- for almost 5 years
- Nice guy,love woodworking,biking and spending time at home with my wife and all my kids and Grandson . How www. Wooden Classic Wheels.com got started ? Imagine for a moment a cold bleak January day 1999. You’re swinging the hammer hard knowing the boss is... more »Nice guy,love woodworking,biking and spending time at home with my wife and all my kids and Grandson .
How www. Wooden Classic Wheels.com got started ?
Imagine for a moment a cold bleak January day 1999.
You’re swinging the hammer hard knowing the boss is in a hurry to get this one finished. Everyone has left for the day and you know if you kick butt for just a while longer you can finish the sub flooring. The weather starts to turn nasty and it begins to sleet. Before you know it the planks are covered with a thin sheet of ice. You go to get another board, turn, slip, try to regain your balance and you feel something rip and rip hard.
For William Jackson this day would be one he would never forget. It would go on to change his life in ways he never dreamed possible. William at the age of forty had been in construction most of his life. He had a natural knack for building things and an energy level that always ran on high gear. It was an old standing joke between he and his wife of fifteen years that William didn’t go to the bar to get away, he swung a hammer.
On that fateful winter day William had damaged his arm far worse than even he thought. By the time he returned home that evening his wife noticed he had no color in his face. A trip to the doctor confirmed some of his suspicion and gave light to new ones. He had done some serious damage to his bone, tendons, and muscles near the right elbow joint. In fact he would later learn he had ripped most of them away from his muscle making his right arm virtually useless.
Over the next year William saw several doctors and went through extensive physical therapy. His arm made slight improvements, but he was unable to do many of the things that had come so naturally to him. There were times he was unable to even pick up a coffee cup with his arm.
A year came and went and Jackson was still unable to use his arm efficiently. He recalls the most difficult thing for him was the inability to give his family of five the amenities that they had grown accustomed to having. “I’d always provided a good life for my family. (Jeromy 14, Amanda 13, and Abigail 3) It was very difficult for me to watch my wife leave to go to her teaching job every day knowing she was pulling more than her share. I’m an old-fashioned kind of a guy and I wanted to give her everything she deserved.”
In a last ditch effort to hear some hopeful news Jackson decided to see one more specialist, the best in the field. During that consultation, Jackson was bluntly told it was time to move his life to Plan B. He knew then that no amount of wanting to be better was going to help him. He had to have an alternative. The only problem was, he didn’t have one. All he had known his entire life was construction.
Jackson became increasingly depressed as he resigned himself to a life not doing what he loved. Never a drinking man, he took to his garage to contemplate his options. His worries for his family were immense. Loving the neighborhood where they lived he and his wife had made the decision to almost double the size of their existing home to accommodate their growing family just months before the accident. Although Jackson had completed 90% of the work himself the cost of materials alone had increased their mortgage payment. He knew that he would have to move his family and the thought laid heavily on him.
During his many hours in the garage Jackson began to slowly work with wood again. He believed in the back of his mind that he could train his arm to work again. The work was slow and laborious. He was unable to pick up a board that weighed more than 10 pounds. Any work he did had to be completely by hand; carving, gluing, and using the scroll saw. His arm couldn’t withstand jarring of any kind. He doesn’t profess to know why, but he ended up designing and building a replica of a car he had always admired. The car was made completely from hand out of wood and from his mind’s eye.
His wife too had her worries, not only for her family’s well being, but for her husband’s health. There were times when she would watch him sitting alone in his chair. She had never seen such sadness in his eyes. She knew what she saw on the outside was only a fraction of what he felt on the inside. He had never been a complainer, but she knew he was in terrible pain physically and suffering greatly in his heart.
It was when Barbara first saw the replica that a spark ignited in her. Being a deeply spiritual woman, she felt then and feels now, that God was watching over William. He was taking the bad and turning it into good. Her beliefs would soon be confirmed.
Some Sundays after William had finished the replica she noticed a contest for Master Craftsmen put on by Sears. She knew instantly that William’s car would win. It would be just the jump start he needed to realize his sense of worth wasn’t dependent on how big he could build something or how much money he brought home. She secretly entered the replica into the contest.
