What do you do after you play in the NFL? You start making things of course! That’s exactly what John Malecki did. After playing four years for the Pittsburgh Steelers, John need something to keep him busy, and working with his hands was the perfect fit. John was gracious enough to answer a couple questions on how he got started, and what it was like transitioning from the NFL to the workshop.

John Malecki

Pittsburgh PA

Current Role/Occupation
Owner/ Lead Designer & Fabricator @ JM Custom Builds LLC (self owned)



What Is in Your Workspace/Shop
My workspace is primarily a wood shop with some minor metal working tools. I have your standards like a table saw, bench top planer, jointer, mitre saw, band saw, router table, etc. With some speciality tools like a Lincoln 180 MIG welder and an Instructables CNC (which just sits there and collects dust). Im working on a getting a lathe and some more metal working tools to expand that part of my creative process.

How Did You Get Started
When i was playing in the NFL my roommate had some people over and they broke our coffee table while I was away. So I decided I wanted to make a coffee table and my new hobby/passion was born.

How was the transition from Pro Football to custom furniture maker
Transitioning out of pro football is difficult for anyone who has done it. It’s almost not a real life. For me it was finding a way to apply the skills i learned off the field, to what I am doing now. That goes for work ethic, time management, skill development, studying, etc.

What Is Your Favorite Tool
Currently, I’m going to have to say my welder. I love the instant gratification of welding and since it’s new to me I am learning a lot about the process. I’ve been woodworking for about 3 or so years now, and it’s always a blast to learn something new. Besides that I would have to say my table saw. It is the heart of my shop, and I use it as much and as often as possible.

How Has Technology Changed The Way You Work
I personally look at technology as a facilitator. I recently started using more 3D modeling for my projects (Sketchup) and it has saved me a ton of time in purchasing and layout steps. Like I said, I do have a CNC… but getting it to work has been a hassle so I don’t use it much.

What Was Your Favorite Project
I did some artwork for a local business that turned out pretty killer. It is a perspective bridge piece that is made out of barn wood and metal and is about 11 feet tall and 9 feet wide. Was a ton of fun and looks really good, at this moment it’s probably my favorite.



What Is Your Favorite Material To Work With
I love reclaimed materials. In my area we have a ton of reclaimed yellow pine. Its very easy to work with and looks great after 100 or so years of sitting collecting character.

What Is Your First Step To Any Project
Brainstorming. I like to get concepts and ideas on paper or written down in some way, so I can reference them as the project moves along.

What Is The Best Part About What You Do
The best part about what I do is bringing other people’s visions and dreams to life. Nothing is more satisfying than working with a client and being able to physically create something they had envisioned in their head.

How Has Social Media Helped You and Your Woodworking Business?
Social media is my only source of marketing. It is a legitimate game changer. Building community is all based around engaging your consumer base, which is what social is. I enjoy it because i enjoy showing people what I do. For me there isn’t really another way to go about it. I want people to feel inspired and motivated by my work. Social media gives me the ability to interact with these people and provide them with value each and every day.



I’ve really enjoyed reading your “Building Your Own Workshop blog series. Where did the idea for that come from?
I actually asked my audience on Instagram what they would like me to write about, and a bunch of them said “tell us about the business side of what you do”. So i started writing and there you go…. 10 part series about how i got started.

What Do You Listen To While Working
I listen to a lot of stuff. Music to podcasts, I listen to a lot of audio books about business, and obviously music. I’m a country fan in my soul and grew up on classic rock, but i play a lot of EDM ironically and whatever Spotify suggests for me. I like the upbeat tempo and vibe from the electronic stuff, helps keep me moving. When i really want to get motivated I turn up the classics from my playing days and really get after it. Metallica, AC/DC, GNR, Maylene,  ZZ Top, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, The Who, and the list goes on and on.

What Are Your Thoughts about the current “Maker Movement”
I love it, and am inspired by it. I think America is missing that feeling that goes along with creating something for yourself, and the maker movement is bringing that back. Guys like Jimmy Diresta for example, dude has been making a living with his hands his whole life on his terms. Its beautiful. The millennial generation has a drone like mindset  in which everyone is groomed to walk the “beaten path” and go to college then work for someone else. I believe the maker community is stepping outside that, and showing that your hands can create a much more fulfilling and rewarding lifestyle.

Any Advice For Other Makers
Just keep going. Keep pushing yourself, keep working on your skills. It is a long and hard road we are all on in order to make it in this space. There are no “free rides”, there are no gimmies in this world. Put on your boots and grab your hard hat and go to work. Keep your head down, stay humble, and love the process. Everything will pay off the way it is supposed to if you do those three things.  I have lived my whole life with the motto of “keep chopping wood” no matter what life throws at you, so I will leave all you makers with that.