A Feel for the Job

Josh Hass doesn’t let the loss of sight slow him down.

Story by Lisa Savage

Josh Hass sitting in chair outside holding leash with black labJosh Hass runs his fingers across the tape measure, feeling for the raised markings as he lines up the pieces of wood. He wants to make sure each piece fits together nicely.

Josh feels right at home in the woodworking shop just outside of Alba that his grandfather used for years. Most days, he’s sanding and staining wood, creating beautiful charcuterie boards, coffee tables, shutters and more. Witnessing the craftsmanship, it’s hard to believe Josh can’t see. That’s how he came up with the name of his business — Blind Guy Wood Works.

A Harrowing Experience

Josh, 24, was blinded in an accident while riding on a side-by-side utility vehicle when he was 13 years old. It’s a day his parents, Brandon and Paula Hass, and older sister Samantha, will never forget.

Paula worked in town, and Brandon worked in the oil fields in North Dakota. Josh was riding with a friend in the pasture between the Hass home and that of Josh’s grandparents, Wendell and Sharon Williams, when the accident occurred. Paula got the call and she and Samantha rushed to the hospital, while Brandon got back to Texas as quickly as he could. The side-by-side had rolled over and landed on Josh’s head. He had a traumatic brain injury and was in the hospital for14 days. “It was such a traumatic time,” Paula says. “He had multiple skull fractures and a neck injury. We’re very lucky it was no worse than it was.”

Josh Hass working with drywallAs Josh healed, the realization sank in — he had lost his sight permanently. The accident occurred in August 2011, and Josh returned to school by November of that year. “Josh took it all in stride. He had the attitude that ‘it is what it is,’” his mother says. “We all had to find our groove.”

Josh continued his studies at Alba- Golden High School and didn’t let blindness slow him down. As a member of the local chapter of the National FFA Organization, he showed cows and participated in many competitions across the Southeast.

Robert Reynolds, his ag teacher, provided a lot of assistance and helped guide Josh to success. After graduating, Josh went to Austin to the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center, a residential vocational rehabilitation training facility for legally blind adults. He was there for five months and learned techniques to prepare for employment, college or trade school and to live independently. It’s where Josh first learned about woodworking as a blind person. “We were blown away by what Josh was able to accomplish,” his mother says.

He attended Tyler Junior College for a couple of years and lived on campus. Josh, thinking he wanted to follow in his ag teacher’s footsteps, did a job shadow program for one semester. “I thought I wanted to be an ag teacher, but I decided I didn’t want to teach kids,” he says. That’s when he decided to focus on woodworking.

A New Business

drywall and wood materials on tableIn 2019, Josh, with help from his family started his business, updating his late grandfather’s shop. By this time, Paula taught at Sulphur Springs High School, and Brandon had left his job in the oil fields and returned home to run his own drywall business.

When it comes to Josh’s craft, Brandon does most of the big cuts with the table saw. Josh uses the miter saw and other measuring tools specialized for the blind. Josh also relies on Samantha. “Josh and Sam are close, and he knows he can rely on her,” Paula says. “Not only does she help Josh with various things, she encourages him to exert his independence and go beyond his comfort zone. We are a very close-knit family and are always happy to help each other.” Josh loves it because he can work at his own pace. “I do it all by feel,” he says.

With both his parents working, Josh’s grandmother makes the short drive to pick him up each day and take him to the shop. “We try to keep him busy,” Paula says. Josh makes a variety of live-edge tables, incorporating the natural contours of the tree into the design instead of sharp edges and right angles.

He uses Facebook to show his inventory, and people reach out through the social media platform to place orders. He also ships items. When a graduate from his alma mater was diagnosed with lymphoma, Josh donated a pecan wood console table for a fundraiser.

The person who won the console table had family members in town visiting. They loved the table so much, they commissioned Josh to make one for a Christmas present, and that table went to California.

Each piece bears his logo, which features his guide dog, Jed, and the business’s name. Jed is always at Josh’s side and provides tremendous help. “Jed is so smart,” Paula says. “It’s amazing to watch him with Josh.” Although Josh lost his sight, his mother says Josh and their family have gained so much. “This situation has brought people into our lives that we otherwise would not have met,” she says. “The Lord has really blessed us. His grace is sufficient, and he does prepare the way.”

Find Josh’s work on his Facebook page: Blind guy Wood works