Woodworkers Share Shop Space
October 15, 2013 | 3:45 pm UTC

Woodworkers Share Shop SpaceWoodworkers are a gregarious lot, but it can be a lonely trade. Working together but separately at Fort Houston, a Nashville cooperative factory, are several custom woodworking businesses, all owned by younger tradesmen.

Among them is Mike Jones, who operates Mastodon Jones furniture; Nate Akey, 5 String Furniture; and Jonathan Malphrus, Steric Design. Jones told me during a visit that he previously felt isolated in his own shop. Since relocating to Fort Houston, he shares tips and techniques with colleagues.

Woodworking equipment manufacturer JET sponsored this operation, placing $35,000 in equipment in the full-service, 1,100-square-foot woodshop at Fort Houston, located on the site of a former 10,000-square-foot cabinet plant.

Membership Model

Fort Houston work space

Houston co-founder Daniel Heering, who along with partner Matt Childress runs Wildcard Design custom furniture in the center, said Fort Houston continues to grow. Members – there are 42 so far – pay a $75+ monthly fee. Businesses rent individual stalls to hold work in progress, and have access to the woodshop, managed by Malphrus, who coordinates shared use.

Fort Houston is structured similarly to public work centers such as Makerspace in San Diego and TechShop located in multiple cities. The locations act as incubators for small woodworking and other artisanal manufacturing start-ups.


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About the author
Bill Esler | ConfSenior Editor

Bill wrote for WoodworkingNetwork.com, FDMC and Closets & Organized Storage magazines. 

Bill's background includes more than 10 years in print manufacturing management, followed by more than 30 years in business reporting on industrial manufacturing in the forest products industries, including printing and packaging at American Printer (Features Editor) and Graphic Arts Monthly (Editor in Chief) magazines; and in secondary wood manufacturing for WoodworkingNetwork.com.

Bill was deeply involved with the launches of the Woodworking Network Leadership Forum, and the 40 Under 40 Awards programs. He currently reports on technology and business trends and develops conference programs.

In addition to his work as a journalist, Bill supports efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities in the manufacturing sectors, including 10 years on the Print & Graphics Scholarship Foundation; six years with the U.S. WoodLinks; and currently on the Woodwork Career Alliance Education Committee. He is also supports the Greater West Town Training Partnership Woodworking Program, which has trained more than 950 adults for industrial wood manufacturing careers. 

Bill volunteers for Foinse Research Station, a biological field station staddling the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, one of more than 200 members of the Organization of Biological Field Stations.