Alberta-based furniture maker Bill Maniotakis on retirement, finishing and the importance of building boxes.
Q & A with Bill Maniotakis
How long have you been building furniture?
What sort of furniture do you specialize in?
Tables, jewelry boxes, cutting boards, and simple sculptural pieces.
If you were not a furniture maker what would you be?
Woodworking is a hobby, but I hope to continue during retirement. I would like to be an artist otherwise.
In order, what are the three most important items in your shop apron?
6″ Lee Valley adjustable square, 6″ LV ruler, tape measure.
Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
Solid wood or veneer?
Solid wood, but plan to venture into veneers.
Figured wood or straight grain?
Figured for small-scale projects, but straight grain for larger projects.
Inherited Vintage Stanley Sweetheart or fresh-out-of-the-box Veritas?
Combination of new and used.
Flowing curves or geometric shapes?
Least favourite wood?
Eccentricity Hall Table
While planning his entry for the 2015 S.A.W.S. exhibition, Bill Maniotakis wanted to try something with bent laminations, so he designed this table. (Photo by Barry Blatz)
Bill Maniotakis made this bird’s eye maple, spalted maple and wenge box for a friend’s 50th birthday. He also believes boxes are a great way to introduce young people to the craft of woodworking, as with limited time and materials a nice, functional piece can be created.
Quotes from Bill Maniotakis
In 2010 I built a dedicated shop in the backyard in preparation for retirement in early 2018. It’s fully insulated and heated. It’s 720 sq. ft. and is still too small at times. My wife likes to call it the ‘Garage Mahal.’
Up till now woodworking has been limited to evenings and weekends when I can squeeze in the time. My engineering career occupied most of my time. Now I’m retired, I hope to dedicate more time to woodworking.
Inspiration comes from various places: books, magazines, Instagram posts.
I think up-and-coming makers should stick to proven classic designs until their confidence level is up to the task of creating something totally new, while looking for improvements along the journey.
Green and Green designs can be overdone, but I do appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into them.
Festool Domino floating tenons seem to be very prevalent these days. I understand the necessity for time effectiveness if one is making a living at it, though. As a hobbyist I cannot justify the cost.
My confidence level has greatly improved lately in the last 5-10 years. Having a dedicated space to work from has enhanced my creativity and confidence. I am confident I can replicate a piece of furniture from a photograph.
I think we can bring the younger generation into woodworking by promoting box making. It allows for small, useful projects with few materials.
Woodworking exhibitions raise public interest, as evidenced in the biennial SAWS exhibitions.
I enjoy the work of Sam Maloof, Brian Boggs, Tim Rousseau, Mike Pekovich and Michael Fortune.
Silas Kopf ’s marquetry credenzas are great; ‘Bad Hare Day’ is just one example.
I think (sadly) that CNC machines will be used more extensively in the future, which to me do little to promote woodworking.
Finishing products have improved lately, which enable the hobby worker to produce great finishes without having to invest in spray systems.
I like problem solving and execution of joinery.
The ‘Matador’ table that I built for the S.A.W.S. 2013 Fine Works in Wood Exhibition was the most challenging, frustrating and personally rewarding piece I have made to date. Unfortunately, it is stored in a crate in my shop until it finds a permanent home somewhere.
I believe that Canadians are becoming more appreciative of true craftsmanship and a small minority is even willing to pay for it.
I feel it is a maker’s duty to share the processes that they have developed so that the craft creates interest and is passed down to the next generation.