Find a Tree, Turn it Into Furniture!
If you stop to think about it, the fact that we woodworkers can take a rough milled piece of lumber and transform it into a piece of furniture or art is quite amazing actually. For most of us, woodworking begins at the lumber yard, but for Matt Cremona, woodworking begins in the outdoors hunting for logs for his projects.
At first glance, you probably wouldn’t guess that Matt harvests and mills full size logs as a side business and as part of his woodworking routine. He may not be a burly dude, but it is rumored that he eats pancakes for breakfast every day!
Of course, he’s also a very accomplished woodworker and he does a bang up job teaching others what he knows. I’ve found his channel to be extremely useful in learning all about milling your own lumber along with a heap of great woodworking tips. I even learned that there are contraptions out there that turn a chainsaw into a mill that can slice up slabs from a log. Who knew!!
I’ve been following Matt for a while now, and I wanted to dig a little deeper and learn more about him and his work. A few months ago, he decided to make a career change to pursue his woodworking passion full-time. I had to take the opportunity to learn more about him and squeeze some great business tips out of him as well.
Enjoy the interview!
Who is Matt Cremona?
I build furniture starting with cutting down the tree, using my own special blend of hand and power tools. My own designs tend to have a clean straight line look, but I also really enjoy building period pieces. I produce videos about woodworking and milling lumber. My videos aim to motivate other woodworkers to challenge themselves and try something new. I also sell the majority lumber that I produce.
Who or what has had the biggest impact on the progression of your work?
Surrounding myself by people who are more accomplished than me has been the single most influential thing that has caused me to grow as a woodworker. Rather than be intimidated by their skill and accomplishments, it has been a constant motivator to learn from them and to try to achieve what they have done.
Throughout your journey as a woodworker, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
On the tangible side, the secretary desk is the project that I am most proud of. It was a massive undertaking for me and was such an incredible learning experience. I am also very proud of what I have been able to teach myself through trial and error. There is a lot you can learn by just getting out in your shop and building something. Sure, you’ll make mistakes. But for me, making mistakes has been by far the best way to learn. There is a sense of accomplishment looking back at those mistakes and realizing how it’s shaped you into a stronger woodworker.
I am also proud and really humbled by the interactions with other woodworkers through YouTube and other media. I receive messages from people who, after watching one of my videos, have been inspired to try something that they have always been hesitant to do. That is easily the best feeling in the world knowing that you got to play a part in their new experience. For example, my wife surprised me by making me a dovetailed beer carrier for Father’s Day this year—something she likely wouldn’t have ever tried if I wasn’t a woodworker. I don’t think there has been a prouder moment in my life.
What part of woodworking do you struggle with?
I have the hardest time staying focused on one project. At some point I’ll totally lose interest in working on something and I’ll switch to working on some other project. I’ll usually have multiple projects going at the same time because of this.
Which do you enjoy more: Building furniture or harvesting your own logs? Why?
That’s a really hard question. For me, they are so intertwined and they both provide me with enjoyment and experiences that the other can’t. For instance, being out in the woods getting logs makes for a physically exhausting day which I love. Being in the shop allows me to turn an idea I have in my head into something that exists in the physical world. The best thing about doing both is the project starts out in the woods. Most of the time I don’t have a project in mind when I fell a tree, but I have plenty of time to come up with a great use for it or I’ll have a project come to mind and I’ll know exactly the right set of boards to use for it.
What made you decide to switch careers and focus on woodworking?
When I lost my job in Dec 2014, I started looking for a new job based on my professional experience. Around the same time, my YouTube channel was really starting to grow. With each job application I filled out and each interviews I went to, it became clear that teaching others about woodworking was what I am truly passionate about and that I had been given a great opportunity to try to do what I love. In March, I officially ended my job hunt and have never been happier.
What worries you the most about your career change, and how do you overcome those fears?
I think most people who go off on their own worry most about the change in income style and I am no exception. Going from a regular job to being self-employed is frightening. I was used to receiving a constant pay check. I knew how much I was going to make months in advance. I had paid vacation and holidays. I don’t have those anymore. No one is paying me not to work.
What’s really reassuring for me is every month the business grows. I get to look back and see how far this thing has come – all the way from nothing. That keeps me motivated and excited for the future.
How has becoming a full time woodworker affected your woodworking?
My time now consists primarily of making videos and everything that goes along with that. So really since I made this career change, I’m actually woodworking less than I ever have, at least measured in hours spent in the shop. However, what I’ve realized is now I am much more focused. I know exactly what tasks I want to complete when I head out to the shop. Overall that makes me more productive while I’m out there (although I still spend too much time looking for things I put down somewhere… who keeps moving my tape measures and pencils?!)
Be sure to check out Matt’s YouTube channel. Learn more about milling, learn from his tutorials, and see what’s going on in the shop. If you’ve ever considered harvesting and milling your own logs, you’ll want to check out all his videos about it. You can also check out his website to see more of his projects, take a peek at the lumber he has in stock, and more!
Big thanks to Matt for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview with me.