In this series of interviews, called Industry Insiders, we talk with business owners from various industries to get some insight into their respective fields. Jack Ward is the owner of Three Pines Wood Co., a woodworking company in Ramona, California.
How did you get into woodworking and what kind of experience do you have in the trade?
I have always had a desire to design and build things—it is the reason I went to engineering school for college. It was that same passion that got me into woodworking.
Many years ago, I was touring the high school that I was about to start at as a freshman. As soon as I walked into the wood shop, that was it for me. I took as much wood shop as I could, including the night adult school classes. I designed and built several projects that won awards at the Del Mar Fair. To this day, there is nothing better than seeing a design come to life.
Following high school, I took a job as a finishing carpenter where I helped build custom interiors. After that, I went on to work for a custom guitar maker. During this time, from 1997-2005, I also operated a small shop with a partner where we built custom kitchens, entertainment centers, mantles, vanities, and more. Once I graduated from college in 2005, I went on to work as an engineer and program manager, but my passion for woodworking kept calling to me. I finally had to give in and start woodworking again, so I opened Three Pines Wood Co. in Ramona, California.
What made you want to start your own business?
I really enjoy working with wood. I love the smells, textures, and looks of wood. I also really enjoy helping people’s visions come to life. It just seemed natural to put the two together and start a woodworking business to serve homeowners and business owners here in Ramona and around San Diego County.
What do you enjoy the most about doing this type of work?
I think what I enjoy the most is the creativity that I get to use in designing and then building things. I love creating custom pieces that help give a home some personality. We’ve found that homeowners appreciate the opportunity to work with a craftsman to build exactly what they want and to a standard of quality that in many cases is far superior to what’s available in retail and big box stores.
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
For me, the most challenging part of what I do is the business side of things. I’m always trying to find the balance between efficiency and focusing on details. I understand the three-way balance that’s required between time, money, and quality. We never sacrifice quality in order to make things cheaper or faster, but we also have to work at a pace that keeps things moving forward. Our clients understand that a custom-designed piece takes time to create, but they are also anxious to have the piece in their home where they can enjoy it.
What do you wish people knew about custom woodworking?
I wish people would have a better understanding of how much work goes into designing and building a custom piece. I tend to build things with traditional joints, which takes time and precision. Our construction methods make our pieces stronger and more durable and in many cases of heirloom quality.
How do you respond to potential customers who question the cost of custom pieces?
I am a program manager and very sensitive to budget. We always do our best to design and build pieces to someone’s budget, but we don’t cut corners on quality.
When talking to a potential customer, I like to highlight the differences between “box store” vs. ours. We use top-grade hardware and high-grade woods. We have sources of wood that allow us to incorporate unique slabs, different species of exotic woods, and woods that have been salvaged and saved from being turned into firewood. The construction methods and joints we use are different and make our pieces more durable than those that are just screwed together. Then there is the customization part. We are not limited to cookie cutter configurations, but can do things like squeeze out more storage for people because we use all of the available space in our design. All of that can create one-of-a-kind pieces that are unique and individualized for that customer.