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The Call of the (DIY) Wild: tips on achieving wood mastery

For photographer/woodworker Andrew Szeto, it all started with skateboarding. As a semi-pro, he was getting injured a lot and wanted to do something with his hands. He was also burning through a lot of boards (one every 2 weeks) so he decided to take the stacks of old skateboards he’d collected and start making furniture with them. The crazier ideas the better.

To date, he’s turned old planks into an Eames lounger, a carved hand-shaped chair, baseball bats that hit home runs, canoe paddles, and holds on the climbing wall inside the A-frame cabin he constructed for $8K (USD).

When Szeto’s not making things he’s living the life of adventurer: canoeing in his handbuilt craft, motorcycling across Canada, or filming icebergs for the Canadian Coast Guard. “There’s a small percentage of my job where I’m like Tom Cruise out there Mission-Impossible-style where I’m bombing away on a helicopter or I get the front seat on some crazy mission that’s unheard of.”

Trained as an environmental engineer, Szeto was working on informatics and electronics projects for the Canadian Coast Guard when his boss discovered his film of a motorcycle road trip and asked him to do the same thing for the Coast Guard.

After purchasing a $6,000 (4,700 USD) piece of land in Quebec, he used his woodworking skills to build an A-frame cabin with a climbing wall as the only means of reaching the loft (his attempt at a rope ladder was unsuccessful). He built a murphy bed to turn the loft into a bed but learned it was too hot for sleeping given the powerful wood stove he’d installed downstairs.

Szeto has plans to build a workshop on his land so he can teach others the craft he loves. He’s been teaching a canoe-paddle-building course at the Ottawa City Workshop (where he learned to build) and loves passing along his knowledge.

“It’s nice to put stuff on the Internet and have Internet likes and stuff like that, but it’s quite a mother when you’re seeing somebody successfully build a paddle in real-time and seeing the smile on their faces after that. I just think sharing experiences is something pretty incredible and something humans need to be doing more even.”

“Don’t judge a book by its 2-dimensional cover, this guy lives in high-definition 4D!” (Excerpt from the comments section.)