My name is Chris Stiles and I am a wood turner who has the good fortune to live and work on Vancouver’s north shore. Although woodworking is not my “mortgage paying job” I enjoy spending time on the lathe creating and turning out new items whenever I get the chance and occasionally I remember that there are other tools in my shop and that wood does not always need to be made round.
I am drawn toward making useful items that are both functional and also look good. Some of these items include a wide variety of things for the kitchen, shaving gear, jewelry, toys, Christmas decorations, pens, wedding goblets and various random ideas that seem to come up. I’m always looking for new ideas of things to make and to try.
Although I still work with exotic woods now and then in recent years I have gravitated toward working with mostly local types of wood that I am able to find in my own neighborhood. When people cut down trees on their property they often give away the wood for free and some of the varieties that I have been able to find close to home include: maple, cherry, black locust, plum, alder, arbutus, mountain ash (also know as rowan) as well as a few others. With this incredible variety being so readily and locally available I am finding myself much less inclined to use exotic woods in my work.
I have enjoyed woodworking from a very young age. I think that much of the credit/blame for this has to be given to my father. He was always working on something around the house and to this day has a workshop in the basement. I can still remember getting my first set of tools as a Christmas present when I was about six years old. The tools were all sized for a child but were functional and could be used for cutting and shaping wood. From there I went on to learn more in school shop classes. I took woodworking in school for as far as it was offered because, to be honest, it interested me far more than any of the academic subjects that were required. I still have some of the projects that I made in those classes.
For a while after I finished high school though I did not do much woodworking. I was living either on my own or with roommates and did not have access to the tools and space required. I still did the occasional project but they were few and far between for a long while.
That changed when the first of my nieces was born. For some reason I determined at that time that I did not want to be giving her a bunch of store bought junk for Christmas’s and birthdays. I was going to start making things. If I recall correctly that first gift was a wooden train made from maple wood using a jigsaw on a portable workbench.
Since then the need to come up with new and unique presents for both her and her sister has pushed me to come up with new ideas and explore new techniques.
My first sales began with friends and neighbours asking if I could make things for them or if they could buy some of the things that they saw me making. I have now expanded that to selling online as well as various local markets. At this point I still consider it to be my hobby and much of what I make still winds up as gifts to friends and family members.