Lower Valley Woodworking grew a part-time passion project into a busy custom woodworking shop focused on quality craftsmanship and customer communication.

By Terry Meyers. Photograph by Archer Messenger.

Between the slough and the antique store at the north edge of Somers, you’ll find Jim Ask’s Lower Valley Woodworking. The small, 16×30 foot shop features a surprising amount of work space between various saws, a planer and shaper, and other woodworking machinery, plus dust collectors, clamps, and rustic doors ready to deliver.

He calls it “small space efficiency.”  Stock is everywhere: eight-foot slabs of blue-stain pine by the side door, stickered barn wood drying on high shelves, a lumber rack on the far wall. He shows me his panel clamping set up, and the area where he hinges the doors and installs hardware. An almost-finished buck-braced door on the workbench has such an incredible weathered, gray patina that I just have to touch it and marvel. The place has natural light and smells good.

Jim was born in Somers and grew up helping his father refinish furniture, helping him deliver furniture, and playing around with different tools in his shop. He built chess boards and bird houses in shop classes at Flathead High School. He received a two-year degree from Flathead Valley Community College in Fine Arts, then began his professional journey into woodworking.

His first job in the industry was peeling logs at Frontier Furniture just down the road. He’s also worked in some of the cabinet shops and door shops around the valley, as well as in lumber mills. He was one of the finish carpenters on Michael Goguen’s mansion in Whitefish. Jim eventually had his hand in every phase of the industry, lending him incredible knowledge and skill in the woodworking arts.

Jim started his business in his own storage shed next door, an 8x-10 uninsulated space that was a trial during cold and wet weather. It began as a passion project, with Jim working in the shop on the weekends and evenings while also working a full-time job. Eventually, he started getting enough business that he could expand. He’s been repurposing barn wood and working local wood in his present location (which he affectionately calls a “mansion of a wood shop”) for around seven years.

Lower Valley Woodworking is now furnishing heirloom doors and tables to high-end places like Iron Horse, Glacier National Park, and as far away as Missoula and the Yellowstone Club, as well as to local homeowners across the Flathead. He also creates custom furniture – beds, dressers, coffee tables, etc. – according to clients’ specific dimensions and tastes. He is a one-man operation and is currently booked out three to four months. Jim doesn’t complain about too much work, but admits that he might need to expand again in the future.

Part of that expansion could include a small saw mill to mill his own lumber. He already has the knowledge and a large truck for hauling logs. The challenge of that new direction does not bother him either; in fact, he likes challenges. Like the time a family brought in their old branding irons wondering if they could be legs on a rustic table. He showed me that and many other creations in his photo album which also includes plans and 3-D drawings to help customers visualize an idea. Jim enjoys meeting and working with his customers, furnishing custom-made, rustic quality heirloom doors and tables, which, with him, become part of their family history.

Jim says he is, “Not a smooth talker or a salesman; just a quiet, shy guy who builds doors.” He has built quite a reputation through mainly word-of-mouth advertising that has brought him more work than he can handle. “Doors are the first thing you see up close at a house,” he says. And his doors are unique, hand-made creations. “Not something stamped out by a robot.”

When not in his shop, Jim is camping, swimming, and enjoying life with his family in this great place we call The Flathead!

Lower Valley Woodworking is located at 200 Highway 82 in Somers. You can find more information, including examples of Jim’s past work, at www.lowervalleywoodworking.com. Contact Jim at (406) 309-0723 or lowervalleywoodworking@gmail.com.

About the Author: Terry Meyers has loved living in the Flathead since 1982. He enjoys adventures with his standard poodle, Bella, leading the way.

Photograph by Archer Messenger.

Share This