Profiles: John Malecki

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John Malecki





When he wasn’t blocking charging linemen as an offensive guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers, John Malecki picked up woodworking in the offseason to stay focused and disciplined. Before long, friends started asking him to build stuff. Now he runs his own furnituremaking business and teaches the craft through his blog and website. I caught up with John, and we tackled a few woodworking topics.

—Chad McClung

Industrial roots. This bar’s mix of metal and wood pays homage to the Steel City. See what John’s building next at johnmalecki.com.

WM: What did you learn on the field that you apply in the shop?

JM: Developing plays and formations and then executing them on the field is like planning a project, drawing it up, and taking it to the shop. I was not the biggest, fastest, or the strongest lineman in the NFL. I had a different set of skills, but I still had to practice a little harder and a little longer to stay in the game. And I didn’t rest on my laurels. I take a similar approach to furnituremaking; I want to be a better woodworker. I can’t be content with one technique because it’s fast. I want to keep learning and keep pushing myself as a craftsman to design and build better furniture. 


WM: What do you love about woodworking?

JM: I love plucking an idea from my head, putting it on paper, and making it a reality. I grew up helping my family with remodeling and working around the house—working with my hands. So I guess that stuck.

I don’t care how much time you put into it, you can always learn something new. You can always improve. I cringe when I look at projects that I built a few years ago. It will be interesting to see what I think of my current project in five or ten years from now. But that’s a beautiful thing about woodworking, you can always push yourself to do better.


WM: Do your hometown roots show in your work?

JM: Pittsburgh is a steel town with old bones and great architecture. I tailor my designs to the city’s industrial vibe, and I think my work embodies that. I like to use reclaimed material from the area. And not just wood; I do metalwork as well. Those materials have a story, and I like to work that story into my projects. Pittsburgh has been fantastic to me, and it’s my way of giving back.


WM: What’s your favorite tool in the shop?

JM: I don’t pick favorites. For me, it’s about having the right tool for the job. We’ve all made do with cheaper tools and work-arounds, but everything is easier when you have the exact tool, or jig, or technique for the task at hand. Upgrading my table saw, jointer, and planer has made a huge difference in my work. Assemblies and glue-ups are easier, my projects look better, and I enjoy my shop time more. I actually look forward to milling lumber. Good dust collection is also important in that equation.


WM: Do you have anything else to offer a beginner?

JM: I really enjoy listening to podcasts when I’m in the shop, but there are plenty of other ways to discover new ideas and find inspiration for your next project–like woodworking magazines and websites featuring the work of skilled craftsmen.


WM: What would you like to leave your fans with?

JM: Woodworking isn’t just a basement hobby for grandpa. It’s cool, and people really do appreciate quality craftsmanship. There is a Renaissance of woodworkers and makers right now and it’s inspiring. Find your passion and go for it.  

Online Extra

John had more to say than what we could fit here. Visit our website for the full interview.

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