Jake Hanson holds a wooden block with a blade in the middle. He says it’s a wooden plane, and he thinks it could date back to the 18th Century. Two hundred years ago, a woodworker might have used this to create tools or finish off furniture. It’s the type of relic that would make a nice addition to someone’s antique collection on a shelf.
However, Hanson doesn’t have this wooden plane on a display shelf. Instead, it sits in his workshop, alongside a collection of other hand tools. Hanson uses them, along with power tools, to make kitchen utensils, coffee tables, pens and other handcrafted items.
The remarkable thing about Hanson is that he didn’t learn his craft from his parents. There was no knowledge passed down through the generations. Beyond basic instruction learned in school, Hanson has taught himself how to use his tools – both old and new.
Even more remarkable is the fact that Jake Hanson is only 17-years old.
It All Started With a Cutting Board
Hanson has a basement workshop and a full collection of tools now, but four years ago, none of it existed. The now-senior at Lowell High School signed up for a woodworking class his freshman year. “I made a cutting board,” he says. “We still have it upstairs and use it.”
Since then, Hanson has retaken the class five times. At this point, he could probably teach it himself. However, he keeps signing up because it gives him more time in the shop to experiment with new techniques and hone his skills.
In the meantime, he’s also built himself an entire workshop in the basement of his family’s home. He’s bought some tools himself, restored cast-off, rusted hand tools he’s found and benefited from a few gifts from friends and family along the way. He’s pored over internet videos, taught himself how to turn mugs and recently figured out how to weld so he could make a base for a coffee table.
Today, Hanson still makes cutting boards, but they are much more ornate. “I like being able to work with my hands, being creative,” he says. And that means his work is constantly evolving as he tries to new designs. Woodworking has gone from a hobby to something he now sees as having career potential.
Turning His Passion Into a Career
It isn’t surprising Hanson’s part-time job is at Woodcraft on 28th Street. However, the teen is hoping to make his love for woodworking into something more.
While Hanson has already started selling his items at craft shows and online, he originally hadn’t considered it as something with career potential. “I was looking at engineering before,” he says. He liked that, but an astute grandma suggested it might not be the right career for someone with a creative mind.
She suggested an industrial design major, and Hanson took that advice to heart. He’s visited Kendall College in Grand Rapids and also has Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina on his short list. The latter is known for its furniture design program.
Hanson doesn’t have any long-term career objectives other than that he doesn’t want to stop working with his hands. “I want to have my own small business where I can do custom orders, even if that’s in addition to working for someone else,” he says.
Tami Hanson, Jake’s mom, says she had no idea that first shop class would take her son to this point. “I totally thought it was a phase,” she says. However, now she’s sees the talent he possesses. “He has got such an eye for design,” Tami Hanson says. She notes that it goes beyond woodworking, and that her son was an integral part of making design decisions for their new house which ended up being perfect.
Where to Buy Items Handmade by Hanson
Selling under the name Handmade by Hanson, the Lowell teen sells his wares online and at local craft shows. He was at Sweet Seasons during Christmas Through Lowell and will have a booth at Impact Church tomorrow, Saturday, December 2, during their craft show that runs from 9am-3pm.
Hanson takes pride in all his work. “I focus on each piece individually,” he says. If you can’t make it to the craft show but are looking for handmade gifts this year, you can buy from his Etsy shop, which goes by the name JakesMakesCo.