Passion: Building custom-made wood pedalboards


Some people are born into a natural passion and love for doing something, and others learn to discover and develop theirs over many years. Nathan is part of the latter group, and has been doing various projects with woodworking over the past decade. He is specifically passionate about combining his love of music production and woodworking into one unique product. Nathan found a way to turn an ordinary piece of music equipment, guitar pedalboards, into custom works of art. Some of Nathan’s boards are crafted with exotic species of woods with a clean finished look, while other boards are dyed bright, flashy colors. The various details and colors of each board make each one a specific fit for the style of the guitarist. 

Nathan discusses the way he found and pursued a passion for woodworking. He didn’t have any exposure to woodworking as a kid, and he didn’t have any family members to influence him in this direction. It was truly a gift that he stumbled upon this passion through a “completely random” idea for an important day in his life. 

Not only did Nathan realize he was passionate about making wood products, but it led to him to also make a change in his career. He found a way to use and develop these skills in a new workplace that immersed him in woodworking. As I listened to Nathan describe his passion, he had a sense of comfort and contentment in the way he is currently pursuing this craft. Nathan is constantly looking for ways to be challenged and to grow in his passion, but he is also not hurried or pressured to perform in a way that inhibits his enjoyment of the process. Throughout this conversation, I think you will be inspired by hearing how discovering a passion can help give direction and desire in your life, but also not overwhelm you into thinking you need to alter your entire path. Nathan is a great example of making slight changes to your current situation to pursue things that are more in line with your talents and passions.

“From the very start, getting into woodworking was completely random. About ten years ago, I was planning on proposing to Jackie, and I was trying to think of a way to do something unique. So, I happened to just think of making a custom ring box. I don’t know why I thought of that, but I did. Did I have any idea of how to do that? No, not at all. I did have a lot of friends that were into woodworking, and they helped me along the way. I used a little dremel and a friend’s lathe, and it was just a lot of hands-on work. I ended up making three boxes and I chose the one that I liked the best. I really enjoyed that process and it kind of exploded from there.”

“Right after that, I really got into woodworking. The next thing was a major jump, but I went from a ring box to building a custom guitar. I have a buddy that walked me through the long, drawn out process. But that taught me so much about woodworking. There’s just so much involved in making an electric guitar. I only worked on it in my spare time and evenings, so it took me over a year to complete. While working on that, I picked up various skills that allowed me to make some things for home use and decor items. I did some shelves, and then beard combs were really popular for a while, cutting boards, etc.”

“In the music industry, people like to be flashy with their equipment. I was always involved in my worship team, and I had pedals for my guitar that I wanted more organized. So, I built a pedal board. The first one was not so good, but I built another four or five prototypes to fine tune it. Then, I decided to put it on Etsy, and there was a lot of interest in them. With pedal boards, metal ones dominate the market, so making them from wood gives me an opportunity to show people what's possible.”

“In today’s world, people are really focused on looking at people’s reviews when they buy online. I take a lot of pride in the way I create products and treat my customers, so those reviews have helped me reach an audience with each of my different products. You also have the occasional customer that says, ‘I can’t wait to tell all my friends about this!’ And I’ve seen different guitar forums post some photos of my stuff.”

“I’m still learning, there’s so many different types of woods out there I can experiment with, and different types of finishes. Those combinations and possibilities are endless. And I think that’s what keeps it fresh for me.”

“I had no prior experience with woodworking, and really no exposure to it growing up either. No one in my family did woodworking. I did have some friends help me learn, and Youtube kind of taught me the rest of what I needed to know.”

“Woodworking led me to changing my career. I had been working in a factory prior to all of this, which wasn’t challenging me at all. Having a challenge in my work is really important to me. I had started to develop a passion for woodworking, and so I thought, ‘Well, we live in an area that has a lot of jobs in that sector. And there’s not a lot of people looking for those jobs right now.’ So, I felt like I had a chance to put that passion, and willingness to embrace a challenge, to good use.

“Now that I see how things have developed, I can see the real possibility that I could run my own woodworking business someday. I don’t know if that will actually happen. And I am definitely still comfortable in my full-time job. Now that I have a job that I enjoy, and I’m not just pressing buttons all day, I am happy where I am at work. If woodworking remains a hobby for the rest of my life, and just a part-time gig, then that’s okay with me too.

“Woodworking has done a magnitude of things for me. It’s taught me how a business works. It has shown me how to use CAD, which I now will use in my full-time job. The things it has done for me are endless.

“Ryland (4 y.o. son)  has already shown a huge interest in woodworking. He always has to be in the shop with me when I am working on something. I do have this small benchtop drill press that I don’t use anymore, and he uses it. Supervised, he puts his safety glasses on and he grabs something out of the scrap bin, has me draw x’s on the wood, and he drills holes. He wants to make sure that he’s putting the drill down right on the x.”

“Woodworking appeals to so many of your senses. I think it’s obvious that I’m passionate about woodworking and the entire process. I will spend hours driving and being at the lumber yard, inspecting different species of wood, examining all of the boards to find the ones with the perfect grain pattern. There are also very unique aromas in every individual species. 

You could cut a piece of wood, and with my eyes closed, I could tell you what species it is. There’s something cool about that. Obviously, the building phase is something that I love. And then what’s really rewarding is when you put that first coat of finish on it, and it really brings out the natural colors, and beauty, and iridescence of the wood. Every step of the process is so rewarding for me.”

“It’s crazy to think about the amount of time I spend at the lumber yard. It’s worth it to me. If there is a new species, I’ll sit there and look up on the wood database all of the details of that species. What is its density? What kind of impact will it have on my tooling? Are there allergens related to it? And so many other details that I want to know before I make my choice. I always have a different design or finish or wood species in mind. That’s what keeps me coming back. The possibilities are endless, and there is so much more to discover.”

I think it’s important for people to have a hobby or a passion. I think it’s important for your headspace. I have had anxiety take over certain portions of my life. Having something like this is a productive way to have an out, something to change up my mindset.”

“I also think it’s a priority to find those things that you can connect with your kids. Whether it’s woodworking or whatever. Building that relationship with your kids is so important, so when they eventually are grown, they’ll still want to spend time with you and you have something that brings you together.”

see and learn more about Nathan and Conway Craftings on instagram at @conway_craftings and etsy