Woodwork meets technology: Military travel interrupts, inspires Remsen man's career

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
(Sentinel photo by Angel Anderson) John Adair, Remsen, stands beside his CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) router that he uses to carve signs, custom mill work and moldings. Adair's first experiences in woodwork were in industrial arts.

Woodworking is a natural art for retired Army soldier John Adair.

In his woodshop just outside of Remsen, he designs and creates a large variety of products, ranging from furniture and custom cabinetry to laser engraved plaques and gifts.

One particular piece of furniture that he has built is a tiger maple hi-boy dresser with carved legs, all sanded out as soft as satin, and finished with a seal to preserve the wood and bring out it's natural beauty. Adair started out small.

In the beginning

As a student he was realized as creative and artistic. Pencil sketchings and paintings were his strength.

When he was first introduced to woodworking in industrial arts at Hinton Community School, it was very traditional. For wood projects he used standard saws, drill presses and sanders.

This Massachusettes Hi Boy hand made by John Adair stands beautifully as a master bedroom piece. The detail in the legs the spindles and the grains of tiger wood are a beauty to look at.

Here his first creations were born, an oak wall clock for his mother and a china hutch for close friends.

Graduating in 1984 from Hinton Community High School, he landed in an Army recruiter's office signing papers to enlist.

Soon the military became his way of life. Creativity, though still there, had to take a back seat.

After years of serving in the Army and moving around, he found himself back in Sioux City. This is where he met his wife Heather. Two years later, in 1988, they married. Adair was still serving in the military, which meant they would be moving a lot. After a back injury in the Army became disabling, he retired.

A Low boy or dressing table as it is also called, start to finish by John Adair, Remsen.

What led him here

In 1999 John went to Briar Cliff College in Sioux City majoring in business and human resources.

"It was there that I quickly realized that if I wanted to achieve the kind success I wanted I needed to have my own business," he said.

When they made their move to Le Mars in 2002, he said, "I decided that because of all of the moving around myself and my family has done, I had spent a lot of money on furniture. It seemed that whenever we moved something always ended up being replaced with new. That got expensive."

The house they bought in Le Mars had an attached single car garage. This is where the dream was born.

Some shelves, equipment added here and there, and a hearty wood supply and he was on his way.

He started off making furniture for the house.

Growing pains

Word of mouth started to create more opportunities for his woodworking hobby. Small projects led to larger more involved projects when people could see the detail and precision he worked with.

He and his wife Heather formed the business, J & H Custom Woodworking in 2005.

"The restoration of an old farm house was the first of its kind and largest project I have ever taken on. It was our first paid project, we reworked the door frames, moldings and all," he proudly stated.

Throughout the community he began doing jobs where people would see his work, such as the cabinets at the Le Mars Bible Church and the beginnings of building the bar design at 4 Brothers Bar and Grill.

The shop had quickly growing needs.

Breaking ground

In March of 2007 the tiny garage shop could no longer handle its workload. This prompted the move to a house north of Remsen where they would have a bigger workshop. He and his wife Heather, and their three children, Corey 19, Justine 16, and Sophie 11, have all grown with the business.

As a business owner, Adair is always looking to build his business and expand his capabilities. With thanks to good friend Mike Driscoll of Le Mars, John was introduced to computer carving and laser engraving.

From here there has been no turning back. His woodshop went high tech with the purchase of a laser engraver run from a computer. The most recent addition to the shop technology is the CNC, which is known as a Computer Numerical Controlled router.

Product capabilities were limitless now. He is self-taught and creates his own patterns for specialty jobs, furniture and mill work.

The success

In his woodshop today there are still the standard saws drill presses and sanders that help to complete all of the projects.

John was sought by several entities of the government after they saw pieces of his work. One being the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business for contract verification and certification, www.vetbiz.gov, and others. He is certified as an official government contractor. This certification makes him one of only one-hundred contractors in the U.S. with this status

Recognizing his talent and technological capabilities, area schools have contacted him to teach classes and he has other private instruction that he does also.

J & H Woodworking is serving customers all over the United States and will begin their first shipment to England this winter.

Where he's at now

You can always find Adair working in his woodshop engraving name plates, awards, trophies, wedding party products or designing custom cabinetry and custom moldings. He uses a variety of unusual woods like, tiger maple, purple heart, cherry and more.

His new website is currently under new construction at www.jhworks.homestead.com.

"Every job is different, and I work hard for each customer," he said "I love what I am doing and I am very passionate with each and every piece, whether they order one, or a hundred."

He says he's come a long way from his younger years.

A combination tiger maple and lace wood make this jewelry box an exsquisite piece. Adair designed and carved this satin smooth finished box for his wife Heather for Valentine's Day.
John Adair, Remsen, creates products with very intricate details. Shown here, a close-up of an Irish family's crest that was laser engraved. Adair works with companies all over the U.S. to bring his work and capabilities to his customers. This includes family crests.

"I couldn't run a router to save my life. If you would have asked me if I would be doing this one day, I'd have thought you were a nut."

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