This interview with Dennis Zongker from the October 2013 issue of our LumberJocks eMag.
1. How did you first get started working with wood?
When I was 14 years old, during summer time I worked at an architectural mill shop sweeping floors, and tailing on the moulder or planers. On occasion I would be able to help a cabinetmaker or a machine operator when they would need an extra hand.
2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
What really got my passion for woodworking to level that is today was I started reading history books on some of the master woodworkers of the past. A few that I read was Marquetry by Pierre Ramond, The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany, The Art and Practice of Marquetry by William Lincoln, Antonio Stradivari His Life and Work, and Grinling Gibbons & the English Woodcarving Tradition. When I read about other cabinet makers and how talented they were it gives me inspiration makes me want to try harder.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today
To get my woodworking business started I sold all my amps and guitars to purchase a table saw, miter saw and an assortment of hand tools. This was not an easy thing to do because at the time I was a professional musician. But my passion for woodworking had overtaken the passion I had for music.
I ended up getting a job at a local cabinet shop where my brother was working. After so many years of working there my passion was leaning more towards building furniture. In order to buy more shop equipment I needed extra money so in the evenings I started making furniture and restoring antiques in my garage and basement of my home.
In 1989 my brother Dan and I decided instead of working at a cabinet shop we wanted to start our own business making custom furniture. Every year that went by we grew little by little with the quality of the pieces and the amount of work it has never been an easy road but when you have a deep passion for something it makes it well worth the journey to get there.
4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?
I love to see beautiful pieces of furniture, boxes, carvings, turnings and almost all types of woodworking. I like all the styles though out history and really admire the old masters in Europe when woodworking was at its Zenith.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way? (and how did you overcome them)
I think that with almost any small business it would be cash flow. The ups and downs can be like a roller coaster at times and working as many hours as it takes to survive. The worst year that we ever had I would work 14 hours a day seven days a week for a little over a year. So I would say that just stick to your plan and never give up. Sometimes the best way out of a bad situation is to work hard and keep believing that it will get better.
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking? (personal or tangible)
It is hard to say what my greatest reward is when I have so much to be thankful for in my woodworking journey. I feel blessed that I love my work/business and I look forward to coming in every day. After business hours I then get to enjoy creating, building even more pieces. I get to work with my brother, son and wife in a pleasant daily atmosphere. Last but not least I have written a book to share with others on some of my methods of woodworking. So when you add it all up these are all my greatest rewards.
[NOTE: Dennis has donated a copy of his book for a “LumberJocks Free Draw”. Details are in this month’s eMag]
Also, you can read Roger Bean’s review of his book here: http://lumberjocks.com/reviews/product/3465
7. What is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?
My favourite tool is the #3/8 fish tail gouge for adding fine details to my carvings.
8. What is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?
I would say my chess table, chairs and playing pieces and the Griffin table are equal.
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?
I would say everybody no matter who you are has ups and downs. I have definitely had mine. The best thing I feel is to never stop trying even if that means working harder than you already do and maybe come up with a new better ways of selling yourself to the right kind of custom. I have found through the years of being in business that being able to be more diverse in many areas of woodworking has its advantages that’s when I started learning how to turn on the lathe, carve and marquetry.
Try to stay positive and keep your head up high and then one day things will get better. Sometimes you can’t see how far you have come until you take a deep breath and open your eyes and look around you to see your progress.
10. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I had a friend on another woodworking site and asked me to go check out this really cool woodworking website. So I did and have had the LumberJocks Fever ever since.
A big thanks to Dennis for taking the time to do this interview AND for the donation of a copy of his book for the draw!
-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)