This interview with Lee Jesberger is from the December 2011 issue of our LJ eMag
Lee: “This is like taking a test! I didn’t study for it, so I’m going to have to wing it.”
1. How did you first get started working with wood?
As a teenager I worked for my father’s plumbing business. I was exposed to the various building trades. I always seemed to gravitate to the carpenters and the cabinet makers. Between that and wood shop in school, I realized it appealed to me very strongly.
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
When I was about 10, my parents inherited some very fine 18th century furniture. The pieces included a dining room table set and chairs, a couple of high boys, a Hepplewhite style sideboard, and a federal style secretary. I was mesmerized by the decorative carvings and inlays. I remember laying on the floor, studying the ball and claw feet on the chairs, trying to figure out how they were made. The carvings on the high boys were also very appealing to me, although the size of them intimidated me.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today.
When I was 14, I started buying tools with the money I was making from working for my father. My first machine purchase was a craftsman radial arm saw. It really angered my father that I bought it without checking with him. I seems I should have asked him if it was okay to take over part of the basement for woodworking. It wasn’t long before I was building vanities for his plumbing business, as well as furniture for the house. When I was 18, got hit in the eye with a steel pipe, while goofing around with some friends. I had no insurance to pay for the required surgery, and had been working for a contractor, which didn’t pay very well, so I decided to go into business for myself.
Since I wasn’t a licensed plumber, and I had a strong interest in carpentry, I figured I would start a construction business. For that, it was a simple matter of paying a fee to become a licensed general contractor. I got away from woodworking for a while, as I built up the construction business. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to get some very high end work. As the general contractor, I was able to do some of the woodworking required for the jobs. I bought a shopsmith and most of the accessories to accomplish this. Eventually my wife kicked me out of the basement, so I built a 24’ x 48’ shop in my yard. Just prior to finishing the shop, a project I had bid on about six months earlier came through. It was a large residential renovation, which included a large amount of cabinets and furniture. As always, one thing lead to another, and before long, I was doing more cabinet work than construction. That was by choice. It was far more rewarding to me to build furniture in my yard, than to drive to a construction site.
4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?
I would have to say the work of others has always inspired me the most. Seeing what other woodworkers are capable of never ceases to amaze me.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way?
As I mentioned, I started the construction business when I was pretty young. Convincing clients to hire a 20 year old guy to renovate their house was pretty difficult. On one occasion, I went to a potential client’s house for the initial meeting. After I entered the house, the husband stood by the open front door. I patiently waited, wondering why he wasn’t coming in. I finally asked what he was waiting for. He said, my father, he’s coming, isn’t he? I asked why would my father be coming. He said, You’re the contractor? Needless to say, I didn’t get that job. I overcame this by getting older. What I really did was to go buy a luxury car, and made sure the clients would see me in it. If a person appears successful, most people assume you know what your doing. Surprisingly, that really did make a big difference.
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking?
Personal satisfaction from creating something, in addition to being respected as a craftsman. Somehow, that means a lot.
7. What is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?
DUH? Ezee-Feed systems. There is something very gratifying in using a tool that you designed and manufacture, especially when it makes your life easier.
8. What is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?
See # 7.
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
So often I see the equipment that other woodworkers are using, and while I realize that not everybody can run out and buy the best of everything, I would suggest they buy quality tools. Often the problems aren’t due to the woodworker, there due to poor quality tools they’re trying to do high quality work with. There is so much more enjoyment to be had working with tools and machines that aren’t fighting you every step of the way. This is supposed to be fun, after all.
10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
Doing research for my own woodworking website, I came across LumberJocks. The reason I keep coming back is for the inspiration I get from the other LJ’s. Not only are they fine craftsmen that I can learn a lot from, they are also very fine people.
Thanks, Lee, for taking the time to take this test.. I mean do this interview._
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)