First I wanted to handle the most recent news--we were mentioned in a Michelin Article written by Jacob Dean (his page is here). The piece covers the tools of the trade and is worth a read if you're pretty new to cooking or if you want a serious but bite-sized refresher course. Take a look! And now with that said...
For those that don't know, I tied the knot with my now-wife in Maine back in August. #gitmurd
We had a knock out time and got to experience everything we love about Maine... including lobster where it can be the cheapest way to eat if you have the right connections ;) Shortly after though, we headed south. What was supposed to be a tropical storm that just missed us turned into a Cat 1 Hurricane that went right over us. That said, our honeymoon could have been multitudes worse as I'm sure most of you know. Just a reminder for next time you're scrolling through Facebook and you see a donation page regarding Dorian--consider clicking on it
Alright--excuse me a minute--I'm just stepping down from my soapbox...
Thanks for reading,
We were recently featured in Departures, where they spoke very highly about our business and product line. It would seem that our end grain walnut cutting board just can't get enough attention! We really appreciate the shout out, Departures, even if you did call me "Wissle" towards the end of the article ;) Hey, it's a nickname I was given by my brother long ago, so it only seems fitting!
I'd also like to take a moment and talk about the direction Brooklyn Butcher Blocks is going, because it's going in many directions. It's a lot of stuff; too much for one blog post, but for now, I would like to cover how I have started and intend to continue handling events this year. Previously, I would ship crates or carry luggage and fly out to the destination city to sell our wares. Most infamously....
- shipped a crate to LA for an event, then flew out
- left the crate in LA for 2 weeks, while I returned to NY
- flew back out to LA and picked up the crate
- shipped the crate to Austin, and flew out to Austin for an event the following weekend.
Often these events barely pay for themselves once you get into shipping our product--it is just so heavy, it decimates products. But, from a marketing standpoint, it isn't pointless and over time the sales do add up. I'll see orders made around Christmas that I believe were caused from an event, and sometimes a customer makes a note of such to us as well. Thanks by the way, you make the work and effort worthwhile. I really do appreciate that.
The issue is that this system isn't sustainable--there's no way I will be able to hustle that hard forever, and I've come to realize this. Exposing my business to different geographic demographics does help build the business, and it also happens to be a value of mine.
My solution is pretty simple: We're still shipping product to and fro, but now we're hiring salespeople, brand ambassadors, booth attendants--whatever you want to call it--in cities across the country. This is still in its experimental phase. Right now, I am just interested in paying for the booth and the shipping costs. I think as time progresses, our ability to include Custom Work at these events will make them pay for themselves and then some. But first, we need to figure out what the system is that will lead to success, test it, execute it.
I am really excited about this process and seeing how it plays out. With that said, I wanted to share how our events in DC and Brooklyn went last weekend! Jaclyn attended American Field in DC while Kelly was at Bust Craftacular in Brooklyn. The day was as beautiful as any day in London, read: rainy. Despite the overcast skies, Bust and American Field saw decent turn out. Kelly accounts that, "Nils was right, the most common response was something along the lines of 'these are too pretty to cut on.'" What can I say except I'm in touch with my audience :P What surprised me though was that Kelly "mostly sold End-grain Cherry boards." Typically I have seen that New Yorkers gravitate to the Walnut, with Cherry being more of a favorite of Midwesterners. Jaclyn mentioned that "American Field was quickly transforming (from an empty warehouse) into a market for everything from natural soaps to one-of-a-kind clothing to handmade leather goods to Jagermeister - something for everyone!" This is very true and something I've always liked about American Field. But despite being different events in different cities, we were getting the same "ooooohhs" and "aaahhhs" as usual. Including a few proud owners of a Brooklyn Butcher Block who purchased in previous years! We're happy to have old customers stop by and sing the praises of our products to new buyers who are getting their "first 'Adult' cutting board" as Jaclyn and her customers put it.
So to Bust and American Field, I just want to say thank you for your assistance in helping build a community around good craftsmanship. And to Jaclyn and Kelly, thank you for having my back and the back of Brooklyn Butcher Blocks!
