Archive for the ‘from the shop’ Tag

From The Shop: I Have A Problem   1 comment

To do what I do in the shop, I buy lumber.

I have a problem.

When you buy wood, you’re buying a natural product that is not perfect. Wood has knots. Checks. Voids. Cracks. Part of the intrigue of the craft is figuring out what to do with each piece of wood: finding the perfect project for each piece. That sounds like fun … until you get a piece like this one.

Black Walnut, 8/4 stock, with a knot and void … on this side. Sapwood (the light colored, younger wood) showing on the right edge.

This is an end cut – the end of a big, long board that was left because it’s just a bit short. I primarily use 24″ lengths of “8/4,” or “eight quarter,” lumber to make large cutting boards. This end cut piece is … 23″ x 12-1/4.” If I use that with longer lumber, I just end up shortening the good pieces I pair it with into waste, so this piece has to wait for me to find another use for it. A perfect use.

And it’s been waiting a long time.

This is a financial decision, in part. This end cut board is 4 full board feet, so it cost about $40. You don’t just throw away $40.

The problem isn’t readily apparent on the front side of the board … but when you flip it over to look at the back, the challenge is apparent:

The small knot at the bottom doesn’t look too bad, though it goes completely through the board. However, the large knot at the top is a big defect that’s hidden inside the board and travels towards the other knot. I think. That entire chalk circle is waste … in the middle of the board.

When a cut off board is waiting for me to find inspiration, it lives in the shop in some nook or cranny until I can figure out what to do with it. The root problem for me is that I’m out of nooks. And crannies.

I have no space. No. Space.

That means boards that are waiting for me to find the “perfect use” sit out on the floor, leaning against a handy vertical, just waiting for me to trip over them. Or knock them over. Or have to move them so I can get at whatever is being blocked.

And then move them back again.

Yesterday, I’d had enough of this double defect board, and inspiration was not forthcoming. Doesn’t matter; time to cut it up and see what what’s what.  I chalked the outline of the board, and ended up with one long piece that’s 4″ wide. I got 2x smaller rectangular pieces that will end up as routed bowls. Or something. And, I got a little bonus piece that … will find it’s way into a nook or cranny along with many other walnut pieces that look just like it.

I need a new plan.


DIY: Air Cleaning System   1 comment

Dust Is Everywhere


It’s the never-ending problem in my garage woodshop.

When I finish wood, I generate dust. Great, pervasive clouds of dust.

It drives Velda crazy. When I’m sanding, she really has no choice but to give up on housework. I become my own living version of Pigpen, and she knows that dust is going to come into the house, no matter what.

No. Matter. What.

I’ve got the big dust collection system, of course, but that is for the large tools like the Table Saw or the Drum Sander. Those tools are great as I begin to shape of the boards, and then smooth the glued-up blanks … but they have no place in finish sanding.

For that, I need hand tools. For that, I need sanding by hand. For that, I’m going to generate small dust particles, and there’s little to be done to collect that dust in my shop … so I thought I’d create my Do It Yourself Air Cleaning System.

I’ve seen this idea done with a plywood box containing the entire system, with air filters both in front of and behind the box fan. That was needless, I thought. I simply put one air filter behind the box fan so dust would be sucked onto the filter, and called it good. Come on, this is as low tech as you can get. Why complicate it with building a box to contain it?

The box fan was $40, and the filters are $4.50 each when you buy a 12-pack from Amazon. Does it solve the Pigpen problem? No. Does it help? Absolutely.

From The Shop: Routing, Smoothing & Finishing   Leave a comment

Once a board is cut to shape and smoothed by either the planer or the drum sander … then it’s time for me to generate the finest sawdust that’s detested by Mrs. M. Sanding is no one’s favorite job … I actually use 7 different sanding machines to get the boards smooth.

Quality Of Life   1 comment

A very long time ago, I said that the purchase of a portable dish washer saved our marriage. It was a different time, and our first apartment didn’t have a dishwasher. Washing dishes was a point of, uh, discussion from time to time.

Our apartment didn’t have major appliances, but it did have live music every school morning; we got to listen to the Hart High marching band from across the street. Given that we were both working late nights at the time, it wasn’t a benefit, believe me.

The Sears Craftsman Dust Collector on a happier day.

The Sears Craftsman Dust Collector on a happier day.

But I digress.

Life has changed, of course, and we no longer need a portable dishwasher to add to our domestic bliss. The problem now is that I can be a dirty boy. Dirty, dirty boy.

I got cleaner, though, when I began to use a dust collector. The machine makes a huge difference in the amount of sawdust in the garage workshop air. And, if it’s not in the air, then I do not carry the sawdust into the house, much to Velda’s relief. I have an upgraded Sears Craftsman 1-1/2 HP, model 152.213370 that eliminates dust particles down to 1 micron in size. It is great.

