The Full Story
Looking at us now, it's probably hard to imagine we started working out of the back of a truck. But it's important to us that you understand the complete Journey.
So here's the full story, written by our Founder, Dave King.
It all started with an aunt, an uncle, & an opportunity for work. In June of 1983, I (Dave King) moved from California's San Francisco/Bay area to Tumwater Washington, to live with my aunt & uncle while I established myself as a mechanic toolmaker for Boeing. I thought I would do that for a while & then move to Alaska & build a homestead there. But the universe had other plans. An economic recession hit, & opportunities for mechanic toolmaker apprenticeships were no longer available. Fortunately, I was able to use the skills I acquired growing up around the construction trades to find jobs & apply skills. Doing this allowed me to cross paths with some interesting old timers, who offered me the opportunity to learn & thrive in the sawmill field. But I knew that wasn’t my permanent path. So every Wednesday morning at 6am, I rattled on Scott Ritler's door asking for a job, until he finally hired me. My first day, he put me to work cutting a unit of 1 by 6 tongue and groove cedar boards for a hot tub skirt. At the end of the day when he came back, I was up to my knees in sawdust & had processed the whole unit of lumber. He took one look & said "No one has ever cut up a whole unit in one day. I have another job for you". He ended up moving me to the cabinet department, where I worked alongside highly skilled cabinet makers & carpenters. They took me under their wing & taught me the trade.
Eventually I left Scott’s business & opened what I liked to call, my very own “job shop”. Basically I worked out of my 1957 Ford Ranchero truck, with nothing but a handful of tools I’d bolted down or otherwise reconfigured, & a blue tarp to protect it from the elements. Looking back it certainly wasn’t an easy path to take, but I’m glad I did. My mother & father had recently moved to Olympia so I could help care for my mother, & the cabinet business just wasn’t enough to provide for us all. They had come to depend on me as their caretaker, but in many ways their being here helped me too. I was able to learn more about my ancestry, gain some personal satisfaction, establish a stronger relationship with them, & ultimately heal some old wounds. It was a time of immense growth for me. As I grew, so did the “job shop”. I ended up hiring my brother & father, & in 1987, I officially established King’s Custom Carpentry. Looking back it probably looked odd to have the youngest of the three of us lead the family business. But my father felt nothing but pride. Whenever a subcontractor or client needed something, he would say “Oh, go talk to the boy boss, he’s right over there” while pointing at me.
Discovering Our Values
As I changed, so too did the world, & with it my mindset. When my first son was born, I often brought him to work with me in a backpack. It was just Kollee, a lunch pail, a diaper bag, and me. Having him at work with me so often, I began to consider the impact the business would have on his future. Oddly enough, I was continually brought back to memories of making pigeon traps out of old wood scraps with my father. I soon realized that I wanted to continue that generational craft with him, & take the business to a place where I could allow others like him to grow & develop that same craft. By this time, I had also seen the waste & destruction that so many woodworking companies created, & I wanted to go back to that point in time, making pigeon traps. Where we used every last piece of material. It was with those things on my mind that in 1999 I rebranded King’s Custom Carpentry as Eco Woodworks. It was no longer just about Dave King. The company had morphed into something beyond any one person.
Having a family, becoming a father, being involved in the community, & the day-to-days of running a business kept me busy for a while. But in 2015, I was finally in a place where I was able to expand the shop & provide the crew with the workspace they deserved. Shortly after the shop expansion, there was also a shift in our space; We began fostering craft in a creative way, & started making things instead of just doing jobs. What often happens in the industry is that people become disconnected from their work. But with the creation of a larger physical place giving room to create, I was also able to create a metaphysical space for the crew. Their talents & passion at Eco Woodworks is what drives us as a business, & creating that space gave us opportunities I never would have imagined were otherwise there. The things we have created as a result always leave clients saying wow. To me, the “wow” that comes from exceeding a client's expectations brings me the kind of satisfaction a simple paycheck never has.
It's More Than a Business
Now, I don’t want to take all the credit in this story. I’ve had an immense amount of help along the way from my family, friends, crew members, subcontractors, & even clients. It’s been a crazy journey. Along the way, I have come to the realization that we all long to be connected, to make a contribution, & to ultimately make a difference. Finding how we do that is our own personal journey, & in many ways, the Eco Woodworks journey is my own. I can only hope that each person who has crossed my path along the way was able to grow & immerse themselves into the craft in a healthy & creative way.