With a background in civil engineering, woodworking and carpentry, Paul Jackman considers himself lucky to share his knowledge through entertaining and engaging videos that also help people learn. His ultimate goal, he says, is to “get the younger generations excited about making things again.”
Jackman and his wife recently moved from urban Washington D.C. to a quiet town in eastern Massachusetts, where they enjoy living in a century-old farmhouse that sits on nearly an acre of land. Jackman built his dream workshop in the barn that came with the property and has used Ariens equipment to cultivate a spacious lawn that serves as the backdrop for most of what he posts to YouTube, Instagram and other platforms.
Out Working caught up with him to learn more about what he has in store for the future, and what it takes to be a maker of all things.
OW: You call yourself a “full-time maker”. How would you describe such a line of work?
PJ: “Maker” is just a general all-encompassing term, and I use it on purpose. For the term “maker”, I like to define it in the context of similarly titled items that I’m surrounded by all day: a table saw (a saw that’s a table); a bandsaw (a saw that’s in the shape of a band); a belt sander (a sander that is a belt). You get the idea... so for me, a maker is just a person who makes things.
In my case, “making” is mostly in the forms of woodworking, videography and photography, although it often stems from other types of making (because I make the rules around here!). One week I might be handcrafting a coffee table from a 100-year-old tree slab; the next week I’m carving a giant boot out of flotation foam for a giant PEZ dispenser; and another week I’m turning pallet wood on the lathe to make candle holders. Along with making these creations, I share the entire process on the internet in video and picture form and have figured out a way to make a living out of it. (Please don’t ask me how, because I’m still not entirely sure).
OW: You’re also a content creator. What are your goals with the content you put out there, and how has the public reacted to it?
PJ: Yes, content! I’m currently on my never-ending journey toward becoming an Instagram model. Besides this side passion project, I create videos documenting the entire build process for my projects. They typically take the form of fast-paced, music-backed videos. My goal is to entertain and then sneak in some education when you least expect it — I have a theory that’s how most people learn best. I feel like my videos are for a bit of a younger demographic on average, as my typically goofy projects likely aren’t impressing the crowd who would love to spend hours watching Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation) craft the perfect dovetail joint. They’re made with everybody in mind.
Overall, I’m overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised with how positively my work has been received. Even though I’m somewhat of a classically trained woodworker, very few of my projects are classical woodworking, so it’s fun to have people embrace something that’s a little counterculture, or punk rock if you will. (Calling yourself punk rock is kind of the antithesis of being punk rock, but we’ll try to ignore that).
OW: As a “hands-on” guy, you seem to enjoy yardwork and being outside. Was the past spring/summer season the first with an Ariens zero-turn mower? What’s the landscaping on your farm like and how has the equipment helped the work?
PJ: I definitely enjoy every aspect of hands-on work, including tending to the barn, house, and the land that it sits on. It’s our first time owning a home, so it only seems fitting that I pair that with my first “Jackman-sized” lawn mower, the Ariens IKON XD 52” zero-turn mower. The house and barn sit together on a property that is just short of an acre and when we moved in the lawn looked like Elon Musk before the hair transplant. So, we put a lot of work into it, including bringing in some topsoil, re-grading it for better drainage and reseeding the entire lawn. The work really paid off for us this spring when the lawn filled in better than it ever had before. The Ariens mower has not only helped to maintain this lawn this summer, but its ability to tow a small load has also helped us with the grading and replanting. Plus, it gets me back in the shop faster, and I actually enjoy my time mowing, how can you beat that?
OW: We noticed you also put your Ariens PLATINUM 28 RapidTrak SHO Sno-Thro to work last winter. How was that experience?
PJ: The best and worst thing about Massachusetts is that you get to experience all of the seasons to their full extents. We live along the coast of the state, so we get spared the worst of the snowfall, but we learned last year that even though they plow the rest of the roads around us, the town doesn’t touch ours. The Ariens Sno-Thro was a lifesaver. I have the version with the tank treads on it, so that means I get to unironically call it “my tank” without my wife rolling her eyes. It adjusts the aggressiveness in the way that the machine scrapes on the ground, which was super important since I have to clear a paved road, dirt road, grass and a gravel driveway, all at the same time. I knew I’d love that feature, but until using it in multiple storms, on multiple surfaces, I didn’t realize how useful it really was.
OW: In general, how important is lawn care in having the type of workspace you work in?
PJ: For me it’s important to have a beautiful backdrop for all my content. But more so, a well- kept outdoor environment is very inspiring to me and keeps me mentally in tune and wanting to create new things. Almost all my work starts with a natural material (wood), and I have to adapt and work with that material that is organic and non-uniform and takes a lot of work to transform. Lawn care is much the same, really.
OW: You’ve recently starred on a new Netflix show. What can you tell us about it?
PJ: Shooting this Netflix show was a major part of my last year, so I love the opportunity to share more about it. It’s called “Making Fun.” It’s a show based around me and four of my friends building fun and crazy projects for kids in my friend Jimmy Diresta’s shop. Kids pitch us ideas, and we decide on one project per episode to actually build, then present the build to the kid at the end of the episode. It’s a comedy show, disguised as a build show, that is also educational, and PG-ish family-friendly. The goal was to create something completely unique and not done before in the reality TV genre.
OW: Two of your most notable woodworking projects are a giant wood hammer and a giant wood articulated hand. Why?
PJ: These are “Jackman-sized” projects. They reflect my love for making perfectly scaled giant things. Some people also say I have a big head, but that’s still up for debate. The giant tools started with a giant wood utility knife (inspired by my friend Jimmy Diresta who had made a giant razor blade), then a giant epoxy resin screwdriver to open that knife, a giant wood hand plane, and finally, the most recent, an 8-foot-tall wooden hammer. “Why?” is a hard question to answer, my typical response to that is “Why not?” A better answer though, is that scaling things from small to large is a fun, creative challenge; mathematical challenge; and also an engineering challenge. When you create something at a scale that it’s not supposed to be, out of a material that it’s not supposed to be made of... that’s “making fun!”
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