"There are too many quirky things about me... after all, I am a grown man carving spoons."
We’re excited to share the first article in our new “Meet the creator” series.
Meet Max Neukaufler: the man, the muscle, and the creative genius behind Woodsman’s Finest. We sat down with Max to get to know him, his business, and his story a bit better.
Here’s what we found out.
1. Tell us the story behind your business. How and why did you get into woodworking?
Once upon a time - no, seriously - I was always into adventures and romantic legends and movies. So sure enough, after building bows-and-arrows as a boy, I got into woodworking. To be honest, I was into knives and axes for the most part but looked for a meaningful way to learn how to use them and to get to do so frequently.
Spoon carving — as well as applying the principles of axe and knife to the paddles, bowls, and cups I used for my Solo Expeditions in Ontario — seemed like the perfect way to make useful, sustainable items with the smile factor we all love. While also covering birthday gifts for the rest of my days, and seeing these items grow patina and age with me every day.
I always say that knowing your way around these most simple - yet ultimately most versatile - tools we know has literally no limits of applications. After crafting with wood, leather, and steel all my life, eventually I found myself with a University degree but no intention of ever using it. Rather, I tried my luck traveling the world, learning, teaching, and crafting for a living... and here I am, more accidental than not.
2. Who's your personal role model or hero? Can you tell us a bit about why you admire them?
Over the past 26 years of living a skill-based lifestyle, I’ve learned crafts, sports, and martial arts on three continents. I’ve lived everywhere from the Brazilian slums, to the Canadian ranches, to the Japanese megacities, to my current home in the Austrian Alps, in vastly different life circumstances...but also surrounded by people as diverse as they come. So, I’ve always had people I looked up to. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
I never had a role model for a long time, and just as I am taking from my experience in different fields - physical, mental, intellectual - I tend to admire a certain skill of someone else, rather than naively choosing a whole person as a role model (which has not gone well for me). As far as admiring certain sides in others, I have never come across someone whom I didn't admire in some way, upon a closer look.
3. Do you have a personal motto, manifesto, or favorite quote that you live your life by?
Life is so dynamic and it is a daily race to be better and more purposeful in some way. Otherwise, it would be a waste for me. This also means that there are always temporary mottos and mantras that help. Understanding and utilizing the way I speak to myself in order to stay on track was a huge step forward.
The wording is important for me when talking to myself and others, and I recognize now the people and situations in life which changed my perceptions like that. I think my favorite quote is always the last one I’ve read, but I also try to BS check myself - I know often quotes are there to soothe myself into feeling understood and better about my path.
Quotes are always written by people with an agenda in mind. At the end of the day, they can almost magically apply to one's situation and support a certain task very powerfully. "Hard work puts you where luck can find you" is a simple one that can be interpreted in many ways using Karma and Western philosophies, and is neutral enough for me to be applied often.
4. Can you share a fun or quirky fact about yourself that not a lot of people know or would expect?
There are too many quirky things about me... after all, I am a grown man carving spoons. Well, where to start.
I tend to talk incomprehensive baby language with my dog and watch way too many animal rescue stories on Facebook. Usually while sobbing. I learned Latin and Classic Greek in high school for a total of 10 years and studied archaeology and early history for a few years before I realized I wouldn’t get to discover lost cities wearing a hat and carrying a whip.
As much as I wanted to shoot arrows and be an adventurer when I was a kid, I also wanted to be a Samurai. So I started Judo when I was 6 and have since spent time in Brazil, Thailand, North America, and over 4 years and 17 trips to Japan in order to learn martial arts, combat sports, and tactical systems.
I’m also a head instructor for a type of Japanese swordsmanship in Europe, after successfully competing and teaching in Japan. A childhood dream coming true. Oddly enough, learning the ancient ways of swinging antique Japanese blades has helped me tremendously to find the principles of the tools I use now in my system.
5. If you had a time machine, what advice would you give to yourself as a young Creator? Any advice for Creators just getting started?
The hardest question at last. What I have struggled with the most is comparing myself to others, fear of becoming irrelevant in the quick dynamics of modern social media and hyper-competition. As I am striving to be the best, disappointment is expected, especially while being bombed with others' work from around the globe.
So, my advice to a younger self and others who want to go down a creative path is simple: Do you. Simple, not easy! Listen to your most pure and personal reasons, your passions and fascinations, and just roll with it.
Opportunities will come, leads will appear, people will recognize and love the fire they see burning in someone's pure intentions and self. Don’t worry about others, though. Not everyone is benevolent in their advice. Gut feeling is a wonderful and instinctual protector against wrong paths and wastes of time. The closer you are to yourself and the true voice talking to you from within, the more tranquil and purposeful your life will be.
Without trying to be too shamefully narcissistic, I would like to place one of my own sayings here:
“Paths in life are like automatic doors: You have to move actively towards them for them to open up to you. If more than one opens at the same time, looking closely and with an open mind, you’ll know which one to take. If not, one is as good or bad as the next, so you might as well keep going.”
Interested in giving spoon carving a try or learning more about the principles behind traditional craftsmanship? Check out Max’s video channel on Boon.tv.
To learn more about Max and his beautiful products, check out his website and Instagram.