Ursinus Magazine

Emily Schleicher Worrilow ’16 & Jim Worrilow ’16

Scientists by day. Woodworkers by night (and weekends). Emily Schleicher Worrilow ’16 and Jim Worrilow ’16 are the skilled craftspeople behind Worrilow Woodworking, an in-home business built on entrepreneurship, art, and science. Oh, and a whole lot of sanding.

What started in early 2020 as a fun hobby in a one-car garage has grown into an impressive side hustle in Hamburg, Pa.

By day, Emily, who earned her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from Penn State College of Medicine 18 months ago, is an oncology consultant for Fenix Group International specializing in breast and ovarian cancer.

Jim works in manufacturing science and technology at Johnson & Johnson, writing the manufacturing recipes so lotions and creams can go from raw materials to the shelf. “It involves a lot of heavy science,” said Jim (who credits the late Professor Emeritus Ron Hess’s organic chemistry course with preparing him well).

Even if you didn’t know Emily and Jim were scientists, it would quickly become apparent in listening to them talk about woodworking. There’s the percentage of moisture content in southeastern Pennsylvania air (it’s between 8% and 10%, by the way) and how it impacts their medium; the way wood adapts to its environment; and the chemistry at the root of the formula for epoxy (a colorful substance used on some projects).

“There’s a lot more science in woodworking than you’d think,” said Emily.

The trade—even if only on a part-time basis—comes by her honestly. Her grandfather was a carpenter, and she and Jim are proud to own and use some of his tools. The onetime studio art minor says her favorite projects involve epoxy and wall art. “Having someone hang your work in their house is really meaningful.”

She describes Jim as a natural artist, who can “just look at something and draw it perfectly.”

“I feel like we’re all artists,” he said. “You just try to find a medium to express your creativity. We’re expressing our creativity through wood.”

Worrilow Woodworking

Entrepreneurs at heart, the Worrilows had to learn all aspects of the business, such as sourcing materials, creating a website, and launching social media accounts. With more than 6,500 followers on Instagram—and one Reel that has nearly a million views—their
@worrilowwoodworking account is their primary vehicle for sales.

Nearly all of their wood is locally sourced so it’s primarily Pennsylvania trees that make up their tables, kitchen blocks, cutting and charcuterie boards, serving trays, lazy Susans, bottle openers, and coasters.

After moving last year, the shop is now an expanded two-car garage with a separate shed for storage. They carve out time to work on projects when their 1-year-old, Archie, is sleeping.

“When we started and we saw something handcrafted, immediately the first question—and I guess that’s the scientist in us—was, ‘How?’” said Jim. “How do you make it? Where do you start? What’s the process?”

Self-taught in all ways of the business, they credit that natural curiosity for motivating them to figure out the process, which is—in an oversimplified order that doesn’t account for all the time required between each step—mill, cut, sand, finish.

“It’s so many hours of sanding,” said Emily.

“It feels like 99.99%,” joked Jim, “but it is about 80% of our time. It takes the longest because if you rush that step, then you can see the flaws in the finish. You need to put in that effort and all that time if you want a good product. If it wasn’t taking a long time, we probably would be cutting some corners. That time means that you’re doing it right.”

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