Woodworking Beyond George School

Before coming to George School, Jack Ford ’14 had no woodworking skills, but through working with his Dad at home and in the family flower shop, he knew that he wanted to work with his hands. He originally took stagecraft and enjoyed it, but a friend convinced him to switch into woodworking.

“Thanks to my Dad, I was pretty comfortable with tools even before I started woodshop,” said Jack. “I am attracted to the refined nature of woodworking, transforming a raw material into a functional finished product. Working with my hands is exciting and I quickly found my love for woodworking while at George School. I was timid when I first stepped foot into the woodshop but started to get comfortable after completing my first project. I was excited to try something new and building the poplar box was a great entry into woodworking. When Carter started to compliment my work, that is when I felt like I had some talent. I get really invested whenever I work on a project, and woodshop was the perfect match for my focus.”

The first piece of furniture Jack ever built [at George School] was a walnut coffee table. “I still have the table. When I look at it, all I see are a ton of imperfections and mistakes, but I enjoy it as a reference to my roots as a woodworker. It constantly reminds me of where I began. Currently, I am working on an end table or plant stand and I can see the major improvements I have made from my first piece to the present.”

After George School, Jack studied physics, but quickly realized that he missed working with his hands. He decided to transfer schools and started studying woodworking at Virginia Commonwealth University. He launched his career from an opportunity that presented itself during a summer apprenticeship. “I was in Kennett Square working with a family friend in their woodshop repairing and reconstructing vintage and antique pieces,” explained Jack. “It was incredibly rewarding work, so I decided not to go back to school and launched my woodworking career from that point. I had the opportunity to work in a timber framing workshop and learn the macroscale of woodworking. Though that was a good experience, I realized that furniture making was still my passion because I enjoy the artistic and design aspects of it.”

Jack currently works in a woodshop in Philadelphia. He is also making furniture on the side for himself and on commissions. “I recently moved into a new apartment and made the decision to build everything I need. Recently, I built a large wall-to-wall shelf that was designed to hold a CD collection of ten thousand. I have refinished many antique pieces, but most enjoy the challenge of making something new and unique,” said Jack.

Jack’s dream project is to create a Nakashima-style coffee or dining table out of free edge walnut. “My style is modern contemporary and my aesthetic is most influenced by George Nakashima. “I strive to find the intersection of functionality and design,” explained Jack. “I try to push the delineation of functionality by remembering the base nature of the wood material and emphasizing asymmetry and imperfection. A recent project that reflects this style is a stool that I built that included strings instead of a solid top. I always question an object to understand its purpose and try to make it functional and interesting. I enjoy building furniture because of how interactive it is and am grateful to continue building upon my woodworking journey that began at George School.”