapes & colors out there, and I need to explore them in order to help the most people. The reason I display 80 boards in my booth is that no matter what I do, people are always looking for something different! So … on a good day, I have 20 more boards under the table that may be what they’re looking for.

10. Study your craft. There’s a world of information available if you just look for it. People that only do what they know limit their potential. Do new things. As Morpheus taught us inĀ The Matrix, you need to expand your mind.

11. I’m making several different things now, but people are always asking for different things (cribbage boards I have talked about, but I’ve also been asked to do bar stools, kitchen tables, picnic tables, chair refinishing, bar tops, a “Go” game board, backgammon boards, and more). I’m capable of doing what I’ll call oddball or one-off projects … but I shouldn’t do them. They are a giant time suck for me, and when I do take on a one-off, I seem to never charge enough. Sometimes, I need to be less helpful.

12. When you sell gifts, you’re going to be asked to do custom orders and then ship them. You need to know what shipping costs are up front, and make sure you charge them to people when they order their gifts. Sounds simple, I know, but until you’ve done it, you haven’t done it. Make sure that your sales forms are designed with shipping costs and deadlines prominently displayed, so that you won’t skip over those pesky little details when you’re accepting a custom order.

13. Throw things away. Woodworkers are by their nature packrats … I’ve saved some pieces of wood for years until I find “just the right thing” to make with it. That’s fine … but if the board has a knot, or a crack, or some other defect that means that it can’t be used for food-ready pieces, then get rid of the board now. You don’t have room to store things you can’t use.

I am surprised at how many ideas I have developed for sale in the last year. Here’s a sampling of the new ideas first seen from Mr M’s Woodshop in 2015:

  • Engraved Boards
  • Bread Boards
  • Sous Chef Boards
  • Juice Grooves
  • Pig Cutting Boards
  • Surfboards
  • Chess Boards
  • Bear Cheese Boards
  • Building Blocks
  • Magic Bottle Opener
  • Clipboards
  • Pizza Server
  • Recipe Boards


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