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Heidi Shaffer, Published January 06 2012

Fargo man turns woodworking hobby into business

FARGO – After Jim Clapper retired, he decided to go with the grain and make his hobby his new career.

Clapper and his wife, Ann, will open DIY Wood Studio today in Fargo. The business is a membership-based workshop that will allow craftsmen of all types to lease space for wood-working.

Jim got the idea to open a public space for woodworking in the early 1970s while serving in the military in Baumholder, Germany, where he finished woodworking projects in the USO hobby shop. The shop was complete with tools and a heated bay.

“I liked the concept of having it available to the public,” Jim said.

Clapper’s career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture meant moving around often. He fostered his love for building and home improvement by buying and fixing up a run-down home in each new city.

His skills improved with each new home as the houses took shape just in time for the next transfer.

“Over time, I got more and more interested in woodworking,” said 61-year-old Jim.

Ann, an assistant professor in education at North Dakota State University, isn’t a woodworker herself, but she loves the items that Jim makes.

One of her favorite items is a small box, complete with finger joints, made out of the pine trees from the land on which the Clapper’s Minnesota lake home sits.

Ann has always been the one who buys Jim his new tools and equipment. This studio is a way to have high-end tools available to many woodworkers.

After retiring from his work with the USDA, Jim and Ann moved for three years to Seoul, South Korea, where Ann worked as director at a Korean international school.

Jim continued his woodworking there, building furniture for the early childhood education center and storage units for teachers.

Jim eventually met Minje Koong, a fellow craftsman who ran a wood workshop in Seoul.

“They were just amazingly alike,” Ann said of the friendship that formed between Jim and Minje.

Setting up shop

A natural at teaching, Jim helped Minje in his studio and even taught students in Ann’s schools. Jim modeled and named his Fargo DIY studio after Minje’s Seoul workshop.

“We like to joke we have two locations,” Ann said, “one in Seoul, Korea, and the other in Fargo, North Dakota.”

The Clappers returned to the U.S. in 2008, when Jim took a job overseeing the woodworking shop at NDSU’s Renaissance Hall in downtown Fargo.

Mike Dawson, an NDSU architecture student, first met Jim in that studio and is now working part time in the DIY workshop.

Dawson, who enjoys making furniture, said the DIY studio is a great spot for the woodworking community.

“In our age of sort of immediate processed goods we can buy, I think people are looking to do more on their own,” Dawson said. “It’s going to be the perfect environment for people to bring their ideas here and walk out with their creations in hand.”

The new studio is bigger than the workspace at school and equipped with more tools, Dawson said.

“It has more tools than I’ve ever seen in one spot, besides maybe a hardware store,” he said.

The studio has three large sanders, a number of large tables, band and miter saws, as well as joinery tools, routers and lathes.

“Basically everything you’d need,” Jim said.

Jim also invested in some special equipment with built-in safety measures that can sense skin and stop the blade before someone is cut.

Going into the doldrums of winter – even as nice as it’s been this year – is a good time for people to get involved in new and creative indoor activities, Ann said.

“We don’t do as much with our hands anymore,” she said, so the studio is a way to encourage more creativity in the community as well as give children and adults something else to do in the cold months.

Membership packages range from a one hour session for $20 to unlimited monthly rates for $110.

The space includes an area for classes, which will include beginning woodworking skills as well as individual projects. Ann’s sister, Mara Trousdale, will serve as the studio’s education and events coordinator.

“We want to create a community,” Ann said.


Readers can reach Forum business editor Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511

Business profile

What: DIY Wood Studio

<•> Ownership: Jim and Ann Clapper

<•> Where: 3231 4th Ave. S., Studio A

<•> Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday

<•> Contact: (701) 293-1310

<•> Online: www.diywoodstudio.com

If you go

<•> What: Grand opening of DIY Wood Studio

<•> When: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. today 

<•> Where: 3231 4th Ave. S., Studio A

<•> Info: Tour the space, enjoy refreshments and register for door prizes