A Way with Wood


August 10, 2013

Many people grow up with a hobby they love and find a way to turn it into a career. Tracy Ness did the opposite.

Ness, who works as a technician for Washington Pest Services and Consultants in Lacey, Wash., began his working life as a driver for a custom door manufacturer. Occasionally, he helped the woodworkers and learned he had a talent for the craft. Soon he was running one of the company’s CNC (computer numerically controlled) routing machines.

As a craftsman, Ness was creating custom designed doors from exotic woods. He collected many of the odds and ends and stored them on a property he shares with his father, Thom, who’s also a technician at Washington Pest. But after almost two decades of lifting and carrying custom doors, Ness needed a change.

“They were getting heavy, and I was getting tired,” he says. “My father has been involved in the pest management industry for a long time and has always bragged about how much fun it was.”

Ness decided to close the door on one industry and open another by becoming a pest management professional (PMP). Being friends with Mike Willis, owner of Washington Pest, factored into that decision.

“We’ve hunted together for several years and talked often about me getting involved,” Ness says. “I finally said, ‘I’m tired of this door thing. Let’s try this.’ I’ve just had a ball with it since. It’s a great job.”

That was six years ago, but Ness never gave up his woodworking.

“I didn’t know I had a talent for it until I got involved in it,” Ness says about woodworking.

“It started out as a career and ended up being a hobby.”

PMPs spend much of their time determining how to capture and kill insects and critters. Ness does plenty of that as a technician; but when he’s not hunting bugs, rodents, elk or deer, you can find him in his father’s workshop, making wood hunting plaques for him and his friends or flower boxes for his mother for Mother’s Day.

“I enjoy working with wood and creating things, coming up with a design, putting it to paper and bringing it to life in the wood,” he says.
Ness estimates he has accumulated thousands of linear feed of exotic woods from when he was in the woodworking industry. He turns the mahoganies, oaks and Brazilian cherries into pieces for friends and family. He never charges for his work.

“I like whittling that stuff, turning it into something pretty, varnishing it, which really brings out the detail,” he says.

While Ness, who works on the weekends and whenever he has a few spare hours, has his own home on his father’s property, he doesn’t have his own workshop.

“I have every tool you can imagine on a small scale, and I have nowhere to work, so I’m looking forward to building myself a small shop,” he says.

One of Ness’s recent projects is for a buffalo his brother-in-law shot in Montana. Ness ordered dermestid beetles to clean the bones, and he’s making the plaque – which includes a 4×6-in. glass inlay for a photo of the friend with his trophy – of Brazilian cherry wood for the skull. He’s also working on a 7×6-ft. base for many of the antlers he’s collected throughout the years.

It’s apparent Ness’ work and hobbies dovetail nicely.

“I don’t mind killing stuff – it’s a kick,” he says. “It’s wonderful. Because of the hunting skills I have, I love this. There’s nothing more fun than catching the rat you can’t get. They’re so smart.”

But there’s not much demand for a rat head on a plaque. pmp

Jacobs is a contributor to PMP. Contact him via wnepper@northcoastmedia.net.


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