says he's been interested
in woodworking "forever," ever since he used to accompany
his grandfather on the weekends, either to a workshop or when the
grandfather built nets and frames for shrimp boats. "I used to
love to go up there with him on the weekend," Jason said.
Most recently, however, he began
building things for his house after getting married about 12 years
ago; friends saw them and asked him to build things for them; then it
became friends of friends -- and it went from there. "I rarely
build things for myself anymore," Jason said, even though
woodworking is still not his "day job."
Instead, Jason works as a polymer
chemist, which he says gives him a unique insight into the finishing
aspect of woodworking. "I don't make finishes, but the chemistry
is the same," he
said. "I kind of delve into the science
behind it." He says he's finding that newer waterborne finishes
are an alternative to lacquer that they weren't even seven or eight
years ago. "Now my number one finish is General Finishes
Enduro-Var. Its ease of use rivals any lacquer, at least in my hands
it does," he said. "I'm not trying to use green finishes, I
just think they're becoming more durable."
As for his actual woodworking pieces,
Jason says he's best known for his unusual chairs. "I
particularly enjoy building chairs. In my opinion, all aspects of
woodworking go into it: proportion, design, functionality. It has to
look good, but you have to be able to sit in it."
One of his chairs, "Curvis Sedis
II," is particularly memorable. It's got complex joinery of
interlocking dovetails, as well as spline dovetails, a covered seat
that's tapered to the edge, and a frame made of bent laminations. "It
was a real test of seeing how far I could go, and push the limits of
what I could do, to make it. I was sort of challenging myself, I
guess," Jason said.
Another chair in Jason's work has a
coopered seat, instead of steambent. "I wanted the grain to run
perpendicular to the curve," he said. "Right now, I'm
really into the coopering
technique, because not many people do it."
As for other techniques, Jason said, "I
like bent laminations; I like hand-cut dovetails -- I like the way
they look." Also, he said, "It's
taken me about 12 years to
appreciate hand tools in a major way. I'll use a power tool if it
will do the job better, but I can at least now appreciate when a hand
tool is the appropriate choice."
For wood choices, "I like to use
local woods, but it's not my main thing," Jason said. He just
finished a desk made from
a spalted pecan that fell near him, but the
desk also has a walnut top and turned wenge feet, while his dad's
position as a groundskeeper at a golf course on the Texas Gulf Coast
has meant Jason had access to some mesquite that had to be cut down.
He's also currently working on a piece with boards he sawed and air
dried for three and a half years which came from an elm tree in his
front yard that died. But, he said, "We don't have a substitute
for mahogany that grows in Texas."
Most of Jason's pieces have a
contemporary style, largely because "I do not like to copy
anything," he said. When potential customers approach him about
building something they've seen in a furniture store, "If
they're happy with those there, I tell 'em to go buy it. It will be
two to three times more if I build it. Some people don't understand
how much work goes into making a handmade piece."