Archive for the ‘Santa Clarita’ Tag

Enough Magic For 2017?   Leave a comment

This is part 2 of the big batch of MBOs made for the 4th quarter boutiques.

If you missed the explanation of what an MBO is, check out the previous post, here.

21 of these are double magic, or fridge mount MBOs. 16 are single magic, or wall mount versions. All will wall mount, of course.

My only remaining question is will this be enough magic for 2017 … or will I need to make another batch in November. That’s honestly what I think will happen, as these are consistently a top seller, and we have many miles to go before we can relax in January.

But don’t be fooled: when I talk about my plan for shop time in November, it’s all a fantasy. I have NO CLUE how I’m going to make what I need to make, when I’m going to make it, or how I’ll be clinging to sanity when our 4th quarter events are done. No. Clue.

Our next event is going to be just for me, the Claremont Village Venture Arts & Crafts Faire on Saturday, October 27. I did it last year as a solo act, and I’m going back for a second year … which is unusual! Solo events don’t often work out, but this one was good.

Hopefully, I’ll see you there, but if not, then please stay tuned for the next edition of The Board Chronicles!

The Board Chronicles: Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival 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.

The event was a big idea, and they didn’t want us. At first.

One of my favorite event producers is Pacific Fine Arts; they do about 20 events including the wonderful California Strawberry Festival. This year, we decided to add their Half Moon Bay event, which has a wonderful reputation for great sales and a fun atmosphere.

And then this juried event rejected us.

We applied as a couple, of course … and that confuses juries. Just about every vendor applies as a single idea, and then we come in with a pair of ideas as a married couple. Skin care products and cutting boards in one booth? Why, it’s just not done! So, we were rejected by the jury. Of course, we’re not applying for one booth, but for two booths, side by side, but we still are a very unique case for the jury to, uh, judge.

I talked to the producer, Dana, about why we were rejected and what might be done. Moving forward, we’re going to apply as two vendors that want side by side booths instead as one vendor, and she thinks that will work better. Good to know. But, after our rejection, Dana did volunteer to put us on a waiting list in case a booth opened up.

And a corner double booth did open up. Perfect. We’re in. We’re going to the 47th Annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival!

New Ideas

  • Event # 2 of 13 in our 4th quarter. And when I say we have miles to go before we sleep….
  • At 347 miles one way, this is the farthest we have ever traveled for an event. High travel cost, and a big time cost, as well. We’re traveling up Friday and coming home on Monday, so we’re doing 3 hotel nights as well.
  • The fire marshal requires a 2A fire extinguisher to be lashed to the front pole of the booth … and it either needs to be stamped “2017” or it needs a current inspection sticker. That meant … another $75 in cost for our 2 booths. My “2016” fire extinguisher just wasn’t good enough. I guess. The event directions said that fire inspectors would shut down non-compliant booths.
  • Our expectations were high for this event, which has our highest booth cost ever.
  • Wait, that’s not a new idea. But you know about high expectations:

Expectations will kill you.

