I became a woodworker at the age of 13 when I was in middle school. All because of a strange little Japanese toy called a Kendama. Playing Kendama was a fad that ripped through my hometown of Wenatchee, Washington.
Due to my unconventional nature, I was determined to make one myself that was unique to me. My dad, a former machinist, helped me get started on his 1/2-ton metal lathe. I was about 5 foot 2 inches tall at the time. The tool rest, where I held my chisels, was shoulder-height and was made from a piece of angle iron. The chuck alone, a tool that secures the workpiece on the lathe, weighed more than I did. And it spun at about 2000 revolutions per minute.
The machine I used to make my first two Kendamas (pictured below).
A completely *safe* parenting decision on my dads’ part.
I refused to make my Kendama out of the traditional beech wood used by Japanese manufacturers. While doing some research, I stumbled upon a website that sold exotic hardwoods. I fell in love with these beautiful red, orange, purple, and black woods. Woodworking became my passion.
Some of my favorite hardwoods. Listed from top to bottom:
African blackwood, Purpleheart, Zebrawood, Bocote.
Many failed attempts and almost a year later, I made a functional Kendama at the age of 14. And I have made many since.
The first Kendama I made in 2013 (left) to my most recent work in 2020 (right).
During my senior year of high school, I discovered the world of wood burls combined with epoxy resin. I applied for a grant to purchase these materials through a special class I was in called Directed Study. I signed up for Directed Study because my high school did not offer a wood shop class.
I got the grant and acquired my first two caps of Australian eucalyptus red mallee burl and a 32 oz. kit of epoxy resin.
The burls my high school bought me and the first thing I made with them.
Like most businesses, REZN fulfilled a personal need…
All my close friends knew me as the guy with bulky, overstuffed pockets. Always packed full of my “essentials.” Overflowing with my bulky leather wallet, overcrowded keys, and a pocketknife. And my friends always made sure I was insecure about my outlandish pocket bulge.
In May of 2019 at a house party, I lost everything living in my pockets. All my pocket essentials - gone. I lost it all. And that is when my need arose.
I didn't want to be the bulky pocket guy anymore.
I knew designing and creating a wallet from wood and epoxy resin was something I could do.
That is where my mission began: handcrafting a unique wood and epoxy resin wallet. And reducing my embarrassing pocket bulge in the process.
Through tedious trials, I finally constructed a wallet about a month later. I made it out of red mallee burl, epoxy resin, and 6 elastic cords holding the two halves together. With my cash and cards sandwiched in between the two halves. The burl I used was from one of the pieces I acquired in high school.
Sweat and stress from manual tree-removal work in a 90-degree summer warped my wallet because I worked with it in my pocket. In hindsight, it would have been smart to leave my wallet in the truck while I worked.
I completed my second iteration in the fall of 2019. I incorporated stainless steel plates into each half of the wallet to eliminate warping. And I decided to hold them together with an elastic band for increased durability and ease of use. I documented the whole construction process and posted it on social media. Some of my peers asked how much to pay me to get one made with the colors of their choosing. Many others praised my handiwork. The positive feedback I received inspired me to take it a step further.
So, I made accessories to match my wallet:
- Keychain bottle opener
- Keychain lighter
- Wireless charger
I rebuilt all my pocket essentials, and then some, to fit my new “non-bulky pocket guy” persona. With unique items that matched my personal style. Black and white. Because I am color blind and I only know how to match my clothes in greyscale.
I knew from all the feedback I received that I had done something special. So, I ran with it.
The idea moves up a level…
I am a student at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. I’m pursuing a business degree in entrepreneurship.
My new-and-improved wallet reinforced with stainless steel plates caught the eye of one of my professors. He liked it so much he commissioned me to make him one with his favorite colors. I had to ask my mom if I got the colors right. I did not - she had to help me choose more accurate colors.
The same professor encouraged me to join an “accelerator” program through the university that helps students start businesses and push their ideas from learning to launching. It hooks them up with mentors and some funding. This helps with expenses such as legal fees and prototyping. The program required me to build a team. I've always done things on my own, so I almost didn't apply.
But my professor hounded me to apply. He assured me I could build a team if accepted. So, I applied. Little did I know, he was the director of the program. So I probably earned a few points by making him a wallet. I found that information out after I submitted my application. Which was full of name drops and boasts about how I had sold him a wallet.
They accepted me into the program a month later. I recruited my childhood best friend who is a sales consultant at a digital marketing agency. And my barber, with a degree in architecture who knows computer-aided design.
The birth of REZN…
Together we have established REZN LLC over the course of the fall 2020 semester (and in the middle of a global pandemic). With guidance from our mentors and my former professor. We are currently working on CNC prototyping of the wallets and pocketknives. The CNC process will provide you with more consistent and higher quality products.
For a consistent handcrafted look and feel, our processes will always require:
- Cutting burls to size by hand
- Pouring resin into our handmade molds
- Sanding and finishing by hand
- And finally, hand assembly
We will have our wallets and knives available on the website some time before March. But our pens are 100% handcrafted from start to finish and are available now. So, check them out! All sale proceeds go straight into new tools and machinery. This will give us the opportunity to provide you with a more diverse range of unique REZN product options.
In the near future, our web developers will provide you with the option to build custom REZN products. Options that truly resonate with you. You can choose your own wood type, wood orientation, and epoxy resin colors. So, you can mix and match products with colors that reflect your unique style.
And don’t worry. I will have someone help me select the color combinations. Colorblind, remember?
Thank you for taking a moment to hear our story!
Founder, REZN LLC.