This article appears in the April issue of 400 Life.
Like many artisans who pick up their craft on a whim, when Jason Bent of Bent’s Woodworking built a dining room table for his wife and their new home in Forsyth County, he had no inkling of the passion he had ignited in himself.
Bent, a 35-year-old Arizona native, former drill instructor with the United States Army and current military science instructor at the University of North Georgia, said that until he moved to Forsyth County from Columbus, he had never worked with wood a day in his life, beyond a shop class in high school where he cut his finger and quickly lost interest.
But after going to YouTube, following the instructions and building his wife a farmhouse table by hand, Bent said that a good feeling began to grow inside him at seeing what he was able to do with his own two hands and the product that his family could use.
“Just immediately, when I built that first thing and I saw the result, I had this weird feeling like ‘super pride’ ... because it was something that I made,” Bent said. “With all the mistakes that I made, I looked at it and said, ‘This is amazing.’”
That moment marks a turning point in Bent’s life. Up until then, he said that he was an avid bass fisherman, spending all of his money on fishing, fishing equipment and his boat.
But after that first build, he started going online to watch more woodworking videos, looking for free plans on different social media platforms so he could build things that his family could use around the house.
“First it was a coffee table, then it was a console, and I just started building more stuff,” Bent said. “The thing that made me become so obsessed with it is I would learn like 20 things every single time I built something.”
With his continuing obsession to find new projects, friends and family began to ask Bent to build them things too and he began to develop his skills, and learn more about the woodworking craft, what works and what doesn’t.
“That is what’s led me here, to where I am now,” he said.
Today, Bent, his wife and their 4-month-old son live in north Forsyth, right beside Bent’s obsessively-outfitted workshop.
By day, the young Army sergeant works just a short commute away from his home at the University of North Georgia teaching third-year cadets. But in his spare time, Bent and his company, Bent’s Woodworking, are booked solid with orders from customers wanting his custom furniture builds and ideas for instructional videos for his growing Instagram and YouTube channels.
But even after he started really getting into woodworking, his business and social media followings didn’t happen right away, he said at that point he still had no intentions of making a business out of it at all.
But as he got better and better, and friends began to see the things he had made for his home, some started asking to buy them or other pieces they wanted.
“Finally something went off in my head and said, ‘I can probably start making stuff for money,’” he said.
When he decided to really market and sell his work, he created a Facebook business account, started posting in all the local sale groups in the north Georgia area and watched as the messages began pouring in by the hundreds.
“All those messages led to one sale and it was the last message I got,” Bent said. “So I built that piece and while I was building that piece, someone else saw the ad and that led to a sale. Before too long I started getting phone calls from people who had seen something I had built in someone else’s house and they wanted something.”
Eventually he made Bent’s Woodworking official, made more posts to Facebook and after that, the ball began to roll on its own, as his business spread by word of mouth.
When work is steady, he said that he produces pieces about every two to three weeks, based on how big the job is and what his schedule is like. Often, he’s juggling multiple projects that are in progress.
He said that his clients know that woodworking isn’t his sole job and buying one of his pieces is a commitment to three to four weeks of build time, and if Bent can’t handle their project, he said he’s happy to pass it off to any one of the many woodworkers he knows in the north Georgia area.
Rather than sticking with his business model of making custom builds for clients in his spare time, Bent has actually expanded his scope to help teach the world the skills that he has learned.
Bent’s first foray into the world of DIY videos came after he decided to do a video talking about how he got into woodworking to go on his new YouTube channel. Finding that he liked the format and being able to teach one of his passions, he began to make videos about other things, like how to build a cabinet door or what type of tools to use for a certain project.
At first, he says that his videos were rough, as he attempted to balance lighting, sound and his camera right. But over time he has become comfortable in front of the camera and his views began to pick up.
“YouTube really started booming for me when I did my very first instructional video,” he said. “That first video I did turned to really gain some traction, and when that happened I noticed my subscriber count really build up … Since then, things have just been continuing to grow.”
Today, Bent has more than 32,000 subscribers on YouTube. His top videos get hundreds of thousands of views, and is growing in popularity on Instagram.
He said that ideally, he wants to transition his business and focus mainly on his YouTube channel and making how-to videos, but still plans to taking commissions every so often, when someone has a project that peaks his interest.
“The jobs that I want to take are the higher-end jobs that would be a really cool, interesting build, maybe something that’s not the typical build,” he said. “Because I’m going to always be thinking in terms of, ‘What is this going to do for me for content on YouTube and Instagram, or how can I do this to partner with companies to get more eyes on it?”
In the meantime, Bent has a few pieces of advice on projects, tools and work spaces to get anyone started on their own woodworking “do-it-yourself adventure.”
Bent says that with woodworking, like many things, “Taking the plunge is the hardest thing to do.”
The first thing you’ll need to do is jump right in, chose a project to work on and not be overwhelmed by the idea of woodworking.
Don’t feel like you can’t start, just because it’s not something you’ve done before, Bent said, because there are thousands of different guides, plans and videos to help you do virtually anything you want to accomplish.
“Just pick something that is going to be practical in your home that you are going to see all the time,” Bent said. “There are endless things that you can do in woodworking, So I always tell people to take the same approach that I took.”
Like Bent’s kitchen table, he said that picking something simple that you’ll use every day will really get you going.
To pick your project, he said to go somewhere like YouTube or Pinterest and search for something simple like a coffee table, cutting board, dog bowl holders or corn hole boards and search for free plans.
He said that you’ll figure out for yourself whether you like working from videos or step-by-step instructions with pictures, and in many cases you’ll be able to use both to help figure something out.
“There are so many free plans, and they’re all just a click away on the internet,” Bent said. “It costs you nothing and it will literally tell you exactly the tools you need for that project.”
For many starter projects, Bent said you can get by with a few simple tools. But what you’ll actually want to buy depends on what you are trying to make.
“I would go back to what I initially did,” he said. “I identified a specific thing that I wanted to build, found some plans for it and it told me what I would need.”
He said that there are some tools, like a drill, circular saw, and clamps, that are universally useful in woodworking and are vital to new DIY woodworkers. Rather than buying individual tools one at a time, he said that there is nothing wrong with going to a store like Home Depot and buying a kit of tools.
“It’s a great place to start, and as you learn, that’s when I would say you would need to start looking at different tools.”
Bent said that you can practice woodworking techniques or even make your first project around building something for your shop area, like a work bench, tables and storage spaces.
“Why not practice those skills on your shop stuff? If you are thinking about getting into woodworking, a work bench is a great first project,” he said.
He said that you can continue building new things for your shop and practicing new techniques on things for your shop no matter what your skill level is.
But as a starting woodworker, Bent said to make sure that you give yourself flexibility, change up your work flow and move your work area around as your needs change.
“My recommendation to people would be, if you’re going to start building an assembly table, or work bench or anything like that, make sure it’s mobile,” he said. “The more mobile you can be, the more options you’re going to have.”