So here we are…in a new city (a HUGE city)…with our shop all set up and ready to go…but we know NOBODY! This may sound a bit scary or sketchy or intimidating, but it’s the reality of the situation.
So where do we go from here?
We need to find clients who have the potential to lead to more clients and who have good connections within the community. If you remember the post we did on our Modern Sliding Barn Door, we talked about that EXACT person…realtors!!
So, logically, that’s where we want to start here in Texas. We asked ourselves, “what can we offer to realtors to get on their radar?”. Closing gifts! What better gift to someone who just moved to the community than a hand-made, one of a kind serving board from another local business.
A lot of our motivation for this idea of selling closing gifts to realtors came from Bruce Ulrich, another AWESOME maker in the community. He told us all about the success he had using this method. Go check him out if you haven’t (https://www.youtube.com/user/UlrichBruce/videos).
So the other reason for this outrageous build of 100 serving boards is to teach ourselves how to scale for large projects. We want to build a large quantity of something fairly easy to get our processes down and find what kinks we have in certain steps. We WANTED to have hiccups in this process. We WANTED a couple things to go wrong. That way we could learn from them and work on perfecting a checklist for a build like this.
We started out by creating a rough template of what we wanted the boards to look like (keep in mind we wanted to make each one look a little unique to add to the one-of-a kind selling point). We knew each one should be roughly 18″ long and 8-9″ wide. Based off of that we figured out we would need about 20 12-14″ long boards. We bought 5 of each type of wood: walnut, ash, cherry, and maple. We also bought a board of padauk to make accent strips in boards that were a little too thin to reach our 8-9″ width threshold.
Since the boards were very long and taking up a lot of shop space, we cut them down to 55″ (it’s a multiple of 18″ that gives us an inch of wiggle room). We then cut them down to 18″ inches each. Once we did that for every board, we organized the piles by width (since each board wasn’t the same width) and took out any with cracks or large knots (we didn’t really have time to fill all of those with epoxy since this was supposed to be a very streamlined and quick build). We ended up with about 110 18″ serving board blanks, which was perfect because those extra 10 had large knots in them anyway. We can still sell those – we’ll just have to charge a little extra due to extra finishing requirements.
Since we knew we wanted to add strips to some of the boards that were naturally too narrow, we jointed a few of every wood species, cut them into strips, and glued them up. Since we don’t have an actual jointer, we rigged our router to join boards! It ended up working really, really well!! We used the Rockler router fence that is MDF attached to an aluminum frame. We separated the MDF from the frame on one end and put washers between the two, then re-attached them. This causes one half of the fence to stick out slightly further than the other so that the rough edges are cut off and the board is straight after running up against the other half of the fence. After that, we ran EVERYBODY through the planer. Yeah…it took a while….
From there we took about 80 of the boards to the bandsaw to carve out some sort of handle or grip. We did leave some of the boards rectangular just to cater to every sort of style. The awesome part was that we didn’t have any template for this, we just did it free hand. It went super fast and ensured that every board was 100% unique and unlike the next (which is a fun marketing tactic we can use when talking to realtors and other clients).
We then sanded all of the curves of the handles/grooves on our oscillating spindle sander. Then we took all of them to the router and did a soft round over edge on all sides including the handles and details. And then….the time had come…to sand ALL of them!!
Normally this would not have seemed like a daunting task – just a long and monotonous one. However, since the whole purpose of this endeavor was to learn how to systemize and streamline batch builds, we wanted to be a bit smarter:
What grit would be most efficient?
How high of a grit do we have to use?
Where does raising the grain come in to play?
How do we be most efficient with the finish?
We took one pile of 10 boards. We split it in two. One stack of boards was sprayed with water, left to dry, and sanded with only 220 grit (since once the boards come off the planer they’re pretty close to having been sanded with 120 grit…if you have sharp blades…we just replaced ours). The other stack was sprayed with water, left to dry, and sanded with 220 and then 320 grit. Both stacks were finished with a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil (more info on that ratio to come down the road), which is what we finish all of our cutting/serving boards with. If you’re interested in the beeswax we use, check out this link: Beeswax for serving boards.
Then it was time to test!! Which pile of boards felt smoother?!
We. could. not. tell.
They both felt silky smooth! Which was crazy to us! We had just figured out that a finished board sanded to 220 with finish felt JUST like a board sanded to 320 with finish. We also timed ourselves during this whole process. We figured out how long it took to do the whole sanding process for each stack of boards…
A whole bunch of nerdy math later…and we found out that for our 100 boards, only sanding to 220 would save us an entire hour of labor! I know that doesn’t sound like much…but if you have an employee, that’s like $15 you’re saving. That’s time that can be used on another project!
We then started thinking about the finish. So if a 220 board is technically a little rougher of a surface than the 320 board…there’s going to be more finish on that board in the little grooves of the surface. And less finish on a 320 board since there are fewer grooves for the finish to sit in. Soo….not only do the boards feel the exact same…by only sanding to 220, we’re giving the client a board with more finish on it than a 320 board. That means as it wears down, there’s more finish on the board to fill in the small spaces.
Time saved, money saved, and a better product provided to the customer sounds like a win/win/win to us! 220 it is…
All in all we learned some REALLY good lessons on batch production efficiency with this 100 serving board project. Now to sell all 100!!
This post may contain affiliate links for products we used to create this project! If you’d like to check them out, we do get a small percentage of the sale and they are of no extra cost to you! It all goes towards supporting the content creation of Jennie and Davis. BUT – we do not take tool sponsorships and there were no tool endorsements. Just our honest opinions!