Wakefield, Quebec, furniture maker Andrew Szeto on Instagram, his A-frame cabin and how many mistakes woodworkers should make.
Q & A with Andrew Szeto
How long have you been woodworking?
About seven years
What sort of furniture do you specialize in?
I make lots of bespoke paddles and I have a huge admiration for mid-century modern staples.
Tell us a couple of interesting things about your personal life.
I work for the Coast Guard and travel across Canada quite a bit. We live in a wonderful place and I’m always in awe of what folks make and are able to do in their environments.
If you weren’t a furniture maker what would you be?
Skateboarder, videographer, engineer (which I already am, I guess).
In order, what are the three most important items in your shop apron?
Square/good ruler, some five-minute epoxy/CA glue and a good pencil.
Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
Power! I’ve got places to be.
Solid wood or veneer?
Either; just depends on the application.
Figured wood or straight grain?
Figured for sure!
Inherited vintage Stanley Sweetheart or fresh-out-of-the-box Veritas?
Probably vintage Stanley.
Flowing curves or geometric shapes?
Both can be beautiful.
Skateboards (dyed veneered maple).
Least favourite wood?
Skateboards because of how much of a pain it can be to actually get your raw material.
Make a Paddle
Szeto (center) has taught paddle-making classes at the Ottawa City Woodshop. (Photo by Richard Scott)
One of Szeto’s favourite projects is his A-frame cabin. Here he is with his nearly completed cabin and some friends who lent a hand building it.
Quotes from Andrew Szeto
My studio is brand new. It’s the walkout basement of my home and it’s got everything I need for small projects. I often work outdoors just to keep the dust down.
I work wood whenever I get a chance to. I work a full-time job with the Coast Guard, so during my evenings and weekends, I go hard. I usually make about three paddles a week and can turn a bunch of goods, too.
Because of my small space, my Saw Stop is fantastic and doubles up as my workbench.
I get most of my inspiration from mid-century design and Instagram. There’s too much amazing stuff out there.
My work says I’m whimsical and crazy.
I live in a beautiful little village and it’s constantly inspiring. Lots of great woodworkers and makers up this way, too.
Have fun and make mistakes. Make a LOT of mistakes. Only way to learn and get better.
I mostly do commissions because it’s at my own pace with work. I don’t know if I have enough attention to detail for spec work.
I work fairly closely with my customers. I’ll send progress shots all throughout the process. That connection is really important to me and why I do what I do.
I get most of my business through Instagram.
I’d like to see more classes offered where students see a product through from start to finish.
Some Canadian makers I look up to are Matt Wallace (taught me woodworking through the Ottawa City Woodshop and makes incredible furniture), Richard Scott (he was my mentor), Jack Forsberg (he’s insane and amazing) and Michael Alm (great builder and produces fantastic videos). There are so many more!
The internet has had a huge influence on my work. There are many things that you’ll see from many incredible makers from various time periods, and that’s all a huge influence. If I had to pick a few folks to name, makers like Nick Barna, Michael Alm, and Ray and Charles Eames are a few.
I need to work with my hands. I really feel a void in my life when I don’t. Thank goodness for the Ottawa City Woodshop.
Something practical, functional and value added is my definition of good design.
When designing something I start with purpose and application, and then move to the overall design.
Coming up with something that’s unique and special is the portion of the design process that excites me the most. Everything’s been done, but how are we going to really turn some heads?
Being a woodworker is pretty neat. Having folks know that you’re handy and knowing that you’re a good source of information and help is awesome.
Making things that blow my mind and trying to push my boundaries are what motivate me.
Make a bunch of things and iterate as you go along. Keep trying things and don’t be afraid to fail.
After building a series of projects, including a canoe, hundreds of paddles, chairs, etc., I felt comfortable constructing a building — my A-frame cabin. It’s something I’m really proud of having embarked on and completed.
In the near future I want to bring back a few historical mid-century Canadian designs and perhaps produce them on the CNC.
With shops like LD Shoppe, I think Canada can be a good location for makers. You really have to be able to market yourself.