A 'Parks and Recreation' Star Comes Out of the Woodwork

“For a woodworker, I won the lottery,” states Nick Offerman. The actor, who plays Ron Swanson on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, was blessed from the amusement industry, turning his former occupation as a woodworker into an wonderful hobby. Rather than closing up shop after landing his huge role, Offerman turned his Los Angeles woodshop into a space which nurtures young woodworkers and produces amazing custom bits. Here is the story behind Offerman Woodshop.


Growing Up Handy

Much like his Parks and Recreation change ego Ron Swanson, Offerman (the one with the mustache) has been working with wood since he was a kid. Having grown up in an Illinois farm, he also spent lots of time around machines and tools. From the time he started studying theatre at the University of Illinois, he was comfortable building the basics.

Revealed: The Offerman Woodshop team. Back, left to right: Nick Offerman, Justin Goldwater. Front, left to right: RH Lee, Michele Diener, Matthew Micucci. Not pictured: Matt Offerman and Josh Salsbury.


“I quickly learned in theatre school that even though I was terrible at acting once I started out, I could make myself valuable to all my peers because I could build the scenery,” Offerman states. “I was amazed at how several 18-year-olds had ever swung a hammer . These men could all play a fundamental Shakespeare monologue, but ask them to build a birdhouse. … They thought I was a superhero because I could do it”

While he spent college and his early theatre career in Chicago construction sets, it wasn’t until Offerman moved to Los Angeles he fell under the charm of heirloom furniture and saw the joinery he used for sets and backyard cabins could be utilised in a stunning slab dining table.

Revealed: Built-in shelving made of reclaimed Douglas fir, by Justin Goldwater.


The Shop Grows

When Offerman landed his character Parks and Recreation, he knew his life was going to change, big time. Either his workshop was going to collect dust, or he had to obtain some woodworkers to help him. “Coming from a big family and out of theatre, it was normal that I would pick the latter, because I like being around a huge group of individuals, working together to do something creative,” Offerman states.

Offerman first brought on RH Lee, his woodshop manager. “She is a very small lady who’s worth about a few of me,” he states. “She’s incredibly powerful, a gorgeous woodworker, and I immediately laid claim to her. She’s invaluable to my shop.”

Within the past four years, Offerman and Lee have established a sturdy group, including Offerman’s brother Matt and Palo Alto, California, indigenous Josh Salsbury. “We predict [Salsbury]’The Beef,’ for the last name, which is ironic since he’s rather thin,” states Offerman, laughing.

Revealed: California Claro Walnut dining table and chairs, by RH Lee.


Spoiled Rotten

“I’m spoiled rotten, as my other shop owner friends love to point me out,” states Offerman. “Because I’m spoiled, I found a chance to help out a few other aspiring woodworkers. So we created a deal — it is kind of like a co-op, together with a benign dictatorship. I cover the rent, but everyone pays a overhead percent on any projects.”

Everybody in the shop takes custom commissions. Lee is presently working on a mahogany pinball table, and Goldwater was commissioned to build the inside of a brand new wine bar using reclaimed Douglas fir. Each individual jumps around on jobs, also.

Revealed: A typewriter stand made from mahogany and glass, by Josh Salsbury.


Mustache Comb “Second Edition” – $75

Naturally, Parks and Recreation‘s popularity has influenced the woodshop’s popularity — particularly the site traffic. While most visitors to the Offerman Workshop site may be unable to afford one of their group’s custom furniture pieces, the team has come up with a selection of cheaper (slightly Ron Swanson–like) items for people, like a mustache comb, meat cutting board and kazoo.


Still His Shop

While his success in the entertainment industry has meant that woodworking is of a full-time gig and more of a pastime, Offerman still insists on picking out all of the huge wood slabs for the shop’s projects. “I liken it to some woman’s closet full of shoes,” he states. “I’ve discovered my viceversa, and my vice is purchasing bits of trees”

A couple of times a year, Offerman drives a truck around Northern California to purchase trees and mill them into his own chainsaw mill. Each tree has dropped naturally or has been felled due to disease or other issues. “There is plenty enough trees from the country laying around on the floor for us to use,” states Offerman. “I love living trees, and I hope to never need to harm one to create my merchandise ”

Revealed: Strong Claro Walnut Coffee Table, by Nick Offerman.

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