Story | 02/08/2024 07:36:35 | 5 min Read time

Jesper wants to change how you see plywood

Sara Steensig

Editor, Tulus

Jesper Kjærgaard's Corona cleanup project turned into a YouTube phenomenon, inspiring people worldwide to work with wood. Recently, the Danish wood enthusiast has shifted his focus to sustainable plywood, opening a world of bold designs and quirky ideas.

"Jesper Makes is really just a guy who found himself in a Corona lockdown and thought, 'I need to come up with something to do’," smiles Jesper Kjærgaard. He is the man behind the YouTube channel Jesper Makes, where he has been "playing around with wood" since the spring of 2020. 

The pastime activity has now become a livelihood for Jesper, whose channel is approaching 200,000 subscribers on YouTube. "I didn't see it coming, but that's how it turned out," he notes. 

People from around the world watch and cheer when Jesper walks around his farm in Denmark, transforming old pallets and the neighbour’s fallen logs into stylish, artistic furniture.  

Things do not always go quite as planned, but that is part of the channel's charm. "When you're not an expert and just dive into it, things sometimes go wrong, but that doesn't necessarily make the videos less entertaining,” he says. 

Jesper does not come from a design or crafting background, but his courage and creativity have inspired people around the world to start creating things in wood themselves. 

"I can tell from some of the comments that people are also inspired on a deeper level to try new things and think new thoughts,” notes Jesper, who after three years with pallets as the primary material is more than ready to try something new: He has discovered high-quality WISA plywood, which he now looks forward to exploring further. 


A deep-rooted love for wood

Jesper has always been fascinated by wood. 

"Just the smell when you're chopping wood for the fireplace! The tangy scent of an oak log, and how sweetly a pine log smells when you run it through a sawmill.” 

Jesper is captivated by the idea of working with a building material that people have used since ancient times. "I'm fascinated by how the Vikings, with their axes and other tools, could build fantastic ships," he explains, adding that the Vikings were also diligent recyclers. They would take wrecked Viking ships and turn them into seaworthy vessels. Almost like Jesper with his pallets. 

"I think pallet wood is a fun material because pallets are often built where they are first used, so suddenly you end up with pallets from all sorts of strange places around the world!" 

Among his favourite creations is the very first pallet project, a garden table now found in the greenhouse. The coffee table made from pallet scraps and epoxy was a big hit on YouTube, just like the large desk made from walnut wood and pallet blocks, which also brought great joy to his followers. 


A fresh perspective on plywood

Jesper finds working with wood to be both easy and challenging. 

"You can shape it with simple tools, but at the same time, it's difficult to work with because wood adapts to its surroundings. Suddenly, your piece of wood has changed size, and it's not flat anymore," says Jesper, who learned his lesson the hard way. Pallet wood is unpredictable and not something he would recommend to other beginners. 

However, in the beginning, Jesper had only pallets, and after depleting his own stock, he started calling companies that donated pallets and other packing materials, such as plywood boxes. Jesper used the plywood to build his workshop, and most recently, he crafted a beautiful pinecone-shaped lamp from old plywood. This sparked an interest in plywood. 

"It requires less effort to work with plywood because you have a reasonably stable material that doesn't expand and contract too much. It's quick to work with and very durable." 

Jesper has, for example, promised his wife to upgrade the family's nearly 20-year-old kitchen. He tried using pallet wood, but it wasn't stable enough, so plywood is the way to go. He is also bubbling with ideas for different plywood furniture pieces. Additionally, the family is building an off-grid cabin, primarily from recycled materials, but walls and roofs will be constructed using WISA plywood. 


Sustainability above all

Jesper and his family do their best to live as sustainably as possible: They thrift their clothes and largely sustain themselves with food from their garden. That is also why he is delighted to use reclaimed wood, and if he uses new wood products, they must come from sustainably managed forests. That is why UPM Plywood is the perfect match for Jesper Makes. 

"I believe that UPM Plywood and I share principles about taking care of the environment and treating each other properly," says Jesper, revealing a plan to visit one of UPM's plywood mills in Finland next spring. "I'm looking forward to that!" 

The discarded plywood boxes that Jesper has worked with so far are of very low quality. Now he is excited about the first deliveries of WISA spruce plywood for the cabin project and WISA birch for the kitchen and the furniture ideas he's contemplating. 

"I have a video on my channel titled 'This will change how you see wood.' And I hope I can make one in a year called 'This will change how you see plywood!'" 

Follow Jesper's exploration of high-quality WISA plywood on his YouTube channel Jesper Makes

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