Walk through a double-story garage door near downtown Springfield and your eyes immediately land on a sea-foam green wood planer from the ’80s standing almost as tall as the garage door itself. Although the machinery and layers of two-by-fours make it obvious this is a woodworking shop, powdery sawdust is nowhere to be seen. Tabletops are littered with cardboard for notes and measurements. Small cubby holes are meticulously organized with supplies. An oblong gallery wall dons saws, hammers and a variety of other necessary tools, some of which have spanned Jesse Kemp’s 25 years in and out of woodworking.
A self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist, Kemp stayed busy as a kid using a pocketknife to whittle wood into bows and arrows, but his paid gigs really started with an adjustable plant stand Kemp made for his grandmother—an item she still has—at just 12 years old. “From a young age, my parents and grandparents supported me in what I loved doing,” says Kemp, who specializes in custom woodworking, including furniture and cabinets.
Kemp served in the U.S. Navy, studied sociology at Missouri State University and worked at different shops, but he always came back to woodworking and continued to hone his craft. In 2007, he opened Kemp Fine Woodworking in the same workshop as a custom chair maker. Now, Kemp shares the same space with his mentor who taught him how to make doors. As the sole employee, he focuses on quality and customization. It’s the true mission statement of a perfectionist. “I use locally sourced materials whenever possible,” Kemp says. “Including my own sawmill operation milling urban reclaimed timber.”