Knowing the talented craftspeople who create our products is an important business practice of ours. We love the DIY community, and try to support as many local artisans as we can. I thought it would be fun to have a little series of interviews with some of the awesome people we work with, as a peek behind the scenes. So of course, I used my live-in guinea pig and husband Jason to kick things off. Jason handcrafts a custom wooden keepsake box for each of our AMP Couples to keep all their wedding memories in one safe place. Isabelle (our dog) and I went to the workshop to visit and get some more information on what exactly Jason does all day when he is there.
Where did you learn to do this?
There really isn’t just one place. I read magazines, books, and blogs about woodworking, but none of that really matters if I don’t go and make something. I also have the unique opportunity that my day job allows me to use hand tools to make reproductions for the museum, that has helped me a lot in the last few years to develop my skills.
Why do you use hand tools?
I have more control over the tools and the end product. It’s also a lot more pleasant. I can do things like having my wife and dog in the shop while I work. Plus, it’s good exercise.
How long does it take to make a keepsake box, from start to finish?
A long time. Probably 10 hours each. Maybe more.
Do you have a favorite part of the process?
Cutting the dovetails, it is relaxing. I like how I can just focus on sawing and chiseling. The more I do it the better I get. Or maybe my favorite part is putting the finish on. That’s when the boxes really start to pop and get a good contrast between the end grain and face grain.
What music do you listen to in the shop?
My thoughts…Is that too artsy? That’s one of the reasons I like hand tools. There are no loud noises and I can just think. And the more I can hear the tools the better my work is, because the sound effects how I work. I can hear when my plane gets dull or my saw is binding, etc.
What happens if you make a mistake?
I cuss. (laughs) But seriously, usually the only time I make a big mistake is when I rush, and in the end it takes longer because I have to start over. That’s why it is better to slow down and do it right the first time.
How do you pick out the wood for each box?
I go to the lumber yard and sift through the stack of wood board by board. I am looking for nice straight grain with no twists. And I like to try to get timbers with the sapwood along with heartwood because they are different colors and make a nice contrast. It is hard to find that contrast in boards that are not twisted or cupped.
Why do you clean your bench after every step? Are you just OCD or is there a purpose?
The wood can dent when you clamp down if there are chips beneath it. So yes and yes. I like things neat and it has a purpose.
What’s your favorite tool?
Smoothing plane. It is the last tool to touch the wood. I have the most control over it and it puts a nice finish on what I make.