Lumber Girl

Norman Teen Creates Handmade Cutting Boards to Fund Softball Passion

by Heide Brandes

Young Paisley Ross casts an unlikely image as she leans over her father’s band saw, slicing through a board layered with walnut, poplar and dark cherry wood. She’s been working on her project for a while, cutting strips of the wood and gluing them into what would eventually become a cutting board.

But this creation isn’t for her mother’s kitchen, and it’s not a birthday present or a Christmas gift. Once it is finished, she’ll add it to her inventory and she’ll eventually sell it to help pay for her true passion. Softball.

The 14-year-old from Norman spends a lot of her spare time in her dad’s workshop, producing her signature handmade cutting boards, which she sells at craft fairs and other venues through her business, Paisley’s Handmade Cutting Boards.

Woodworking and entrepreneurship go hand in hand for Ross, who has grown a fan following for the unique cutting boards. But the idea came out of necessity, not a passion for woodworking. Competitive softball is what drives Ross to work so hard.

Softball is a sport that takes a lot of time and money, she said. So, to make the time, she is homeschooled. To make the money, she makes cutting boards.

“My dad’s a construction worker and he taught me how to do this as a way to pay for my travel ball team, which burns a pretty big hole in the pockets,” Ross said. “I belong to a competitive ball team called the Oklahoma Twisters, and we travel a lot.”

Learning how to use power tools and designing the boards was confusing at first, but Ross said it’s fun.

“This was definitely my dad’s idea. Sometimes he sits down, and he just starts thinking about stuff. He just comes up with crazy things all the time. I, of course, thought this was crazy and completely out of my scope,” she said. “When I did my first Norman Art Walk show, people were like, ‘oh my gosh, are you Paisley?’ They were so head over heels because I’m this young and doing all this.”

Before her first show last March, Ross began selling her cutting boards on Facebook, but the business was slow at the start. Although the new year will bring a legitimate website, most of her cutting boards sell at area craft and art shows.

Learning to use power tools and designing the boards took a bit of effort. Her father taught her about the tools like the miter saw, table saw and the planar. He was careful to teach her how to use all the saws in the correct way.

“Some of these are really dangerous. I’m not allowed to use the table saw,” Ross said. “It starts smoking because it burns the wood. But I grew up around the tools, so I wasn’t really scared of them. I haven’t ever cut myself, except with a glue scraper that kind of nicked me. I get a lot of splinters though.”

Meanwhile, there aren’t many overhead expenses in her business. The wood is scrap that comes from a Norman cabinet store, and although mismatched, the scraps give Ross the freedom to create boards with different designs and colors.

“We get random pieces of wood and try to find those that are the same length. We rip them down and plane them, getting them all nice and smooth, then glue them up. That’s what we start with, and then we go and cut it and flip it inside out and that’s how we get a pattern,” she said. “Some of these take four or five days and we have to do 10 or 15 at a time.”

One of Ross’s most popular designs is one called “Chaotic,” a vibrant pattern of triangles of different woods. She’s learned to make zigzag borders and adds wild colors to make her cutting boards stand out.

“I never saw myself doing any of this, but I’ve learned a lot from it.”

Her mother, Libby Ross, said the new hobby has taught her daughter about business and to appreciate the costs associated with softball.

“I think it makes a kid a lot more appreciative and respectful of what a parent is putting out. It costs a lot of money to play travel ball,” Libby Ross said. “Uniforms are super expensive. Since we’ve done this, everything is no longer waged in dollars. We talk cutting boards. I want this? OK, I have to make and sell four cutting boards to get that. So, we have our own currency now.”

Paisley’s Handmade Cutting Boards runs at a 90 percent profit because everything is donated. All she pays for is her glue, oil and sandpaper. Most shows allow her to rent a booth for free or a discounted price. They enjoy having a 14-year-old businesswoman operating a booth.

Despite the growing popularity of her cutting boards, Ross only plans to continue the business through high school.

“I’m hoping to get a softball scholarship,” she said. “I really want to go to the FBI, so I’ll probably major in criminal justice or criminology.”

Until then, though, the Norman 14-year-old crafter and businesswoman will continue to create her colorful boards and compete in softball.

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/HandmadeCuttingBoards. – BSM

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