How Will Fegan Became Wild Willy, Expert Carpenter
Coming from a family of craftsmen, Will Fegan never expected to become a carpenter himself. But after experimenting creating things from salvaged wood, Fegan turned his hobby into a job, first selling wares on Etsy and visiting Instagram to learn more about woodworking. Now, Fegan creates custom pieces for interior designers, bars, restaurants, and a range of private client under the name Wild Willy’s Woodshop. To learn more, we hit Will up, visiting his home and workshop to learn about his favorite things to make and to get his advice on how to get into carpentry.
You mentioned that you got into carpentry almost on accident. What made you decide to take on something new and turn it into a career?
Now that I think on it, It wasn’t really so much of an accident. First of all, my dad was a roofer and his father hand-built a cabin in the woods, so I guess it’s in my blood. Prior to Wild Willy’s, I’d been working with my hands and had a background working in a couple different trades by that point. But the guy who I apprenticed under was a badass and had a good grip on all aspects of carpentry, from rough framing to crown molding. So every day was a learning experience. Some of those days felt much longer than others [laughs]. Thanks to Steve Dayson for those long, hard days. I wouldn’t be the same with out them.
You also said that the woodworking community on Instagram taught you a lot. How’d you even find out about the carpentry scene on Instagram?
Honestly, with Instagram, it was my curiosity in the trade that got me searching different hashtags and finding other guys I could relate too. A lot of the work I found down the rabbit hole was exciting because I had never seen it before, with the festool system standing out. To see the multitude of amazing carpenters and the projects they were completing on a daily basis was inspiring. There are a couple guys on there that have become mentors to me in more ways than one. I’ve even taken time to go visit and work with them on their job sites. You can’t stop learning in this field. It’s a crazy journey and it can be very rewarding.
How were you able to turn what started out as a side project into a full-fledged job? What did it take to get there?
What started as a couple projects on the weekends, with wood I found in dumpsters, quickly turned into a full-fledged career. I used Etsy a lot when first starting out and that got me some cool commissions, which eventually led to some interior designers taking a chance with me. It dawned on me that I wanted to be my own boss and just went for it. It took a lot of long days and dedication to the craft and putting money into the right tools. Trust me, I’m still working on it everyday. You have to prove yourself constantly with your word and your work in this business. And when you fail, you fail hard.
Your business is growing rapidly. How were you able to build up a stable of clients so quickly?
I’d say it’s a combination of the internet, word of mouth, and working with designers—like Curious Yellow Design—and architects that has helped me get to where I am today. Although working with clients on custom pieces can be pretty tricky, I like to keep an open mind and feel out their aesthetic. I think my personal aesthetic has also brought clients to me, so that is something I’m very grateful for.
When it comes to your vision for furniture, do you ever run into problems with clients who have different ideas?
When it comes to clients, they either have a vision or they don’t. That either helps or hurts you right off the bat. Working with someone who has a vision is something I always enjoy. I can’t say the same about the other scenario, because it usually means more people are involved, more drafts of drawings have to be done, and more questions have to be answered during the process. At the end of the day, my job is to make my client happy, so communication and compromise are key.
What’s been your favorite project to work on so far?
I’m gonna answer this in two parts. First, my friend and master cinematographer, Stuart Winecoff’s apartment was super fun, because I was literally bringing his awesome vision to life and I was the one he trusted to do so. I took him on a field trip upstate to show him my process of color and grain matching walnut for his coffee table and we picked out very specific pieces of 3” thick ash for his couch. His floating bed platform is made up of reclaimed joists from the old Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. All of this wood and all the machinery had to be carried up to his fourth floor apartment on 1st Avenue, where we set up shop for a week and a half.
Second, I made a dining room table for my good friends Max and Emi. They were moving into a new place and since Max is an avid cook, he needed a real kitchen island, not only for cooking, but for entertaining. That was the beginning of Max’s apprenticeship with me over the last two-plus years and he’s grown tremendously as a carpenter and woodworker. Their place is basically one of the Wild Willy’s Woodshop showrooms, with a kitchen island, table, benches, desk and multiple shelving situations. It’s been a treat to show him how to create and watch him grow.
If you could give advice to someone who isn’t formally trained in carpentry but wants to try it, what would you say? Why?
My advice for those that are thinking about it would be to fully immerse yourself in it. Read the books, find the YouTube videos, and most importantly spend your time in the shop and on site. There is something to be said about someone who makes time for the things they want to accomplish and that will always be the case with any trade or art you want to get into. You have to put in a lot of time for a little reward. That reward can keep your head high for days to come. If you want to learn, reach out to me and I can point you in the right direction.
Any fun projects coming up for you soon?
I’m currently trying to keep the shop projects coming in because I was on two job sites for the last couple months. Also, a coffee shop and store are in the works for my current shop location because it has a store front and I have too many ideas in my head to just be a carpenter.
Be sure to keep up with Will Fegan on IG here: @wildwillyswoodshop