Observations

  • It’s a long drive going to San Francisco. For me, anyway. Road trips can be good for the soul, I’ve found, but doing 6+ hours in a car is not my idea of a good time. However, it’s the only way to get there, so off we go.
  • We were getting gas a bit north of Gilroy, and I inspected the trailer. I found that the electrical cable powering the trailer lights had become disconnected somewhere in the last 250 miles, and the connector was now thrashed. We had no trailer lights. No turning signals. No brake lights. It’s 5:30p on a Friday, and we were nearing twilight as we entered the San Francisco freeways. We had to drive to Half Moon Bay at Oh Dark Thirty tomorrow. Did I mention it’s 5:30p on a Friday? Okay, go.
  • I continued to drive north, and, incredibly, Velda eventually found Midnight Automotive in San Martin, just a few minutes away. She dialed and I talked to Luis, who told us he was open and would fix us right up. We were there 15 minutes later, and he had us back on the road 30 minutes after that. The trailer lights were on, and the electrical cable had a new clamp holding it in place. Better than new.
  • Did we write a 5 star review for Luis? You bet. Life. Saver.
  • Got to the hotel in San Mateo without further incidents. We grabbed a quick dinner at the hotel. We talked to our waiter, Victor, about our challenge of getting breakfast in the morning … and we wondered if the Holiday Inn breakfast buffet that we would be missing might have a bagel or 2 that he could pack for us tonight. Victor was very helpful, and he got a big tip. Then, we returned to the room and settled down for an all-too-short night’s sleep.
  • Because we travel heavy in a trailer, and because this event takes place on a narrow city street (Main Street, naturally), we were directed, with all large vehicles, to come to the event early and have our oversized vehicles off the street by 4:30am. That meant we had to arrive at 3:45am … leave the hotel at 3:15am, and get up to shower at 2:15am. So, that’s exactly what we did.
  • Set-up under starlight was great. Our early arrival was perfect, and the trailer was parked, unhitched, and I was back setting up our Caravan pop-ups so quickly that Mrs M didn’t think I had done my job. I remember looking at the time at 5am and being surprised that we still had stars as we set up the booth, but the booth was set by sunrise.
  • Our out-of-control hobby leads us into such an elegant lifestyle. We had walkers at 7am, as promised, and we were a-vendoring far earlier than the official 10am start.
  • Did we see a fire inspector? No. Did all booths have fire extinguishers? No. Did we do the right thing? Yes.
  • Interesting event. There was a smattering of people in costume. There were more masked people than we’ve ever seen at an event. So, it was a bit halloween-y, but not overly so.
  • With the sun, came the wind.
  • Wind. Blows.
  • We were told that the gusty wind is very unusual for this town, but we were windblown all day Saturday. It continued into Sunday … and we had trouble. When Velda first arrived at the booth Sunday morning, this is what she saw:

Each banner lost a tie. Tarps were blown off the product, and Velda lost the top of her wall due to clamp failure. Thankfully, we had no booth damage. No product damage.

  • I quickly determined we were best off just taking down the banners, so we ran with naked booths on Sunday. We had the back walls up, and the swirling, gusty wind – when it came from the East – was lifting our center canopy legs up 6″.
  • We have 180 pounds of concrete weighing down our double 10×10 canopies, and we needed every pound.
  • The booth was not going anywhere, but holding down the booth legs while hearing the creaking of the metal structure as the wind howled down the driveway between 2 houses that our booth faced … not fun.
  • The crowd, though, took it all in stride. Sunday sales were strong. Saturday had been a bit disappointing … we did well, but we didn’t hit $2k in sales. This would not be a spectacular event.
  • But, it did keep coming.
  • My first sale each day was a cutting board. Love it!
  • Event directions warned that traffic would be horrible. They weren’t kidding. It was gridlock getting out of town on Saturday and Sunday. It took 45 extra minutes on Saturday to get out of town. Sunday was better, but only marginally so.
  • This event is a party. One customer told me she only drinks before noon at the Pumpkin Festival … and in New Orleans. Well, OK, then. Very common to see people walking with a beer, a glass of wine, or a mimosa. People were enjoying their Pumpkin Festival, and they all came to shop, complete with their own shopping bags.
  • Love. That.
  • A customer looked at the cribbage boards, and asked, “Is that an incense holder?” These cribbage boards have 250+ holes in them. How much incense did they want to burn?
  • A pirate walked by the booth, accompanied by his … uh, pirate. I did not talk to them. I’ve learned my lesson.
  • Mrs M went walkabout, leaving me to fend for myself in the booth. A young lady asked if we had a soap that would be good to remove THC resin from her fingers when she was, uh, processing. Couldn’t help her with this first-ever request. I don’t think Mrs M is going to develop a soap line to remove THC resin, either.
  • Requests were for a bigger Hard Maple end grain board (they always sell poorly when I make them!), a larger cheese dome, cribbage boards with pegs (it never ends), and my # 1 request, by far … chess boards.
  • I need more shop time. A. Lot.
  • There are 300 vendors at this event, and everything is handmade. I love the event producers; they do a great job selecting all handmade vendors!
  • Load out was a bit chaotic, as expected. We just did our thing, though, and took everything down before I went to get the trailer. Traffic was a problem just getting back to the booth, but in the end, I locked the loaded trailer at 7:15pm. 2 hours and 15 minutes total for the load out isn’t bad when the trailer is parked blocks away and you’re fighting 300 vendors for space.
  • I sold 18 different sizes/items at this event. The key to my success is variety. Maintaining that variety is the hardest thing I do in the shop.
  • Our high expectations killed us; we were initially disappointed. However, in the end, this was our 6th best event EVER. Our 2nd best first-time event EVER. We did have high costs, though, and we had hoped to do better. This event is not easy to do: a very long day for Saturday with a crazy load-in time, a long commute and traffic issues means this event is not for the faint of heart. But, we hope to come back. We had a good getaway weekend, and, in this case, that’s the most important thing.
  • We went away. Way away. We cleared our heads. All good.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Bagels in the go boxes from the Holiday Inn. And energy bars. It was a long time until lunch when you start at 2:15am.

