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Power Tools of the Trade: Woodworking for Trucks

Lesley de Abaitua, a devoted mom to two young girls and the founder of Oak&Feather, a one-woman woodworking shop out of Ontario, never has a dull moment. Lesley’s woodworking journey – from creative novice to revered woodworker – is a story of resilience and authenticity. By connecting with community and never backing down, Lesley’s story should resonate with anyone who dares to pursue their creative passions. 

The Genesis of Oak&Feather

Growing up, Lesley always considered herself to be creative. Activities like knitting and puzzles were and continue to be frequent pastimes of hers. Her woodworking journey began unexpectedly when her sister asked her to make a card box for her wedding to hold the envelopes. Lesley, with no previous woodworking experience, took on the project with the help of her husband, who oversaw the construction of the box while Lesley focused on the painting.

“At the wedding, a bunch of the guests were like, ’Wow, that’s a really nice card box,

could you make one for me?’ So for a period of time, my husband was making these boxes and I was just painting names on them, but we got so busy that my husband was like, ’Look, you need to actually learn how to use these tools so that you can do it yourself because you might have a business on your hands,’” said Lesley.


Lesley worked alongside her husband for a year to learn the basics of power tools. The scroll saw, however, was of particular interest to Lesley as it could allow her to make 3D wood art. Her family believed in her woodworking so much that they bought Lesley her own scroll saw. In 2017, Lesley finally decided she was going to quit her corporate job as a project manager at an IT software company to start Oak&Feather.


The name Oak&Feather  was inspired by Lesley’s grandmother. “I was visiting my grandparents and my grandpa kept asking my grandma, ’Did you make a reservation for lunch?’ And she said, ’Oh, did you make a reservation at the Oak and Feather?’ And my grandpa was like, ’The Oak and Feather, what are you talking about? Do you mean the Oarsman?’ And so, the restaurant was called the Oarsman, but my grandma kept saying Oak and Feather. Since then, I always told myself if I ever had a business, I would name it that,” explained Lesley.

Advocating for Mental Health

Beyond the progress she was making with her woodworking, Lesley’s journey carried a deeper significance. Back in 2017, she was struggling with postpartum depression. “It was not something that I ever got help for or admitted because there was a lot of stigma and shame around it,” said Lesley.


Eventually, she began using her platform to share her experience openly. Lesley explained, “I was showing my successes and my failures as I went. I realized that the followers who joined me were also rooting for me.”


By the time she had her second daughter and started to fall back into that depression, Lesley decided to use her following as an outlet to share her struggles. “I’ve always advocated for being open about speaking about struggles with mental health, specifically with postpartum for myself, but also being a safe space for people to realize no one is perfect and everyone is struggling. Even those social media accounts that might look perfect, there are always struggles we don’t see. I really wanted to keep my space a vulnerable place for people,” continued Lesley.

Connecting with Western Star

Oak&Feather rapidly gained traction on Instagram, where its following grew from 50,000 to 100,000 in just four months.


Lesley initially worked on smaller projects, collaborating with local Canadian businesses on logo designs.


Her entry into the world of trucking came about unexpectedly when she was asked to recreate a logo for another American truck manufacturer.


While the response from that piece was not overwhelming, it caught the eye of Dustin Hovius at RJames Western Star, who approached Lesley to craft a piece featuring the logo for Borealis Fuels. Still doing work for him today, this project was the beginning of an ongoing fruitful partnership between Lesley and Dustin.


While Lesley was embarking on this new era of projects, Western Star was keeping

tabs. Taking notice of her beautiful, handcrafted creations, Western Star decided it was time they wanted one of their own. “When I got the email from Western Star, I had to read it a few times because I thought it was a scam,” admitted Lesley.


After an initial meeting to discuss the project, Lesley found herself in the middle of a welcoming collaboration.

Bringing Western Star to Life

Tasked to create a piece displaying the front view of a Western Star truck, Lesley found herself intimidated, as anyone would be, by working for such a large brand.


Starting this project with only an image of the grille of a truck, Lesley was given complete freedom regarding how she wanted to make it. In terms of size, this project was one of the largest Lesley had ever worked on. “I lost sleep over the project because when I was looking at the scale of it, it was a very big sign. I was trying to figure out where and how to cut so that it looked realistic,” explained Lesley. Meticulously planning the details, she got to work cutting and the confidence flowed.


Typically, Lesley incorporates several different materials throughout her creative process. When choosing a type of plywood for her truck projects, Lesley decided on a medium density fireboard (MDF) as it allowed paint to layer seamlessly. “For the next truck that I’m working on, they wanted a cool mosaic backer. So, for that I’m actually going to be using oak plywood. I’m also going to be using padauk for the logos, which is a really cool redwood. I’ll use anything from MDF to pine boards to hardwoods. A couple of the trucks that I’ve done, I’ve actually incorporated metal, so cutting thin aluminum to give that metal sheen and I’ve also used epoxy to give the windshields that glossy glass look,” continued Lesley.


As soon as Lesley posted the finished project on her Instagram, she received

overwhelmingly positive feedback and support. She said, “As a person that doesn’t

drive a truck, I was nervous to post these projects at first. I always thought somebody

more familiar with these trucks might come out and be like, ’That doesn’t look right.’ But not one person had a negative thing to say."

Everyone in the Western Star community has been so encouraging.

- Lesley de Abaitua

"It has truly been amazing joining the trucking community, even though I don’t drive a truck, I feel part of it in a sense.”


Embodying the Spirit of Western Star

As 2023 is heading to a close, Lesley is on track to complete 100 projects for the year, five dedicated to Western Star. The future holds promise, as her woodworking business gains momentum.


Aligning with Western Star’s “’Never Back Down” mentality, Lesley said, “I always find the confidence to keep going. It isn’t easy, but I have to remember to believe in myself and I always get it done.”


During the chaos that ensued during the pandemic, Oak&Feather, like thousands of other businesses, had to fully shut down. After her business took a big hit, Lesley explained that the trucks were her first projects post-pandemic that got her back on her feet.

“I work by myself, and I don’t have any employees. So, at times, my work can be difficult. But I always remind myself that I started this business as a passion and as an outlet for something that was really important to me. When I take on projects now, like these massive trucks, for example, and I lose sleep over planning them, I try to remind myself” explained Lesley.

“It’s so rare to be able to have a job where you’re literally doing something that you love every day.”

- Lesley de Abaitua



Western Star logo that features 'Serious Trucks' in white text and a red star against a gray background.