Jesse Epple finds creativity with a few borrowed tools.

When Jesse Epple isn’t skateboarding, he’s creating something unique out of wood in his at-home workshop. Over the past few years, he’s learned how to combine both passions. He creates custom wood pieces in the heart of Columbia with scrap wood and recycled skateboards. Missouri Life caught up with Jesse to discuss his creative impulse behind Back Tail Customs.

Why did you start woodworking?
When I was eighteen, I used to make skateboard decks with a buddy. We probably made fifteen or twenty, but then in 2018, I wanted to make homemade gifts for the holidays because I thought they were more meaningful. I made a few hanging plant holders and a kitchen knife holder shaped like a fish for my dad, then I really wanted to make myself a cutting board. 

Why did you start Back Tail Customs?
Right now, I work at Hudson Shuffleboards as my full time job, but in 2020, I was working in the kitchen at Uprise Bakery and my hours were cut because of the pandemic. I had extra free time so I decided to experiment more with woodworking. I liked it so much I wanted my hobby to become my profession or at least a side gig for now. I wanted to create something of my own. I always dreamed about having my own business. 

Why did you decide to incorporate skateboards into your work?
There is a guy named Haroshi from Japan who skateboards and is a self-taught woodworker. He makes sculptures out of recycled skateboards. I found his Instagram a few years ago, and he was one of the first people I saw that used boards in his work. I knew that I had access to a lot of boards, so I wanted to try it too. I made the small gifts at first, but then I wanted to expand on it. I love skateboarding, and when I prep the boards by removing the grip tape and sanding it down to its raw wood, the colors really pop and there are a lot of possibilities with what you can make. 

The Epple brothers pose with their skateboards.
Cole Epple and Jesse Epple

What’s your favorite piece that you’ve made?
I made a big, twenty-four-by-thirty-six inch kitchen board to be used for cutting and as a sink cover for a small apartment so it could add more counter space. I made it with long strips of maple and the handles are made out of walnut, maple, and skateboards. That was one of the biggest pieces I made at the time, and I put a lot of thought into it with how to make the handles and how to make it different from other cutting boards I’ve made.

What would be your dream piece to make?
I’d like to get into furniture making. I am currently finishing up a coffee table. It’s waterfall style, so that means the top of the table and the leg connect at a forty-five degree angle, so the grain pattern flows from the top down to the leg. I’d also like to make wall art because it can be really colorful and abstract with the skateboard pieces.

What does the name Back Tail Customs mean?
“Back tail” is an awesome skateboard trick where you slide the tail of your skateboard on an obstacle, like a ledge or railing or quarter pipe. I’ve only done it a handful of times. I’ve been skating for twelve years, and since one of my specialties is using recycled skateboards, I wanted that to reflect in the name.   

What inspires you?
My brother and best friend Cole. He was the one who had the tools that he let me use in the beginning and he always brainstormed and encouraged new ideas with me.