Simple Butter Churn

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I apologize for being gone for a time. A short stint studying to become a Mechanical Engineering Technician, followed by a new job forced B.Howe & Family to take a short sabbatical. Well, things are beginning to sort themselves out around here, and we hope to be back on track shortly. In the meantime, I wanted to let you know that you haven’t been forgotten. Here is a project that kind of blind-sided me last week. But it’s quick and easy, so I thought I’d pass it along to you.

As a woodworking hobbyist you sometimes run into strange requests. My wife recently came home from a trip and presented me with a crock pot saying that I was to turn it into a butter churn. What could I do? Since I already had the pot, all I needed was the beater and lid.

It should be said that I don’t know anything about churning butter. The basic idea is to beat milk around until the fatty bits clump together. This can be done by simply shaking a mason jar partly filled with milk, or using a mixer with only one beater installed. There are many types of churns and information is readily available online.

The paddle consists of nothing more than two crossed pieces of wood mounted on the end of the dowel. To fix the paddles to the dowel, I chose to use a hardwood wedge.

The lid is fashioned from a 3/4″ thick piece of pine. I cut the shape to fit the outside of the pot, then routered the edge to allow it to sit into the pot a little. A hole slightly larger than the dowel was cut in the middle.

To finish the wood, it will be wiped with several coats of mineral oil.

And that is it. A simple and quick project that allowed me to get back into the shop and get sawdust up my nose.

If you’d like more information on making butter, here is a link to start you off: How to Use a Butter Churn”. There is a lot of information out there.

Watch for more to come in the near-future, and thanks for sticking around.

Time for a Change

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There is change in the air.  It is Nature’s way, and B.Howe & Family is certainly not exempt.  We have had fun with the products and projects that we have been working with up to now, but it is time for something new.

Over the next while, a selection of new products will be appearing here on the website.  We hope you will find them interesting.

So for now, this site is Under Construction,


Large Trade Shows – a beginners view

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A tradeshow overviewWe recently had a chance to put a display in a large, professional trade show.  The booth price was excellent and we thought it was a great opportunity so we decided to try it out.  We have never displayed our products this way before and were quite excited about it.  The show was only two weeks away, so we would have to move fast if everything was to be ready in time. 

Before we go too far, let’s look at how a large trade show is created (as I understand it).  Let’s say the City of Hamilton is going to put on a Home & Garden Show.  They will hire a company which specializes in managing these types of shows.  The managing company will then arrange other contracted services – eg. electrical, lighting, plumbing, decorating, audio/visual. The managing company will also arrange for the insurance, permits, licenses, and whatever else is required.  Finally, we get to the the Exhibitors (vendors).  Those are the people who are renting booths in the show to ply their wares on the visitors.

Since we were applying to be vendors in the show, we were dealing directly with the managing company.  The process is pretty simple.  We inquired about availability, they responded with a floor plan marking the available booths in our price range.  We picked one.  A couple forms were filled out and sent to us to fill in credit card information and things like that.  Along with the forms came the Exhibitors Information Package.  This is where we suddenly bogged down. 

One of the duties of the managing company is to ‘unify’ the show, to ensure that the entire show presents itself in a clean, pleasing, professional manner. This is to ensure that visitors are in a comfortable, friendly state-of-mind, so that they will be more likely to purchase, or at least inquire, about the vendors products, which makes the vendors happy.  Good sales and happy vendors, means that the show will grow from year to year and the managing company will get more work. 

There are a lot of things about these trade show booths that we needed to know.  For starters, the size.  10’x10′ seems to be the standard, if you want a bigger space then you Empty Display Boothrent the adjacent booths.  What about the cost for that 100 square feet?  You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 – $1500+.  It all depends on the show and where the booth is in the floor plan. What you get when you rent the booth is a piece of floor, with a tube-framed curtained divider seperating you from your neighbour.  This is your little piece of the world and you can do with it as you please assuming that you meet the rules and regulations posted by the managing company.

