Paul Lemiski on full-sized templates, Instagram and how technology is changing woodworking.
Q & A with Paul Lemiski
How long have you been building furniture?
What sort of furniture do you specialize in?
Sculpted Maloof-style chairs as well as urban live edge salvaged tables.
Tell us a couple interesting things about your personal life.
I recently got married and had a beautiful wedding on our country property, and I enjoy mountain biking and snowmobiling.
If you were not a furniture maker what would you be?
A teacher. I find when I teach my rocking chair classes, it brings me great joy.
In order, what are the three most important items in your shop apron?
I do not wear an apron, but my go-to small items are a center-finding steel ruler, a 6″ engineers square and a pen…yes, a pen, not a pencil.
Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
As a modern woodworker I find I have to balance the efficiency of power tools with the accuracy of hand tools.
Solid wood or veneer?
Figured wood or straight grain?
Inherited Vintage Stanley Sweetheart or fresh-out-of-the-box Veritas?
Fresh out-of-the-box Veritas, although I have some vintage items that have been passed down from my wife’s grandfather.
Flowing curves or geometric shapes?
I enjoy both.
Canadian black walnut.
Least favourite wood?
I enjoy all woods.
Salvaged Canadian black walnut, with curly maple bent laminated back supports. Simple yet comfortable lines, featuring floating tenon joinery done by the Festool Domino. (Photo by Steve Hindle)
Paul Lemiski was inspired by Jory Brigham’s work when designing this walnut, zebrawood and steel credenza. Gluing up the mitred case with floating tenons proved to be a challenge.
Sculpted Rocking Chair
Built from salvaged Canadian black walnut, with curly maple seat and flexible bent laminated back supports, this chair is very comfortable and gorgeous to look at. Over the years, Paul Lemiski has built more than 70 Sam Maloof-inspired versions of these rockers.
Quotes from Paul Lemiski
My studio is located in the country, near Erin, Ontario. I’m fortunate to be on a beautiful farm where my 30x50 studio is located, but we are transitioning into the 4600 sq.-ft. barn at the same location.
My days are go, go, go. I have three employees, so my day starts with some discussion on what is going on that day. I run two kilns, which require my eye first thing in the morning and throughout the day.
My hero is Sam Maloof.
These days there is so much design floating around – sometimes it’s better to just close yourself off and find your own.
I typically like to draw full-size templates on plywood. I’m quickly and easily able to design a piece in full size right in front of me.
I am a big fan of simple designs. If something can be removed from the piece, and it can accomplish its intent, maybe it should not have been there in the first place.
Some clients want zero input, while others want every detail discussed. I accomplish this via text message and face time, giving my customer a first-hand look of the details we decide upon.
I get a decent amount of word-of-mouth business, but my main source of new work is from being seen on Instagram.
I think young people are open to woodworking, but they just need the opportunity to get some tools in their hands. I feel like right now there is a resurgence in the handmade furniture world being transformed by social media.
Without a piece of furniture right in front of my clients, they just don’t understand the quality and love that goes into beautiful, functional furniture.
I follow masters all around the globe on Instagram, and get a glimpse into their day via daily pictures and videos. To name just a few, Konrad Sauer, The Wood Whisper, William NG, Clarke Kellogg, Anton Gerner, Benji Reyes, Jory Brigham, Rundell and Rundell, Brian Boggs, James McNabb, Craig Thibodeau, Matthias Pliessnig.
Technology will drive design, being able to 3D print, CNC cut and laser engrave will let wood workers do things we’ve never been able to do.
I think Canada is having a surge of young makers. The market understands handmade, local furniture is worth the extra money for the quality and connection.
The Muskoka chair, one of the first pieces I ever made, is an iconic piece of Canadian furniture. I own them, and almost everyone I know owns some. Travel into cottage country and you’ll see them on every dock.