LJ Interviews #11: kolwdwrkr

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by MsDebbieP posted 01-11-2011 03:56 PM 2339 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 10: CharlieM1958 Part 11 of LJ Interviews series Part 12: GaryK »

This interview is from the January 2011 issue of the “CreativeHands News”. Thanks to kolwdwrkr for taking the time to do this interview.

Before we start, are you still doing woodworking or have you moved on?

“I’m pretty much moving on. It’s not happening overnight that’s for sure. I still have a couple of projects to wrap up. After I posted that I wanted to quit people have taken an interest. It’s hard to tell them no but I’m trying too.”

1. How did you first get started working with wood?

“My family was always poor so us kids had to work. It’s a small town so construction was the main industry. I took a job building log homes 2 summers before I graduated high school. Once I started doing the finish carpentry I realized I enjoyed doing detail work.”

2. What was it about woodworking that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?

“To be honest I never liked doing it. It was a job, and I needed money. As I got older I started buying some of my own tools and was able to start making things for myself. Once I was able to be creative on my own I knew I liked it.”
Click for details

3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today… including your decision to leave woodworking

“While in Colorado I was building log homes. We did everything from dig holes to applying watco. The only subs we called in was tile, plumbing, and electrical. Everything else was wood. It took us 2 years to build one house. I was working on some roofing one day and a girl jogged by. She would become my way out of Colorado and led me to California. I worked security until I got a job as a cabinetmaker. It didn’t take long until I was the foreman of the shop. My boss also let me build projects for myself, and even gave me the material. I built an entertainment center and some other small projects. I won’t go into details, but I quit that job and started working for a construction company. He had told me that I would be his partner once things picked up, and that I would be running the cabinet shop. Well several conversations and months later I came to the realization that he had no intentions of keeping his promise. It was upon that realization that I had to
start my own shop. I had acquired my C-6 license at this point, which was why I was going to be a partner.
In 2004 I opened up KOL Woodworks and became his sub contractor. I contracted through homeowners and designers doing residential woodwork. The focus was on kitchens, baths, entertainment centers, etc. I started doing the Philharmonic House of Design, and did that from 2005-2008. The house is set up through the philharmonic society. Designers are given a room and decorate it. They call in their own help to get the work done, and the house opens to the public. The proceeds help the children.
In 2008 my wife left me and things took a turn for the worse. I was left with a ton of tax debt, as well as a lot of unfinished work. I couldn’t afford to get advertising, and had to finish up the jobs I had. Needless to say the work stopped and the bills didn’t. I eventually lost my shop, house, etc.
It took 8 months for me to find a job. Now I am the production manager for a small shop in Costa Mesa, and have been considering starting KOL Woodworks again. My current employer is willing to sublease the shop, and give me work. It’s a tough decision. I’m good at woodworking, but I’m not good at business. What happens now is still up in the air.
Although cabinetmaking is my profession, I have decided to leave woodworking behind. I can’t stop doing it now because it pays the bills. But eventually something else should pay the bills. I think the industry isn’t stable enough to rely on. Even if I don’t move on it would be nice to know I could. So I have decided to put woodworking aside to focus on Jiu Jitsu. The goal is to become a Professor. If it becomes a full time thing then I can do woodworking as a hobby again. I think I would enjoy that more then trying to make money at it.
People ask me why I can’t do both. Simple. It takes a lot of focus to be good at something. You can never be great at anything if you are focused on too many things. If I focus on both Jiu Jitsu and Woodworking then I will be okay at both. If I focus on Jiu Jitsu then maybe I can be great at it.”
Click for details

