Part local football star, part entrepreneurial woodworker
Two days after Ellsworth High School's 20-13 win over Baldwin-Woodville High School, Logan Melstrom was an hour late for work.
He was sore from battling an injury all week before being cleared to play in Friday's homecoming game, where he scored two of the team's three touchdowns, and didn't head to his family's garage until closer to 9 a.m. He had a wood patio set to make.
"I try to get out here every day," the 18-year-old high school senior said. "I've always been a hands-on guy, it's just the way I am."
He planned to work the whole day, with only breaks for food and the day's Green Bay Packers game.
Depending on the week, Melstrom works anywhere from 20 to 32 hours a week crafting various wood furniture for customers as part of his self-started woodworking business, Backcountry Woodworking. Initially, he launched it as a way to parlay his passion into gas money for a new driver's license, but it has since expanded into a part-time job for the student-athlete-woodworker.
Growing up loving the craft
Melstrom says he started woodworking when he was about 8 years old and made his dad Mark a shelf as a gift. He would later make the rest of his family members presents too.
"I'd come down [to the garage] in the summer ... and I would just take it and built little things," he said. "It didn't look too good."
Over the years though, those around him started to notice his abilities resembled a honed craft, rather than just a summer-time hobby.
Ellsworth's head football coach and teacher of the school's various woodworking classes, Rob Heller taught Melstrom in class, and said that sometimes he would learn from the high school student. Melstrom almost has an "obsession" towards a project's details, Heller said.
"I'm going into my 11th year [teaching woodworking] and no one has really stood out and has taken it to the level that he has," Heller said. "In my opinion, he could do it as a hobby, or take it to the next level."
For most of his life Melstrom practiced it as a self-taught hobby, but when he received his driver's permit he wanted to find a way to make gas money. Melstrom said he just had to find a way to fit around his schedule.
The flexible hours and opportunity to turn his favorite pastime into work sold him — though Melstrom said sometimes his friends can get a "little irritated" with his commitment to working, instead of hanging out. And his mother Carol Melstrom says that sometimes those hours can go late.
"There's times when I don't know when he goes to bed," Carol said laughing.
An independent businessman
Since starting Backcountry Woodworking, Melstrom has made roughly 30 products for customers. Over time, that customer base has expanded from family friends to those who found out about him through word of mouth, Carol said.
But it wasn't until a year had passed when his business started being profitable, Logan said. His first year he started marketing himself through a Facebook page and designed business cards for himself. He spent most of his earnings on equipment, and the profits from a summer job pouring concrete followed suit.
"With sports and school there's not much time for anything," Melstrom said. "I knew I liked working with wood, so I just took this and ran with it."
The business — from marketing to the actual work — is almost exclusively ran independently, Carol said. And Logan admits he tries to listen to advice from his parents but that it can be tough for him.
"He's incredibly independent," Carol said. "He doesn't want us involved."
Woodworking as a job and hobby is rare for someone Logan's age, said Ron Reuter, president of the Wisconsin Woodworkers Guild.
The woodworking-craft group has roughly 100 members, and most of the members' ages range from 70 to 80. At 66, Reuter said he's considered one of the young members.
"Kids today they want the computer jobs. If we can get them as hobbyists, that's fine," Reuter said. " We want to help the younger group [get better,] this kid ... is the perfect example."
Reuter has never met Melstrom, or seen his work, but said if he is able to sell products he is reaching a level where it could be a serious venture for him. Many hobbyists sell their products on websites like Etsy, an online handcrafted arts and crafts marketplace.
"My hat is off to that young man, people are going to want his work," Reuter said.
Melstrom is considering both four-year colleges and technical schools' two year-programs as post-high school options. Whichever happens, he hopes woodworking is in his future plans.
"If I could have a business that has anything to do with wood it would make me so happy," Melstrom said.