Q: How did you get started in studio furniture making?
It was kind of by accident. After we bought our first house, I was working full time in Marine Biology, but the house needed work. So, I started buying some tools, and kind of got back into woodworking that way. Once I got into it, and wanted to buy better tools, I had to come up with a way to pay for them, so I started doing small commissions for friends. Later on, as my biology funding was drying up I started taking on more commissions, and it just sort of mushroomed from there.


Q: Do you use hand tools and or power tools? How do they affect your work?
I use a mix of both. Power tools are much more time-efficient, and let me process more materials more quickly. I usually do most of my dimensioning and joinery with power tools (either stationary or hand) because of their precision, but if a joint or process is highly specialized I often use hand tools. It doesn't make sense to spend hours making a complicated jig to hold a workpiece just so just to make one or two cuts, when the time could be spent just doing it by hand. Most of my hand tool use is in final shaping of curved parts and smoothing. Scrapers, planes, rasps, files, and the like give me a closer feel for the wood as its being worked.


Q: How much input does the client have in your process?
As much or as little as they want. I like to design through an iterative process, wherein the client gets to provide input along the way as to their likes and dislikes. The piece is for them, so it should be just what they want. Some clients just put the designing in my hands and say "go for it". Others have definite ideas what they want, and have a lot of input on many details. I've had a number of commissions that ended up places, design-wise, that I never would have thought of, so it becomes sort of a journey of discovery for both of us.


Q: What is your favorite part of the process: building, designing, 
wood finding?
Hard to say - it changes with every piece. Design is very fun, because I can take a kernel of an idea and see it grow and take shape. It also, in many ways, is the least restrictive part of the process. Finding a great piece of wood, or applying that first coat of finish to see the figure explode is really great, too. In many cases, delivery and installation can be the best part - seeing a happy client's face when I bring a piece in is always very satisfying.


Q: How do you keep woodworking interesting and fulfilling?
I try not to repeat myself too much. I like taking on new projects that I haven't done before. That's why I haven't really explored production work too much. The fact that every project has its own challenges keeps things interesting. A lot of the fulfillment comes from the fact that in the vast majority of cases, by the time I deliver a piece the client has become a friend, so I end up with many more friends than "clients".


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Michael Singer Fine Woodworking 
Felton, CA 

"To attain just the right equilibrium between
form, function, art, and craft"

 Northwest Timber 
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PO Box 1010 Jefferson, Oregon 97352 541.327.1000 / 800.238.8036