4. What inspires you regarding wood creations? and your new venture?

“I’m always inspired by my creations, even the bad ones. Just being able to make something from nothing should be inspiring to anyone. Plus you get to sit back with a grin and say “I made that”, or you can learn from mistakes throughout the process that will help you on the next project.
What inspires me on the new venture is the fact that I can help other people. In woodworking you can find all the information in the world about what you need to know on the internet. You don’t need anyone else to help you. In Jiu Jitsu you can’t fight alone. There has to be a partner, so it helps me to gain better “social nerves”. Not just that, but friends. There’s a great satisfaction when someone asks about a move, and you get to show them. Participating in championships is fun too, and like any sport, winning isn’t all that bad.”
Click for details

5. What are the greatest woodworking challenges that you have met along the way? (and how did you overcome them)

“Honestly, making money has been the greatest woodworking challenge. There are tools to do anything, and literature on how to use it. If you are patient with the process and devoted to it, you can accomplish anything. But there are no guarantees that someone will pay you for it. Unfortunately people haven’t separated production work from craftsmanship, so they want custom pieces made at production prices. It isn’t and never will be feasible. The other challenge is being able to afford to do it. I may want to do something that isn’t meant to be sold, but can’t afford materials or the tools to do it. Bottom line, money is challenging.”
Click for details

6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from woodworking? (personal or tangible)

“The experience. I have produced a lot of work for a lot of people. When they do their walk through and tell me how wonderful everything is, that’s my reward. The reactions from people who see my work to me are priceless.”
Click for details

7. What is your favourite tool that you use for woodworking?

“I enjoy using various tools. I use most of them during the process. So my favorites are normally the new ones, or the ones I’m least familiar with. The lathe is my favorite right now, but that’s only because I have nothing to turn.”
Click for details

8. What is your favourite creation in/for your woodworking?

“My favorite creation is my bubinga cabinet, the one on the black stand. I haven’t made to many things “for” woodworking that I keep around.”
Click for details

9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with woodworking?

“Do it because you love and enjoy it. Don’t do it for money. You will eventually hate it. If it starts to feel like work then you don’t enjoy it anymore. Keep your tools sharp. Be creative. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. If that were true we’d be living in caves. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and be explorative.”
Click for details

10. What have you learned about life in the past few months, from making that decision to leave woodworking and then picking it up again.. and now – wherever that leads you?

“I’ve been learning some harsh realities for awhile now. I’ve always thought that things would be okay if I just kept doing what I do. Losing everything kept me down for a long time, and still does. I was fortunate enough to get to rent the place I’m in now, and to get the job I have. I’ve learned that you can’t just sit around. If something isn’t working then make the necessary changes to move forward. I need to put my family first.
Woodworking isn’t paying my bills, so my decision is to seek what will. Who knows, maybe it’s another mistake. But at this moment, woodworking has been the mistake.”
Click for details

11. How did you find LumberJocks and what is it that keeps you coming back?

“I can’t remember how I found LJ’s. I think I was on a different forum and found the link. I’ve made a few friends, and enjoy seeing all the work. Most of all, though, I thoroughly enjoy helping people doing anything in life. So I like to write “how-to” blogs on doing certain things. Lumberjocks is a good all around forum to do everything woodworking related, and even though we are only supposed to be woodworkers there, we do realize that we are all people too, and can have more in common then just woodworking.”
Click for details

Thanks again for doing this interview. I wish you well with your new venture.
And I have to say that I hope you are able to put your woodworking skills to use in your future. You truly have a gift and I, for one, have benefited just by being inspired by your creations.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

12 comments so far

View stefang's profile


16722 posts in 3839 days

#1 posted 01-11-2011 05:42 PM

A bit of a sad story, and all too common. Woodworking as a hobby is probably the best situation for most. It certainly isn’t easy to be creative, work physically for long hours and still try to run the business end.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Heidi Neely's profile

Heidi Neely

550 posts in 3679 days

#2 posted 01-11-2011 07:32 PM

Sorry for the “mush” in advance LJ’s…...

I just have to say~ I’m SO incredibly proud of Keith for everything he has accomplished in his life, and I’m excited for what’s to come and sharing those new accomplishments together!

