Our First Home Show

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On Saturday and Sunday past (April 30 / May 1, 2011) B.Howe & Family was represented at the Binbrook Craft and Home Show. It was our first foray into the world of Craft Shows and from our point of view it was a success.

Most venders enter into a show with the hope of making enough sales to cover their costs plus a little extra.  Unfortunately, the attendance at this show was very low and most of the venders were unable to break even.  We did get to hear many theories as to why attendance was so bad, which gave us an interesting look into the minds of the veterans. There was also plenty of time to wander through the other displays and see the different ways people show their products, and to be able to talk to them as a peer rather than a customer.  We picked up many hints and tips about how the shows work and change, and which shows can be good or bad.

Our focus for this show was to gather reactions and opinions with regards to our own products.  We wanted to show them to people who were not concerned with sparing our feelings, and had different tastes than ours.  This show was to be a sort of product testing ground for us.  Of course we already had our own opinions about what people would think, which items they would be drawn to, and which items they would barely notice.  We couldn’t have been more wrong.

As you can see from the photos our display consisted of the cedar chess set, framed by the birdhouses on either side, and the whirlwinds hanging above.  We placed a couple of the camp chairs behind and a table beyond that where we had our sign, brochures, album, etc.  A last minute addition was the rug tiles, which paid for themselves the first day by sparing our backs and legs from standing on concrete for 6 hours.

So here are some of the conclusions we were able to draw from the weekend:

  • The chess table stole the show.  So much so that a few people walked away without seeing the other items at all.  It generated the most comments and discussions, and we are extremely pleased with the response to it.
  • The birdhouses drew some attention. People seemed to like the utilitarian style, commenting equally on the fact that they will fit into almost any yard and that they are a blank palette for kids to decorate.
  • We thought the whirlwinds would grab a lot of attention, however only a few people commented on them. The comments were all positive, however we feel that there weren’t enough to lend a confident impression.
  • The camp chairs went largely unnoticed, and we believe this is our own fault.  We did not have them tagged or labelled so visitors to the booth may have simply thought they were there for us to sit on.  We will be addressing this if we do another show.

So with that we have to label this show a success.  We learned a lot about the show process, and about our own products.  We have some ideas to further or better the existing line of products,and ideas for new items in new directions.  Thanks to everyone at the show who had the time to answer our questions and offer advice, and a special thanks to all the shows visitors for offering your comments and opinions.

Craft Fairs – a Beginners Look

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If you have been following our posts, then you’ll be aware that we looked into showing our products at a large trade show a little while ago.  That didn’t pan out, simply because we weren’t ready to take that kind of a leap yet.  Well, if good things come to those who wait, then perhaps we will do well with this new plan.  Last week the opportunity arose to rent some floorspace at the Binbrook Home and Garden Show put on by the Binbrook Agricultural Society each year.

We decided that we should try again, at least give it a chance, and a few emails and phone calls later we had enough information for us to make an educated decision.  We booked the booth.  Compared to the previous attempt, this was easy, low risk, inexpensive, and just an all around friendly option.  Here is what we found made up our minds for us:

Easy to Understand Application Process

  • We only had to deal with one email address,  and one phone number.  We weren’t required to contact one person about electrical, another about signage, another about tables, yet another about carpets.
  • The application form was simple.  A one page application consisting of contact information, product type,  and display requirements.  There was a spot to request electricity, and table rental was part of the final cost calculation.
  • Only one payment to make.  After we figured out the space cost, and table rental fees, we only had to write one cheque.

Affordable

  • Where the large trade show was going to costs us several hundred dollars for the cheapest booth in the worst location, this show is giving us a central booth in a good traffic area with a table for less than $100.
  • It’s closer to home than the larger show, so we don’t have to factor in the costs of a hotel room for a weekend.
  • The shows insurance covers the vendors, so we did not have to get our own.
  • We won’t be surrounded by $10,000 displays, so we can keep our own display simple and within our means.

Friendly

  • Leading up to our signing for the booth, we only had to deal with two people.  One very nice woman who we had email and phone conversations with, and her daughter.  That was it.
  • It is a long running show, in a small town, and from what we can tell it attempts to maintain the neighbourly feel that you don’t find in the more corporate shows.
  • Binbrook is a satelite town of Hamilton, and there is a good chance that it will draw a customer group out of the city.
  • This venue showcases local craftsmen and businesses in the fields of home and garden design and decor.  A good chance for us to discover how we fit into the scheme of things.

We will be spending the next couple of weeks getting ready for the show.  The brochures are ready, business cards are on their way, and soon the signs will be made and the products packed. We’ve worked out a tentative display floor plan, and lists of the things we still need to acquire.  It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s even a little scary.

If you find yourself in the the Binbrook area on April 30th, or May 1st, please stop by the Binbrook Fairgrounds and see us at our booth.  We’d love to hear what you think.

A Shoe Rack for the Closet

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It’s spring, finally!  And, one of the jobs which has to be addressed is cleaning out the coat closet.  The parkas get cleaned and stored, the spring coats are brought out, and winter boots are traded for running shoes.  It’s when digging out the boots that my wife starts to casually mention that we need a new shoe rack for the floor of the closet.  Within a few days the comments become more of an ultimatum.  So this is how you get this weeks blog.  We’ll be building a shoe rack.

