It’s been incredible to witness the demand for forest products explode over the past year-and-a-half. Not only do the trees we grow help keep industries running, but they have provided a source of creativity for thousands of DIYers throughout the pandemic. In this series: The Woodworkers of Rayonier, we celebrate the exceptional projects completed by our talented team members. Today, we feature Texas-based Senior Timber Marketing Manager Shane Bergman, who got his whole family involved in an accidental DIY side-hustle building patio furniture during lockdown.
They say nothing can prepare you for the role of a parent…especially a parent during an unexpected pandemic lockdown with a teenager. That’s what Shane Bergman, his wife Kandis and their daughter Layla (along with millions of other parents) experienced last March.
“They shut down the schools and we were all at home. But then Layla finished all her schoolwork within a few weeks so she had nothing to do,” Shane says.
They could have panicked and signed their kids up for a million additional online courses, but that’s not what happened with the Bergmans.
Necessity is the mother of invention…especially during lockdown
Since his daughter completed the school year early, Shane had to quickly think of a project to keep her occupied that would also help bring some normalcy and fun into their lives. He kept in mind that Layla wants to be an engineer.
“My wife Kandis had always wanted a patio set, so I asked her if she wanted us to build one. So we all got in on it together. I got all the wood, Layla helped with the measurements, joining and puttying, and Kandis painted it. So we made a little assembly line.”
They all enjoyed the work, and Shane felt good about using lumber produced in east Texas — especially since part of his job is to sell Rayonier timber to lumber mills in that area.
After they completed the set, Kandis posted a picture on Facebook. Little did she know that photo would launch their pandemic family woodworking business.
“She got so many likes from the photo that she asked if anyone would be interested in buying one…we got 4 order requests within the first 24 hours.”
Lack of Experience Didn’t Stop The Bergmans from Building and Selling Their Furniture
Shane and his family which, up until lockdown, had very little experience building, went into business head first.
“My Dad was a welder and then he went back to school to be an Elementary ed teacher, so he had a lot of blueprint skills and I’d help him on projects growing up,” Shane says. “But it’s different when you’re actually there measuring and making the cuts. The year before, Layla and I built a deer stand and put a tin roof on it and stained it. That was our first go and we haven’t looked back.”
YouTube videos, some refresher geometry tutorials and hands-on work provided the bulk of the Bergman family woodworking education.
“My daughter wants to be an engineer so she’d do all the measurements with me and she kept a little cheat sheet up in the garage. The hardest things for me were the angles, because I want to know exactly how you calculate that, so I refreshed my geometry and everything to get that right.”
The orders poured in throughout lockdown, which made for many busy nights in the garage.
“We started in March and did that for literally a month straight after work Monday through Friday. It was to the point where my wrists and fingers were killing me! But it was fun and we’ve had a few people reach out ever since. If I would have known what I know now about the rush on wood, I would have bought a big flat of 2X4s in the beginning from our local sawmills. But I’d have to say it was fun just hanging out and listening to music with Kandis and Layla.”
How did he keep his daughter engaged with the hard work and long nights?
“I’ll be honest with you, she was always saying she needed to make money so I told her I’d pay her a commission and she went for it and learned some responsibility too.”
His Favorite Woodworking Piece To Date
Although patio sets were their most popular product, Shane’s favorite piece he’s built is this two-seater burnt bench pictured below.
Here’s how he achieved the finish using fire:
“When you use southern yellow pine, you’ve got naturally lighter and darker colors in the wood grain. So, you take a little blue propane torch, light it and keep it 3-4 inches away from the wood and it just accents it like a zebra print. Then we add a clear coat.”
The technique takes patience, but it’s not hard to learn.
“Just don’t do what one of my buddies did. He used lighter fluid to speed up the process. It worked, but I wouldn’t recommend it! I spent about an hour and a half on just that bench to get it right, and once you see the end result it’s pretty cool. That board had really good characteristics.”
He learned the technique on YouTube.
Shane’s Advice For Woodworker Newbies: Make The Time and Just Do It
Obviously Shane doesn’t shy away from learning something new on the fly. But his perspective serves as good advice for aspiring woodworkers who are on the fence about how and when to get started:
“I just do it. I’m one of those people who believes you can’t get time back, and some things you’ve got to say no to and some things you say yes to.
“Anything you want to do now, whether it’s mechanics, fishing or anything, you can find a way to kind of get your feet wet and learn. After you research it you’ll find it’s not that hard. I’d just type in ‘wooden patio sofa’ and see what videos came up. For woodworking though, Home Depot has a lot of stuff online and they’ll give you a whole list of exactly what you need, the lengths, etc. The cuts are the most intimidating, especially if you’re going to cut on an angle. Also, I wouldn’t jump in and buy the most expensive tools to start with. I’d go to Harbour Freight to start out with a cheaper tool, and that way you can find out if you like it before spending more.”
As we’ve all learned over the last year and half, life can throw us some unpredictable curve balls. And something like a pandemic lockdown can create serious challenges for families. Yet, the Bergmans’ story serves as a reminder that life is truly what we make of it.
In their case, a lockdown brought them closer together as a family, taught Layla some basics about managing money and starting a business and provided the opportunity for them to forge a new hobby in woodworking. Not a bad way to spend a few months stuck at home.
Congrats to Shane and his family on their pandemic side-hustle and beautiful patio sets!