Saturday Lunch: Tamales from one of the community groups that sell food here as a fund raiser. This is totally a community event. Love it.

Saturday Snack: Mrs M had more coffee. This was a long day.

Saturday Dinner: Velda used the google machine, and found Sole in San Mateo. Reviews were great, and we wanted a good meal after our very, very long day. Unfortunately, this was a tiny restaurant that told us we would have to wait 20 minutes. And then they told us that again. The food, though, was spectacular, with the best gnocchi that Mrs M has had. The sun-dried tomato appetizer/bread dip was amazing as well.

Sunday Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the Holiday Inn. And an Indian stole my toast.

Sunday Lunch: Clam chowder bread bowls from another community group. A worse choice, unfortunately. It was clammy, but not chowdery enough.

Sunday Snack: Pumpkin Pie, with whipped cream.

Sunday Dinner: A late night burger after load out, back at the Holiday Inn.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 855
  • Booth cost: $1,065
  • Food cost: $332
  • Travel cost: $711
  • Total sales: $3,698
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,590
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: 2:15am (yes, 2:15am)
  • Sunday alarm: 6am
  • # transactions: 142
  • # soap & lotion vendors: 7. Lots of competition for Mrs M … which may have been one reason the jury rejected us, honestly. There were 6 soapers. All had different stuff, but how much soap can one town buy?
  • # woodworking vendors: 5. There were 2 direct competitors. I didn’t have a chance to introduce myself, though I have seen one of them before at Southern California events. The other guy seemed to be a newbie with limited inventory, but had some interesting stuff.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 31:2
  • Returning next year? hopefully

Boards sold: 33

Magic Bottle Openers: 6

Cutting Boards: 4

Cheese Boards: 4

Pig Cutting Boards: 2

Small Boards: 2

Trivets: 2

Lazy Susans: 2

Large Cutting Board: 1

Large Cheese & Cracker Server: 1

Serving Tray: 1 (I’m now out)

Notepad Clipboard: 1

Letter Clipboard: 1

Small Surfboard: 1 (I’m now out)

Soap Deck: 1

Bread Board: 1

Small Sous Chef Board: 1

Custom Order: 1

Domed Cheese & Cracker Server: 1 (I’m now out)

The 250th Cutting Board: Back In The Pig Business   Leave a comment

Such mixed emotions here.

My inventory has peaked at the perfect time: right in front of what just might be a very large event for us. It is for others … so here’s hoping.

For just the 2nd time, I have over 250 pieces in inventory. That’s a good thing.

With this post, I return to the pig business. I sold my last pig in April, so it’s been several months that I’ve enjoyed not being in the pig business. But, good things often must end so I’m back to selling pigs.

Which is really a good thing. I went to school on these pigs, and cut them out with my new CNC router. After 4 pigs with problems – and one with a broken foot – I got it perfect. After that, every pig was cut out perfectly.

This whole “be more efficient” thing just might be working.

More

The 250th Cutting Board

A Litter Of Pigs

The Board Chronicles: California Avocado Festival 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.

Time to get serious. The holidays are upon us.

Yes. Upon us.

We loved doing this event last year. Big traffic. Happy people. Party.

What’s not to like?

We stayed busy, Mrs M sold out of Avocado Soap, and we even got a very nice steak dinner Saturday night. Spectacular, even.

You bet we wanted to return for the 31st Annual California Avocado Festival!

As we eagerly anticipated returning to Carpinteria, we had 13 events in front of us during this 4th quarter. We truly have miles to go before we sleep, and here’s our very big first step.

