LJ Interviews #42: Dennis Zongker

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Blog entry by MsDebbieP posted 10-15-2013 09:34 AM 2484 reads 2 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 41: Larry & Karen Wiebe Part 42 of LJ Interviews series Part 43: C_PLUS_Woodworker »

This interview with Dennis Zongker from the October 2013 issue of our LumberJocks eMag.


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

When I was 14 years old, during summer time I worked at an architectural mill shop sweeping floors, and tailing on the moulder or planers. On occasion I would be able to help a cabinetmaker or a machine operator when they would need an extra hand.

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

What really got my passion for woodworking to level that is today was I started reading history books on some of the master woodworkers of the past. A few that I read was Marquetry by Pierre Ramond, The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Germany, The Art and Practice of Marquetry by William Lincoln, Antonio Stradivari His Life and Work, and Grinling Gibbons & the English Woodcarving Tradition. When I read about other cabinet makers and how talented they were it gives me inspiration makes me want to try harder.

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3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today

To get my woodworking business started I sold all my amps and guitars to purchase a table saw, miter saw and an assortment of hand tools. This was not an easy thing to do because at the time I was a professional musician. But my passion for woodworking had overtaken the passion I had for music.

I ended up getting a job at a local cabinet shop where my brother was working. After so many years of working there my passion was leaning more towards building furniture. In order to buy more shop equipment I needed extra money so in the evenings I started making furniture and restoring antiques in my garage and basement of my home.

In 1989 my brother Dan and I decided instead of working at a cabinet shop we wanted to start our own business making custom furniture. Every year that went by we grew little by little with the quality of the pieces and the amount of work it has never been an easy road but when you have a deep passion for something it makes it well worth the journey to get there.

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4. What inspires you regarding wood creations?

I love to see beautiful pieces of furniture, boxes, carvings, turnings and almost all types of woodworking. I like all the styles though out history and really admire the old masters in Europe when woodworking was at its Zenith.

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

I think that with almost any small business it would be cash flow. The ups and downs can be like a roller coaster at times and working as many hours as it takes to survive. The worst year that we ever had I would work 14 hours a day seven days a week for a little over a year. So I would say that just stick to your plan and never give up. Sometimes the best way out of a bad situation is to work hard and keep believing that it will get better.

Click for details


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

It is hard to say what my greatest reward is when I have so much to be thankful for in my woodworking journey. I feel blessed that I love my work/business and I look forward to coming in every day. After business hours I then get to enjoy creating, building even more pieces. I get to work with my brother, son and wife in a pleasant daily atmosphere. Last but not least I have written a book to share with others on some of my methods of woodworking. So when you add it all up these are all my greatest rewards.
[NOTE: Dennis has donated a copy of his book for a “LumberJocks Free Draw”. Details are in this month’s eMag]
Also, you can read Roger Bean’s review of his book here: 


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

My favourite tool is the #3/8 fish tail gouge for adding fine details to my carvings.

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

I would say my chess table, chairs and playing pieces and the Griffin table are equal.

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

I would say everybody no matter who you are has ups and downs. I have definitely had mine. The best thing I feel is to never stop trying even if that means working harder than you already do and maybe come up with a new better ways of selling yourself to the right kind of custom. I have found through the years of being in business that being able to be more diverse in many areas of woodworking has its advantages that’s when I started learning how to turn on the lathe, carve and marquetry.

Try to stay positive and keep your head up high and then one day things will get better. Sometimes you can’t see how far you have come until you take a deep breath and open your eyes and look around you to see your progress.

Click for details


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

I had a friend on another woodworking site and asked me to go check out this really cool woodworking website. So I did and have had the LumberJocks Fever ever since.

Click for details

A big thanks to Dennis for taking the time to do this interview AND for the donation of a copy of his book for the draw!

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

10 comments so far

View Skylark53's profile


2712 posts in 3568 days

#1 posted 10-15-2013 12:44 PM

Thanks Dennis for sharing and Deb for another very fine interview. Its always a great pleasure and encouragement to hear from those amongst us who excel in creativity, excellence, and pure determination, all the while, generously sharing the paths they have taken.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2800 days

#2 posted 10-15-2013 01:00 PM

Nice interview of a very talented LJ. Look forward to receiving and reading his new book.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View stefang's profile


16730 posts in 3842 days

#3 posted 10-15-2013 01:14 PM

An excellent interview Debbie.

Dennis is and has been one of my favorite woodworking heroes almost since I joined LJ. Not only his work, but also his active participation in this site has always been inspiring. There are many gifted top level woodworkers on LJ, but Dennis has gone a step further than most by producing projects with a very pronounced artistic dimension that makes his work extra special. That he is able to put so much time and effort into his projects and still manage to make a profit from them is a testament to the quality and creativeness of his work.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View bowtie's profile


990 posts in 2854 days

#4 posted 10-15-2013 02:07 PM

” So I would say that just stick to your plan and never give up. Sometimes the best way out of a bad situation is to work hard and keep believing that it will get better.”
I was inspired by your comments as we all are by your work. I’m trying to make a go at woodworkng fulltime (the last 15 months) and I thought I was the only one struggling with long hours and the ups and downs of sales.
Thanks for the post!

-- bowtie,.....jus passin thru....

View Ken90712's profile


17741 posts in 3697 days

#5 posted 10-15-2013 03:45 PM

Great interview from one of our Masters! He is one of the many great people here that have always been so nice and willing to help us fellow woodworkers trying to improve with each project! I have shown my woodworking buddies his Griffin Table many times as it is a work of art! I couldn’t imagine what to charge for this as we all know the amount of hours that had to go into making this.

His book is great, and always look fwd to his projects.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View shipwright's profile


8380 posts in 3306 days

#6 posted 10-15-2013 05:28 PM

What a great choice Debbie!
Dennis, you are the kind of contributor here that gives many of us “Lumberjocks Fever”.
There are very few here who haven’t become better because of your tips, guidance and inspiration. I know I have.
Great interview, thanks for everything.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 3047 days

#7 posted 10-15-2013 06:38 PM

Great interview. I ditto what everyone has said, great projects Dennis!

-- I never finish anyth

View Grumpy's profile


25623 posts in 4359 days

#8 posted 10-15-2013 10:41 PM

Dennis you are a man to be admired, a very clever guy.

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

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3393 posts in 4220 days

#9 posted 10-16-2013 04:39 AM

It has always amazed us how someone with so much talent is still so willing to share freely with us wannabees! We’ll never achieve Dennis’ expertise, but we can enjoy all that he shares.

Thanks, Debbie, for letting us get to know Dennis a little better. And thanks, Dennis, for your willingness to share with us again.


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Roger's profile


21011 posts in 3312 days

#10 posted 10-16-2013 11:47 AM

Gr8 interview. Nice to know more about you Dennis. Congrats on your success.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. Kentuk55[email protected]

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