Jesse Jenkinson isn’t shy about his love for carpentry. From playing with blocks as a toddler, to working on swanky restaurants and Japanese hotels, he’s thrived to become one of the industry’s most positive voices.
JESSE HAS gone from one carpentry gig to another, all starting from a young age. The 36-year-old is one sibling of seven, with an older brother also a chippy by trade and an electrician for a father. One of Jesse’s first memories was his brother working on an extension to the family home.
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“I was just a little kid playing with the off-cuts in the background,” he said.
“I remember my brother coming over with a handful of nails and a hammer and said ‘go for it’.
“I think I ended up just putting two blocks together and calling them boats. “We had a pool, so I just kept chucking them in the pool and seeing if they’d float.”
OUT ON HIS OWN
After finishing high school, Jesse got stuck into being a tradie. From constructing stages for concerts, to air conditioning for new builds, to even dabbling in steel framing. Shortly after becoming a certified carpenter, Jesse found himself out on his own and looking for work.
His enigmatic passion for carpentry led to his decision to start his own business. Like many chippies, his first few jobs involved a lot of pergolas and fences … exciting stuff! But not long after, he landed his first major fish thanks to his older brother.
“One of my first jobs after being out on my own was the San Telmo restaurant in the CBD,” Jesse said.
“That was my big break where I could show off my skill and work with some beautiful materials as well.”
From there, he worked on high-end Vietnamese restaurant Cochin and even took the lead on building well known Peruvian eatery Pastuso.
“That was really fast paced, we worked over extended hours to get it done and the celebration at the end made it worth it,” Jesse said.
“We got invited to the soft opening, all the meals and drinks were on the house and there was so much inspiration coming from everyone there. “That was the moment I saw where my passion lies.”
Jesse’s talents grew to a point where he was being drawn overseas for jobs. His oldest brother – the former chippy – had Jesse flown to the UK to help build his home in Canterbury. But just when he thought he’d collected enough sky miles, Jesse was roped into working on a hotel in Niseko, Japan. He managed a team that worked on the internals of the hotel such as fit-outs, maintenance and even building bridges.
“They even ended up getting me to write a manual on how to maintain the hotel because of how much work we did on it,” Jesse added.
Niseko is a massive destination during ski season in Japan, and Jesse’s ingenuity was put to the snowy test.
“They had these old steel handrails on the penthouse patio that got crushed by the snow,” he said.
“I had to think about what type of handrail we could build that would expand during winter.
“I had the idea of using wire, so we installed steel posts, ripped out the original steel handrails and then ran threaded thick stainless-steel wire.
“That way, when it came to winter, it just slacks off. Then you can tension it back up for summer.
“They loved it. It was a real out-of-the-box moment that I was very impressed with, as were the hotel staff.”
Jesse doesn’t know much else outside of the chippy life, but it’s hard for him to imagine enjoying anything else given his amazing experiences.
“The variety is the main thing for me,” he said. “I’ve never worked in an office, but if I was working on the same thing over and over, the boredom would kick in. “Carpentry doesn’t have that. You’re somewhere new every time.”
CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK
Eventually Jesse officially took up the Jenkinson Building & Services moniker, completing another milestone in his career. “I was a little worried about putting the family name on the line, but I think we’ve done quite well in representing the family,” he said.
Jenkinson Building largely focusses on high-end buildings such as homes and restaurants, usually working on one project at a time. Jesse will usually be managing a few subbies and apprentices, further growing his leadership skills as well as his team’s.
It wasn’t long before Jesse found himself on the radar of Carpentry Australia – the nation’s only trade-based organisation geared solely at carpenters. “It started by just leaving a few positive comments on people’s posts about their work,” he said. “I started learning a bit more about Carpentry Australia – how they’re here to support carpenters.”
Jesse noticed that not all of his fellow carpenters were as ‘chipper’ as he was, pun intended. He decided he’d post online about his own experience as a carpenter, and all the amazing opportunities it’s brought him.
“My mentor once said to me ‘once a chippy, always a chippy,’” Jesse said. “He told me no matter where I went to in my career, the skills you’ve learnt can take you all over the world and will stay with you forever. “It’s run completely true for me. It has literally taken me all over the world.”
From his post on social media, Jesse has worked closely with Carpentry Australia, helping spread the word about how awesome being a chippy can be.
“I think they understood how passionate I am about carpentry and everything involved with it,” he said.
“I want the younger generation to feel safe and proud to put up their work and not worry about jerks and trolls online. “Everyone starts somewhere, I was building boats in a pool, and they all sunk!”
As he continues to grow Jenkinson Building, Jesse plans on doing what he can to chip in and build Australia’s carpentry workforce. Whether he’s mentoring young-guns, or sharing his experiences online, Jesse’s optimistic about the future of carpenters.