Solid oak shoe rackOak shoe rack sketch

First we’ll measure the available space in the closet.  Then it’s out to the shop to figure out what we’re going to do.  There is a bunch of scrap oak left over from Rosemary’s Cupboard so we’ll use that.  I want to avoid plywood, so the rack will have to be made of slats.  A simple lap joint should hold the slats in place.  Arbitrarily I chose 1.5″ as the width for all the pieces.  And instead of being a single unit with two shelves, I’ll make two independent and stackable shelves, just in case  we want to use them for something else.  This is a one time job, so I’m not going to draw up a plan, just a quick sketch to help me visualize the finished product.

And here we go! The edges and slats for the tops are cut to length.  In this case the edges are 43.5″ and 12″ long, and the slats are all 9.25″ long.  Then a quick pass over the table saw to rip each piece down to 1.5″. 

The Edges:

Edge pieces and slat showing overlapThe edge pieces will need to be routered for the slats to overlap.  Install a  5/8″ straight bit on the router, set 3/8″ high.  Oak likes to splinter terribly, so to avoid problems make several shallow passes until the lap edge is 3/8″ deep.  You probably already know this but set the fence for the first shallow pass, and cut all of the edge pieces.  Then shift the fence back a bit and recut each edge piece, deepening the lap.  Repeat this until the lap is deep enough on all the pieces.  Switch out the router bit for a 1/4″ roundover bit,  and rout all the corners except the lap.

The edge pieces then need a 45“ mitre at each end so we can make the frame out of them.  To secure the corners, we drill pocket holes on the mitre and secure them with 1-1/2″ screws and glue.

The Slats:

Slats roughly laid outRepeat the routering process with the straight bit as with the edge pieces, this time putting the lap on the ends of the slats.  Use a piece of scrap as a push block to avoid tear out when the router exits the wood and as a way of maintaining the right angle as you move the slat across the bit.  As before, do several shallow passes until the lap is 3/8″ deep.  Switch the bits and roundover all other edges.

The Legs:

Legs showing pocket holes and light braceThe legs are 5.5″ x 8″ pieces of oak.  To make them look a little better, we cut a half circle out of the bottom with the band saw.  We rounded over all edges which wouldn’t be in contact with the top or the ground.  Then we added a couple of pocket holes which we will use to attach the legs to the top.  As a final touch, we cut a couple small triangles which will be glued in place as a light brace.

Assembly:

Assembled rack showing ratchet strap clampStart with the top:  Screw and glue the edge pieces together to create the top frame.  To keep everything in place while setting the screws we use ratchet straps.  These are just the ordinary webbed straps sold for cars, trailers, etc. and they are fantastic for clamping odd shapes or large pieces.

Evenly space the slats within the edge frame.  I simply glued them down, but for a stronger joint you may want to secure them with a small brad or finishing nail.

Both shoe racks drying up for the nightFlip the top over.  Position, screw and glue the legs in place on the short edges.  Glue the light braces into place.  Let the entire assembly dry up overnight.

Finishing:

Sand the entire piece and wipe clean with a cloth.  Apply the stain of your choice and finish with a couple coats of Danish Oil. 

Now you’re all set to shove your beautiful solid oak shoe rack into the deep recesses of your overstuffed closet where it will never be seen again, but you can be satisfied knowing that you produce a useful and beautiful object that will make your home a better place (if only subconsciously).

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns about this post please share them with us.  Thanks for visiting.

The Migration Begins Soon.

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Well, it’s that time of year again. The temperatures are beginning to rise, the snow is beginning to melt, and very soon the Snowdrops will be blooming in our backyard. It is also a great time to get ready for the return of our feathered friends. Soon, many of the birds that headed south last fall will return from their winter homes looking for places to raise their new families. Will we be ready?

Many of our native species of birds have suffered declines in numbers due to changes in the modern environments.  Loss of their natural habitats due to mans evergrowing need for resources and space, competition with introduced species like the House Sparrow (who is a lot more aggressive than he appears),  and changes to the available plant-life found in their normal territories are a few of the many factors affecting wild-fowl today.  Finding safe places to nest and feed is becoming more and more difficult with each passing year.

This time of year is great for hanging new bird houses and cleaning up the old ones. Take a few minutes to walk around your property and inspect the nesting boxes.

  • Open up last years nesting boxes and remove any old nests lingering there.
  • Give them the once over to make sure they will survive another breeding season. If they are split, coming apart, or falling off the post it may be time to replace them.
  • Aged looking bird houses are perfect, as most birds prefer a house which blends into it’s surroundings rather than the brightly coloured ‘artistic’ varieties.
  • If the birdhouse hasn’t had any tenants for a while, maybe it’s badly sited. Now would be a good time to move it to a better location.
  • Do you have room for more?
  • Are you attracting the birds you like?

Mounting a few new bird houses now would allow them to weather a bit before they are needed.  In our minds it’s like washing the ‘human’ off.  You’ll also be ensuring that the nesting boxes are in place just in case the birds return a little early.  If you have been keeping bird feeders over the winter, then you’ve managed to address the first two concerns for any returning bird – food and shelter.  Of course, aspects, such as new plantings and birdbaths will have to wait until it is much warmer, but every little bit you can do now is less you have to do later.

When the migratory birds return they immediately begin establishing their territory.  Finding a secure nest site, locating food, and ultimately attracting a mate keeps the birds very busy.  If we can make it a little easier, then perhaps they’ll have more successful broods. And that means more returning birds for next year.  Before long the air will be filled with magical birdsong from sunrise to sunset.