New Ideas

  • We’re doing it just like last year … but with better inventory. We hope.

Observations

  • We drove up Friday, and had dinner at Clementine’s. Their filet is highly recommended. If you’re in Carpinteria, enjoy!
  • The event’s on a city street, so, as is often the case with a street fair-styled event, it’s a Saturday morning set-up … even though the commercial section in the next block was up on Friday night as well. Hmmmm.
  • The alarm didn’t go off. WHAT? My phone died … the outlet I plugged the phone in, on the desk lamp, worked just fine until it stopped working. My phone’s battery drained, and I had no alarm. Oh, and our credit card transactions go through my phone. We’re running a bit late, and the majority of our business has to go through my dead phone. OK, go.
  • Love turbo charging. I am a droid fan.
  • Went to go get my favorite breakfast, and charged the phone more in the only outlet in the restaurant, located between the 2 restrooms. 83% will have to be enough today.
  • We arrived at 6:20a for a 6:30a load-in, only to find that the City had left a forklift in the street to block access. The fork lift driver … was not there. OK, go.
  • I carted everything in. About a city block, which was a flat block, thankfully. But, it was 6:30a and I was playing mule to get everything to booths 23 & 24. Good times.
  • Fork lift driver showed up at 7:08a for what he thought was a 7a call. I was almost finished carting in, no thanks to Public Works Department. We were running more than 30 minutes behind schedule. We had walkers in the booth before we were setup due to the forklift delay.
  • First sale of the day = vindication. I can make a serving tray that people believe will be of use. It only took me most of my lifetime to get there….
  • A lady saw the trivets and asked, “Do you put crackers in the slots?”
  • Uh … no.  Not recommended. Sorry.
  • Vending can be a humbling experience.
  • A young lady walked into the booth wearing a pair of bananas on her purse. She observed that it’s the perfect snack … I observed it was an unusual accessory. She offered me a banana as a reward. I think.
  • A pirate walked into the booth with his wench. (That is what the women associating with pirates are called, right? I don’t want to be politically incorrect with the title for a woman accompanying a pirate in my booth.) They were doing some cosplay thing, I guess. She later assured me they were good pirates, and did take exception to being called a wench. So, now you know. Don’t make the same mistake I did when a pirate walks into your booth with his … uh … well, when 2 pirates walk into your booth.
  • Business was way up on Saturday. Looking good for a great weekend.
  • Sunday started with a spectacular breakfast. No load in, of course, and we were assured we would not have a fork lift problem for load out! Life was good.
  • A client came by that custom ordered 2 large cutting boards last year, and he loves them. Lots of kudos. I smiled.
  • And then his wife came by, and the kudos happened all over again. Life is good.
  • Business, though, slowed down. Way down. Last year, Sunday was unusual at this event: it was 20% up from Saturday. At most events, Sunday is 50% down from Saturday. This year, we seem to be following the normal model. Unfortunately.
  • Strike started promptly at 6p. We were in the dark soon … and they didn’t turn on the rented floodlights until well after dark. The Department of Public Works, late to the party. Again.
  • A 3 year old was walking with her family in front of our booth, and went into meltdown. She had a spectacular tantrum, with full-throated screaming for at least 5 minutes. She then got a time out (still in front of our booth) and screaming continued for another 8 minutes as the family tried to figure out what to do with little miss screamer. Finally, a family member picked her up and carried her away. Screaming.
  • I have had days like that, but I believe I was not as demonstratively spectacular as the young miss.
  • In the end, we were disappointed by this event. We were down from last year … but this was STILL our 7th best event ever. How can you be disappointed when you had one of your best ever?
  • Expectations kill you.

The Food

Saturday Breakfast: Hello, old friend. Thanks for the electricity, too.

Saturday Lunch: Pizza Dan’s was right in front of our booth, so it was easy. And cold, when I finally got to it.

Saturday Snack: Chips & guac when Little Girl came to visit. Life was good.

Saturday Dinner: Comfort food in the hotel bar, which I will not honor by calling it a restaurant.

Sunday Breakfast: Goodbye, old friend. Esau’s was just down the street from us, and this breakfast/lunch cafe is highly recommended. Yum.

