Paul Jackman is a graduate of Upper Cape Cod Vocational High School where he studied Woodworking and Carpentry and acquired the foundation of his woodworking knowledge. He started Jackman Works when he graduated in 2009 as a way to continue that journey while he went on to study Civil Engineering at Syracuse University. Jackman Works continued as a side project over the summers during college, working out of the back of his now iconic orange Honda Element.
After college, that developed further into a small workshop in the basement of his Boston apartment and that is where Jackman first picked up a camera and started sharing his work on YouTube and Instagram. That spiralled into the Jackman that we know today. Just a few years later, his wife joined the Coast Guard and they were lucky enough to be stationed in the beautiful state of Rhode Island. With the move, Paul had to quit his day job, but with the woodworking (through video making) being an ever-growing endeavour in the background, he decided to take it for a spin full time. He set up his first official shop in North Kingstown at The Mill at Shady Lea.
After a recent relocation by the Coast Guard, Paul is now located in the Nation’s Capital, Washington D.C. He works with a mix of materials typically focusing on high-end reclaimed and upcycling projects through woodworking. One might say he likes to push the boundaries, often creating enlarged wooden projects that he likes to refer to as “Jackman Sized”. These off the wall projects test his patience, but also push his skill-set to the next level, which is the real reason behind them. All of this is shared with a full build video for every project on his YouTube channel. He makes fast-paced and entertaining build videos there that are made for everyone, but with the ultimate goal to get the younger generations excited about making again. Referring to his educational background, Jackman says that very few people these days are lucky enough to have the hands-on learning experience that he had, so he’s trying to pay it forward by translating what he knows into very easily digestible videos where people are entertained while they learn and often laugh at his own expense (usually on purpose… usually).
How did you get into working with wood?
Well, 112 years ago my Great-Grandpappy met my Great-Grandmomma and long story short, 84 years later I was born. Throughout my childhood, I developed an irrational hatred towards trees, which extends to my life today where I send chunks of trees through sharp blades in every way I can possibly find.
Backing up a bit though, when I was a kid, I loved to build anything and everything. I would also try to take apart anything and everything to see how it went together. Likely to avoid this, my father started bringing home plywood that was destined for the trash from job sites that he would drive by. This began my first foray into working with wood, which mostly took the form of skateboard ramps that I just built but rarely actually used (I was pretty popular among the neighbourhood kids though).
From there, when I got the opportunity to attend a vocational school for high school, I jumped at the chance. They have a couple dozen technical disciplines to choose from and all of the students got to experience each one for at least a day. The carpentry shop just felt right to me, and looking back now it all kind of makes sense. I studied carpentry ranging from cabinet making, to turning, to framing and remodelling houses and after 4 years I was hooked.
How did you develop the skill base to do the work that you do?
The 4 years at the vocational high school formed the foundation for everything that I do today. It was a crash course in everything woodworking and carpentry related, so I got to dip my toe into all aspects of it but not master any of it. I’m still working on that whole “mastering” thing and getting closer and closer every day. My woodworking teacher called himself “The Master”, rightfully so, but I aim to dethrone him and take over his kingdom! Seriously though, he’s an old boat builder who had seemingly built anything you could possibly build or at least knew everything so he could fool us into thinking that. Either way, that gave me a knowledge and mindset that I carry forward to every piece I build today.
From there, it’s just been a matter of chiselling away at my journey to “The Master” title one project at a time. Each project incorporates something new and I take that newfound knowledge and carry it forward, accumulating that for all my future projects. The same thing goes for my video making too, after all, these days I feel like I’m more of a videographer who just happens to do some woodworking. The video creation is something I’ve become very passionate about, but it’s another skill that grew over time. I wish I had a sexier answer to how it happened, but really it’s something that is entirely self-taught which I’ve figured out over ~4 years of doing it.
What inspires your creations?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I guess it’s just an incessant need to be different? I’m super passionate about pushing the boundaries while testing my patience to see where the limits are. I love playing with patterns and colours. Also, I probably need a therapist.
What would you tell your younger self starting out on your artistic journey?
Take full advantage of the resources you are given, because they won’t be around forever. Looking back now, I’m lucky that I took so much advantage of my schooling but I wish I had done even more. I’m not sure I’ll ever get to work in a shop like that again with so much space and amazing industrial tools, but I’m glad I at least had a bit of foresight to appreciate it while I was there, just probably not as much as I should have. Same thing goes for teachers and people in your life, take advantage of every second you have with them because people’s lives all take different directions and you won’t be in that position forever.
Do you sell your work?
It depends, how much $$ you got?…
Honestly I don’t sell much of my work anymore compared to 10 years ago. Selling my work is how I paid my way through college and it’s what got my business off the ground. Ever since going full time with the woodworking and video making almost 3 years ago, it’s been a slow decline in the amount of work that I sell vs. the amount of income that comes from the video making with it almost entirely being the videos now. I’ve found that I’m able to reach more people with my art through video, so that has become my focus.
What is your favourite Arbortech Tool and why?
No question, that’s definitely the TURBO Plane. It’s the only way I’ve found to be able to shave down my massive #jackmansized toenails. For real though, it’s the power carving tool that I always go to first just because it works so quickly and smoothly and is just one of those tools that’s a blast to use. It’s a tool that solves problems for me because it does a job that no other tool can do.
If you were a type of wood what would you be and why?
I’m going to answer this question assuming “pallet wood” is not a valid response. Also, who would want to be pallet wood anyway? Eww, gross. Regardless, reclaimed white oak is the right answer to this question. The aggressive grain pattern that every piece has is a ton of fun to play with. Plus, the finishing option you have with it are endless with shou sugi ban, stain, clear coat, or my favourite… tung oil (not saliva, that’s tongue oil). Specifically, I pick “reclaimed” oak because it has a special colour to it that you just can’t get from freshly milled lumber. Special bonus too if it’s been aged and weathered outdoors because that does some amazing things to the material.
How do you like to spend your time when you are not working with wood?
It’s adorable how you think I’m ever not woodworking… That was supposed to be sarcastic, but honestly, it’s mostly true. On the rare days that I go outside, I love to explore on my bike. I’m also working at becoming an Instagram model, one photo at a time.
These workbenches are probably not the most spectacular or eye-catching things that I’ve built, but they’re definitely one of my favourites because of the impact they’ve had on my woodworking style.
The workbenches are made entirely out of pallet wood, the top being laminated from pallet slats and the mainframe fabricated from 3.5″ x 2.5″ pallet runners and 1.5″ thick pallet slats, all from a super heavy-duty pallet. They are the centre to my shop, both literally and figuratively. They are the main workbenches and also pull double duty as outfeed tables for my table saw, while also being a huge focal point in my videos.
But the reason they are so special is because this is where the pallet laminations really started. At this point I loved all of the recycled pallet wood projects that I saw in the world, but I felt like people really weren’t taking advantage of the beauty of the raw materials, instead just taking advantage of their rough and rustic looks. I love the rustic look of the wood as well, but I knew that there was something else there. Don’t judge a book by its cover, am I right?!? If people did, then I wouldn’t have any YouTube subscribers…
The art of the pallet laminations has been a slow evolution, but you can trace the evolution of each of my pallet pieces back to this original pallet lamination. Plus, the fact that they have all been built thanks to this solid and beautiful work surface just makes it even more special. Each pallet project seems to stem new ideas on how to use this material, so I’m excited to see where it leads.
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