Meet the Maker: John Loftis

Loftis’ journey into woodworking came about more circuitously than many craftsmen. “You hear stories about how you learn it from your dad or your grandfather, but that wasn’t the case for me,” Loftis says.

He grew up with a love for creating—pillow forts at home, paper airplanes, and the like—but it wasn’t until his high school shop class that he found an environment that fully sated this itch and fueled his thirst to learn more. He made his first cutting board there, and promised himself to one day have a workshop in his garage.

Fast forward almost twenty years, and Loftis’ childhood dream came true. From his home garage, he tried his hand at amateur projects—mostly items for his household, such as a coffee table, an entertainment console, and an island counter, each increasing in technique and difficulty. He took a leap in 2010, leaving his job in the corporate world to dedicate himself to full-time woodworking.

The first couple of years were, admittedly, tough. Loftis was starting his first business and had no portfolio. He relied on family and friends who commissioned him for jobs, and he threw himself into creating top-quality products for each.

The Boardsmith Walnut Sidekick Board

In his downtime, he started making cutting boards, planning to create a product line of boards and butcher blocks that he could build his brand around. His clientele started exploding, right around the time that woodworking guru David Smith announced he was selling his business.

Smith had a reputation within and beyond the woodworking community, renowned for his beautiful cutting boards brand the Boardsmith. Loftis revered Smith, and when word came about this business’ sale, he reached out to see if he could buy the business and learn how to make it successful. 

It was another leap for Loftis, and definitely one with a lot of pressure. “He made the best butcher block in the world,” Loftis says of Smith. “He took an investment in me and taught me how to be a better craftsman.”

Smith traveled to Dallas from his home in High Point, North Carolina, where he spent a week working with Loftis in the shop. He demonstrated his process, and the two worked together, practicing and perfecting the Boardsmith technique. “It was mostly tweaks to my process, but those little tweaks add up to make a huge difference.”

The Boardsmith Mosaic Board

Whenever Loftis begins a new board—and he’s created thousands—his mentality is I’m not going to cut any corners but make the best block I can make. Boardsmith boards begin with FAS (top furniture-grade lumber), a beautiful, clear, and expensive wood. Loftis then hand sorts the lumber to see which pattern and color should go together.

It’s a lofty caliber to live up to every day, but Loftis credits his family for making it achievable. The Boardsmith functions as a family business. Loftis’ wife, Jenny, runs the business side and handles the shipping of products, giving everything final inspection before okaying it . . . or sending it back to the workbench. Their three children help in capacities ranging from packaging the boards to learning how to use the machines in the workshop. Like many parents, Loftis harbors hopes that they’ll grow into future Boardsmiths themselves.

Even if his children eventually pursue different routes, Loftis delights in sharing his knowledge with other craftsmen, especially amateur woodworkers. He can point to a series of mentors who coached him over the years—from his high school woodshop teacher to David Smith himself—and he strives to pay it forward. He’s expanded the Boardsmith team to bring on talented, up-and-coming woodworkers who can learn under his guidance and, in turn, help grow the business.

After all, as Loftis points out, there’s a huge among of pride in knowing that your product is the best.