Following these feelings turned out to be the best thing that she could have ever done. Not only did William win first place in areas of difficulty and creativity, but a small picture went out in the Sear’s sales flyer nationally. The picture only told of his placing and listed him as Al Jackson in DeMotte, Indiana. Since Al was his middle name, the next occurrence proved to be even more remarkable.
A seasoned collector in California noticed the ad and tracked him down. He asked William to send him photos of his work for his perusal. A few days later the man called and ordered over $20,000 worth of his pieces. When the work was complete he told William that he had traveled the world over collecting wooden vehicles and William’s were by far the best he had ever seen.
From this point, door after door opened for Wooden Classic Wheels. William’s work was showcased on Chicago’s ABC 7 news “I Love My Car” segment. Then a team member from Martha Stewart Living called to inform him they were submitting his information to the writers for a possible segment.
Luck isn’t the only reason Jackson has been able to make a successful run. When the decision was made to go full force with his dream, money was tight so he spent his months at home learning how to use his computer and build a website. He learned by watching over his families’ shoulders as they worked on various projects and then painstakingly taught himself new tricks. “It took me three months to build a site that was advertised ‘Make a website in ten minutes,’ but I did it and it gave me confidence to continue marketing on the web. I began to research the businesses on the net and had my wife design a letter for me. I only sent my information to people I thought would benefit from my talent so it was slow going, but from the beginning I made up my mind that Wooden Classic Wheels was going to be a personal business. Unbelievably I started getting inquiries from these mailings. I really think the research and targeting were responsible for the success.”
He is very emphatic about his philosophy too, “If the client isn’t pleased than neither am I.” Each order he receives has a personal element to it. He is involved in every step of the process, from receiving the order to shipping the pieces out. He has even driven across several states to select the perfect wood for a special replica. “I want to make sure it’s right. I’ve told my wife, ‘This business is about us. I want our clients to experience our values and see our dedication to them. If we can’t feel that bond than we are too big.’” He indicates that the most enjoyable part of creating a piece for someone is the personal touch he gives it. Although he does occasionally work off plans, his favorite pieces are not built to scale. He creates his pieces working from detailed photos his clients send to him. His ability to look at a photo and replicate a piece so massive without plans is astonishing.
“It’s kind of turned into a sort of comedy at our house,” Barbara Jackson states, “He’ll get a photo from a client and print it. He will spend the evening staring at the picture. He’ll lay it this way and that, put it down, and before you know it he’s picked it up again. Then when he finishes a piece he carries it around the house with him for several days and sets it in whatever room he is in. We’ll look up and see this strange kind of look on his face. Before you know it, he will take the piece in the garage and fix something only he and a strong microscope would ever notice! Then he starts the process all over again. It’s real bad when he has bulk orders! However; when he is done we are always amazed at his attention to detail.”
Jackson laughs and admits he is a bit picky with his work. “I guess that is why I’ve been successful. I know the value of a dollar and I want my client to get what they pay for. If I have an order for one or for a thousand replicas each one of those pieces is going to belong to someone. I want them to be proud of it.”
His clients quickly pick up on his enthusiasm and passion. Jackson has never had an unhappy customer and over 90% of his clients are repeat customers.
“I like to find out the story behind the replica. My clients are ordering these vehicles to represent a very important part of them whether it is a special car, heavy equipment, or a replica to represent a company. It might be about that first hole in one, first car, years of service, dream cars, or a show piece to say about a company, ‘We take pride in what we do.’ Whatever the reason, I want to make sure that story gets put into the work I do. I think I have the greatest job in the world. I get to meet people from all over the world and get to know about them. I’m unlike most internet business. I’m not just processing orders. I am creating art that has a little of me, the client, and the vehicle in it. That’s what I’m after. For me, I get to put everything a guy loves into one thing: big steel, wood, and power tools. What could be better than that?”
He also utilizes technology to keep his clients updated. During the design process he takes photos and sends them via email. The clients appreciate being part of the work and get excited about the arrival of the finished piece. It also helps if a subtle detail wasn’t picked up in the client photo.
In one year Jackson’s business has grown larger than he could have ever imagined. He has been commissioned by several corporate clients to design series that are given to employees and clients as gifts and incentives. Orders continue pouring in from collectors and individuals. The most exciting thing to William is that his talent has led him to the Plan B he thought he didn’t have. “I feel very blessed every day. It’s amazing how things have a way of working out. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
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