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Construction in America

Woodworking Experts Share Advice About Their Trade

Photo: Courtesy of Ian Schneider

Woodcraft gathered experts to weigh in on trends in woodworking, careers in craftsmanship, and the tools – mental and physical – needed for success.

Jory Brigham

Furniture Designer and Maker, Jory Brigham Design

What is the most rewarding aspect of a career in craftsmanship?

The life of a craftsman or craftswoman balances time in front of the screen and technology, allowing us to have a powerful connection with something more organic and imperfect. This lifestyle has short-term and long-term benefits. We see our ideas come to life and can manipulate them into something tangible, while expressing our individuality through creativity. Long-term benefits are enjoying our creations, whether now or by passing them on to live in other people’s homes for generations, bringing satisfaction and fulfillment that are hard to match in any other career.

Scott Phillips

Co-Host, “The American Woodshop”

What are some consistent qualities that make up successful woodworkers?

First is a good solid dose of patience. There is nothing fast about woodworking. And at a good hourly rate, it’s good pay. Word of mouth is key. So your reputation is everything. It’s imperative to always do your best work. And go that extra mile in every job! Plus, everyone is unique. Get to know your client. That way you can deliver what they really, really want. It’s especially important to match the type of wood to the environment that will be its new home.

Jack Bigger

President and CEO, Woodcraft Supply, LLC

How have you seen advanced technology drive innovation in the woodworking industry?

Woodworking is still a craft that requires sharp tools and abrasives to reshape wood into a useful object or a graceful piece of art – tools that are evolving as technology changes. Power tool safety innovations include the SawStop table saw’s skin detection feature that protects the operator from potentially disastrous blade and skin contact. DVR, another technology advancement, allows exact power and torque control for optimum performance by some lathes and drill presses. CNC machines, now more commonplace in home shops, allow users to combine programmable technology and routers to create intricate cuts in wood.

Chad McClung

Chief Editor, Woodcraft Magazine

What is one trend in the woodworking industry that you see gaining momentum in the coming year?

Folks want furniture and other objects in their lives to be significant – to have stories. Woodworkers young and old know that if they build well, their wares will outlast them and be carried to future generations. This isn’t a fresh trend; it’s why many of us work wood in the first place. But the idea is a sort of sustainability that modern makers really appreciate. Beyond the material itself, or practicing good eco-friendly habits like planting trees or working with reclaimed lumber, more people will value the handmade.

John Malecki

Custom Wood and Metal Worker, “The Builder”

What is the biggest misconception regarding a career in woodworking?

The biggest misconception is that it is slow, boring, dull, and not entertaining. If you watch my content, you’ll see it can be the exact opposite. There is almost nothing that brings as much joy to my life as smoking a huge slab of meat using wood from a tree that I cut, then eating it at a table built from slabs that I milled, while sitting on chairs that I’ve made. I get to bring dreams to life with my hands. There are few things in life that are that rewarding. 

Ellen Fure Smith

Builder of Furniture, Toys and Home Accents, Little Bare Furniture

What is one piece of advice you would give to an individual about to start his/her career in the industry?

Be adaptable and determined. Make do with what you have – the tools you have, the materials you have in the space you have. Be creative with your design and process to make it work. As your work grows and resources become more available, you will look back and remember the drive that started it all. I started with a jigsaw and an angle grinder during nap time. Now I have an ever-growing shop and client base, and my humble beginning still drives me to work harder.

To read more about these and other woodworking experts, visit

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