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James Wamsley

“Every piece I make is built so it will last a long time. From selecting lumber, to using wood joinery, to the way I finish my pieces, it is all about quality and focused on longevity.”

James Wamsley’s grandfather needed toolboxes to carry tools from his truck to the site where he operated a backhoe. With his own tools, James started making those toolboxes and, in the process, constructed a beautiful art.

“I noticed he had a lot of store-bought toolboxes that were never large enough, so I started making large wooden ones for his tools and all the PVC parts he had to keep on hand,” the White County Artisan said. “This is where my interest in woodworking started. They were basic toolboxes, built the best way a nine-year-old could.”

James is self-taught and trained with carpenters he worked with on high-end custom homes. He now creates keepsake boxes using Indiana hardwoods and wood joinery techniques. You won’t find nails or any hardware in his work, except piano hinges to connect the lid.

“Basically, if it involves taking a stack of lumber to build something, whether it’s a big home or a small box, I love doing it,” he explained. “I’ve always embraced learning all I could about building things big or small.”

Each piece that comes from his hands includes his unique mark: some type of decorative profile, bevel, or angle that distinguishes the box from ones made by other woodworkers. “I always incorporate decorative wood joinery as far as I can take it.” James said. “To me, wood joinery is the definition of quality craftsmanship.”

His boxes are as practical as they are attractive. They are large enough to be used as humidors, catch-alls and jewelry boxes or to store a lifetime of a child’s achievements and school photos.

Reclaiming wood destined to be discarded or burned is often the first step in his process. Reclamation is important to James; in fact, even his workshop has a former life. It was a poultry barn until he spent countless hours rehabbing it. When he can’t reclaim lumber for a project, he buys it  but only from sources that guarantee it was grown in Indiana.

Like woodworkers of ages past, James develops his designs on paper. “This helps me prepare for the project because I can calculate lumber and it gives me a cut list during the project,” he explains. “It is my homemade ‘blueprint’ that allows me to see the project before building it. Most people use SketchUp (3D software) on the computer, but I still use pencil and paper.”

James and his family are never far apart. His children help him deliver custom orders and his wife is a true partner in his work. When he announced that his boxes had become part of the Indiana Artisan brand, he noted that Artisan “only accepts pieces of the highest quality, so this is a huge honor for me and my family.”