Jonny Lambert — or, as his 615,000 followers on YouTube might know him, Jonny Builds — is a true Oklahoma maker. Six years ago, while working as a detective for the Oklahoma City Police Department, Lambert decided to dabble in furniture making. “I didn’t even think to look on YouTube,” Lambert said. “I bought a book called HomeMade Modern and just started reading.”
Lambert was so new to woodworking that he had to run to Home Depot to purchase a set of basic tools and materials, then got to work building in his garage. His first completed piece, a media console, was admittedly not the best … but sparked something inside him. Lambert remembered it “scratching a creative itch I’ve always had; I just didn’t know exactly what it was.”
As he continued to work on small pieces, his daughter came to him with a special request: a new bed. “It set me on a journey. I found plans online, bought a couple more tools and over the course of two months I built a DIY bed for her in my garage. I surprised her on Christmas morning with a completely redone room with all-new furniture.”
In continuing to learn about woodworking, Lambert started watching tutorial videos on YouTube. After noticing the success of some of his now peers, he thought, “I want to try that.” He started filming himself building furniture, from start to finish, and eventually began his own YouTube channel, which he named Jonny Builds. “One of the hardest things about doing what I do is that there is so much to learn,” Lambert said. “Not only do you need to be proficient as a woodworker or metal worker, you also have to learn the whole production side of it. I invested in nice equipment and learned how to edit and produce my own videos.”
After posting just a few videos on YouTube, Lambert had his first experience with going viral. A local company provided him with old barn wood and Lambert set to making a table for friends. He said, “The wood had deep cracks running through it that I filled with turquoise epoxy. It took me three months and looked terrible at first. I had to fix it, but showed the entire process. After four days, it had a million views.”
Much like most things on the internet, the YouTube algorithm promotes channels that perform well. This one viral video set Lambert on to a path of eventually retiring from the police department and becoming a full-time YouTube content creator. In addition, now he has more opportunity, with sponsorships providing him the tools and materials he needs to make these passion pieces. He now works with an editor to produce 20-minute videos, which are released at least once a month.
Lambert strives to make content that is enjoyable for everyone. “Jonny Builds takes people on the journey I’ve been on, which was very basic DIY furniture and leveling up from there. You can watch an older video and make the 2×4 sofa I finished and probably build that yourself with simple tools over a weekend. Now, it’s more about watching a satisfying video of seeing the process of how something is made — seeing what decisions are made while I’m making it and why I’m making those decisions. It’s about the story of the piece, and I think everyone is interested in a good story.”