EVERETT — Johan West, a homeschool student from Monroe, came to Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center for his senior year to take metals classes and has quickly made his mark as one of the program’s top welders. The 17-year-old gave us a tour of the shop and answered some questions.
Question: So what brought you here?
Answer: I really liked metalwork my whole life, and welding seemed like a good fit.
Q: What kind of metalwork have you done?
A: I like making knives.
Q: How do you do that?
A: You buy a lot of machinery that’s really expensive and watch a lot of YouTube videos. And talk to a lot of other knife makers. … A lot of (the knives I make) are hunting and skinning knives. I like the older style ones, with the nice bone or rosewood handles. They have a nice shine and quality to them.
Q: So you hunt?
A: Yes. I hunt deer, ducks — a lot of things, but those are mainly it. I started hunting when I was 11. That’s when I shot my first deer.
Q: And making knives?
A: I started playing around with that when I was 8. … It basically started with my grandpa. He was a Boeing machinist. He taught me how to weld, and it started from there.
Q: What is it that you like about working with metal in this way?
A: It’s creating something — out of a pile of basically scraps — to make something new and useful.
Q: So what skills are you adding here at Sno-Isle TECH?
A: A lot of welding skills, different types of welding. I’m learning how to fit pipe a little better. … I feel comfortable on all the machines. I know how to work all the machines, so it’s really nice.
Q: What projects have you got going on?
A: At Sno-Isle, I’m playing around with welding aluminum, which is tricky. At home, I’m building my own shop, so I’m not doing too much at home right now.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I hope to go into the welding field and then own my own business as a welder and custom design shop. I might go to Everett Community College, but … I hope to go straight from here into business.
Q: You’ve been homeschooled since kindergarten. What’s it like?
A: It gives me a lot of freedom. Basically I can get my work done at my own schedule and have time for other things.
Q: What else do you do in your free time?
A: I like to go fishing with my brother. That’s always fun. We do a lot of things as a family.
Q: Do you have any advice for a teen just starting high school, whether it’s a regular or nontraditional approach?
A: Definitely go to a trade school. You can still go to college, but if you don’t like college then you at least have a trade to fall back on. It gives you satisfaction to be able to do something with your hands.
Melissa Slager: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3432.