DAD CONQUERS TOUGH ECONOMY with USA Planer-Molder at His Side

It takes a family to start a business! Here's the whole Mayer crew of Vern's Wood Goods, from left to right: Joe, Dorothy, Vern, Mary, Peter, and Paul. Sister, Julie Drews was not available during this crew gathering! Upper left: Vern brands his logo into every piece he makes.

It takes a family to start a business! Here’s the whole Mayer crew of Vern’s Wood Goods, from left to right: Joe, Dorothy, Vern, Mary, Peter, and Paul. Sister, Julie Drews was not available during this crew gathering! Upper left: Vern brands his logo into every piece he makes.

81 years young, Vern Mayer has always been handy with tools but never a woodworker. Now he runs his own woodworking business. And business is booming!

81 years young, Vern Mayer has always been handy with tools but never a woodworker. With his son’s Woodmaster Molder/Planer, ow he runs his own woodworking business. And business is booming!

Paul Mayer’s a talented woodworker and Woodmaster owner. When his dad, Vern, got laid off at 75, Paul and his whole family pulled together and cooked up a plan to help Dad get going in his own woodworking business. Today, at 81, Vern turns out a steady stream of high quality handmade cutting boards, serving trays, kitchen utensils and more with Paul’s  718 Woodmaster Molder/Planer.

Here's one of Vern's popular pieces — a handsome cutting board.

Here’s one of Vern’s popular pieces — a handsome cutting board.

The result? “Vern’s Wood Goods is one of our dad’s proudest professional accomplishments,” says Paul. “It’s given him a lot of financial freedom and a real sense of pride. Using my Woodmaster, Dad can work as much or little as he wants, and we can sell everything he makes.”

But the story about Vern’s Woodmaster woodworking business gets even better. “Dad’s business is blossoming. This adventure,” says Paul, “has been a catalyst to drawing us all together as a family.”

“My dad, Vern Mayer, worked skilled trade jobs all his life. He retired at 65 but things got a bit lean financially and he got bored, too. He went back to work at the flooring store from which he’d retired. Then the economy tanked and he got laid off at 75 years old. My family and I thought his working days were over but he still wanted to work.

Vern makes sets like this handsome laminated serving tray with pie server, stir fry paddle, and spatula.

Vern makes sets like this handsome laminated serving tray with pie server, stir fry paddle, and spatula.

My siblings and I had many discussions and brainstorming sessions about how to help Dad keep working like he wanted to. But it had to be something that would give him flexibility and autonomy. After kicking around a lot of ideas, we’ve helped him start his own woodworking business, Vern’s Wood Goods.  He’s the boss for the first time in his life, and his business is absolutely blossoming.

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Always handy, but Vern was never a woodworker, never a boss

He’s always been a handy guy. He worked in the flooring business for 55 years, always made a living using tools, but never had fine woodworking experience. We suggested he try woodworking as a hobby but, no, he wanted to try it as a business.

After the glue dries, Vern will run this cuttingboard through his son's Woodmaster Molder/Planer to create a smooth, even surface.

After the glue dries, Vern will run this cuttingboard through his son’s Woodmaster Molder/Planer to create a smooth, even surface.

It so happens I’m a woodworker so I started showing him how to make a few things. He’d come to my shop once a week or so and we’d go over tool safety, basic use of tools, and so on. He started making things like wine bottle holders, serving trays, kitchen utensils, and more.

Free website

I set up a free website for him using Yahoo. My brothers and sister and I went around to stores, coffee shops, the local community center and got them to take some of his work. Then we put some on Etsy,  a website where craftspeople sell their wares. We sold Dad’s things to our friends, mostly around Christmas.

All this has been tremendously gratifying for our whole family. Everybody helps. We all put notices up at our workplaces. My brother Peter is a musician. He sets up a table of Dad’s wares at his performances. My sister Mary is a finance person and gave good guidance on pricing. I keep the website running and answer emails. Mom is the packing and shipping department!

I can’t believe the volume of wood Dad goes through!

Dad’s the boss of his business and sometimes we have to remind him of that. We help him but it’s his business. I order rough-cut lumber for him, mostly rock maple, walnut, and cherry. I can’t believe the volume of wood he goes through!

Another day on the job for Vern Mayer. "Dad spends a lot of time in front of my Woodmaster," says his son, Paul.

Another day on the job for Vern Mayer. “Dad spends a lot of time in front of my Woodmaster,” says his son, Paul.

Dad uses my Woodmaster to plane boards. And he runs his glue-ups through it to finish them. Everything comes out perfectly flush and level. All this has been a catalyst to bringing our family closer together. All us kids have gotten together to help our dad do something creative and his business is blossoming.

This is Dad’s proudest accomplishment

Professionally, Vern’s Wood Goods is probably our dad’s proudest accomplishment. He’s always been a blue-collar worker, never a boss. Today, he’s designing and making his own creations, developing his own artistic process. This has really jazzed him up a lot. To see him watch people buying his wares at shows is almost intoxicating for us. Customers have even asked him for his autograph!

Simply beautiful? Or beautifully simple? We think Vern's serving tray is both.

Simply beautiful? Or beautifully simple? We think Vern’s serving tray is both.

Dad says this business has given him a lot of financial breathing room and ‘fun money.’ He also appreciates the satisfaction he gets out of all this. We kids see it’s really increased his sense of self and self worth.

Sam Maloof, the famous furniture maker, worked into his 90’s. He said he couldn’t wait to get out in the shop every day. Dad says the same thing.

Vern loves using the Woodmaster

Dad spends a tremendous amount of time using the 718 Woodmaster and he loves it. He was using a small planer and you could hear it four doors away. This machine is quiet. Ordinary planers took him six passes on each side because they don’t have much power. He can do the same work in one pass through the Woodmaster, though he likes to take two lighter passes on each side to get the best surface quality.

Vern's son, Paul, is an accomplished Woodmaster woodworker, author, and frequent contributor to the Woodmaster Tools Blog.

Vern’s son, Paul, is an accomplished Woodmaster woodworker, author, and contributor to the Woodmaster Tools Blog. Read Paul’s post, “Best Kept Secret in Fine Woodworking.”

The Woodmaster’s variable feed rate is perfect for him. He does rough planing at a fast feed rate, then slows it way down for a finish pass at maybe one-third of full feed rate. The result is a mirror-smooth finish that requires only light sanding.

Our whole family thinks what he’s doing is great. He can work as much or as little as he wants, make as much or little money as he needs, and we can sell every single thing he makes. He’s gotten so good at it, and loves it so much, he has no plans to do anything different.

Readers, how about YOUR dad?

If anybody else out there is thinking of helping your dad start a business as our family has done, here’s my advice. Pick something you think he’ll enjoy doing. Make sure he knows it’s his business and it all depends on him. You’ll help him, of course, but he has to view it as his business.

There have been many, many fun twists and turns along the way. Working side by side, Dad and I have spent more time together than we did in 20 years prior. This adventure has reenergized our father-and-son bond!”

— Paul Mayer, woodworker, Woodmaster Molder/Planer owner, Minnesota

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