At the age of eleven, when other girls typically dream of what they’ll get for Christmas, Annalee Stevens was imagining what she could give. She found a picture on Pinterest of a cutting board she wanted to make for her grandmother. “I wanted my present for her to be personal. I saw it and knew it’d be perfect for her.” After showing it to her dad, Jack, they got to work. Annalee did everything – cutting the piece of cypress, sanding, and doing a round-over with the dremel tool they had on hand. No one in the family had any woodworking experience, and they had only basic tools.
Above: Annalee Stevens holds her beautiful charcuterie board | Article by Leah Kossak, TotalBoat Social Media Coordinator
Annalee didn’t stop at just one cutting board, though, she kept finding more ideas online to try. Her next projects involved making cutting boards from many different types of wood combined, instead of one solid piece. At first, she tried pallet boards, but learned quickly that her basic tools and the low quality of the pallet wood didn’t produce the best results.
After starting an Instagram account to show off her creations, Annalee and her family quickly realized this could be more than just a hobby. In order to build up her shop, she started selling her wooden cutting boards, cornhole boards, flags, and other creations. As her skill level grew, so did her tool collection.
“We learned along the way together, Annalee does all the research to find the projects, and we just work to bring her vision to life,” said her dad, Jack.
While following woodworkers on Instagram, Annalee found her first epoxy project to tackle. She jumped right in and turned a cherry slab into a beautiful table with a bright, sparkly purple epoxy river running through it. Because the video for Annalee’s epoxy river inspiration used TotalBoat TableTop Epoxy, she did the same – and learned that TableTop was not the ideal epoxy for a river pour because, every hour, she and her family had to leave an event they were attending to pour another shallow layer. However, all things considered, Annalee’s first epoxy project was a great success, and still sits in their home today. Someone had offered to buy it, but the Stevens’ weren’t willing to part with it.
Annalee also uses TotalBoat Thixo in almost every project, securing joints and filling holes and cracks to prolong the life of the wooden piece. Recently, she used this popular epoxy adhesive to make a large record player cabinet.
TotalBoat Elixir enamel paint is a new favorite, which she uses on flags, and uses to create a custom mix of red and blue for cornhole boards.
Annalee has moved on from using TableTop Epoxy for her river tables to using TotalBoat ThickSet deep pour epoxy, significantly reducing the number of layers poured. She uses TotalBoat High Performance Epoxy for sealing porous wood and for creating glossy topcoats.
Annalee’s business and Instagram followers continued to grow, and the woodworking community quickly took an interest in this talented teenage woodworker. Everyone from Izzy Swan to Sarah Listi of Tool Girls Today started supporting her work. Sarah even had the family visit her place when they were in the Houston area. “Even though we had never met in person before, it immediately felt like talking to an old friend,” Annalee said.
She quickly found a group of female woodworking friends known as ‘The Girl Squad’, who meet annually, at different locations all over the US, to work on projects together. Her dad Jack says he doesn’t even bother checking Annalee’s Instagram account much anymore because he knows there are so many woodworkers looking out for her now.
And it’s not just just fellow woodworkers that want to talk to her – companies started reaching out and offering their products. In addition to TotalBoat, early supporters of Annalee’s work include Clark’s Hardwood, Milwaukee Tools, and Black Forest Sawmill.
“Never thought that my 12 year old daughter would be talking to the Vice President of Milwaukee Tools or doing an interview for TotalBoat,” Jack remarked proudly.
But staying humble is the theme in this household, where the family rule is never to ask companies for products. Annalee’s tools are purchased solely with the income she earns from sales of her work – anything she wants, she has to earn. She’s made a few purchases, including a golf cart, a shed for her friends to hang out in, and her rescue dog, Hazel.
Through all her work with various companies, Annalee is determined to give back as much as she can. In addition to supporting her fellow makers by purchasing many of their creations, she’s involved in charity work. Whether it’s her annual fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, running alongside her mom in their charity event, participating in the @makersneverforget fundraisers for first responders, or making one-of-a-kind wooden boards for local officers, Annalee’s mission is to ensure that the support she’s received from the community is passed on to others.
In addition to her dad, Annalee spends a lot of time working on projects with her grandfather. There’s a real team effort behind her woodworking business, especially considering Annalee is in high school, and participates on the varsity soccer and softball teams. You’d never suspect what a busy schedule she has, given the incredible amount of work she produces. Her support system of family and friends is strong, and includes her best friend Natalie, who’s been dubbed the ‘VP of Sales’, since she’s the more outgoing of the two at any show or farmer’s market they attend.
As for whether she’ll continue to make woodworking her ‘job’, Annalee’s not sure. She’s always wanted to be a vet, her love of animals starting young. And regardless of whether she continues to use woodworking as a source of income, Jack’s glad she’s had the opportunity to be part of the community and learn so many new skills. From woodworking to wiring cables to epoxy work, Annalee’s sure to have a jump-start on her peers for any home improvement project in her future.
You can learn more about Annalee and see her latest creations on her Instagram, @annieswoodwork. School break is coming up, so there’ll be more happening soon!