Roark Jefferson Is Self-Taught in the Art of Board Making
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Lifelong Palisadian Roark Jefferson is getting on-the-job training in what it is like to run your own business, and so far, the endeavor has been both profitable and educational.
He taught himself how to make custom cutting boards almost a year ago, and now he is learning the ins and outs of the woodworking trade. He has made about 20 boards thus far.
“Originally it started through a post I made on Nextdoor about wanting to start a business,” he said. “There are certain patterns I want to start making. My first couple of boards were the result of that post. It takes me anywhere from six to 10 hours, depending on the pattern.”
Jefferson went to Palisades Charter High School his freshman year but is now a sophomore at Viewpoint School in Calabasas, where he is on the lacrosse and robotics teams. His favorite subjects are math and science, and he said he wants to go to college to study engineering.
He attended Palisades Charter Elementary School and Paul Revere Charter Middle School before Pali High, and his fraternal twin brother, Ethan, also goes to Viewpoint.
Ultimately, all of the profits from his board making go toward funding his shop and tools.
“I’m pretty much self-taught,” Jefferson admitted. “I’d watch a lot of YouTube videos just to see how other people make them. We have a two-car garage and I use half of it for my workshop.
“For the cutting boards I’m using the miter saw, table saw and the drum sander. Pretty much the biggest things I learned are on YouTube, like which brand has the best value or how to get a certain tool. However, I’ve taken some small woodworking classes.”
Although he hopes to gradually upgrade his collection, Jefferson has all the equipment required.
“Mainly, I have all the saws I’d need except for one I don’t have but I haven’t found a situation yet where I truly need it,” he explained. “I’m saving money to get higher-end versions of what I have. Some tools weren’t bought for this purpose, I just had them but I want to get professional-grade tools.”
Usually he said he finds one or two days per week where he can devote a solid three to four hours toward crafting a board. In general, he spends a maximum of one hour per day on his hobby-turned-job.
He can usually do two boards at once and each takes a week to make. Boards are commonly made from walnut or maples, are typically 15 inches by 20 inches, two inches thick, and weigh from three to five pounds. They can be used to cut anything besides meat and dough.
“Once I give the person the quote and they agree, I go down to Anderson Plywood in Culver City,” Jefferson explained. “I’ll buy boards of wood, two inches or one and a half inches thick. I’ll get 10-foot long boards at the lumber yard and cut them down to size.
“Once I get the length correct, I start ripping strips out and gluing them together. I use mineral oil and beeswax finishes that people generally use, which help prevent water from soaking into the board.”
Not only does Jefferson do research to determine a fair and competitive price, but he also offers to deliver the finished product directly to the customer.
“Generally speaking, when I finish a board, I offer to drive it to them or they can come pick it up,” he said. “My customers all live relatively close—the Palisades, Santa Monica or Brentwood—so it hasn’t been hard or time consuming to deliver them. I can handle the workload.”
In addition to cutting boards, Jefferson has delved into other wood-based projects. He has made river trays for his parents and a family friend, and he is interested in building a wall-mounted counter top and a live-edged slab bench to sit on.
“I definitely see there’s a balance between the business side of it and pleasing the customer,” he said. “It’s primarily been a positive experience because it’s something I love doing. One person had her board for around four months but it warped so she returned it and I gave her a refund. After that I invested in a moisture meter to detect moisture content in the wood.”
Jefferson said that he will sometimes consult with his dad to confirm that he is charging a reasonable a price.
“ I look to see what the brand names are charging for their time and I want to be under that,” he explained. “I’ve only had one person ask if it was possible to have it done by a certain date and they gave me plenty of notice.”
Cost of the materials adds up quick: not only the wood, but also the finish, the sandpaper and, depending on the intricacy of the pattern, the time involved. Also, wear on the saw blades, which, with frequent use, need to be sharpened or replaced.
Besides maintaining his self-run business, Jefferson said he likes to jet ski in the harbor near his grandparents’ vacation home in Oxnard, he hangs out with friends at Palisades Garden Cafe or the Via Bluffs, and he hones his skill as a defender on his school lacrosse team.
To contact Jefferson, email email@example.com.
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