A cutting board

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Blog entry by Dan Lyke posted 02-23-2008 08:16 AM 1019 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a cutting board. It’s not terribly flat. The boards which make it up are all different sizes. As you can see from the picture, it doesn’t fit in at all with the general decor of the kitchen it’s made for. I didn’t put in the “projects” section because… well… frankly I’m not terribly proud of it, but I had to show it off to someone because…

Nearly 9 years ago, the woman with whom I shared my life for the previous 7 or so, rolled over one morning and told me she was moving out. We parted as friends, in hindsight I admire her for being willing to recognize it was over and do what was the right thing for me, even if it meant some more struggles for her.

A few weeks later I was at a pot luck at an acquaintances house on the Tiburon peninsula, hanging out in the hot tub, and I met Charlene. We talked that first night, late into the night. She didn’t want to be the rebound girlfriend, I didn’t know what I wanted, and… well… we had a rough few first years. We broke up several times, tried couples counseling, in one case got a “heck, I don’t know what to do, seems like you’re coming from different places” sort of reaction, but for some reason we stuck with it.

Friends actually took me aside and asked if my “rescuer” complex was coming into play. Charlene and I tried to start a business, which burned through a lot of money (even by Northern California computer programmer standards). Charlene struggled with money generally, but finally found a job that gave her serious benefits and a career path, as a special education instructional assistant, and we were getting along fairly well.

Several years ago I was laid off, I played around with starting a company of my own but couldn’t figure out what the market for the software I wanted to write was, joined another company, didn’t like their ethics or methods of doing business, so when a friend came along and said “I’ve got a product, I just need a few people to help polish it for market, I can’t pay a salary”, I gave my month’s notice, got them to the next demo, and lived off of savings for a while.

We noticed that a friend had a house that she wasn’t living in but still had her stuff in it, we told her we’d move in, help keep it from falling down, rearrange her stuff, and pay a minimal rent. We learned to live way lean. The bank account dwindled. Charlene got really good at keeping me from spending money, we ate a lot of rice and beans.

A year ago, we were visiting Charlene’s family in Fresno. Her brother is an accomplished woodworker and works in a place that sells Festool products. We went over to visit his shop, got the tour, and Charlene said “you know, we’re always doing projects, this would let us have tools we could break out and use in the living room, we could actually do high quality stuff”, and, as close to zero as my bank account’s been since my early 20s, we scraped out a few thousand dollars on a whim, tied stuff to the roof racks, and drove back with a shop’s worth of Festool.

Somewhere around this time, too, we started to realize that living in the rented house wasn’t working for us. I’d started drawing a salary from the startup at this point, but it wasn’t much, but the market was starting to soften, so we made it our two year plan to buy a house.

In a market where a starter home is half a million bucks.

We scraped and saved and took odd jobs, and except for the few projects posted here, followed by the 200 day pause in posting, the tools languished. Somehow, though, the bank account grew.

In late summer, the CEO of an extremely well funded startup asked me to be CTO. It would have required moving, not far, but far enough that Charlene would have had to give up her job and start again at the bottom rung. We went out one Sunday to go get the pitch from the CEO, and as we were driving home she said “I can see why you’re so excited, but this would totally mess up my work.”

I said something on the order of “well, if this is going to be as good for me as we think it is, then we need to write up a contract so you feel comfortable with moving, because you mean a lot to my life”. She said something like “I think you just proposed to me, and I thought we both agreed that we weren’t interested in marriage.”

I ended up turning down the job, but at the end of November we got married, in December we made an offer on a house, in January we moved in, and in February I gave my notice at the startup to take a job with a real salary again.

This cutting board, this non-flat with burn marks where I tried to make the router bit dig too deep for the pinned cutting board edge, that I’ve had to take all sorts of glue marks off with 80 grit sandpaper, made from scrap maple that we picked up off of Craigslist and, incidentally, finished in walnut oil, is the first finished thing to come out of that shop, and the first step in updating the kitchen from (as you can see from the pictures) well-maintained but 1947 original ancient painted pine or fir cabinets to something we like.

It’s also my first project using my home-built router table and my first cutting board end.

And that’s why I had to share it.

Oh, and as I was struggling with trying to get those scraps flat enough to work into a cutting board, Charlene, now mistress of fiscal responsibility, said “we’re going to get you a planer and a Domino”. So we did (DeWalt 735 on the planer), adding to the many reasons I love her.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

6 comments so far

View Robb's profile


660 posts in 3934 days

#1 posted 02-23-2008 01:05 PM

Thanks for sharing your story, Dan. It’s interesting how seemingly illogical steps sometimes lead to a pleasing conclusion, isn’t it? Congratulations on moving through some difficult times to a happier situation (and getting some cool tools along the way!).

-- Robb

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3822 days

#2 posted 02-23-2008 01:09 PM

Hi Dan,

Thanks for sharing your story and giving some background o the cutting board. I find the history/story behind a project often as interesting as the project itself. From your story it sounds as if you have an understanding and loving wife. She sounds like a keeper.

Thanks for sharing your story.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4160 days

#3 posted 02-23-2008 01:18 PM

life’s twists and turns…. you just never know where you’ll end up!
Thanks for sharing the story AND for posting the cutting board project!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3874 days

#4 posted 02-23-2008 02:09 PM

Sounds like a story with a great ending. I am very happy for you.

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4051 days

#5 posted 02-24-2008 11:59 PM

Great story, we all are on seperate journies twist and turns and ocasional bumps. Thanks for sharing a bit of yours. welcome.

-- Hope Never fails

View gizmodyne's profile


1779 posts in 4090 days

#6 posted 02-25-2008 12:06 AM

Dan… That is a great story.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

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