Sunday Lunch: Carry out from Esau’s. Yum. A new tradition.

Sunday Snack: Nope.

Sunday Dinner: Carl’s Jr, eaten in the car on the way home. High living.

The Facts

  • Total miles driven: 274
  • Booth cost: $950
  • Food cost: $247
  • Travel cost: $747
  • Total sales: $3,476
  • Net Revenue (does not include product cost): $1,532
  • # of people we met during the event from the producer: 2
  • Visits in our booth by a promoter’s representative: several
  • Saturday alarm: It wanted to be 4:30a, but ’twas not to be.
  • Sunday alarm: 6:30a
  • # transactions: 119
  • # soap & lotion vendors: At least 3 other soapers. There may have only been 1 other last year, according to my notes … so perhaps this explains why Mrs M’s sales fell.
  • # woodworking vendors: There was another cutting board maker, located in the Carpinteria Artist Center (he is a member, he said). They were up near the action, adjacent to the food/music area, but off the street. I heard traffic was not great. They were a bit hidden, it seems.
  • Edge grain vs. end grain: 31:2
  • Returning next year? Probably

Boards sold: 33

MBOs: 9

Cheese Boards: 5

Trivets: 5

Cutting Boards: 3

Lazy Susans: 3

Serving Trays: 2

Custom Order: 1

Small Surfboard: 1

Large Cutting Board: 1

Bread Board: 1

Notepad Clipboard: 1

Legal Clipboard: 1

At Long Last: More Magic   1 comment

It seems like forever since I needed more magic in my life!

I haven’t made a batch of Magic Bottle Openers in some time … and my inventory showed it. These things that I call MBOs are usually my top-selling item. I have a lot of fun demonstrating them, and entertain a lot of beer drinkers.

Because the reason there is a Mr M’s Woodshop is I’m having fun. Sharing the magic is just a part of that.

At left is the MBO that’s on our refrigerator. It catches the caps off of the bottles when they’re opened, of course, and it also sticks to our refrigerator.

Magic.

Not only does catching the caps please Mrs M, she’s also begun an amateur sculpting career seeing how many caps she can mold onto the wood. As her sculpture grows, inevitably I will brush it on my way past, knocking a cap onto the floor. That’s when Walter the Attack Cat pounces; he likes playing with bottle caps that have been magically held in space, just waiting for him to have fun with them.

So, now I’m having fun making. Mrs M is having fun sculpting. Walter’s having fun pouncing. What’s not to like?

I made a large batch of MBOs, but only a few made it to the finish line in time for this weekend’s event. More are coming just as soon as I can take them across the finish line. I made sure to make several that are easily personalized for your favorite beer drinker. Some of these are wall mount versions; some are fridge mounts.

Have fun with them!

 

New: Serving Trays   Leave a comment

The last time I made a serving tray, I failed. That was almost 50 years ago, of course. You can read that story here: “I Made One Just Like That In School.”

After reading that other woodworkers had found a measure of success by making serving trays, I resolved to take another shot at making one that would be of use in a happy home.

After all, my first attempt did not find success. Though it was made to be of use, it was never found to have sufficient utility for the women in my life.

No hard feelings. Honest.

So, challenge accepted. I have resolved to make useful serving trays. I have determined that such a tray should be 12″ x 18″. And, I have determined that these trays should have metal handles and non-skid rubber feet held on with stainless steel screws.

Let’s see if anyone agrees with me. I’ve started humbly, with only 3 trays produced in the first batch. I will tell you, however, that I’ve bought a couple of dozen handles. I hope somebody thinks these are worthy!

Serving Tray 17 – 01. Purpleheart, Canarywood, Pau Ferro & Jatoba. 12″ x 18″ x 3/4″.

Serving Tray 17 – 02. Black Walnut, White Oak & Honey Locust. 12″ x 18″.

Serving Tray 17 – 03. Black Walnut, Hard Maple, Jatoba & Bubinga. 12″ x 18″ x 3/4″.

New: Trivets   3 comments

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

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

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

I pushed the button.

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

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

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

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

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

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

New: Cribbage Boards   1 comment

It’s my 2nd most requested game board.

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

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

Then, I bought a CNC.

