Wood you believe it: Talented Jack's lockdown carpentry hobby becomes a near full-time job

Jack Darley, Owner & Creator, Woodshop51, in the workshop at his Dorchester home.

By Staff Reporter [email protected]

Published: April 23, 2021 | Updated: 24th April 2021

Jack Darley believes in living life to the full.

In his own words: “I am always looking for the next qualification or experience I can gain.

“Life is short and we must enjoy it as much as we can.”

A proud Yorkshireman he’s packed a lot into his 30 years:

  • A Bachelor of Arts degree in photography
  • PADI Master Instructor – recognised as an elite scuba diving educator
  • Photographer with his own business, Jack Darley Photography
  • Former Rifleman in the Army Reserves
  • Retained firefighter with Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue – he’s still on call 63 hours a week
  • Business Development Manager with Workwear Pro Direct

Oh, and husband to Ciara and proud father of Luna, aged ten months, to boot.

Last year, though, the future looked bleak.

Work for his photography business dried up due to lockdown.

And with a new baby on the way Jack quickly realised another source of income was required.

Which is when his home-grown carpentry business, Woodshop51, was born.

Jack said: “I started in April 2020 from my garden shed, with a couple of ash wood offcuts, a jigsaw and two sheets of sandpaper.

“I made two serving boards as gifts for my mother and sister.

“They loved them.

“The lightbulb went on and an idea started to take hold…”

Jack, who developed a love for carpentry while studying A-levels in design, craft and technology, used lockdown to start to plan, test ideas and sharpen his tools.

As soon as restrictions began to lift he searched for local sustainable sources of hardwood.

From these be created individual and – in his words – “weird and wonderfully shaped serving and chopping boards that can’t be made in a factory.”

As word spread, and sales increased, thanks to social media, Jack redeveloped and redesigned the garden shed at his Dorchester home into a workshop.

He also studied for, and successfully completed, a Level 2 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in carpentry and joinery.

Jack said: “I try to make every piece unique using the structure and form of the timber.

“I sell what I make directly through local artisan markets and online.

“I also make pieces to order and I’m always open for special commissions and bulk orders.

“Bistros and cafes have commissioned items from me.

“Every time I make a product, I aim for it to be completely bespoke and unique.

“I use the grain patterns, shape and imperfections in the timber I buy to help me determine what it’s going to be.

“Each board is finished by soaking in natural mineral oil and then fed my home-made board butter to give it that lasting protection and beautiful finish.”

Jack, who uses hand power tools and is waiting for a wood turning lathe once owned by his great uncle, also has a small laser etching machine.

It means he can burn any logo, slogan or message onto a wooden item and will soon be able to create beautifully turned wooden bowls.

He said: “Whether it’s a sign, a gift or new branded equipment for your business I can create completely bespoke and made to measure products.

“I am always open for custom commissions and welcome any challenge.

“I have the ability to personalise a product with a company logo or slogan of choice.”

It’s now almost a year since Jack started Woodshop51.

A Dorset board carved in the shape of the county.

What began as a lockdown hobby has almost become a full-time job although he continues to juggle with his other employment commitments.

But he said: “I love just working with wood.

“It’s very creative and satisfying.

“I enjoy working for myself and producing these very individual pieces of work.

“I can’t wait to see where I am this time next year.”

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