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Meet Jake Sells

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jake Sells.

Jake, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I worked in the commercial banking world for five years aka I worked in a cubicle for five years and was starting to lose my mind. Growing up in Iowa (21 years), I was raised to work with my hands and build things. I get this from my old man. In search of a creative outlet, I decided to start building my own furniture and gifts for friends and family instead of buying.
With that in mind, back in 2017, it was time for my girlfriend and I to find a place together in LA and I had one necessity: outdoor space to set up a saw and build things on the weekends. After moving into a small house rental in the Highland Park area – I had my wish granted, which was a small rear patio area that I set up my miter saw. My first major project was a large ‘farmhouse-style’ dining table for my girlfriend and the rest is history. What started as a small hobby has now turned into a passion and small business that I hope continues to grow.
I also look forward to passing down this passion to my (future) kids one day.

Has it been a smooth road?
Shortly after settling into my hobbyist woodworking journey I was laid-off from the comfortable corporate job I was working. This was scary…at least at first. However, I soon looked at this as an opportunity and used that moment to light a fire under my ass and take my hobby and turn it into a business. I hit the ground running growing my network, setting up meetings, getting organized, and working my tail off in the woodshop.
This led to my first big job of installing a 10.5 ft live edge peninsula top, shelves, and vanity tops in a home renovation project in Highland Park. The exposure from this job led to word-of-mouth growth and new business. Money was tight, but that always led to my motivation and hustle to take JSW to the next level.
On another note, I am completely self-taught. I learn best by doing, learning from my mistakes, etc. Thank god for YouTube and IG as I spent a lot of late nights watching videos and seeking new information. You can ask my girlfriend (who has always been supportive during the ups and downs of this journey).

Alright – so let’s talk business. What else should we know about your work?
Specializing in hardwood creations imported from the farms of Iowa to the jungles of Coast Rica: Jake Sells Wood has you covered from small custom home décor items to large ‘live edge’ conference tables. I take huge pride in every piece that I make, however large or small. I also try and use unique raw materials that tell a story vs. using common big box retail products.
For example, I networked with a farmer from my home state in Iowa who provides me with live edge white oak slabs off of his cattle ranch in the southern part of the state. An Amish farmer on the ranch in Southern Iowa mills the wood before being shipped to me raw. I can smell the cattle ranch in the wood when working with it (yes, it smells like cow sh*t). However, I clean it up and turn it into custom tables, shelves, mantles, business signs, etc. that carries a story with it to the end-user (but not the sh*t smell. I take care of that ;).
My passion for every piece I work on separates me from others IMO. I always look back at the unhappy years I spent in ‘the cube’ and smile when I realize I’m doing something I love and I control.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Trends are a huge discussion in the woodworking world. For me specifically, I look at the trend of ‘shiplap’ barn wood accent walls on commercial jobs that I do. I see this trend dying out in the next few years or so. Another hot item in the live edge game right now is also epoxy river tables – or anything epoxy + wood-related right now. If you jump on Instagram you will see a lot of the woodworking purists cringing anything epoxy that shows up on the feed.
I understand that opinion, but I, myself, am indifferent to this fad. I too am sick of seeing nonstop epoxy river blah blah blah, but at the same time, you have to adapt to the trends. I enjoy the challenge large epoxy pours bring and I feel that it has helped to create a lot of beautiful pieces in my shop. One of my most prideful pieces is actually a small ‘cookie slab’ epoxy coffee table set that I made a few months ago.
Technology is also a huge game-changer in our industry. Computers are taking over. I side more with the purist woodworkers on this topic as CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines are doing all the work and people are calling it ‘woodwork’. However, I have used and see the need for CNC work in my shop so I get it. To each their own. If it helps with efficiency on large jobs or cleaner cuts for commercial-type jobs then I’m all for it!

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N/A: all my own

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