Jessica and Gary Hilterbrandt, as well as their sons, have made some incredible #BuiltWithF2H projects over the last year! In fact, Jessica was Forest 2 Home's very first customer! Whether you have scrolled through the Forest 2 Home Facebook page, Instagram page or Inspiration page, you will have come across a creation by Jessica or Gary. With beautiful projects and a family dedicated to woodworking, we wanted to hear more from the Hilterbrandt family on how their woodworking journey started! Read on, as matriarch Jessica Hilterbrandt shares her and her families testimony!
When did you start woodworking?
My husband and I both grew up with "woodworking" fathers and were hanging around learning things from a young age. My husband has 2 sisters and was his fathers only son. I also have 2 sisters and was the son my father never had! I'm not sure if it was on purpose or just kind of by osmosis, but it seemed stick with both of us, I guess it is in our blood. It wasn't until the pandemic hit and we were both home a lot that we really started creating and building lots of things together though.
When we did start woodworking, I think it came naturally to us! We both have experience working with our hands-we are both musicians, Gary playing bass and me playing drums. We love being outside, fishing, camping, gardening, and whatever else we can get our hands dirty with. So while we didn’t have any formal woodworking training, outside of exposure from our father, the prior experience, learning from each other and learning from screwing up has worked for us!
Now when it comes to learning new things, Gary loves watching YouTube and following other woodworkers on social media, he comes across a lot of cool stuff...I usually just call my Dad!
Woodworking with family
Both of our dad’s are our biggest woodworking inspirations, being the first to show us woodworking (give it up for Dad!). As parents ourselves, we try to involve our own kids whenever we can. They love making their own toys, like swords and shields. With the pandemic last year, we decided to pull them out of school and being homeschooling; a lot of their learning took place in the workshop. They learned a lot, did a lot, and created a lot. Plus, it’s fun to watch them take their own initiative and do their own thing. Now, our youngest will wake up in the morning, grab the keys to the garage, and go out without saying anything to anybody and start sawing up and gluing up scraps of wood!
Favorite woodworking project
My favorite woodworking project that we’ve created so far is a carving, taken from a photo in the “Book of Kells” (an illuminated manuscript Gospel book created around 800 AD). Gary made the panel out of Butternut wood and Walnut wood and I did the carving. We started it years ago, then it sat halfway done for a long time. It was one of those things you’re not 100% sure of so you just stare at it! Then, when we were home during the pandemic, I just went after it without trying to think too much about it!
Least favorite woodworking project
Surprisingly, my least favorite woodworking project is the Celtic Cutting Board we made. I thought about putting it as my favorite project, but got anxiety just thinking about it! It eventually came out nice but it was a painstakingly difficult project. It was our first cutting board, so we didn’t know what the heck we were doing and ended up biting off more than we could chew-the project just seemed to go on and on and on! I would consider this as the project that taught us the most, too. There were moments I wanted to give up on it (or throw it in the fire!) but we kept on it. We definitely learned a lot, including that most things can be fixed-usually 100 different ways, you just have to keep at it.
All of that said, now I think the biggest mistake a woodworker can make is not trying something or thinking something is beyond their skill set! You just have to do it-the only way to learn and get better is just by trying things and making mistakes and trying again. Have fun doing it, don’t let the mistakes get you down too much. Enjoy the whole process!
Top tools in the workshop
We love our RZ Dust masks-safety first! A radio also is helpful to keep the tunes playing. Ideally, being in a big workspace, with a bench or table or two to lay stuff out is a huge asset if space allows. Gary loves his hand tools, opting to hand saw or plane first.