A&E Asks: Doug Green of Express Yourself Austin

Learn how this hobbyist-turned-business owner used a laser engraver to turn his workshop into a dream.

Doug Green is the man behind Express Yourself Austin and countless CorelDRAW tutorials on YouTube. A master crafter, Green sometimes spends hours upon hours, if not years, to create unique and elaborate items out of wood and metal. Get to know more about this hobbyist-turned-business owner.

When did you first become interested in working with wood and metal?

I’m 65 years old and have been doing woodworking since junior high school. I started playing with metal about 15 years ago. Once I started doing metal, I started incorporating the both of them together.

How and when did you first find out about laser engraving?

About 12 years ago, when I was at a woodworking show in Texas. A friend of mine got his wooden pen engraved at one of the booths, and from that moment, I said I’m going to get one of those. I did some research and went to a couple of seminars, and about a year later, I bought my first laser engraver.

When did you start Express Yourself Austin?

Right after that. I actually started it as Express Laser Service, but when I designed my website, I wanted to incorporate it with my metal and woodworking, as well. I basically got into lasering to help me with my woodworking. I discovered the laser engraver is great at making templates for other woodworking items. For instance, I would take the laser and cut down a template, then take it to my woodshop and make an exact copy with real wood.

In what ways has the laser engraver allowed you to enhance your abilities with wood and metal?

The ability to use CorelDRAW has helped me to be able to draw and physically see things before I start building them. A couple of years ago, I made a dining room table for my daughter with metal legs; I was able to draw the legs and find out what angle I needed to put them at so they wouldn’t hang past the table. It helped quite a bit in that aspect.

Do you have any advice for lasering wood?

For wood, start with the settings in your owner’s manual. Then, keep a record of your settings. The good thing about wood is that you can always re-run it to make it darker and deeper with the next pass of the laser. On some woods that do not engrave as well, like oak or bamboo, run it at your normal settings and then to make it darker, take the laser out of focus, at about 1/8″ high. That will give you a darker burn, because the laser beam is now wider (since it’s out of focus), giving you a nice blacker burn.

What do the majority of your orders look like?

Most of what I do is engraving on wood, which anyone can do. The unique things I do are typically gifts for people. I like to push the limit. I live in Austin, Texas, where there are probably 50 shops that can laser something, but I like to take it and make something out of it besides just lasering. I don’t do trophies because I more-so work on pieces of art.

What does a typical day look like in your shop?

I started this morning at 5 a.m. Because I worked in the meat business for so long, I get up early. If it’s good weather, or if it’s real hot, I have to get out there before it gets too hot in the shop. This morning, I cut some wood up, engraved it, and am getting it ready for the weekend. We also have horses, so I go out and visit the horses. I’ve got a butterfly garden that I watered this morning. I’m a bit of home-body. We live about an hour from Austin, and I like it where we live, out in the sticks.

What are some unique projects that you’ve done?

I’ve created items for fundraisers at my church as well. I’ve made some pretty unique items; some have gone for up to $1,300 in years past. There are almost too many items I’ve created in the past few years. Some people call me an artist, but I don’t accept that title. I don’t consider myself an artist, I consider myself a creative, because I can look at something and make it.

What is your advice to others trying to learn graphic design/editing skills?

A lot of people say CorelDRAW is really complicated, but to me it’s easy. There are multiple ways to do the same thing and get the same result. One of the keys is to go to the conventions, do the seminars, and watch YouTube videos. Me alone, I’ve got thousands of videos with viewers all over the world. I learned off YouTube, so that’s kind of why I started sharing on there as well. CorelDRAW is one of those things that anyone can learn, and you can always find different ways to do something.

How do you get your ideas for new YouTube videos?

I love making videos for YouTube. (To date I have 2,353 “Corel” videos that get around 3,000 views a day and I’m approaching 11,000 subscribers.) At first, I made videos to show people what I learned from jobs that I had done. Today, almost all my videos come from people asking how they can do this or that. I receive about five emails a day, mixed with questions on Facebook. If I have a video on a topic already made, I send the link to that video, but if not, I make a new one.

How do you go about making the videos?

I use a program called Snagit that captures my screen, my mouse movement, and my voice. Most of what I do cannot be written down in words.

What sort of feedback do you get from people about your videos?

I receive about five “thank you” notes a day. People comment on the video itself or thank me via email or Facebook. One of the reasons I keep making the videos is from the thanks I get. Many viewers take the time to write me a nice note on how I saved them a lot of time.

What goals do you have for the future of your business?

I don’t really consider what I do a business. Although I make some money from it, I’m a pure hobbyist; I didn’t get into for the money. If I was younger, I would open a storefront, but I’m retired now. I turn down some jobs because it’s too much like work. I like making one or two of something.

For more about Doug Green, visit his website or learn from his YouTube videos here.

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Julia Schroeder

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