“WOODMASTER JOBS KEEP COMING AND WE CAN’T SAY NO” — Woodworking couple’s happy & BUSY in retirement

John Lepien

Kaye Lepien

Here’s a happy couple who’ve found the secret of a full and rewarding retirement. John and Kaye Lepien are woodworking partners. “We work together and design things together,” says John.

“It gives us both a creative outlet so we don’t just sit around as so many retirees do.” And how’s business? “We’re almost busier than we’d like but it’s awfully hard to turn jobs down.”

“I taught Industrial Arts for 36 years. I retired in 1997 at 57. Today, my wife, Kaye, and I run our own woodworking business, J & K Creations, and have a Woodmaster Drum Sander. Business is great. In fact, we’re busier than we’d like to be. It’s awfully hard to turn jobs down.

It’s not about the money

John and Kaye's daughter sells the work her parents do with their Woodmaster. Her online catalog describes this piece, "Handcrafted in Michigan. Colonial Pipebox. Distressed Olde Forge Mustard paint by Olde Centry Colors with brown stain. Box measures 17.5"h x 6"w x 4.25"d. Sorry pick not included."

John and Kaye’s daughter sells the work her parents do with their Woodmaster. Her online catalog describes this piece, “Handcrafted in Michigan. Colonial Pipebox. Distressed Olde Forge Mustard paint by Olde Centry Colors with brown stain. Box measures 17.5″h x 6″w x 4.25″d. Sorry pick not included.”

Money is not the object of our business at all. It’s not about the money. Our business keeps us active and busy. So many people retire and have nothing to do. They just sit around and they die! I see it all the time.

This business is something Kaye and I can do together. We’re here in the shop together all day long and that’s great. We work together and we design things together. It gives us both a creative outlet.

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Every day’s different

I once worked in a factory at the same machine for 8 or 10 hours a day and I said ‘I’m just not going to do this for the rest of my life. It’s boring!’ Today, in our business, every day’s different and I love it.

Kaye and I started out selling what we made at craft shows. Then our daughter bought a store in downtown Iona, Michigan, ‘Keeper of the Crows,’  where she sells primitive home décor and antiques. We supply over 50 primitive-style wooden items to her store.

We make ‘primitives’ and antique-style items of pine and poplar. We round the edges and corners and mar the surfaces a little. Then Kaye paints them and we sand off the corners to give a ‘distressed’ look. Kaye adds stain and we finish it with Crystalac. It acts like a lacquer but it’s water-based and dries in no time.

Folding cutting boards and more, every kind you can imagine

Online, John & Kaye's "Colonial Candlebox" is described and sold as, "Distressed redish/orange with dark brown stain. Box measures 14"h x 8.5" w x 4.75" d. Sorry does not include flower pick."

Online, John & Kaye’s “Colonial Candlebox” is described and sold as, “Distressed redish/orange with dark brown stain. Box measures 14″h x 8.5″ w x 4.75″ d. Sorry does not include flower pick.”

We make custom furniture, too. I use walnut, cherry, maple, hickory and more. There’s no waste: I save all the cutoffs and leftover pieces of hardwood from other projects and make every kind of cutting board you can think of. They sell like crazy, especially at the Holidays. This is where our Woodmaster Drum Sander comes in so handy. We make 40 or 50 cutting boards at a time. We glue them up and send them through the Woodmaster and they come out perfect.

“We use our Woodmaster Drum Sander 4 to 5 hours every day.”

"Colonial Shelf" by John and Kaye. Their daughter sells their work online. She writes, "Love this little shelf/setter. Distressed sage green. Shelf measures 16 1/2"h x 12"w x 5 3/8"d. Sorry crock not included."

“Colonial Shelf” by John and Kaye. Their daughter sells their work online. She writes, “Love this little shelf/setter. Distressed sage green. Shelf measures 16 1/2″h x 12″w x 5 3/8″d. Sorry crock not included.”

Our 38” Woodmaster Drum Sander works like crazy. I use it every day, four or five hours a day. We use it to make all kinds of things — fancy little boxes; mahogany cribbage boards; furniture; shelving; kitchen islands; cabinets; US flag boxes; all kinds of things. We designed and make a folding cribbage board. I did a kitchen and bathroom out of white pine for a retired state trooper. I make a lot of things that have drawers so I make 50 drawers at a time with the drum sander. We’re very diversified and we’re always making new designs. I’d be lost without my Woodmaster Drum Sander.

Also, I do custom sanding. A lot of people come in asking me to sand things for them. A young man just brought in 10 walnut boards he wanted sanded. I just made a 6’ by 34” wooden floor panel for a fellow who’s turning a Cadillac hearse into a limousine. The word gets out and I get calls. I don’t advertise, the word just spreads. I got three calls yesterday!

I’d never used a wide drum sander until I made a big project for myself using a friend’s drum sander. I got a Grizzly® drum sander but I hated it and practically gave the damn thing away. After that bad experience, I shopped around and got my Woodmaster. I used it every day. All the time.

He sets sanding depth by ear

I got the 38” Woodmaster Drum Sander because I wanted to run doors. I just ran more than 30 doors for one job! Here’s how I set the sanding depth: I set it so the drum doesn’t quite touch the workpiece. I turn the Woodmaster’s handle until I can hear the drum just kiss the wood. Then I turn it just a touch more — that’s my setting.

In 36 years as an Industrial Arts teacher, I’ve seen all kinds of equipment and, yes, that experience influenced my decision to buy a Woodmaster. I’d buy another one in a minute. The people at Woodmaster are great, too. You can call and talk to them. I call them a lot when I have technical questions. I get on the phone with Woodmaster and I get people who know what the hell they’re talking about!”

— John Lepien, Woodmaster Owner, J & K Creations, Saranac MI

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