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Getting it Right

We've gone through dozens of iterations of the cart in just the past 3 months. This includes everything from the wheel type, to the wood finish, the placement of the cupholders, and perhaps most importantly, the size and style of the oval perforations which greatly impact the weight.

I want to talk about this because it's such an important part of getting to a great version of the product. Not a final version, because there's probably no such thing. Just a really great version.

Last November I had a very rudimentary prototype born in the garage. For several months a design and manufacturing team and I worked through CAD files and getting a first version together. In January, that version hit the streets. It was quite impressive and drew immediate attention. We tested it with some real world market shoppers and got a lot of direct feedback.  It was so much better than my garage versions, I almost felt bad with the number of improvements it still needed.

Such is the case, however, and on several items we even went back to the drawing board. First we needed to get the wood right. The pre-finished maple plywood looked good on the outside, but has a rather weak core despite the high price finish. We ultimately found baltic birch to be the quality, consistent, and affordably priced material that would never fail us. The only struggle being its popularity and sometimes difficult-to-find supply.

Wheels were, and still are, a work in progress. There are so many options across all price points that it makes selecting them extremely difficult. We found that stroller wheels provided the right balance of strength, weight, and style. The ones we selected are sturdy and very smooth. Their internal bearings and tough polyurethane rubber allow the cart to travel quietly which is a challenge when rolling a chuck of wood down the street. It doesn't help, though, that it takes weeks to get a sample and months to get an order. Almost everything else we've ordered we can get within a few days, if not immediately at a local supply store. Ironically, wheels are slow moving.

wheel samples just arrived

We made a number of hardware choices for pins, screws and latches. I won't go in to the details, but it's been quite a journey. I didn't think that this would have been such a focus for so long, but with all the connections and moving pieces, the choices of hardware are a major consideration. I think this is probably worth a detailed article in itself, for another day.

predrilled holes for panel nails plywood finger joins

Finally, I'll end with the choice of wood finish. I now own dozens of cans, bottles, and quarts of stain, paint and finish. I should probably open a shop for partially used paint supplies. The prototypes have been covered in just about every material type and in many colors. There are many troubles with finish: some are toxic, most are expensive, and all of them are time consuming. I searched hard to find something natural with low VOCs, a fast drying and curing time, and a long outdoor life for weather resistance. I've been very pleased with Vermont Natural Coatings and their proprietary PolyWhey, which uses byproduct of cheesemaking in Vermont for the natural durability. It comes in several colors and I'm excited to cover the carts in them. Their business is very inspiring and their team extremely helpful. If you're staining a deck, fence, raised garden bed, or something else in the elements, I recommend Vermont Coatings.

testing wood stains outdoors

Next we're going to spend time getting the shipping and packaging right. This is a combination of reducing packaging size, but not asking the customer to have to assemble very much to get rolling. Then, in the not so distant future, we're going to start creating the carts in larger quantities. I'm predicting by mid April we'll have the first batch ready for delivery.

If you're interested, sign up on the Pre-Order and reserve one of the first Harvest Made Market Carts.

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