Brooklyn Butcher Blocks finally has some merchandise! Wear our colors proud. The shirts are of quality material, being from American Apparel, and the printing is done by Rich DiBernardo of Prographix. He/his company are considered one of the best in the industry and happen to be located right in Industry City of Brooklyn, NY.
When designing this shirt with my friend Rich DiBernardo, we wanted something that was humorous but also classy. I really liked the idea of plaid, a pattern that is associated with and that connotes the material flannel, being printed onto a cotton t shirt. When I mentioned this to Rich, he got the visual pun pretty quickly and produced an awesome design just as fast (I was kind of blown away by the quality and speed with which he did his work. A true sign of a pro). After some minor tweaks, we thought that it'd be best to put the "Brooklyn Butcher Blocks" logo in white like on many of our walnut boards and then to put it on the sleeve as opposed to... on the front in bold letters and in 200 point font that could glow during the day or at night with giant arrows pointing to it.
A note about the printing--where the pattern meets at the seams is *not* perfectly aligned and there are some very minor blemishes. We feel as though this adds to the shirt, but wanted to disclose this to customers.
We'll try to correct those sideways images as soon as possible--Shopify is proving to be a little difficult at the moment :)
So you're shopping for a cutting board, but you're just not sure which way to go? Well we have a quick summary here, but first know that all of our woods are sustainable forested and are regionally sourced.
- Nickname is Goldilocks
- because it is not too hard and not too soft
- Dark, chic look
- Hides stains and knife marks better because it is dark in color
- Reddish heartwood and blonde sapwood
- Softest wood we offer
- which means it is easier on a knife's edge
- but also is prone to expansion and contraction
- Rich history in fine furniture
- Nickname is "The Industry Standard" and for good reason
- Durable and hard
- A little harder on your knife's edge (emphasis on 'a little')
- Tight grain
Time to time, I like covering our products in greater detail in a blog post, as I don't want to bog down each product page with a plethora of text. In the shop, we're prone to throw out at least one wood related pun daily. It only seemed fitting that we get a few of these down on some t-shirts.
"Hard Wood" we feel is a pretty obvious pun, and I ain't explaining it further. This was partially inspired from my high school track couch, who said of the Simpsons: "you know what's great about that show is that there's a lot of smart humor for people who gravitate towards that, but there's also just Homer burping which can appeal to another demographic." It's an easy crowd pleaser, and everyone gets it.
"Millin' Like a Villain" is a play on "chillin' like a villain." Milling, for those who don't know, does not refer to "milling about" as in "being lazy." Rather, milling is the process by which we turn raw lumber into a pre-finished state that reveals the wood grain. Of course, you'd know this if you attended our Woodworking Classes.
My personal favorite, "Wood Work For Food," is a triple entendre. The first meaning is that we create works made out of wood for the purpose of food. The second is that we would (and do) work to earn a living, of which food is a part, so "we would work for food". The third is much like the first, which is that the piece you own is literally woodwork for food.
We are excited to announce that we are now working with The Grommet. You can see our page here: https://www.thegrommet.com/brooklyn-butcher-blocks Being featured on the Grommet is more than just another e-commerce platform to us, but it is like a badge we wear with pride. They only select makers who have demonstrated innovation, hard work seen in their blood, sweat and tears, and that they have strong values.
The founders, Jules Pieri and Joanne Domeniconi, have done quite a bit, even before The Grommet (which is actually the 3rd start-up Jules has been a part of). Jules started as an industrial designer, but after seeing the enormous impact consumer products have on our economy and society, she became an executive at Keds and Hasbro. She was rightfully named one of Fortune's Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs in 2013 and 2014. Joanne has a rich background in creating and launching consumer products. She spent over 20 years at Stride Rite as the Vice President of Product Development. She turned the company around, boasting 11 straight quarters of increased sales and profitability.
But what brought them to start the Grommet is clear: focus, morality, and drive. We are so happy to get to start working with the Grommet, and look forward to having our relationship grow.
I haven't gotten this question in a few years, but I thought it would be worth summarizing a conversation I had into a blog post...
Why mineral oil? Isn't that a petroleum based product ((((Cancer!!!!11))))?
So this could be a moment where we list a bunch of scientific studies and really get into the whole debate... but instead, let's just say "okay, it'll give you cancer... so we won't use it... and we will use something else."
So what do you use? Well, a lot of people jump to vegetable oil. And that turns rancid. So you can get sick in the next month or maybe get cancer in your 70s. I know what I'm choosing. What about walnut oil? That could work, but a lot of people are deathly allergic to nuts and nut based products. There's tung oil of course, but it is sourced from China and South America and I've tried to keep all aspects of producing within the USA.
To close, I'd like to make the point being made here is that we are all exposed to a lot of substances, particularly in a city, and concerns over a petroleum based product being used as a finish for your cutting board should probably be on the bottom of your list of concerns as you're barely consuming any of this mineral oil if any at all. Compare that to air pollution which you inevitably must breathe. Or whatever makes your phone work.
Well, first things first: Treat your cutting board with mineral oil or bees wax. But sometimes, that isn't enough. A customer recently emailed me stating that their beloved family cutting board had warped. They contacted me asking if there was any way for me to try to fix it for them, and I was happy to oblige... but see what a short 8 hours will do...
So, great news - came home from work yesterday to find that we left the A/C off, and the heat must have helped the block dry more thoroughly. It is much less warped than it was when I first sent the request on your website. I think that I will try to even it out over the next week using the method on your site (now that there is a much less intimidating warp to deal with).
Wood is a funny and fickle thing, particularly as a cutting board. This is why we recommend a towel on the underside as it will effectively eliminate this problem of rocking. So...why does this happen to your board and not furniture? I mean, furniture takes more skill to make and requires more skill, so that must be it right?
There are a few key things to keep in mind when comparing boards to furniture. (1) boards interact with water on the daily, indoor furniture might once it its life (2) While both are utilitarian objects, boards get much more of a beating with a knife than a chair does with someone sitting in it (3) furniture is finished with an array of different things that are more durable than any FDA approved food grade finish, like mineral oil. These things are what make your board more fickle than your furniture, and that's not even mentioning how end grain is effectively a bunch of straws, so it is more likely to suck up water and as such warp. Frequently oil treatments will nullify this effect however. What it might now effect though, is an environment that has become drier than it was accustomed to.
Shopping for cutting boards, huh? Okay, let's skip the introductions and just get the point--the literature on cutting boards seems to rival that of Shakespeare, every popstar ever, and all religions combined.
Teak: It's hot and popular. You'll frequently hear how great it is--it retains its oil meaning it require less upkeep and is less prone to expanding/contracting. It is dense and has a tight grain, which keeps it looking nice. I say it is a little too hard for a knife. Lastly, it is my opinion that teak is kind of ugly.
Maple: It's the industry standard and for good reason. It is durable, but you'll need to keep it up. It's also dense, which gives it a great heavy feel. Admittedly, this isn't our most popular product, likely in part because it is just so available. One advantage is that it seems to match virtually any kitchen, but as a draw back, you'll notice a beet stain pretty quickly.
Cherry: I wouldn't get cherry except for the coloration alone. Too soft, in my opinion. Granted, we are slitting hairs (or should I say wood fibers?) but I definitely notice it wears faster. Your home chef probably won't notice it, but Mighty Quinn's BBQ certainly has seen how quickly it wears when you're chopping meat on it for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.
Walnut: I call it a happy medium between Cherry and Maple--it's the "Goldilocks." Very nice on your knife, and it takes a stain well since it is so dark to begin with. Walnut is probably the single most popular wood for us. Part of the appeal is its chic look. I consider this an added benefit more than anything though.
Oak: No. It's terrible. Yeah, we offer it, in part because we kept getting requests and some people just really really wanted it. We aim to please! So why do I opt out on Oak? It is ridiculously porous, and might as well be a pile of straws sucking up water. This means it bows exceptionally easily, despite it being a harder wood.
Beech: My personal favorite, as it is the Maple of Europe. It's an industry standard, it is dense, often underappreciated, and only gets more pretty with age. It slowly becomes a deep dull red. The grain is also really tight, meaning you won't have to worry as much about it soaking up water like Oak.