That was okay, we weren’t paying a lot for our 10 ft.sq. booth hidden near the back corner adjacent to the child drop-off area. It was just for the experience. So we started working out the logisitics, and reading the Exhibitors InfoPak.  We have a small display – a couple of posts to display the birdhouses, a cross bar for the whirlwinds, a 6′ table for brochures and taking orders, and the chess set which is it’s own table.  We wouldn’t need much, we thought.

Here is what we ran into:

  • Insurance – the shows insurance covers anyone in the aisles, not in the booths.  So we would have to get vendors liability insurance. This costs somewhere around $85-$100 for the weekend.
  • Lighting – The general show lighting was going to be on the dim side, which meant we would have to rent lights and have them installed in the booth. We would have to arranged this with the decor company.  And what good is a light without …
  • Electricity – of course, for a significant fee the show electricians would run power to the booth as long as we arranged it with them before hand.
  • Carpet – this is mandatory at many shows to protect the facilities floors, and to reduce the noise level.  You can supply your own suitable flooring, or rent it from the decor company.
  • Internet Access – had to be set up with the shows telecom provider prior to the show.

So, what started out being around $200 to rent a booth turned out to be closer to $750 if we actually wanted to use it.  There are a lot of people with their hand in the cookie jar at these large shows, and each comes with a fee.  I can’t imagine the bills the truly large displays have to pay – you know, the ones with ponds, and walkthrough gardens and such.  I’ve seen display systems and designs running into the tens of thousands of dollars, before the show fees.  You have to move a lot of product to cover those kinds of costs.

At the end of the day $750 (+ travel expenses)  is not a bad price for a spot at a large show where you may get a lot of exposure – if you can be sure that you’ll generate enough sales to cover your costs.  However, we’re a young, garage-based business, and we couldn’t validate spending that much money on a whim. For the time being, we’ll be sticking with the smaller shows.  The local fairs still require insurance, but they usually don’t demand that you rent things like carpet and lights.  We’ll start small.  Get a handle on the basics and work our way up to the big leagues.

Rosemary’s Cupboard – building with oak

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I like getting the odd custom job to figure out, especially when it involves materials, equipment, or techniques which I haven’t used before.  Just such an order was Rosemary’s Cupboard.  During a visit a while back, Rosemary requested a cabinet to fit beside the fridge in her kitchen.  We assessed the existing cupboards and measured up the space, then figured out what purpose the new cupboard was to serve.  We were also able to take one of the existing cupboard doors home for style and color matching.

Rosemary's Cupboard Sketch Plan

After a bit of sketching, and pondering, we came up with a relatively simple plan which would allow us to try a few new things.  The PDF of our sketch plan is available for download.  It is not by any stretch of the imagination a complete plan of the project as I tend to do a lot of work in my head rather than on paper.  But, it’ll give you the basic idea of what I was after.  This design relied on european-style hinges, drawer sliders, and rail & stile router bits.  [This means we had to go buy some more tools from Lee Valley– Yaay!]

The Body

The body of the cupboard is easy.  It’s just a simple box.  3/4″ oak plywood for the sides, top, bottom, center, and the toekick/base.  1/2″ oak plywood for the back.  The spacers, and crossers were each cut from 3/4″ oak plywood, the spacers being affixed to the sides prior to assembling the rest of the body.  Holes for the adjustable shelf pegs were also drilled.  Then the rest of the pieces were glued and nailed into place.  The 3/4″ plywood crossers being placed last.

Shop Tip:  The hardwood plywoods like to splinter when being cut.  Masking all cut lines with painters tape will reduce this a little, but to ensure good clean cuts invest in a proper cabinetry/plywood saw blade.  Unfortunately, they can run from $85 to $150 but are totally worth the investment, saving you time and waste from bad cuts.

Solid oak trim pieces were cut to create the face of the cupboard body.  These pieces will dress up and hide the plywood edges and make for clean edges.  My original plan was to drill pocket holes and screw these pieces together before attaching to the rest of the body, but I could be more accurate by just gluing and nailing to the plywood directly. 

This basically finished the body.  I would like to note the small indent at the back of the toekick.  This solves a small pet peave I have with most purchased cabinets – getting around the baseboards.  Why should the cabinet have a huge gap behind it?  Anyhow, on to the shelves.