Then, I found this template with my google machine.

Then, I pushed the button.

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

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

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

“I Made One Just Like That In School.”   1 comment

I hear the comment at almost every event:

“I made a board just like these when I was in High School!”

Every time I hear it, I just smile. And every time I hear it, I say it in my head:

“Respectfully, no you didn’t.”

I submit this analysis based on my own humble story: I made a board in “Industrial Arts” in junior high. Ironically, I decided to make a serving tray instead of a cutting board. This is that story.

I only remember 2 things about that IA class:

  1. I was given a block of pine that the teacher, Mr Price, had given a wavy top cut on the band saw. My task was to make the edge dead flat using a hand plane. I failed.
  2. I made a serving tray out of the wood provided, which I recall was “Ulner.” There is no such wood.

So you can see, I was not a successful woodworker at 13. I did, however, make a serving tray out of IDKWII, pronounced “i duh KWEE.” Though the wood may have been Alder, all I know at this point is I Don’t Know What It Is.

I do know that my mother seldom never used the tray, and then she passed it on to Velda …

… who never uses it. The tray is currently living in our coat closet, buried in stored books and houseware items we can’t wait to give away.

So, again, I was not a successful woodworker at 13. No one has ever looked at the serving tray and said, “This is too pretty to use.” No one has ever looked at my serving tray and said, “This is beautiful.” No one has ever looked at my serving tray and said, “How much is that?”

Those are comments I hear at every show when people see the things I’ve made this year. But the thing I made almost 50 years ago? Not so much.

Now, I know my mother loves that tray, just as every mother loves to tell me the story about what their son or daughter made them in woodshop. I always ask: most mothers never use the wooden cutting boards or serving pieces that they were given by their children. They treasure them. They don’t use them.

As my faithful readers know, however, I strive to make things to be of use.

That’s not to say the first & unused wooden object I made, the serving tray, is without value (to me). That’s not to say the tray is not a good tray (I think). After all, it worked just fine the 3 times it’s been used in the last 48 years.

So, here’s the tray that’s nearly half a century old … that did not launch a woodworking career.

Sorry, Mr Price. This one just didn’t work.

Serving Tray, made circa 1969. Wood is IDKWII. Yes, those are the ugliest handles known to mankind. The nice cherry tone surface has survived, pretty much, though the varnish has some age. One corner’s a bit bunged up. 14″ x 18″ x 3/4″. Felt bottom cover.

Troubleshooting & Tips For Setting Up Your Probotix Nebula   2 comments

Saturday afternoon was not about the CNC; it was prep for our pizza oven to get back into action. It was worth it.

It was set up, but we didn’t know what to do with the left over cables.

It was Friday night.

I told the Engineer that I would have recommendations by morning from my people. I put a post up on RouterForums.com, upon whose members’ recommendations I had put significant weight towards my decision. I also put a post up on Facebook in a CNC group that I’m a member of.

The Engineer asked me what I thought the solution would be … what was wrong? My answer is that I thought we had done something wrong in our ignorance, based on the obviously poor instructions that we had received. My guess is that it was a fix that could be figured out by the smart people I was in touch with, and then we’d be OK.

I was right.

Getting CLOSE

By Saturday morning, I had multiple answers from both groups I had questioned. Another theme was there, as multiple people told me to get in touch with Len, who I knew as my – and the – sales guy, and he would fix me right up. By Saturday evening, Len had responded to me, copying support, and telling me that the problem was probably that we had put the parallel cable in the wrong parallel slot.

And that is what had happened. Come to find out, there were two parallel slots, and the computer shown in the directions was different from the computer in my garage woodshop. The Engineer had plugged the cable into the parallel port that he thought was most like the illustration, but he chose poorly. We swapped ports, plugged the other, newly identified parallel cable that controlled the Tool Length Sensor into the other slot, and booted it up.

We were golden. Everything worked. Everything. Worked. Plug & play, indeed.

Sometimes, it is about who you know.

First cut.

I have now used the CNC for several hours. Love it. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve broken bits. I’ve had to go back and watch a few videos over. And over.

And, once the machine was wired correctly, it has been absolutely what I expected. It’s plug & play. It’s perfectly predictable & repeatable.