Was great.

The dust collector gave up the ghost this week. The motor will no longer go: the on-board circuit breaker blows every time I hit start. I replaced the circuit breaker, hoping that was the issue … no joy.

This isn’t just a dirt problem, as I can’t use my drum sander or planer without a dust collector (those tools, you see, generate clouds of sawdust). I can’t easily build cutting boards without those tools. Using the other tools might be possible … but it would be dirty. Very dirty.

Luckily, I found a used, comparable replacement on Craigslist … and the motivated seller is delivering it to me today at 8am. And that, my friends, is a very good thing.

The Best of MowryJournal: 2014   2 comments

Ulysses S Grant, Official White House Portrait

Portraits: Ulysses S Grant

A few truths are clear about the most read posts of MowryJournal in the past year:

1. The series on Presidents found an audience … which still doesn’t include some of the members of my family. Just sayin’.

2. Velda’s recipes are three of the top posts … and alcohol is also the subject of three. Just sayin’.

3. After a steady devotion to exploring each of our 57 National Parks … only one makes the list of most read posts. It seems I have the same problem with readership that the Parks have with attendance, and we are the poorer for it, IMHO.

4. None of my woodworking posts make the list, though my post about the selection of cutting boards, with links to the science behind those choices, has made the list. Glad to help.

Here’s the list, and please, join the crowd and enjoy!

Wild Mushroom Cobbler

Wild Mushroom Cobbler

Wild Mushroom Cobbler

Portraits: Ulysses S Grant


Petrified Forest National Park

Portraits: John Adams

Portraits: Woodrow Wilson

Portraits: Theodore Roosevelt


Cutting Boards: What Kind Do You Want?

Cutting Boards: What Kind Do You Want?

Lincoln at Gettysburg

US Flag: Common Display Mistakes

Portraits: Richard Nixon

Velda’s Ahi Wraps

Cutting Boards: What Kind Do You Want?

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Smoked Paprika

Orange Liqueur Taste Test


US FLag: Common Display Mistakes

US FLag: Common Display Mistakes

The Best of MowryJournal: 2013

The Best of MowryJournal: 2012

Posted January 1, 2015 by henrymowry in Media

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15 Things I Learned In The Shop Today   2 comments

Woodshop 31. When the dust collector is full, I need to empty it immediately. Turning it off and continuing to generate sawdust is a poor option. Breathing sawdust is why there is a dust collector. (repeat as often as necessary).

2. It’s great having lumber. It’s not great when you’re out of storage space. Again.

3. Jarrah is a pain to work with. Splintery as oak, harder than maple. And the dust is an irritant. Prices are going up.

4. I need to drink more.

5. Cutting board CAD is a thing. Designing at the computer, building in the shop … I’m getting better at what I do.

Woodshop 26. I need a drum sander. Really. I need it. I just don’t have anywhere to put it.

7. When the bee dive bombed me – again – while I was using the table saw, I was done playing. I discovered that a dust collector hose disposed of the problem, permanently. I need my dust collector.

8. Really big cutting boards need a lot of materials. A lot of work. The 17″ x 21″ x 1-1/2″ end grain monster that I’m finishing weighs 13 pounds and drank a half pint of mineral oil. Prices are going up.

9. I’m using my LOUD planer so much, Velda now hates coming into the garage woodshop. Mission accomplished.

10. Love my planer.

Woodshop 111. I can see the end of my gorgeous stash of 8/4 black walnut, and it is not a pretty sight. It hurts when I cut every new board from the lumber rack.

12. Finishing takes a lot of time, and I always under-estimate how long it takes to plane, route and sand the latest stack of boards.

13. What happened? Suddenly, my hands are drying out. But when I use the lotion Mrs M made for me … I’m good. Note to self: lotion works. Maybe Mrs M is on to something.

14. The problem with regularly using 10 kinds of wood: I’m always out of something. Yesterday, I had to go buy more yellowheart. Today, I used the last of the padauk. (sigh)

15. Why doesn’t Europe have prettier hardwoods? Except, of course, for olive, which is, a) never available; and b) insanely expensive.

Posted November 28, 2014 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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Buying A Board From Mr M’s Woodshop   2 comments

Staycation 66My online friends keep asking me … and I’m trying to help.

