Army Veteran says, “LOSING MY JOB WAS A BLESSING”

Bob (right) and his brother Dave get ready for some serious turkey call production with Bob's Woodmaster 725 at his shop in central Pennsylvania.

Bob (right) and his friend, Dave Dick, get ready for some serious turkey call production with Bob’s Woodmaster 725 at his shop in central Pennsylvania. Bob says, “Dave’s a great wood guy with a lot of knowledge of trees and grades of lumber.”

Here's Bob's handiwork — a classic box turkey call. All made in the USA, all made by hand by Bob on his Woodmaster Molder/Planer.

Here’s Bob’s handiwork — a classic box turkey call. All made in the USA, all made by hand by Bob on his Woodmaster Molder/Planer.

“I was in the Army full time, then in the Reserves. My wife, Karen, is in the Army, too. She got deployed to Iraq. Then I got deployed. It seems like after 9/11, one of us was always getting deployed. When I came back to civilian life, my full time job had moved to New Jersey. They told me I still had a job but I had to move. You know how that goes! I told Karen, ‘You know what? We might as well go for it and go into our own woodworking business.’

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Losing my job was a blessing, really. It was good money and everything but I was still working for somebody else. Now I’m making molding, turkey calls, and more, full time and I love it.

With kids in grade school, he wanted to work at home

Do Bob's turkey calls work? We guess they do. His customer, Jerry Corle, sent this photo of a big tom turkey he got . "Nothing hits 'em like a Helsley," he says.

Do Bob’s turkey calls work? We guess they do. His customer, Jerry Corle, sent this photo of a big tom turkey he got . “Nothing hits ’em like a Helsley,” he says.

Here's a good day's work, all ready to package and sell.

Here’s a good day’s work, all ready to package and sell.

I wanted to work at home because our kids were still in grade school. We have lots of oak and other hardwoods here in central Pennsylvania, so I bought a sawmill and started sawing and selling rough cut boards to people who were making molding and furniture. It didn’t take me long to decide to get a Woodmaster Molder/Planer so I could add value to my rough cut lumber.

There are a lot of planers out there but when I called Woodmaster, they were real friendly and knowledgeable about woodworking. I told them what I wanted to do. I didn’t know anything about woodworking. My earlier woodworking experience was splitting firewood! Woodmaster’s guys told me this machine is pretty simple. They said, ‘We’ll build for you, all you have to do is learn a little bit about it.’

It came in about five boxes and we put it together in a couple hours. We turned it on and it worked. I took some rough cut lumber and ran it through the Woodmaster. It came out just beautiful. All I had to do was follow the instructions.

I was thinking about getting into making hardwood flooring and molding. I bought Woodmaster’s 3-Side Router System. I hooked up the System and I ran boards through. A friend used them to put in his kitchen floor. It’s not that hard once you get everything set up.

“I don’t know what led me to make turkey calls.”

Bob's uncle helped Boy Scouts earn their Woodworking Merit Badges.

Bob held a special Boy Scout event to help a dozen Scouts get their Woodworking Merit Badges. Here’s his uncle, Rich Robinson, supervising as Scout, Spencer Dobson runs wood through Bob’s Woodmaster. All the Scouts made turkey calls start-to-finish and all received their Merit Badges. Spencer needed his to become an Eagle Scout.

I don’t know what led me to it, but I decided to make turkey calls. I just was thinking about it and said, ‘If people can make turkey calls, I know I can do it, too.’  I talked to one of Woodmaster’s tech guys and sent him drawings of pattern knives I’d need. Two days later I approved the tech’s drawing, and ten days after that I received the knives I needed to make turkey calls. (Editor’s Note: click  here to hear real turkeys’ sounds!)

2,000% value-added

I make them for $1.50 and sell them for $30. I don’t make them one at a time. I take an eight-foot walnut, maple, cherry, or poplar board – whatever I want – and cut it to the width I want. I can plane everything at once, ¼” thick and 2” wide, with my Spiral Cutterhead. Then I take my Spiral Cutterhead out and put my Molding Head in — changeover takes about ten minutes. (Watch Changeover Video.) I put the lid on the Woodmaster, put the dust collector on, set my depth, and just go. I run 40 boards for the turkey call sides and 20 boards for tops. Then I section them into 7” pieces on my chop saw. You get a pile of pieces quick! Then we glue the pieces together using little clamps and make maybe 20 turkey calls at a time. Then I sand them and I’m done – all handmade. It’s great that a guy can run his own business and pump out hundreds of turkey calls from his garage.