And, I haven’t made a perfect piece yet. I’m still working on that, in my spare time. I still have to feed the monster that my out-of-control hobby is. I need to make cutting boards, in addition to the blanks & pieces that are needed to feed the CNC learning process. I will get there – quickly – but it will take some time. Stay tuned.

So, that stated, here are some things I have already learned that would have helped had they been on my checklist a few weeks ago. If there’s a CNC in your future – especially a Probotix CNC, which I wholeheartedly recommend – then you might benefit by checking off this list before there’s a CNC in your shop.

  1. Power distribution. I never asked where the power for the unit needed to be, and I should have. I had an electrician install a 220v circuit, and it was properly placed. Unfortunately, the power inverter came with a 6′ pig tail, and the plug barely reached to the new power cable I had installed. Further, the inverter runs 24/7 if there’s power to the unit, and I don’t have an off switch other than the breaker panel. Ooops. All of the power needs to be delivered to the shelf under the front of my CNC, which was not a problem … but could have been. I could have asked, but didn’t think of it. Now, you will.
  2. Lighting is essential. I installed my CNC in a dark corner of the shop, so I installed additional lighting before it arrived. If you can’t see it, you’ll have trouble making it. Get the lighting right, first.
  3. Building a stand. As previously reported, I didn’t consider building my own stand, and I probably should have. That way, I could have had a full shelf under the table (why oh why does Probotix not do that?). The time to build the stand would probably have been about what it took to assemble the Probotix model, though it would not have been as spiffy.
  4. The computer needs a mount, too. I bought the computer mount offered by Probotix, and already don’t really like it. It has a very limited range of motion, and I would like to have more flexibility than that. You’ll need a way to have the computer monitor, keyboard & mouse adjustable to move around in your shop as needed. Getting it up out of the way is essential in my small shop, too.
  5. No game controller. There was no game controller with my Nebula. I don’t miss it; I  thought it was gimmicky when I saw it. Still, I expected it and it was not in the box. Nope.
  6. You need oil! The drive screws need to be oiled daily. Some of Probotix’s info says they send lubricant with the unit, but they don’t.
  7. Dust collection. CNCs create a lot of sawdust. A lot. Be prepared with a dust collection solution out of the box. I wasn’t … it just slipped my mind. If you’re buying Probotix, then you may need a 1.75″ hose to mate with the magnetic dust boot for your spindle. Love the magnets! In addition, of course, you’ll need an adapter to get the 1.75″ hose to whatever dust collector you use (in my case, I’m going from 1.75″ to 2.5″). I ended up ordering that hose from Oneida (no clue why Probotix does not offer it!), and the adapter from Peachtree. I’m still not quite sure how I’ll mount the hose to the spindle, the gantry and then the table, but I’ll figure that out when it’s in hand.
  8. Where’s your storage? I’ve already got several CNC bits, 10 collets for the spindle as well as the 2 wrenches to secure the bits in place. There’s the dust boot. The 3-in-1 oil. The job summaries. The jigs. They’ve got to go somewhere, so get ready. Solutions don’t have to be permanent in the beginning, but those expensive CNC router bits have to go somewhere!
  9. Mounting your work piece. There’s no wrong answer here. Double stick tape is how I mounted my first cut … and the tape failed before the piece was done. I’ve read about some DIYers that use super glue and masking tape, and they’re welcome to that. The advanced class will go to vacuum hold downs, and that’s where I’m going when I have the time and money to build it. Meanwhile, I’m making MDF jigs with push clamps, and screwing the jigs to the spoilboard. This works, though it’s not without its own idiosyncrasies, which I’m working through. Whatever you do, you’ll need the solution in hand before you turn on the machine.
  10. Cut scrap at first. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to have problems. Don’t cut expensive work pieces until you know what you’re doing. Cut MDF, or plywood, or even the 2x4s from the shipping crate that your CNC arrived in. Until you know what you’re doing, cheap is good.
  11. Other tools. I have brass brushes to help clean fuzzies off of the workpieces that require it. A large brush is great for clearing shavings, as is a portable dust collector hose.

 

More

Installing The Probotix Nebula

Buying A CNC: The Probotix Nebula

That’s No Garage, That’s My Shop

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