Interview with a Woodworker: J.J. Smith

This month, I'd like to introduce you to John Jay Smith, a member of our Facebook Page for 

I asked Jay what his inspiration story is and he shared the following: "I think if someone has a true passion (gift) for woodworking, they were born with it.  I have met people that wanted to learn woodworking, but they didn't have the gift.They were heavy into golf, hunting, fishing or many other hobbies, which there is nothing wrong with any of those hobbies, but if your going to be great at anything you have to make the main thing the main thing.

"My Grandfather was a hand tools only carpenter. I remember at the age of 9 or 10 his pickup had the great smell of sawdust. At the age of 12 we had a neighbor that had a shop full of tools; we became good friends. At the age of 16, I took 2 years of high school wood shop from a teacher that I greatly admired." 

Jay has graciously provided us with a tour of his shop.

Some plans Jay has for his shop: 

  • I plan to frame in the large door ways and paint all of the walls an off white and light color.
  • [I am] taking out the wood stove & replacing it with  a rocket mass heater. It will be a lot more efficient. My son built one for himself and it works very well.
  • The mass will be 2" x 8" with an anvil & work bench on top. The fire box reaches temperatures that will soften  metal.

Continuing with his inspiration story, I asked about his mentors. 

"In my early years my mentors were my high school drafting & wood shop teachers and my neighbor with the great shop.

"In 2012, I retired from a retail business that my wife and I built, owned and operated for 25 years. I have gone back to work for a millwork /cabinet shop. My mentors now are the two men that run the shop. They are both good Christian men that have many years experience in wood working.

"Some of my children have interest in wood working and I enjoy sharing my shop and knowledge with them. I'm hoping for a grand kid or two to share  with."

More of our Shop Tour

Some of the equipment in his shop are: 

  • horizontal belt sander from my retiring friend. 
  • shaper from my friend
  • 15" planer from my friend.
  • Incra shaper, that "has made a few box joints but it has a lot more  potential" 
  • Dust collector in the corner, with a cabinet that he built around it 
  • a new Woodmaster sander, still hooking up the dust collector and the electrical for it
  • panel saw that I bought from a friend  who is retiring.

Hand or Power Tool?

I always have to ask -- I think it gives us a little more insight into the woodworker, don't you think?

Jay shared: All of my life I have had big build projects going outside of making a living ( too much on may plate) so power tools were the only way to go. I would like to develop my skill using more hand tools.

Dream Project?

"I am actually in the middle of my dream  project. About 3 years ago we bought an old office bldg.  I am using over 2000 sq ft of the building for my shop. I have been laying it out, tearing out walls, running 220v  wiring, buying equipment and building work stations. My dream is to start building one of a kind custom projects.

"At my age I am not wanting a production shop with employees, just a place to create and enjoy wood working."

Shop Tour, Part III

Jay's Cabinets: 

  • " ...cabinets from where I work that didn't fit, I need to build  shelves,  face frames  and doors."
  • I started building this miter saw station last winter, I still need to finish the drawers and the stop fence system.

The Gift of Woodworking

And, what is the greatest gift that woodworking has given Jay?

"When I look back over the last 55 plus years of my life, I see houses, retail buildings, furniture and other things that i have built that are still being used. This makes me feel good knowing that i have shared my craft with others and just maybe I have improved someone's quality of life.

Jay's Words of Wisdom

To finish off our interview, what are Jay's "words of wisdom"?

"I would say to fellow wood workers: 

  • stay focused, don't get sidetracked, 
  • budget each month what you can afford to spend to build your collection of tools and equipment.
  • Educate yourself, learn something new everyday, which is a lot easier today with Google, youtube, social media and shops that will let you use their equipment to work on your projects  and learn from others; you can be building quality projects that you can be proud of in a short time.

Thank-you Jay, for taking time to do this interview and to give us a shop tour. We look forward to seeing your creations - and that completed dream project!