Jesse Elmore is the father of two: a son, 4, and a daughter, 1. The former computer programmer turned police officer is now trying a “third life” as a stay-at-home dad and furniture maker.
The journey inspired the name of his Etsy site, ThirdLifeDesigns, which draws customers interested in his custom and historically inspired furniture. Right now, the Overland Park resident offers campaign-style chairs based on the seats British officers used in Africa during World War II.
Q. How do you describe what you do?
A. I mostly like making chairs, stools and benches. I do the campaign chairs on my Etsy page. I have also done custom jobs. People send me pictures of chairs they found in an antique shop that they can’t buy, and I can remake them.
Q. How did you get started?
A. Three or four years ago, I was a police officer living in Florida. Before I made detective, I worked nights. On my off days, I kept the same schedule, and there really isn’t anything to do when everyone goes to bed. I picked up woodworking to fill that time.
My dad taught me some basics. He is more of a carpenter-type guy. He can build a house. He taught me how to use a table saw. I would watch YouTube videos at night, and I picked up a few books. I got started doing simple stuff around the house. I did some chairs people liked, and they suggested I do stuff online.
Q. What’s the Third Life in ThirdLifeDesigns about?
A. I was originally a computer programmer in Iowa in software development. I was working at home the majority of the time. I was getting bored with it. I thought about what the opposite thing I could do was.
I moved to Lauderhill near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and became a police officer. I did that for about six years. I was a detective for a while. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed it, but then my son came. I was working lots of hours in not a very safe city. I really liked being a police officer, but I didn’t think it was making me a great dad.
When my wife got the opportunity to come up here with her job, I decided to stay at home and quit my job as a police officer. I kept the woodworking as my side hobby, and this is my third life.
Q. Why chairs?
A. They are interesting to me. A lot of woodworkers shy away from chairs. It’s fresh for me, and it exercises my brain. I got tired of making cabinets and boxes and right angles.
Chairs are not boring. There are so many different styles of chairs. Building one is a good mental exercise, thinking about how to make it comfortable. With chairs, it can be pretty challenging because there are so many different angles and ways you can change them. If you change one thing, then it impacts three other things, and then all of a sudden the chair is not comfortable anymore.
I enjoy the process of figuring out new things and mocking it up and making sure it’s all comfortable.
Q. How do you describe your style?
A. I choose by what I think looks cool. A lot of stuff starts out just as something I like, and I put it online. I get a lot of custom requests for changing the chairs I make. If I like the changes, I make it again.
The leather chairs are campaign furniture. The original designs were made by the British for when they were on campaign in northern Africa. The stools are the precursor to midcentury modern. It’s a free-form carved seat.
Q. As a stay-at-home dad, when do you work?
A. (My wife) gets home, and I cook dinner. Then she watches the kids at night and puts them to bed while I go down in my shop. I certainly would not be able to do this without her helping me out like that.
Q. How long does it take you to craft a chair?
A. I don’t get a lot of eight or 12 hour blocks in the shop, so it’s hard to do a time estimate. Those campaign chairs can take me about 12 to 15 hours per chair. The stools take about 10 hours. New stuff and custom work takes a lot more time because I have to figure everything out.
Q. Where can people buy your stuff?
A. Mostly on Etsy. I also have a little presence on Amazon.com in their handmade section. I have also started listing stuff on houzz.com. I’ve also sold a couple of pieces at the West Bottoms in the Varnish and Vine store.
That fills up my time. I couldn’t sell that much more if I wanted to. I don’t carry an inventory. Everything is made to order. Right now, I have about a month lead time.