This Eureka Veteran Pays It Forward with Artisan Aspirations

Prepare to get inspired.

Way up north in Eureka, a former Vietnam vet established a compound that functions as a woodworking shop and school for at-risk youth. Starting with only a $300 loan, Eric Hollenbeck discovered the value of turning old junk into something beautiful and relevant with his business, Blue Ox Millworks.

According to Visit California, “On a tour of the compound you can see artisans at work, using period tools to cut elaborate wood decorations, moldings and embellishments. Most pieces are custom ordered to restore or re-create parts of classic Victorian edifices—including some private homes and grand public buildings like the Governor’s Mansion and the nearby Leland Stanford Mansion in Downtown Sacramento.

“What’s so cool is that we aren’t just making the same architectural pieces; we’re making them on the same equipment that was used back then,” explains Eric, who grew up in Eureka, a coastal city with a long history of logging and mills. “You come here and you get to see the largest working collection of human-powered equipment left in the U.S., from a scroll saw built in 1868 to a cut-off saw built in 1902.”

Read how Eric opens his doors to at-risk youth who want to get their hands dirty on a craft project here.