Adjustable Shelves

The holes were drilled in the sides during the body assembly,  so all that was left here was to make the shelf itself.  It is just a piece of 3/4″ oak plywood with a 3/4″ piece of solid oak trim on each side.  The trim again hides the plywood edge, but also gives it a little extra strength to resist sagging across the 43.5″ span.  One shelf is made for the bottom cupboard, two are made for the top.

The DrawersDrawers

Basically there are two drawers here. One is roughly 6″ deep, while the other has no depth at all being just a pull-out shelf. Lets look at the pull-out shelf first. 

It is nothing more than a piece of 3/4″ oak plywood.  The drawer slides are attached on either side and a faceplate is fashioned from a piece of solid oak to cover the opening.  The faceplate is attached with screws through the front.  Plugs are fit into the screwholes after finishing.

The 6″ drawer consists of 3/4″ oak plywood sides and a 1/2″ oak plywood bottom.  Dadoes were cut into the sides to receive the bottom piece.  The drawer slides are attached to either side and a faceplate fashioned of solid oak.  The faceplate this time can be attached with screws on the inside of the drawer.

The Doors

This, I was expecting to be the hard part.  Each door required two rails (top and bottom), two stiles (left and right), and a 1/4″ oak plywood panel for the center.  The rails and bottom stile were cut from 1″x4″ oak, while the top stile came from a 1″x6″ oak piece. I cut a template for the top stile, traced it onto a 1″x6″ piece and rough cut the curve on the band saw.  Then it was time to play with the router and the new rail & stile bits.  If you’ve never used them, this is a two bit set where one bit is used to create the inside profile, while the other creates the counter-profile so that the stiles will butt cleanly against the rails.  The top stile was my main concern so I started there.  The bits have bearing wheels so they will ride against a template and act as a trim bit while shaping the edge. I taped my template to the rough cut piece and routered the inside edge. While this bit was in place I slid the other stile and rails through it. I set the other bit in the router and profiled the ends of the stiles. It was very important to use a sacrificial push block here, as the oak chips like crazy near the ends.  Test fitting  the pieces was truly satisfying as they locked tightly together.

The panel was cut from 1/4″ oak plywood.  It slides into a groove created by the rail & stile bits, so very little had to be done to it.  The curve only needed to be rough cut on the bandsaw.  All the pieces were put together, the joints of the rails and stiles were glued, but the panel was left to float.  Clamps were applied and the doors were left to cure for the night.

The HingesUnfinished Cupboard

The last structural component.  The european style hinges are again, remarkably easy to install.  They have a bit of a tolerance for error, and are easy to work with.  Do some research before buying them though.  Aside from different hinges opening at different angles (I used 107° overlay frameless ), there are different hinges for how your door is going to sit on the frame (overlay, offset, inset), and for the type of frame your mounting on (face frame, frameless).  Once you have the correct hinge just follow the instructions.  For mine, I drilled a 1-3/8″ hole with a forstner bit into the rail of the door and mounted a small clip onto the body of the cupboard for each hinge.  When they were all in the right place, I just needed to hold the door up and clip the hinge pieces together.  A few small adjustments to small screws on the hinges made sure that the doors were hanging straight and properly aligned.


Of course, just when you get it all together and working you have to take it all apart to make it pretty.  Everything was sanded starting with 100 grit and moving down to 200 grit.  As an afterthought, all the doors and drawer faces received another pass on the  router to put a Roman Ogee profile on the outside edges.  In order to match the existing cupboards, all I needed to apply was a good coat of satin polyurethane.  If you read my previous post regarding Spray Gun Fun then you know how that went.

 Completed Cupboard

Completed cupboard interior

  And here it is, the completed cupboard.  Everything works the way it is supposed to.  It was all the correct dimensions.  A quick trip to Innisfil to deliver and install it in Rosemary’s kitchen and we were finally done.  The last thing we did was to install the anti-slam devices on the door hinges.  

We are happy that with the way it worked out.  It works very well.  It fits the space, and brings a lot more storage to the kitchen.  The construction was relatively easy, and yet it is quite attractive.  If anyone has questions or comments regarding this cupboard or the techniques used in its construction, please do so below.

Cupboard installed in kitchen