Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Your favorite cutting board, ever.

ast summer I spent a lot of time at the Brooklyn Flea. I had gotten my new wheels (definitely an upcoming post) and had always wanted to go there, but found it just out of range of my "circle of willingness." It's your typical flea market, complete with interesting vendors selling whatever. Being a Brooklyn flea market, the deals are few and far between, leaving most people to show up expressly for the food. Oh, the food. Brisket Man (company name still unknown) was a favorite, quickly followed by the Red Hook Lobster Pound. I'd go almost every Sunday for those two things. As I puttered around, I also spied a fellow selling the most beautiful cutting boards I had ever seen. As I oogled over his boards, he offered me a flyer to do a cutting board class, where I could make my own. It was a tough work summer though, and I didn't see myself getting to the Gowanus neighborhood by 7pm. Twice. On Fridays. So the flyer lived on my fridge.

Fast forward to February, when my friend N.E. experienced the agony that is shopping for Yours Truly for my birthday.  She spied the flyer, patiently waiting on my fridge, and went for it.  How cool of a gift is that?!?

At the conclusion of the course, a survey was offered.  "Is it what you expected?" one of the questions asked.  Thinking back, I had no idea what to expect.  The flyer offered, "Make a custom cutting board!  2 Friday evenings....with wine and snacks.  Learn something woodworking, bring a +1, & make something cool."  That could mean anything from your former grumpy shop teacher droning on on a 90 min monologue while you hold his tools and he makes your board...to a super cool, dynamic evening of getting messy while actually learning how to use interesting power tools.  Thankfully it was the latter.

Pete, the fellow who makes the boards and teaches the class, couldn't be more awesome.  He's eclectic, knowledgeable, and passionate about his craft.  On one occasion, he started a sentence by saying, "I was reading about glue last night, and..."  Now that's my kind of guy.  It reminds me about my earlier days of photography.  So here's the skinny:

Day 1:  You learn about different woods, hardness, glue.  Pete hooks you up with boards of two varying thicknesses and in three woods (Maple, Cherry, and Walnut).  He tells you about the artistic properties of wood grains, where it was cut, and how the wood type, grain, and width may be used to create beautiful and unique patterns.  With this knowledge, you loosely assemble your cutting board as you please.  You glue and clamp it.  Later that evening, you unclamp and scrape it to remove most of the excess glue.  You go home, excited for Day 2.

Day 2:  Pete took the time to plane and trim most of the boards, save one (mine, yay!) so you can see how it was done.  He shows you how to use a drill press, a hand router, a table router, and a sander to complete the rest of the board, then leaves you to do it yourself.  You then sand the board, and finally oil it.  The oiling is most rewarding because it changes the color and properties of the board and you'll get to see your near-final product.  You bid it farewell to be picked up in a week.

Final Product
Final Pickup:  You meet Pete at any one of a number of convenient locations, where he hands you the board.  Feet got installed, as well as the oh-so-awesome riveted metal plaque.  You can go without the feet and the plaque....you'd just be a fool to do so.  Pete also gives you a bottle of mineral oil so you can care for the board, and the mounting hardware if you want to hang it on the wall.  You take it home, stare at it and touch it frequently.  Of note:  Any of the cherry wood you use reacts some to the UV light, so leaving it in the sun will make it darker and redder.  It's amazing.

Throughout both days, beer and wine and dried sausages and chips and hummus were offered.  The sausages came from another vendor at the flea, and were amazing.  The beer was from Six Points.  This was no shabby spread.  The other classmates were a varied range of ages and sexes, and those that claimed they were "dragged" there by their partners quickly found themselves having a good time.  Throughout, I had an endless stream of questions, which patient Pete kindly answered.  I left with an even greater respect for woodworking than I had originally, additional knowledge about how to use some really amazing tools, and of course my awesome cutting board.

If you don't live near and therefore don't have a chance to take the course, I'd highly suggest buying one of these boards directly from the Gowanus Furniture Company.  The fit and finish is top notch, and Pete's designs are amazing.  Want a custom size?  He can do that for you.  Want end-grain?  That can be done too, though at greater expense (and now I understand why that is - WAY more time and effort.).  You won't be disappointed.



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