Jim Zink has been working with wood since he was a boy. “I learned basic carpentry from my father, woodworking classes in high school and adult education courses. I also put myself through school building houses.” Jim earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Maine and also worked as an engineer and home inspector. “I was always interested in woodworking. It was always in the back of my mind. Then I realized that I missed making things rather than watching them be made.”
In the early 2000s, he started buying tools. “I was avidly reading magazines like Woodworker’s Journal. Then I decided to get real. I bought a table saw, jointer, band saw and a planer. It was a big investment for an amateur woodworker. I have kept upgrading, but still have and use two of those original tools.”
He started by making boxes. “Boxes use the same techniques required for larger pieces. It was a lot cheaper to practice on boxes until I really learned techniques. I was basically self-taught for about 10 years. In those early days, I did everything with machines; then I discovered the joy of using hand tools.” That happened when Jim took the nine-month course at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine.
Now living in the Lakes region of New Hampshire, Jim says, “I get much of my wood from a local sawmill.” Since there are no large lumber stores nearby, he also adds variety by purchasing wood online. “My favorite woods are cherry and curly cherry because I like the finished product,” Jim said.
In 2012, Jim made the decision to become a professional, full-time furniture maker. He specializes in furniture with a contemporary style, which he feels emphasizes the beauty of the natural wood grains and figures. “Manipulating colors and patterns in wood to complement lines, curves and surfaces in furniture comes intuitively to me.”
At the 2015 Fine Furnishings Show in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Jim’s Standing Desk project won the New Product Debut/Innovative Design award, sponsored by Rockler Woodworking and Hardware, an accomplishment that Jim found thrilling.
He has also created both a Wishbone Floor Lamp and a Wishbone Standing Coat Tree – the latter in response to a show attendee who looked at the lamp and said it would make a great coat tree. To create this request, Jim uses flexible green wood that still retains its bending ability. The base consists of thin pieces of tiger maple interwoven in and out of base supports, then inserts into slots. He laminates thin pieces of wenge to make the base and center supports. The end result of the Wishbone Standing Coat Tree has branches for hanging items.
Who knows, perhaps Jim will find more inspiration from those who attend the shows he’ll be participating in this year.