Lance Everett has always craved adventure. The South Dakota native moved to Boulder, Colorado, at 19 years to compete in skiing and mountain biking, and he dreamed of becoming a professional endurance athlete.
He once completed a 24-hour solo mountain bike race, and skied more than 100 days a year while working at a shop selling gear for outdoor recreation. Everett did telemark free heel skiing and loved big air terrain park stuff. “My best trick was a corked-out backflip,” he says, describing a not fully inverted sideways backflip.
Then, in 1999, everything changed when he met his girlfriend Kelley while working at a ski mountain. “I was the only guy there not looking for girlfriends. I was there to ski,” Everett says. But the young couple unexpectedly got pregnant with their first daughter, Emma, now 18. “It’s fantastic how dreams change. … I never had plans to be a pro dad,” says Everett, who is now a 40-year-old father of nine — eight daughters and one son.
Everett’s focus on his growing family led him to a well-paying career in fire suppression for nearly two decades before launching Iron & Plank, his family-owned custom furniture business. Over the past six years, Everett and Kelley have taken Iron & Plank from a hobby to reality, made possible through her photography and marketing skills, his ability to fabricate and create and the family’s collective sacrifice.
‘Finding a Job to Feed Some Kids’
After getting pregnant with Emma, Kelley moved home to Northern California to be close to family while Everett stayed in Colorado. A ski accident landed Everett in the hospital with a broken collarbone; while recovering, Everett called Kelley to wish her a happy birthday and learned she had given birth to their daughter the day before the call. “I made up my mind to come to California as soon as I could drive,” Everett says. The couple married and settled into their life in Cool and, later, Auburn.
Everett’s pro-athlete pathway shifted to “finding a job to feed some kids,” he says. He landed a fire suppression job in 2002. “What I did primarily for the last six to eight years (of my career) was aircraft fire suppression in high-hazard areas,” he says. The most intense part of his work was for Rocklin-based Elite Automatic Fire Suppression as a pipefitter “90 feet in the air, with something that is 400 pounds on your shoulders, working over and around an Atlas rocket (used to launch satellites into orbit).”
For about 16 years, Everett stayed in a field that offered financial security, but kept him away from his family. “The biggest stressor was the inability to be there when Kelley needed me,” he says, adding that neglecting his responsibilities as a husband “weighed heavier on me than doing high-stress, risky jobs. I can handle that stress just fine. But telling my wife I could not help with the kids was the worst.”
In 2012, alongside his then 13-year-old daughter Emma, Everett made his first piece of furniture: a table for Kelley, inspired by a product he saw on Pinterest. Making furniture quickly became his hobby.
Everett launched Iron & Plank in 2013, selling his custom-made tables, kitchen islands, fire pit tables, barn doors and anything else his clients dreamed up. For the first three years, while starting up the business, Everett kept his fire suppression job and worked 80 hours a week. Then, in 2016, he quit so he could devote more of his time to his family business — and to his family.
Building His Family’s Future
Everett believes his materials are what make Iron & Plank successful: Every piece is reclaimed wood from barns built in the early to mid-1800s and historic water towers dating to the 1930s-60s. “I have relationships developed with the people that do the reclaiming of barns and tanks,” he says. “They do all the legwork, and I just buy (and) sell the wood.”
Everett says he creates from reclaimed wood because “the quality of old-growth wood is by far superior to what you can buy even after 150 years of use,” he says. “The trees that produced the lumber did not live in a managed forest. They grew hard and dense and fought for each drop of sun and water. Their struggles to survive created such quality wood. The main focus when working with these pieces of history is to honor them. We leave as much texture and character so no one will miss the fact they are sitting at a piece of history. No matter how good the equipment is, you cannot mass produce authenticity.”
Everett mainly works with interior designers and sells to individuals and at some retail outlets, including Pottery World and Audacity Art in Roseville.
Everett believes strongly in raising the next generation of woodworkers, even setting up a 500-square-foot space, called The Krafty Kids Korner, where his children and their friends receive hands-on lessons. Everett is also helping produce an inaugural trade show and expo for woodworkers, featuring a regional high school woodshop competition at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo in September 2020.
Through his experiences with woodworking and witnessing the empowerment it provides his own children, Everett says he wants more young people to be able to learn the craft. His long-term goal is to create a nonprofit summer mentorship program with a family friend who dismantles barns in Ohio.
While Iron & Plank transitioned from a 400-square-foot garage to a 4,000-square-foot facility in April, Everett admits this new career has been challenging, saying, “We are in our infancy stages of growth.” Last year, Iron & Plank brought in a third of the money Everett made in fire suppression; even so, he says he has no regrets. “We hustle, work deals and make connections to accomplish more than we have the means to,” he says.
“Lance works seven days a week, 12 hour days, most days. We have a lot of angels in our life (supporting us) for sure,” Kelley says, explaining how their family of 11 gets by while building their business. “When PG&E cut the power, our friend Bill brought us his generator so Lance could keep working. Our friend John gifted us a car when Lance’s van broke down. … We have a lot of cheerleaders.”
Kelley assists in all aspects of the business, including social media, marketing and sanding wood. “Lance is definitely building more than just a legacy for his family,” she says. “He has taught me to look at the bigger picture. It’s about building a community. It’s about building our tribe. It’s about helping others ‘find their sparkle.’”
As for Everett’s former life, “Those adventures are the building blocks for me to now share with my kids. My life is very much still an adventure, every day is exciting and new.” Plus, he says he played harder than he will ever work: “Eighteen-hour days working for my kids is nothing compared to 24-hour bike rides for fun.”