Jacob Wasson got into woodworking somewhat accidentally: a friend needed a place to store his tools, and that place was Jacob’s garage. The friend ended up staying in his travel destination of Australia and, back in Minnesota, Jacob decided to start playing around with the tools.
Those included a table saw, a router, and a few hand tools, and Jacob built his first project, an entertainment center he described as a “200-pound monstrosity” out of plywood and scrap. “It was a disaster, but it was fun and I learned a lot,” he said.
Things grew from there. Self-taught, Jacob admits that there was much he didn’t know when he first began building pieces. “The first time I built a chair was a big challenge – working with compound angles and trying to get it comfortable, and then trying to reproduce it for a dining set.”
He also didn’t have a good appreciation for wood movement at the beginning, and struggled with finishing. “Now I’ve learned that if I invest a little bit more time and effort into it, it can pay dividends,” he said. Jacob prefers oil-based finishes, because they pop the grain – he’s fond of figured woods, such as walnut, maple or even leopardwood.
In applying the things he’s learned over the years, Jacob will sometimes return to a previous project. For instance, a few years ago, he built a “huge” walnut credenza for the house his family was renting. When they purchased a home, it was too big for the space and, Jacob said, was an awkward piece. “I thought, ‘I could’ve done better,’ but I didn’t want to waste the book-matched panels.” So, he tore down the piece, “downsized” it by about six to eight inches, and “now we use it all the time.”
Jacob does build for others, as well. “I have to always be building something,” he said. “If I don’t have a commission, I get restless and just start building something, filling up our house, driving my wife a little crazy.”
He thinks about building project a lot, too. Jacob’s full-time employment is as a physician’s assistant, and he keeps a notebook with him while commuting on the train so that he can sketch ideas.
He also had a notebook with him a couple of years ago when he and his wife were hiking Mount Kilimanjaro. Right before they left, Jacob got an email from his regular lumberyard about a piece of curly maple that had become available – and that, Jacob knew, would be the perfect sizing for a dining table.
He thought about the piece while hiking, made sketches in the tent at night, and used it as something to keep his mind off the difficulties of the hike. “I thought through every part of the construction, and the joinery, and the finishing,” he said, and when they arrived home, he rushed to buy the lumber and complete the dining table. “It went quickly; it had already been built about 100 times in my head,” he said.
Although Jacob enjoys the process of using hand tools — “When you get it set up and sharp, there’s something beautiful about working with a hand plane, without having to sand very much,” — most of the time, he finds that he doesn’t have time to do so. He does, however, use a SawStop table saw. At one point, he had been working in the shop over the weekend and, when he went to work Monday morning, his first pre-op appointment was a patient who had lost the tips of three of his fingers in a table accident. “I took that as a sign to go get one,” Jacob said.