Greetings Dust Makers


My name is John Cobb. I’ve been in the wood industry for over 17 years. I got started right out of high school with my Uncles company. There I started building houses and so began my love for building. I remember my Mom telling me how I would take things apart to see how they worked and put stuff together without directions like it was something I’d done before from a very early age. So I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I stepped foot on the jobsite that first day and drove that first 8 penny nail into a piece of jip, that I fell in love. I might have been the only one excited to be hand driving nails into jip on a two story house that day but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else in life. I just had to learn everything there was to know so I could build bigger and better things.
My dad always worked with his hands and maybe that’s where I got the passion for seeing something I created with my own hands. I started working with him around the age of 12. He owned his own business and needed help all the time and since I was the oldest of three boys, I received the pleasure. I can’t say it was all just a load of fun being 12 and working every Saturday and summers. I can say however, I’m not sure I would trade it. I missed out on some childhood events sometimes but I learned something invaluable. I learned how to use tools! I learned that working with my hands was something that was rewarding. Most of all I learned that with hard work you could accomplish most anything you put your mind too.
Six years I worked at my Uncles construction business. In that time I went from hand driving nails to running jobs. I also had the pleasure of constructing my own house in ‘03 in which I still live in today. I loved building houses. We did everything from pouring the concrete to trimming it out and paint. The last of a dying breed of company. The learning experiences were almost endless. As much as I loved being a builder I really took an interest in the intricacies of cabinetry and trim. The company fell on hard times, as did almost every construction company around that time with the economy taking such a downturn. With this came an opportunity.
My Uncle needed to downsize and I was family. Quite a predicament I’m sure as I was a young man who had just built a house and looking to get married. I was blown away when a friend of mine who eventually became my brother in law called me one day and asked if I would be interested in working with his father. He had a cabinet shop and specialized in wine cellars. What an amazing opportunity to do the exact thing I had been so interested in doing and what timing. I was able to relieve my Uncle of having to do something I’m sure he didn’t want to do in letting me go and move on to learn a whole new side of building. I had only heard of this magical place builders called “The Shop” the day I started with Home Street Builders Inc. When I stepped foot into it the first time, I was hooked! Tools everywhere, my mind raced at all the things that could be done with this array of tools. The next few years were like heaven. I learned how to use tools in a whole new way. Whether that was using it in a way I hadn’t thought of before or using it more efficiently. I learned how to build cabinets and furniture and I learned to use my imagination to create things that didn’t exist. I just knew that this is where I was supposed to be and in a way it was.
The economy is a bear sometimes. It had cost me a job once that turned into an amazing adventure, but this time things looked different. Tod, the owner and a man I had grown to respect at the highest of levels, found himself in the same situation that my Uncle had found himself years earlier. Jobs slowly becoming harder and harder to find. I was his only employee at the time and had the honor of being called his partner, a title to which he gave though I had invested nothing more into his company than elbow grease. I couldn’t continue draining his bank account cleaning out the shop. Everyone loves a clean shop but not at the price of a couple weeks pay. I wish I could say that life just made me some more lemonade out of my lemon situation but that wasn’t the case. At least not for a few years.
I took a job building fire trucks. It pained me to leave the shop and the man I had come to respect as my mentor but I couldn’t be the cause of his downfall. I swore if I ever had the chance to go back to the wood world I would take it and do my best to be a true partner to my mentor. For two years I wired up fire trucks which management aside was actually more fun than I had expected. I was suddenly able to learn how electricity worked and work alongside some guys who knew a lot about what they were doing. I also had the chance to work around the fabricators who were building the trucks and was able to learn some basic metalworking techniques. It wasn’t the exact thing I wanted to do but it was still putting parts together and I got to fill up a rolling tool box with a whole new variety of tools!
My Uncle had managed to struggle through the extreme downturn and come out on the other side with his company still in tact. Forty years or so of running a business of some sort I guess this didn’t come a huge surprise. It was the Thanksgiving holidays when my Uncle gave me a call and wanted to meet for dinner. We talked but a dinner meeting wasn’t normal. He told me that he had heard I wasn’t fond of the job I had and was looking to change my profession again. He offered me a job I had had so many years ago. I jumped at the chance to get back into making dust again! It wasn’t exactly what I was wanting but it got me back into the industry I loved so much. January 1 I turned in my two weeks at the fire truck place and I was back on track. This time I started making my own plans to start my own business and get back into that ever elusive shop. I had told my Uncle of my plans and where my heart really was when it came to the wood industry. I wanted my own shop where I could get back to building cabinets and furniture and the things of my imagination. He was more than happy to oblige my longings and so began the collecting of tools for a shop to house. After slowly purchasing everything I thought I needed to start my own shop, something I had only dreamt of, I started talking to my Uncle about purchasing a building he owned and turning it into a shop and partnering together to do even more with the business he’d started while starting my own on it’s journey. Two weeks, that’s how long my dream lasted. Two weeks after accumulating the last of the tools I thought necessary, they were gone. Stolen. Robbed from the very building I was planning all my hopes and dreams to be for the rest of my life. To say I was heartbroken was an understatement. Everything I’d worked so hard for, my plans for the future, all of it went out the back window of that building with a mislead person. I was at a loss for what I was going to do nothing covered the losses. I was just going to have to start over. So start over I did. This time it was in my backyard. I built a shop behind my house so I could one keep an eye on it and two I could walk outside and my dreams were right there.
A few years later I was able to get my shop built and refill it slowly with all the tools I’d lost earlier. I was able to start my own business Unique Concepts Building & Design LLC. I have since lived up to the promise I made to myself earlier and partnered with my mentor and Home Street Builders Inc. It’s been a long road to get to where I am today but I have learned a lot of good information and been able to further my talents more than I ever would have expected. I could study the rest of my life and still not know everything there is to know about woodworking but I guarantee I’ll be trying. I’m starting this blog to pass on some of the information I’ve gathered over the years. I’ve been doing this for over seventeen years and I’ve done almost everything. Today I consider myself a woodworker/maker. I do custom cabinetry, furniture, and whatever my imagination decides to come up with that day. My biggest pieces of advice to any woodworker would be don’t be afraid to roll your sleeves up and get dirty. Don’t be afraid to try something, if you break it figure out what you did wrong and try again. Oh and watch your fingers! Hope you enjoyed the first blog. I’ll post again soon, until then get in the shop and make something!

Check out my Facebook page at if you’re interested in seeing some of my work. I’ll post future projects here as well in the coming weeks!

Interesting story…
The facebook page did not work for me.

Would love to see some of your wood work.

Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

Thank you, I may have done the link wrong but it’s the correct URL. I’ll see if I can fix it.

Great story. I like your projects too. A very wide variety of stuff.

Losing fingers since 1969