Washougal man carving out new career

Teacher and coach Greg Lewis hopes his new business, Columbia Gorge Woodworking, will thrive during summer months

Washougal resident Greg Lewis built the pallet wood clock pictured above.

Washougal resident Greg Lewis sits next to a nightstand that he built. Lewis, a teacher at Jemtegaard and Canyon Creek middle schools, has started a part-time woodworking business.

Washougal resident Greg Lewis stands next to an entertainment center that he built. Lewis, a teacher at Jemtegaard and Canyon Creek middle schools, recently opened Columbia Gorge Woodworking.

Greg Lewis’ woodworking journey began more than 20 years ago in Grants Pass, Oregon, where he and his wife Marchand bought their first home, which could colloquially be described as a “fixer-upper.”

Lewis immediately started to plan a series of major renovations to the small “starter home.” Conveniently, the property featured a small detached shop from which he could work. He bought a table saw from a co-worker’s sister, watched as many “The New Yankee Workshop” episodes as he could find and got to work, constructing a built-in bookcase, bathroom vanity and coffee table.

“That was the first time I’d ever really built anything outside of shop class (in high school),” said Lewis, who now lives in Washougal. “I don’t remember being super confident, but I don’t necessarily remember being timid. I remember having the thought of, ‘It’s such a small house, and it’d be hard to screw it up.’ There was nothing high-end in the house at all. I kind of just kind of remember thinking, ‘Well, it can’t get any worse.’ And then I was off and running.”

Lewis’ interest in woodworking grew from there. At one point, he briefly left his teaching career to work for a home developer — a job that lasted only a few months but taught him a variety of useful skills.

But since then, his woodworking career has been an “on-again, off-again adventure” that “has been frustrating at items.” He hasn’t had a lot of time to devote to his hobby due to his commitments as a husband, father, teacher and coach.

Then came 2020. With his children almost grown and more free time than he’s had in decades thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lewis decided to turn his hobby into a profit-making venture. He launched his new business, Columbia Gorge Woodworking, in December 2020, offering a variety of furniture, cabinetry and other items.

“I think almost anybody that starts on this as a hobby is like, ‘I want more tools, I want better tools.’ But they’re not cheap,” Lewis said. “I’ve always kind of thought, ‘Well, if I could make a few things and make a few bucks, then I could get this or I could get that,’ so (starting a business has) always always been on my radar. Last summer I spent a lot of time working on projects around the house, and I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s just give it a try.'”

Lewis’ website, columbiagorgewoodworking.com, includes photos of two of his handmade pieces — a pallet wood clock and an entertainment center. But right now, he doesn’t have anything specific for sale. Instead, he’s hoping that people will see his website and come to him with requests.

“If you want to make it as a woodworking business, people are coming to you with, ‘Hey, this is what I want,’ and you give them a bid,” he said. “I think that’s kind of the goal. I’ll just kind of build some things and see what happens. I (enjoy) creating things, and I really enjoy learning techniques of how to make things. I also like getting new tools and figuring out how to use them and how much they can simplify the process to produce better quality craftsmanship.”

Lewis is a career and technical education teacher at Jemtegaard Middle School and Canyon Creek Middle School, as well as the head boys golf coach at Washougal High School and an assistant coach for the Washougal High boys basketball team.

I have no no desire to get out of teaching or coaching,” he said. “The end goal would be to make (the woodworking business) seasonal. Obviously, I’ve got time in the summer. I guess the dream would be to spend the spring and the summer trying to make furniture and selling some things and kind of shutting it down a little bit once school starts back up in the fall.”