Penticton, British Columbia studio woodworker Samuel Hunt on historical design, accuracy and the importance of sourcing his own logs.
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Q & A with Samuel Hunt
How long have you been building furniture?
I’ve been making furniture professionally for three years, and have made furniture as a hobby for a few years prior.
What sort of furniture do you specialize in?
We design and make high-end modern furniture.
In order, what are the three most important items in your shop apron?
Combination square, measuring tape, pencil.
Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
I prefer power tools. I love to focus on productivity and efficiency. I believe embracing technology allows design breakthroughs to surface.
Solid wood or veneer?
Figured wood or straight grain?
Inherited Vintage Stanley Sweetheart or fresh out-of-the-box Veritas?
Veritas, fresh as can be.
Flowing curves or geometric shapes?
Least favourite wood?
Custom White Oak Credenza
At 76" long, the size alone made this build incredibly challenging for Hunt’s one-person shop. The client gave Hunt free rein on the design motivating him to include some special details. The inlaid slats in the sliding doors sit into rounded dadoes, which are consistent with the rounded cabinet corners, drawer pulls and legs. “As a maker,” Hunt explains, “it’s really exciting but also stressful when we’re given this kind of design freedom. We get to prove what we’re worth, but also have to pull it off.” (Photo by Stuart Bish)
Lola Floating Nightstand
The design process for this nightstand made for friends in Ontario was surprisingly smooth. “I was able to sketch a lot of fun ideas quickly, which made getting to a final form easier than what’s typical,” Hunt said. “The client originally wanted something a little more mid-century inspired, but I was happy they took a risk on this more original and modern form. It’s been a hot seller for the past few years and has been a big influence on some of my more recent case work.”
Bartlett Dining Chair
Made of black walnut and Danish cord, this was Hunt’s first chair that he designed and built. One of his aims in furniture design is to always get each piece down to its bare essence while balancing out the simplicity with noticeable details like exposed joinery. Danish cord was used for the seat because Hunt thought it’s something that resonates with people. It’s familiar, intricate and comfortable.
Top rail detail
Quotes from Samuel Hunt
I recently moved back to the town I grew up in and was lucky enough to get a private space close to home. I cut my teeth in a shared woodshop in Vancouver so having the privacy is something I’m grateful for.
My day is pretty much 8 to 5. Sometimes I start off with something easy like milling or maybe some sanding to warm up my brain before taking on tasks that require more focus.
I love my PantoRouter. It’s such a diverse machine and opens up a lot of opportunities to create interesting details and structure in modern designs.
There are so many brilliant designer-makers right now constantly coming up with new techniques as technology plays a bigger and bigger role in furniture making. Instagram is definitely a great place to see what’s happening right now.
I definitely get a ton of energy from all art forms. I love visiting art galleries. Anytime I experience someone’s craft, whether it’s painting, stand-up comedy, sculpture, photography, etc., I feel very motivated to create and make.
Sketch your designs by hand. Do it quickly, do it ugly and don’t be ashamed of ugly. For me, creativity is rarely pretty.
I’m getting a little tired of the ultra-bold minimal look with really thick material and very little detail or thoughtfulness. I think it’s here to stay a bit longer, but I find a lot of designs are staying in the “safe zone” when it comes to this particular flavour.
Starting out as a woodworker even as a hobby is kind of slow and expensive. I think these shared maker-space workshop outfits are about the closest thing you can have that would be considered a shortcut. You can take lessons, have access to all the tools you need, and get a better understanding of what you’ll actually need for when you get your own space.
If you’re just starting out, learn to build a perfect box, then learn how to make a panel perfectly flat. After this, buy a Festool Domino and make as many projects as you can.
I think it might be common to think that building furniture is always a labour of love and that there’s this idea that it’s an incredibly romantic job. It definitely is incredibly enriching, but at times it can be incredibly stressful and mentally draining.
I’ve been really impressed by Nick Mazerolle out of New Brunswick. I don’t know him personally but he’s made some stunning chairs I saw on Instagram recently.
There’s a ton of incredibly beautiful studio furniture being made in Australia. Remington Matters has a lot of really fun designs.
Simplicity and detail are what I like. I like when pieces are boiled down to their essence while pushing the limits of what’s really needed to make a strong piece of furniture.
The design comes before materials.
I think technology will continue to be embraced in the woodshop. I think things like CNCs will become more and more common.
I recently made a 76" white oak credenza/media unit. It’s a monster. The sheer size of it created some unique challenges but also offered a lot of opportunities to execute a bunch of details I hadn’t tried before.