U.S. Army vet invests in her own wood shop and woodworking business

wood thingamjigs dog crate
Dog crate

 

 

(Q&A with Jessica Brown, owner, Wood Thingamajigs whose shop can be found on Facebook and at www.woodthingamajigs.com)

How did you get involved in woodworking in the seventh grade?

The students in my school were given the choice between wood and metal shops or cooking and sewing classes. Given that I had already learned to cook and sew from my Mom and Grandmother and having spent countless hours watching my Dad do various carpentry projects around the house, the obvious choice for me was to give the shops a try. From the moment I walked into that wood shop and smelled the delicious wood aromas, I knew I had made the right decision.

What equipment and main tools do you have in your shop?

  • Delta Table Saw and Planer
  • Kobalt compound miter saw
  • Jet band saw, drill press, dust collection system
  • 26” Shop Fox dual drum sander
  • Various Dewalt, Craftsman, Ryobi, and Porter Cable power and hand tools
  • Assorted pipe and bar clamps

wall tiles wood thingamajigsHow and when did your business, Wood Thingamajigs, come into being?

Every year my then boyfriend (now husband) and I exchanged one handmade Christmas present. For Christmas of 2015 my present to him was some wood letter tiles spelling out various important words for us and our family. I spent countless hours in our garage and our attic hand making more than 100 tiles. After Christmas, we posted a picture of my handiwork on Facebook, and one of our friends said I should start a business making them. I decided to give it a try as a business in April 2016.

Why the name?

After thinking about starting the business for a while and asking other people if it sounded like a good idea, I decided to go for it. We were sitting on the couch one afternoon throwing around ideas for a name for the business. In the brainstorming, it was asked “well, what will you make?” Wood stuff, wood items, wood thingamajigs.

What types of items do you make? What is a “pet novelty?”

We make everything from outdoor yard games to furniture. Our pet novelties consist of feeders, furniture-style dog crates, cat trees, and leash holders.

What is the largest or heaviest item that you have made? What is the smallest? What is the most special or unique?Wood Thingamjigs cutting boards

The largest and heaviest item that we have made so far is a custom, solid-cherry 12’ 3” dog crate with four separate compartments. This was co-designed with our customer and made to match her existing dining room furniture. The piece we made is used not only as a dog crate, but as a buffet or sideboard. Our smallest product is a hand turned, exotic wood wine bottle stopper. The most special is definitely the wood letter tiles that started this whole adventure. One of our favorite things to make is a cutting board. We like to integrate different species into the boards into unique designs. We love walnut, but we also use maple, cherry, paduak, and purple heart to name a few.

Who are your customers?

We have a broad customer base consisting of everyone from brides to businesses.

Do you have another fulltime job?

Yes, at this time I do have another fulltime job as a purchasing manager for a local additive manufacturing company.

Why did you join the U.S. Army, for how long, what did you do for them, where were you stationed?

I grew up in a family where nearly everyone served. I knew from a young age that it was something that I wanted to do. Right after high school, I enlisted in the National Guard as Military Police. A few years later, I applied to and was accepted into West Point. After graduating, I served at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. All together I was in the military for 16 years.

I see you are from Massachusetts. How did you end up in Ohio?

When I left active duty, I was married to a man who was from Northeast Ohio.

How did your current husband’s love of woodworking start and is the shared interest one of the things that brought you together? What is each of your roles in the company?

Jason’s love of woodworking also started at a young age working with his father remodeling an old farmhouse. He likes to remember the first time I showed him my limited shop when we first started dating. It is a fond memory for him. Our mutual love of woodworking brings us together. A few years ago I had surgery, and as I was healing and able to move around better we decided to make a project together. It was our first joint endeavor. It is lovingly referred to as “the project” in our family. We have had a few people ask to purchase it over the years but the sentimental value is priceless. When it comes to the business we share responsibilities for our orders. I tend to manage more of the business side of it, as well. We love to sit together and brainstorm the next project or the next step in expanding the company.

Where do you find your inspiration?

Our inspiration is found in a variety of places. Sometimes the grain of a wood catches your eye and says it needs to be an end table. Other times walking through the wood mill we will see a slab that just begs to be made into a bar top. Our inspiration is to be able to live a life where we love what we do and love going to work every day. A place where the work isn’t work. The cliché if you love what you do then it isn’t really work truly applies to our company.

What is your artist’s/maker’s philosophy?

“A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.” Louis Nizer

What do you do when you’re not woodworking?

Dream about woodworking

Artist’s work made from scuba tanks and cylinders

Patrick Andrews PSA Custom Creations

  (Courtesy of Guest Blogger Patrick Andrews, PSA Custom Creations)

Learning how to weld underwater might not be the traditional start of a fabricator or artist, but that was the route I took. As a U.S. Army engineer diver, I frequently worked in rather interesting conditions, but this only helped me to develop a greater ability to accomplish my work with the items and tools at hand.

Much of my art is made by recycling or re-purposing material. When I look at a piece of material, I try to see not what it is, but what it can become. I started out making bells and art with nothing more than an idea, a dry cut saw, and a MIG welder. To acquire more scuba tanks and cylinders, I have travelled to dive shops and scrap yards from Washington, DC, to Norfolk, Virginia, and many shops in-between. I also have received many cylinders from people that I meet at craft shows who want to re-purpose a tank rather than throw it away.

I have been able to sell quite a bit of my art online at Etsy, and a few pieces on CustomMade.com and Amazon Handmade. A little more than half of my sales so far have been at arts and craft shows and through word of mouth. These first years have allowed me to improve my techniques, develop my unique style and decide on the market niche that I am trying to fill.

During the last five years, I have poured nearly all of my profits back into my shop to acquire more tools. My tools now range from a large 1947 DoAll vertical bandsaw to a lathe, Bridgeport mill, 16-gauge stomp shear, slip roller, and two years ago, I purchased a new TIG welder. I have used online auctions, Craigslist and word of mouth to get to the point where I am close to having the set up that I want. A company like HGR helps me to target the specific tools I now want.

Time management is very important to me. When I’m not working at my full-time government job or making a piece of art, I manage my business. Like many one-person businesses, the time I spend in the shop working on a new project is only half of what I spend on this business. Managing online inventory, updating my website, creating videos, bookkeeping, attending art shows, etc, all bite into the time I have left.

See more at www.psacustomcreations.com.

Pat Andrews PSA Custom Creations lamp shelfPatrick Andrews PSA Custom Creations wall artPatrick Andrews PSA Custom Creations large bells and yard art