Joe Lex is happiest when he’s in the shop making things – but his talents go way beyond woodworking. We sat down with him to learn a little more about his lifelong career.:

Joe Lex driving a forklift at Stirling Furnishings in Hartland, Wisconsin

Q: Tell us a little about why you got in to woodworking.
A: I always liked it, the making of things, the satisfaction of products being finished.

Q: How did you get started in the business?
A: I started as a kid – making birdhouses with my dad, park benches, stuff like that. Formally I started apprenticing when I was 18 – I started in a cabinet shop. I left when I was 21 and went to a new shop but came back 7 years later and ended up buying the shop when I was 37. I ran it for 12 or 13 years and then came over to Stirling around 2009.

Q: What was the process to learn the trade?
A: I took all the shop classes in high school that were offered, and then did an independent study my senior year as a teacher’s aide, teaching freshman. Next, I apprenticed at a cabinet shop with two guys from Germany (they were born in the U.S.) and they taught me the “Old World Way”. My first project in the cabinet shop was putting face frames together and sanding. When you knew how to do stuff they moved you along. It was the watch and learn method.

Q: What do you like most about woodworking?
A: The doing! I don’t like sitting in an office!

Q: What do you find most difficult about your craft?
A: Sitting in the office. Just kidding (not really). I guess it’s the problem solving – how to fix something when it goes wrong without starting over from scratch.

Q: What is your “specialty”?
A: Coming up with creative solutions to abstract problems.

Q: What is a favorite job you worked on?
A: There have been some real interesting stairs, and some mantels for private residential projects that ended up in major magazines.

Q: What was the toughest job you worked on?
A: There was a high-end job I did for a client once, and they didn’t want to pay for it. That’s the toughest part of the job for me. Raising three daughters was pretty tough too!

Q: If you could do anything else in the world, what would it be?
A: If it isn’t winning the lottery, I’d always pick woodworking. It’s the love of my life.

Q: What do you like to do on the weekends?
A: What are weekends? I’m always working – I’m a bit of a workaholic I guess. If I’m not working, I like to do things with my family when they’re in town. My wife, 3 daughters, 3 sons in law, 3 grandkids, and my dog.

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