April Wilkerson: Building Things for Herself, and Telling Others How

April Wilkerson: Building Things for Herself, and Telling Others How

April Wilkerson graduated college in December 2012 with a degree in business management, and by January, with little money but some freed-up time, she was ready to put some of that time to use in improving her house.

It’s an older house, she said. “My big starting point was making a pantry for the house. It didn’t come with a pantry, and we needed a place to put food.”

She searched the Internet for instructions on building a pantry and found it frustrating that she couldn’t find any. “I felt like there should be a tutorial. I had to stop at every step” and, after not finding what she was looking for, expand her search to a broader category: as she looked for what kind of wood to buy, for instance, she determined, “OK, cabinet grade plywood is probably what I need. Then, it was, ‘How do I cut a piece of plywood down?’ Then, ‘How do I join pieces together?’”

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As she worked on the pantry, April was also knocking off smaller, weekend type projects in the meantime and had a blog, so, “While doing the pantry, I was already committed to typing out a tutorial on anything I worked on around the house. I thought, ‘I guess I’m being sort of hypocritical, learning how to build a pantry, and not passing it along.’”

April began documenting projects like her pantry on her blog, and as things went along, “It just snowballed,” she said. Sometimes, things were easier to demonstrate via video, so she began making videos. That led to an invitation from YouTube, which led to a YouTube channel. Now, she says, her tutorials are about 50/50 video and written. Although “YouTube is a bigger platform, some people prefer to read and see still photos, but I think most people prefer video,” April said.

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Although April says she has found, somewhat to her surprise, that she enjoys “the teaching aspect of things,” she does not present herself as an expert. For now, she says, “It’s, ‘I’m just a regular homeowner, and here’s how I got it done. I’m so new, I’m still saying, ‘This might not be the right way, but it’s the way I’m doing it. I’m looking forward to getting to the point where I can say, ‘This is the right way.’”

Her newness shows in the tools she owns, April said. For instance, her early pantry project was “the first time I used a circular saw, first time I used a drill …” Although, “I have quite an addiction to buying tools,” she said, “I wait until I need it before I buy it.” For instance, one of her most recent purchases was a Japanese pull saw, which she bought for cutting accents in a light fixture that will hang over a billiards table.

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VIDEO: April Wilkerson Pool Table Light 

“I would pick out a project I wanted to do that required a jigsaw, and I would go out and buy a jigsaw, or a router, or …” April said, although she did note that Triton Tools sent her all of their tools when they became a sponsor of her YouTube channel, as is Rockler Woodworking and Hardware.

She has not, however, branched out too much in her wood choices. She started off, she said, going down to the big box store and just working with anything readily available. Although she’s recently been diving into oak, still, “I don’t work with too much hardwood right now. I primarily work with plywood or pine or cedar. Maybe soon I’ll break into more of hardwoods; try a few, see what I think.”

April does not limit her projects to woodworking and, while she has not yet tried mixed media with wood, she said she recently got into welding and will eventually mix the two arts. “Ever since I’ve got into this whole mindset of making, there are lots of things I would like to get into,” she said. “I would love to try knife making, even sewing.”

But not to make things for other people. April’s motivation remains the one she started with: to make things for her own home and use. “I find that my motivation all comes from me wanting to improve my home,” she said. “I don’t build things because I think my viewers are going to enjoy it; I build things that I need.”

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April said her project planning consists of her moving around her house and thinking thoughts like, “I really need a utensil holder, or a porch swing…”

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She recently built a coffee table she’s particularly fond of, and she created an art project of a 14-foot tree trunk to be displayed on her living room wall. It took the place of a purchased corner nook her husband bought six or seven years ago, and that April has been trying to get rid of.

“My goal is to get rid of things I haven’t built. If I haven’t built it, it must go,” she said. That might take a while – with a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home, she said she has years of work ahead of her – but it’s her ultimate goal.

And, as she does so, she will continue her process of, as she describes it, “building things I need and want in my life and sharing with other people how to do it.”

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  • Sam Geraisy

    Great work/art

  • johnmorrison

    THAT’S HOW I GOT INTO WOOD WORKING , THE HOUSE I LIVE IN NOW I MOVED INTO ON MY 16TH BIRTHDAY, AN OLDER HOUSE (1938) MY FATHER HAD SOME EXPERIENCE IN BASIC WOOD WORKING AND HE TAUGHT ME THE BASIC’S SINCE THIN I HAVE BEEN “PRACTICING ” OR LIKE APRIL DOES IF I CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY IT , I MAKE IT ,MAYBE NOT AS FANCY BUT IT SERVES THE PURPOSE .THAT WAS 64 YEARS AGO, I AM STILL IN THE SAME HOUSE AND STILL “PRACTICING” . I DEON’T KNOW IF I WILL EVER KNOW ENOUGH TO CALL MYSELF A “WOODWORKER” BUT @80 I’N STILL TRYING AND ENJOYING IT,I HAVE LEARNED MORE IN THE LAST 5 YEARS WITH USING THE INTERNET WATCHING YOU,NICK FERRY, AND JAY BATES ON YOUR 3 WAY CONVERSATIONS. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK

    • Daniel R. Przybylski

      THANKS FOR SHA…. (sorry left my caps lock on)

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Rick Bodick

    I have been following April on YouTube – she is really amazing, her design and problem solving is out of this world, and she’s always describing her mistakes and how she fixes them – just a normal every day DIYer

  • Spencer

    Great way to go about it. I like your can-do attitude and your honesty about what you are doing and why. (I’m not a fan of those who become an instant expert when the camera is rolling. Expertise takes time and experience…and learning from mistakes.)

  • Pete Ferry

    Nice article, Joanna. I think this new woodworker is worth following. Give us a follow-up next year?

  • James Marsala

    You are a “woodworker” in the tradition of the pioneers who, when they needed a house, a bed, a corn crib didn’t turn to “YouTube” or even neighbors, they simply built what they needed. If that fell apart, they built another. As their lives progressed, they kept building and getting better at the process of turning an idea or a need into a solution. Bravo, I admire those who just get the job done.

  • Daniel R. Przybylski

    Love the billiard chandelier.

  • Lindsay Riddick

    Love April’s work. I follow a few woodwork YouTubers but she is one of the best. Technically sound, enjoyable and well presented. Great to see another column in the Today’s Woodworker mold.

  • Andrew Wilkerson

    She’s great. And she’s yet another Wilkerson woodworker! No relation but still.