If you’re thinking about buying a cutting board or cheese board for a Christmas present, this post should make the process a bit easier for you. This isn’t a retail site, and I’m not on etsy … but I can make you a custom, handmade board and have it in your hands by Christmas. Here are the questions you need to answer:

1. What size do you want?

  • Cheese boards are generally 8″ x 10″, and up to 12″ x 12″. Cheese boards are between 3/4″ and 1-1/4″ thick.
  • The serving pieces (the cheese & cracker servers, and the “surfboard” server) are about 12″ x 19″ x 1-1/4″.
  • Cutting boards can be any size … 8″ x 10″ up to 18″ x 24″. Boards are at least 1″ thick, up to 1-1/2″ thick.

2. What woods do you want?

  • I use hardwoods exclusively, both domestic and international (which are called exotic hardwoods by woodworkers. We’re a colorful bunch.).
  • Cheese boards can be made from any wood, really. Notably, they can include the more porous hardwoods such as Ash, Oak and Hickory.
  • Cutting boards should be made from “close-grained hardwoods, such as Hard Maple” according to the FDA. Well, OK, then. Here are the woods I typically use:
    • Cherry
    • Honey Locust
    • Jarrah (just bought some, and it won’t last long!)
    • Jatoba (AKA Brazilian Cherry)
    • Maple (AKA hard maple, rock maple or sugar maple)
    • Padauk
    • Purpleheart
    • Teak
    • Walnut (AKA black walnut)
    • Yellowheart

3. Edge grain or end grain?

  • The classic butcher block cutting board is end grain hard maple. This looks like a checker board design according to many. The ends of the boards stick up towards the cutting surface … and this kind of board will show less wear than an edge gain board.

    # 1. Hard Maple end grain.

    # 1. Hard Maple end grain.

  • An edge grain board has the grain running the length of the board, and is generally described as a board full of stripes. This kind of board will show more wear, as the knife is cutting across the grain of the board. HOWEVER, these boards are made using hardwood, so they do not show wear as quickly as boards made of lower quality materials. Velda loves her edge grain board, and after a year of heavy use, it still looks like new when it’s got a fresh coat of mineral oil.
# 2. Edge grain cutting board. Hard Maple, Black Walnut, Cherry and Yellowheart.

# 2. Edge grain cutting board. Hard Maple, Black Walnut, Cherry and Yellowheart.

4. What do you want to spend?

Here are pictures and price ranges for the various sizes and kinds of boards. Some of those pictured are still available for sale; others will have to be built fresh by me. That’s OK … but remember, all boards are unique, so the grain patterns will vary in the board you receive if it’s a new build. However, if you can tell me what you like and what you don’t like, I’ll make sure you get something that’s perfect for you. I can even send you a picture in advance through this thing called the internet!

Buying A Board

1. Answer the 4 questions, above.

2. Look at the pictures, below. Click on the pictures to get them in a slide show with captions … or hover your mouse over the pictures to get the first part of the caption showing on this screen without clicking.

3. Tell me the answers to the 4 questions and the # or #s of the board(s) that you like.

4. If it’s in inventory, I’ll ship it to you directly. I can send you a paypal invoice, or you can send me a check. Mrs M’s Handmade, the parent company of Mr M’s Woodshop (HA!) does accept credit cards.

5. I have a new batch of boards that should be done by December 1. A second batch will follow for completion by December 15. All can be delivered by Christmas, guaranteed.

Cheese Boards, $30 – $60

These are examples only! The selection of woods and sizes makes the possibilities endless. That’s how it should be with handmade goods!

Serving Pieces, $60 – $90

The “surfboard” design will be coming out soon with a striped design, similar to the # 18 Cheese Board, and others.

Small Cutting Boards, $40 – $80

Small cutting boards can become cheese boards, based on what you want. Generally, cutting boards are thicker than cheese boards … but that’s strictly a personal preference.

Medium-sized Cutting Boards, $60 – $125

Large Cutting Boards, $100 & Up

Currently, all boards come with routed handholds and non-skid rubber feet held on with stainless steel screws. Boards are finished with mineral oil, and then get a top coat of locally-harvested beeswax and mineral oil. Each board will come with a tag identifying the woods used along with complete care instructions.

Want a juice groove? Add $25.

If you would like to buy a board, please use the “Contact Us” form and I’ll be back to you directly.

Please note that I’m making only two more batches of boards for guaranteed Christmas delivery. If you are interested, now is the time to start talking to me about your board!


Cutting Boards: What Kind Do You Want?

Cutting Boards: Care & Cleaning

Cutting Boards: Restoration

Kicking Back   4 comments

Kickback 01

Side note: the glue that I use is stronger than the wood that it connects together. Note the 1/4″ hard maple piece on the right, which is broken unevenly across the maple board. The glue held. Same is true of the much smaller hard maple piece on the left: the glue held, the board broke. This is a victory for my craftsmanship!

