When searching for one’s passion or purpose, a common piece of advice is to remember what you loved to do as a child. Lucas Strack – an architectural designer, draftsman, craftsman, furniture maker, and woodworker – has designed a career and a life he loves by embracing the activities that brought him joy when he was a kid.
From an early age, Strack had an interest in buildings, hands-on projects, and art. He would spend time drawing and sketching and wanted to be either a cartoonist, an architect, or an artist when he grew up. Around the age of 14, Strack learned the basics of woodworking in his father’s woodshop, building bird boxes and Adirondack chairs alongside his dad.
He later attended architecture school, where he spent time in the college’s woodworking space. There he designed and built his first coffee table, which gave him practice in joinery and working in mixed media using different types of wood. Coffee tables are still his favorite pieces to design.
“Coffee tables are so manageable, and the design possibilities are endless,” Strack said. “All my sketchbooks are filled with a gazillion sketches of coffee tables.”
Strack realized when studying architecture that he enjoyed designing furniture to fit a space as much as he enjoyed designing a building to fit a landscape. He was inspired by renowned architects such as Alvar Aalto, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Frank Lloyd Wright who designed both buildings and furniture.
“I loved architecture, I loved furniture, so I wanted to do both things,” he said. “I like to build things, and I like to design and build things that fit the space they’re going in.”
Strack has had full-time roles with architecture firms where he designed and built custom pieces for commercial clients. He also owns his own business, Strack Studio Furniture, which he started about seven years ago.
Through Strack Studio Furniture, Lucas has had the opportunity to design and build woodworking projects that are custom-made for his clients’ spaces. In some cases, the piece has sentimental value because it was crafted from a tree that meant something to the client.
Strack once designed and built a table for a client using wood from a pecan tree that was on the playground at St. Joseph School. After the tree was removed to construct a new building on campus, Strack – who attended school at St. Joseph as a child – sawed and dried the wood.
“I have memories of playing around the tree and picking up pecans that fell from it,” Strack recalled. “This person went there, too, and wanted a table with some of the pecan wood in it. So, I inlaid the pecan wood in the center and then surrounded it with walnut. It means a lot to them.”
Strack also has milled lumber from pine trees that a cousin planted 40 years ago. When that cousin passed away, Strack made his casket out of the pine. For another project, Strack built a mantle made from a tree that the client’s grandfather planted.
Projects like this take patience and planning. After the tree is cut down and milled, the wood must dry. A rule of thumb, Strack said, is that it takes one year per inch of thickness for wood to air dry. Kiln-drying lumber can cut the time in half, but it still takes several months.
“If you have a 2-inch piece of wood, you should expect to let it air dry for two years before you use it,” he said. “You definitely have to plan ahead.”
Woodworking has fulfilled Strack’s childhood desires to design, build, and be an artist.
“Woodworking is an art that’s very sculptural, but it has its function as well as form,” he said. “Woodworking is not always flannel shirts, hats, and beard oil, like you see on YouTube. It can be a good passion if you want to work with your hands. Just have patience and start small.
“When I’m out here in the shop, I’m in my element. I feel comfortable out here, I do my best thinking out here, and I just like being out here – listening to music and doing woodworking.”