Caleb Harris: This Army Vet & Law School Graduate Has A New Calling

Caleb Harris is a U.S. Army Veteran, law school graduate, father of two, business owner, furniture maker, and content creator, with more than 135K subscribers on YouTube. The crazy part? All of these things happened within 5 years, so you can say Harris is also a very dedicated, hard worker.

He grew up in what he describes as a “perpetually remodeled house”, so he learned how to work with tools and wood at a young age. But it wasn’t until Harris was stationed in Germany and had his first house that he really started putting those years of experience to work. Since he knew he’d be moving around a lot in his army career, he decided to start making his own furniture that could move with him.

Photos from Harris’ time in the army

While deployed in Afghanistan, he spent his off-time researching as much as he could about furniture making, through magazines. As soon as he exited the military in 2012, he decided to make his own workshop and get started on all the projects he’d been dreaming of. Harris looked into woodworking full time, but at that time decided it would be best to pursue his other interests by going to law school instead.

Harris and his sons at his law school graduation.

Halfway through his program, Harris and his wife, Callee, decided it was now or never. So in addition to completing his degree with honors, he launched his You Can Make This Too YouTube channel and his furniture making brand, The Custom Furniture Guy. He decided to give himself 18 months to see if these ventures would be successful enough to merit a career.

Turns out, having a background in law helps out a lot when it comes to starting your own business. Harris didn’t need to hire anyone to do the paperwork – he’s always had the confidence to negotiate contracts, and even teaches a business start-up class at WorkBench Conference (WorkbenchCon).

About eight months into the 18-month time frame experiment, Harris had a walnut table desk build that went viral, giving him the confidence that content creation was the right path.

Harris made this walnut table and posted the process on YouTube – his first viral video

He listened to podcasts of other people in the maker space and learned it wasn’t just about luck and personality, but strategy, planning, and continuous improvement.

“I found out I could ‘smart’ my way through this since I am good at planning, evaluating, teaching, and learning.”

After graduating, it was time to make the choice. With Callee’s career going well, it was she who convinced Harris to stay with woodworking and not take the bar exam. “For what it’s worth, I enjoy talking to you a lot more in the evening after you’ve been in the shop, than a day of law classes,” she told him.

Harris made this walnut table and posted the process on YouTube – his first viral video

When first launching his YouTube channel, Harris took a lot of time researching, and learning videography and editing. He also saw TotalBoat figured prominently, so he decided to switch from using a low-quality craft epoxy to TotalBoat epoxy.

Harris reached out to us with his epoxy ideas and was instrumental in helping us shape ideas for many new products, including varnish, such as our easy-to-use, water-based varnish and deep pour epoxies.

His first big project was using TotalBoat High Performance Epoxy to create a fish tank aquarium with an epoxy river and waterfall. From there, he met up with us at WorkBenchCon, and “we’ve been besties ever since!” he says.

L-R: The unique aquarium stand Harris made; High Performance Epoxy waterfall inlay

Harris likes the personal approach TotalBoat has with customers and ambassadors, saying, “Even though I’m not actually a part of the company, I feel like I have a voice. I have a workshop full of other companies that don’t make us makers feel listened to all the time.”

he epoxy river charcuterie boards from Harris’ very popular YouTube video

Harris started out using TotalBoat Penetrating and High Performance epoxies for river charcuterie boards, creating a how-to video that gave him about ⅓ of his subscribers. As a reference video, it racks up new views all the time, and it gets mentioned to him in person, still, as an easy gateway to learning the basics of epoxy.

A TotalBoat ThickSet Epoxy river coffee table Harris created recently

Mixed media furniture has become Harris’ specialty, and these are his favorite projects because he loves the harmony between the geometry and natural curves.

A large-scale example of his work includes the series of farmhouse tables he was commissioned to create for Cartridge Brewing. With five weeks and complete creative freedom, Harris got to work.

The lineup of the tables Harris created for Cartridge Brewing

The ThickSet Epoxy rivers flow together when the tables are lined up

The tops became river tables of ThickSet Epoxy and white oak, which he first sealed with TotalBoat Penetrating Epoxy. The legs are steel and concrete, which creates the contrast Harris loves. Since the brewery is located in the former historic Peters Cartridge Factory, he incorporated the aged brass the company used to create the cartridges.

The tables in their new home, blending the old with the new

“It tells the history of the building, while launching the brewery into the present. The mix of shotguns, steel, and wood all blend into a story that makes sense.”

Harris standing on the bow of his first boat

In July of 2021, Harris came out to the TotalBoat headquarters in Bristol, RI, to create a river table, which he finished with beautiful, custom-welded legs. While visiting, after a hard day’s work, he was invited to go sailing on the 1974 Hinckley Pilot 35 yawl owned by TotalBoat Social Media Manager, Kristin Browne. The memories of the two years from his childhood spent learning sailing and boating at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut came flooding back, and he was hooked.

Before leaving Bristol, he found a 1976 20’ O’Day for sale back home in Tennessee, and negotiated a deal, with input from TotalBoat employees. The day he went back, he picked up the boat, but it took a few weeks to get it lake-ready.

Cleaning topsides with TotalBoat Boat Soap (before and after pictures)

He used TotalBoat Boat Soap to give it a good cleaning, TotalBoat Thixo for some sealing, and TotalBoat Gleam marine spar varnish for the tiller. Soon he and his family were off sailing.

Harris splayed out after spraying cabinet doors with TotalBoat Halcyon Clear Gloss Varnish

Now, Harris is focused on a newer, larger boat, and is working on the biggest table he’s made to date – a 5’x16’ conference table for the Mississippi Forestry Commission’s new headquarters.

A mix of natural wood and steel – Harris’ future coffee bar

After a few crazy years, Harris is looking forward to enjoying spending time relaxing on a porch. His focus is also turning back to his home, where he’s creating a timber-frame pavilion in the backyard, and completing the conversion of his new workshop so he can one day host classes.

The dirty secret of success? “No one ever feels like they ever ‘make it’, it’s just constantly looking for the next project and how to make the next video better.”

To follow along on Harris’ latest projects, check out his Instagram at @thecustomfurnitureguy and @youcanmakethistoo, and YouCanMakeThisToo on YouTube.


Makston Lukis

Makston Lukis

Glennia Hailer

Glennia Hailer

Zakiyah Ezzine

Zakiyah Ezzine

Kiva Ejlers

Kiva Ejlers

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