Mike has been connected to Nelson ever since he went on a blind date with Kathy French, in 1971. It didn’t take him long to get drafted into the Nelson workforce. Kathy’s father, Win, always had his hand in multiple projects, including his own farming, and managing various aspects of property maintenance for the town and many homeowners. There was always work to do, and Win had a knack for putting people to work. If this was a test, Mike passed – he and Kathy got married in 1974, and after living briefly in Sullivan, they built their current house on Old Stoddard Road in 1980.
Mike started working at Markem, first in manufacturing, then eventually moving into sales. He also worked part time as a police officer for Nelson, and as a DJ, hired to provide music for weddings and other occasions. A busy guy! Not to be outdone, Kathy found herself teaching riding, doing a stint as town clerk, and also working as a tutor at Symonds School in Keene. And, oh yes, they also raised three kids – Chris, Ben, and Mallory.
Mike never forgot the pleasure of making things, which he had learned in high school woodshop starting at age 15. As retirement approached, he honed his skills and started producing a line of wood products, including special New Hampshire cribbage boards, and cutting boards. Over the last few years, under the name of Big Brown Dog Woodworks, he’s participated in craft fairs throughout the state, finding a ready market for his wares.
He is particularly pleased with the quality of the raw material, wood that he gets exclusively from Woodell and Daughters Forest Products in Langdon, making all of his creations relatively local.
A recent connection with New Hampshire Mutual Bancorp, which includes the Savings Bank of Walpole, has opened another opportunity: producing cutting boards, which the bank has engraved for new mortgage customers with their logo and the customer’s name. This and a few other projects keep Mike busy enough so he’s able to scale back on craft shows (which are fun, but arduous) and stay closer to home.
Mike expects to keep participating in local events like Nelson’s annual Artisan’s Fair (in early summer), but is otherwise focused on being in the shop and filling larger orders. So if you want one of his cutting boards, you have two choices: you can buy a new house mortgaged through the Savings Bank of Walpole, and you’ll get one at the closing. Or, for a less expensive option, stop by the shop (you can call or email beforehand) to see what he’s got. You might find the odd finished piece, or often he’ll have something just ready to be taken home for finishing (oiling) and put to use.
It’s hard for Mike to show off his shop without grinning. He takes not only pride, but great pleasure in his work, the engagement with tools, and the creative results.
Mike with his favorite tool: an oscillating spindle sander
New Hampshire Cribbage Board
Ready for bonding
Ready for shipping
Planning is underway for Old Home Week / Day 2022 – after a two year hiatus. This is a great opportunity to maintain a tradition, and also add some new ideas so that the tradition remains vibrant and appealing.
This is spearheaded by Elaine Giacomo and Jen Pepin, with survey help from Emily Tucker. We hope that you’ll take just a couple of minutes for this survey, to help guide this project. Of course we’ll be providing results and sharing ongoing developments with you through Nelson In Common.
The sack race – verging on the ridiculous and so much fun.
Nelson is thought to be the first among communities in this area to begin the Old Home Day custom. In 1899, Governor Frank W. Rollins, inspired by the Nelson gathering, urged the legislature to proclaim New Hampshire Old Home Week. Read about the history of Old Home Day in Nelson . . .