I was in the zone. I was pushing to get more boards done (sounds normal, right?). I was in the second table saw phase: cleaning up the boards after the glue-up. The boards needed the ragged ends cleaned up, and then each board needed to be cut to length.

And then it happened.

I was cutting off a ragged end … and the board caught on something. I pushed with a little more force … and then the broken pieces in the picture, right, caught the edge of the blade at an angle, CLANGED off of the blade guard, and then were launched into the back wall 30′ behind me.

The table saw: the most dangerous tool in the shop.

Luckily, I was working on the left side of the blade for this cut. My whole body, my hands, my arms … all were on the left side of the blade, and the end cuts launched from the right side of the blade. Missed me. Thank goodness.

My Sears Craftsman has a 10″ blade, and the motor runs at 3450 RPM. I did the math … and that’s a blade speed of over 100 MPH. That is nothing to mess with … and when something launches off of that blade, that is called kick back.

And that can be a very serious problem.

Whenever something happens unexpectedly in the shop, I take a step back and make sure I’m doing everything I can do to to work safely. It’s just me in the shop … so I have to look after myself. If I’m going to work safely, I need to know what I should do … and what I should not do. In every situation, every time.

What did I do wrong? I pushed. I didn’t clear the blade of the offcuts, I just tried to push through a problem. The result: kick back. Lesson learned.

Kickback 02I hope.

Some of the boards needed their sides to be cleaned up as well: I had a couple of end grain boards in the production process, and they needed to be squared up. No problem. For this cut, I used the fence on the right side of the blade, and I pushed the 12″ wide board through the blade with my right hand.

The result: I was standing directly behind the blade when the small 1/16″ cut off chips caught the left side of the blade, and launched directly back into my stomach.


What did I do wrong? Nothing. It really wasn’t a big deal, but it did smart. Wood chips flying at 100 MPH will do that when they hit you, y’know?


The Table Saw

Posted November 13, 2014 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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What I Did On My Staycation   1 comment

Staycation 66Thank goodness MrsMowry came back to us for yesterday’s post after her first 12 weeks in the classroom! I needed a break from the diary format … as I am sure you did, too.

So, the staycation is over and now its time to share the photos of all of the lovely things I did on my staycation.

51 boards.

You love seeing photos of what other people do for fun, yes?

Good. Happy to share.

Click on the photos for enlargements, and note that the measurements offered are approximations only. I was too tired to be more accurate. Good thing I was through in the shop … for a day or three, anyway.


Staycation: Day 6   4 comments

So, if you’ve stayed with me through my 6 day staycation, perhaps you’re wondering WHY on earth did I subvert to this diary format about woodworking? Two reasons, really:

1. At last weekend’s little boutique, I sold 9 boards. While doing so, I had 2 different people ask me how long it takes me to make a board. I told them the truth (something that I do): “I have no idea.” After this week … I have an idea.

2. This weekend (hopefully as you are reading this!) is the Saugus High School Boutique Fantastique, featuring over a 100 vendors including, you guessed it, Mrs M’s Handmade. This event is in its 25th year, and is noteworthy for 2 reaons: it’s the biggest holiday boutique in our area, and in spite of living in our Saugus home for 24 years and putting 3 kids through Saugus High, we’ve never attended. That will change on Saturday. The Mrs M’s have been making lotions, balms, sprays & scrubs for weeks (New holiday scents! New manly scents!). And since I’m the hired muscle and will be there no matter what … I needed some boards to sell. Hopefully, a lot of them.Boutique FantastiqueSo, I needed a staycation.

Time to see what Day 6 will bring me.Staycation 60

8:08a: in the shop. Sanding 180 grit.Staycation 61


9:27a: done with 180, time for 220.Staycation 62

10:25a: 220 is done.

11:13a: plugged in the branding iron.Staycation 65

Staycation 64

When the shop door is open, my little Hula Girl always puts a smile on my face.

11:23a: 320 grit is done.

Staycation 66

I’ve done marketing for all of my career … and this is what I call branding.

12:25p: branding is done. Clean the shop; load the Jeep.

1:17p: finish the prep.

1:36p: begin oiling.

2:13p: First oil is done. Lunch.

2:50p: Oil rub down on all boards … three times on the end grain boards.

3:30p: work on an upgrade on my second step unit.

4:36p: upgrade done. Oil is saturated on the boards. Take a break.

5:34p: Wax on.

7:08p: Wax off.

7:56p: Done with 14 boards, including non-skid feet and stainless steel screws.



Staycation: Day 1

Staycation: Day 2

Staycation: Day 3

Staycation: Day 4

Staycation: Day 5

Posted November 1, 2014 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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