Coming from a relatively poor upbringing in a small town in CO….. to have the drive inside of you to completely change your life, to come to So Cal, run a successful business of your own for so many years, to have your work in hundreds of multi-million dollar homes, to grow the company to where you’re bringing in 3 quarters of a million dollars, being asked to do the Philharmonic House of Design 3 years in a row…’s absolutely amazing stuff, and something most will never accomplish in a lifetime! (And you did all of THAT before the age of 30!!). All along you never compromised your good name in keeping excellent quality, attention to detail, and customer service…..your record of customer referrals, and repeat customers calling you back wanting MORE of your work will attest to that!!

What’s more, after taking such a hard blow and losing it all after the economy went bad and the divorce, having the courage to get back up and continue to move forward is just as incredible! I know many days you didn’t want to (and probably still don’t), but you do it for US, to provide for our little family, so it really means alot!!
It’s this drive in you that will carry you far in whatever you do, and I’m so proud of you and excited to see what the future holds for us. No matter what’s in store, I know woodworking will always be a part of our lives in some way. :)

-- Heidi :) “The only source of knowledge is experience”

View Grumpy's profile


25623 posts in 4356 days

#3 posted 01-12-2011 02:46 AM

Great interview Debbie & Keith. I think woodworking is in his blood, he will never give it away.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View mtnwild's profile


3474 posts in 4032 days

#4 posted 01-12-2011 03:15 AM

Keith seems the type not to stay down or let the past do more than teach. He has to express himself and fortunately it’s shows it’s self in artistic expression. Even your self defense. You are an artist, its your way. Nice to have seen your work till now. Thanks…...............................

-- mtnwild (Jack), It's not what you see, it's how you see it.

View kenn's profile


813 posts in 4224 days

#5 posted 01-12-2011 07:25 AM

You have done some great work, I can still stare at “Torn 2” and not believe what I’m seeing. It is a sad day when your talent can’t be enough to feed your family. It does seem that all the growth and interest in woodworking is among the hobbyists. Good luck.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4398 days

#6 posted 01-12-2011 07:48 AM

you are outstanding in a sea of fish

always enjoyed your “reads”

thanks for posting

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4467 days

#7 posted 01-12-2011 05:02 PM

Best of luck to you, Keith. You have had an amazing life so far and I know you will be great at anything you try.I also know you will be back once in a while to check up on everybody, just like I do. So, check on us all and keep up the good work. See ya in the fall if we see ya at all.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 3343 days

#8 posted 01-13-2011 04:01 PM

I am confused? Ms. Debbie, there are 20,000 people on this woodworking site, many with phenomenal talent and insight, yet you choose to interview a guy who has overtly expressed a desire to quit wood working althogether and pursue- ju jitsu? Perhaps I am alone in this, but I just don’t get it?

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4665 days

#9 posted 01-13-2011 06:17 PM

and I think he represents a lot of woodworkers who struggle with a decision to quite/move on.. find an outlet for their passion and still have the love of woodworking running through their veins… once a woodworker, always a woodworker.
There are SO many reasons to interview Keith.

Sorry that this interview hasn’t been an inspiration for you in some way. I hope others are able to find a jewel within the stories.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View GaryL's profile


1099 posts in 3335 days

#10 posted 01-13-2011 06:29 PM

The fact that kolwdwrkr accomplished so much and established himself in a competitive market through hard work, excellent customer service and just plain producing excellent quality is an inspriration in itself. Perhaps many of us are evaluating our way of life to better ourselves and provide for our families. In these tough times all options must be considered.
Good luck kolwdwrkr in all you do.

-- Gary; Marysville, MI...Involve your children in your projects as much as possible, the return is priceless.

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 3343 days

#11 posted 01-13-2011 07:25 PM

I didn’t say he did do OUTSTANDING WORK… he of course does. I never meant to imply otherwise. Point taken.

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 4665 days

#12 posted 01-13-2011 07:29 PM

no problem :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics