Well, it took a few days to recuperate from all this. Excuse me while I get some ketchup for the crow I'm about to eat.
I gave much thought on how I could save face in this reply. I don't think I can nor am I deserving of such a rescue. My calls and email were for the right reason but presented in the wrong way.
First off, I'm mad. Mad at myself mostly. Mad at Mr. Smith, like a kid waiting for his Red Ryder BB Gun. Instead of shooting my eye out, I cut off my foot and stuffed it in my mouth. During my emails and phone conversations with David Smith my wife kept telling me how much we are alike. I think she's right. It was like I was arguing with myself in some ways. I believe we would both gladly cut off our nose to spite our face. At least that is often the case with me.
The internet is such an impersonal way of communicating. It's faceless and sometimes one--I in this case--gets so wrapped up in a virtual world that it is easy to forget that there is a person or persons that are on the receiving end.
I received my 16" x 22" Carolina slab last week. The packaging itself was beautiful. I opened up the box and there it was. It was wrapped in shrink wrap which gave it the appearance of being under glass. I pulled the board out, pulled off the wrapping and stood there dumbfounded. That is when it hit me, what a Shmuck I'd been. It is beautiful and really is a work of art. I am not exaggerating when I say I got a bit teary eyed at how beautiful and well crafted the board is.
Let me preface this by explaining that I am a finish carpenter and wood worker myself. I'm a general contractor specializing in renovating and repairing old Victorian homes. I do work that many have no idea how to do. I know about different woods and techniques of working and manipulating them. Nothing is easy and nothing seems appreciated. It's not too unlike cooking. There is a plan, materials, tools and the opportunity to create something beautiful and lasting. The most important thing is the amount of love and care one puts in their craft. A chopping block and knife are the equivalent of a good workbench and saw. With that said, I think that I qualify to critique Mr. Smith's board from
a wood-worker's viewpoint.
I looked at many boards both in person and on the internet. I was more interested in quality over price. I set--without ever seeing one--Mr. Smiths boards as the benchmark for all end grain cutting boards. Many of the others are glued up in a checkerboard fashion and most measured an 1.5" thick or less (versus Mr. Smith's brick pattern and 2" thickness). They looked like you could whack them on a counter top and split them in half. They are inherently week and lack the strength, stability and the visual appeal of Mr. Smith's. Many, including John Boos' boards looked like they were glued up from scraps from a bowling alley.
Mr. Smith glues up his cutting boards not out of left over scraps from some wood shop like making Tater Tots, but uses pieces of wood measuring 1 7/8" x 4". The larger pieces of wood allow for more glue surface for the interior of the board while exposing less seems and glue lines from the cutting surface. On top of that it is constructed in a brick pattern which adds even more strength to the board.
It is difficult to work with end grain. It is more porous and requires sharp tools and quite a bit of skill and patience to do it right. Sometimes it's gnarly, other times fuzzy and impossible to smooth--unless one is highly skilled and cares about the end result. My board is as smooth as a baby's bottom. I placed a straight edge on the board and it is as perfectly square and flat as it is beautiful.
Mr. Smith alternated the annular rings of the board to prevent warping and as a consequence of this stabilizing technique it creates a beautiful figure on the surface of the board. The center of each individual block absorbed more oil than the edge grain thus darkening more and radiating out to a lighter color and creating a visual enhancement to the brick pattern. I swear, at night when I turn off the lights it glows.
One little item where I think he went above and beyond are the feet. This is truly a sign of care. He takes a carrom shaped piece of wood and bores a flat bottomed hole and glues the rubber feet into that recess. One can barely see the feet and the shadow the board creates on the surface it's sitting on makes it look like it's floating.
Mr. Smith, you are a rare breed and turn out a beautiful creation. I criticized you here and I apologize to you here. Having a skill such as yours you deserve a bit of slack and I hope others can learn from my debacle.
Believe me when I say, Mr. Smith's boards may be the best in the world. There may be others out there somewhere which might come close to equaling his, but I can not imagine one better.
If you're ever in my neck of the woods, come on by, give me a poke in the nose and we'll sit out on the front porch with a beer and shake our fists at the passerby's.