“I will just make my own.”

Will Oakley, 25, Wood Craftsman

When Will Oakley went looking for a place to live in Greensboro recently, he had one very important requirement that most 25-year-olds don’t consider.

He needed a workshop. More specifically, he needed a space where he could build boats.

“It was essential,” he says. “I don’t care what the house looks like.”

On weekdays, Will is an interiors engineer for Volvo Trucks based in Greensboro. He designs the cabinets, bunkbeds and trims that fill the massive cabs of these workhorse vehicles.

On weekends, he’s a wood artist – crafting kayaks, canoes, guitars and even a bike with his hands.

He started woodworking with a little inspiration from a neighbor, who traded Will’s dog-watching skills for a lesson on how to make a small kitchen knife. He was 15 at the time, and had no other woodworking experience, so naturally he decided to build an instrument.

It took a lot research – and a lot of mistakes.

“I wanted a fretless base, so I was like, ‘I will just make my own,’” Will says. “It works. I’ve still got it and play it once in a while. But it was not great. It didn’t play as well as the more recent ones I’ve made. They are better than anything you can buy.”

That same do-it-yourself spirit inspired Will to make his own first kayak – a lacquered wooden frame of cedar and pine atop a fiberglass shell. It’s lightweight and fast. Then he moved on to cedar canoes, and his current project – a traditional skin-on-frame boat that features a wooden frame wrapped in fabric.

When he’s not holed up in his workshop, you’ll find him out on one of the city’s watershed lakes, making good use of his masterpieces. It’s his passion.

“I love being on the water. I really like transportation in general. Working at Volvo is part of that,” he says. “Bikes and kayaks and canoes. Part of it is just being able to go somewhere in something you made.”

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