I’m making crown molding, too. And right now I’m building my grandson a playhouse. I’m making everything this planer can make. I’m making trim; oak molding; base trim; chair rail. I’m planing boards for people. I have customers who’ve built $1,500 oak tables with wood I’ve planed. You just have to stick to it and learn how to do it. The machine actually does all the work. You just have to take it nice and easy and let the machine do its job.

Everybody gets in the act -- Bob's wife handles a booth at a local fair.

The whole Helsley family gets in the act. Bob’s wife, Karen, manned the booth at a recent outdoorsman’s event.

My name is out there now. I’ve only advertised my turkey calls once. People tell their friends I make them. I took 60 turkey calls to an outdoorsman’s event and sold 30 of them the first day. A local grocery store owner ordered 30 of them with his business logo branded into them. I made them in two days. He gives them out to his customers. It’s been really profitable.

Planning in-line production

I bought the biggest Woodmaster, the 725. I wanted the best and I thought bigger was better. Later this year I’ll probably get another one, maybe two more, because I want to have different setups on each one and set them up in-line. We’ll put a rough board in one end of the line and have turkey calls come out the other end. I could do this for the rest of my life.

I’m real happy with my Woodmaster. It’s easy and very rewarding to work with. It’s pretty neat that people who’ve bought my turkey calls send me pictures of them and the turkeys they’ve gotten. There are pictures of some on my Facebook page, ‘Helsley Timberworks.’

“I don’t have to wonder where the next job’s coming from.”

I have Woodmaster’s Double Router System, the Drum Sander attachment, the Spiral Cutterhead, and the Dust Collector. I have everything. I’m totally set up; I need nothing else. But you don’t want to stay where you are, you want to keep growing.

Bob's dad and one of his brothers lend a hand running the wood to make turkey calls through the Woodmaster.

Bob’s dad (front) lends a hand running some oak molding through Bob’s Woodmaster.

The 3-Side Molding System – once you get it set you can really make some nice oak stair treads with bullnose edges. The Spiral Cutterhead is a Godsend. I have an old Grizzly® planer – I’m going to sell it. I don’t need it now that I’ve got the Woodmaster with a Spiral Cutterhead.

We’re really swamped with work. If it keeps going like this, I may have to add another person and I’m getting close to that now. It pays the bills. Once everything’s paid for we can get some luxury items but we’re pretty simple people and if we had anything extra we’d probably give it in the collection plate at church anyhow!

Alternative way to make a living

People have to think of alternative ways to make a living these days. If anybody’s thinking of getting into this kind of work, I’d advise them to get the Woodmaster Molder/Planer because there’s always a demand for millwork. Once you get ten builders who know what you’re doing, you’re OK. They won’t all want the same millwork at the same time. One might want 400 feet of molding. Another might want a little bit of hemlock trim. Then you have your home project guys who want planed wood and molding, too. That’s a blessing because it keeps you going without having to worry where the next job’s coming from.

Woodmaster people are great. Easy to work with, timely, and every time I’ve called there I talk to a real person and get an answer. I can send Woodmaster a 100-year old piece of molding and they’ll match it up and make custom molding knives so you can make it. Or you can design your own pattern and eight days later the knife is in the mail.

Bob gets a little help now and then from "the usual suspects" -- his family. That's Bob at the left, then brothers Ray and Darrel, and Bob Senior at the right.

Bob gets a little help now and then from “the usual suspects” — his family. That’s Bob at the left, then brothers Ray and Darrel, and Bob Senior at the right.

The Woodmaster takes very little maintenance. I can roll it spot-to-spot where I need it in the shop. I’m very impressed – of course, I like what I’m doing, too. I’m very happy. Extremely. You can put me at the top of the list as far as happy.

When I turn my Woodmaster on, it starts making me money. And you don’t have to be a professional woodworker, you just have to work at it. You work at it – it’s mostly trial and error. If you do it, it comes together. And it really comes together quick.”

— Bob Helsley, Woodmaster 725 Owner, Altoona PA

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