Cirvan Hamilton - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

Canadian Quotes: …on living in a forest, shop class and the frustration of designing.

Cirvan Hamilton

Cirvan Hamilton

Photos by Cirvan Hamilton and Kelly Holinshead
Cirvan Hamilton, 41, Stone Tree Studio,
Studio — Dorset, ON
Education — Graduate of Rosewood Studio, School of Fine Woodworking in 2008, 12-week craftsman program


How long have you been building furniture?
I’ve been building furniture since 1999, and playing around since I was a kid. I build contemporary fine furniture.
Tell us something about your personal life.
Married with 2 daughters, 16 and 13. Moved to Muskoka in 1999. Bought a vacant acreage and over the last 17 years, with the help of friends and family, my wife and I have built a home, shop, studio, garden, pond, apiary, aviary, several outbuildings and a series of trails throughout the forest. I’m a vintage machine mechanic. Over the years we have amassed a 1949 Ford 8N tractor used for plowing snow, harvesting firewood, and the occasional trip to the neighbours; a 1959 MF35 Massey Ferguson with a forklift used for all our heavy lifting; a 1972 Honda CB350 and 1973 Honda CB500; four motorcycles used for fun; and most recently a new shop truck, a 1949 KB3 International pickup truck.
What are the three most important items in your shop apron?
In my apron you’ll find a 6" rule, a Lee Valley apron plane and a pencil.
Do you prefer hand tools or power tools?
A combination of the two.
Solid wood or veneer?
Solid wood.
Straight or figured grain?
Lately leaning towards straight grain.
Inherited Vintage Stanley Sweetheart or fresh-out-of-the-box Veritas?
10% vintage, 90% new.
Flowing Curves or Geometric Shapes?
Most recently geometric shapes to go along with the straight grain.
Favourite Wood?
Least Favourite Wood?
Sideboard – Made for a local couple, this extra-wide walnut hall table has cocobolo drawer pulls and inlay. The top has cocobolo and maple banding around its perimeter, while the front apron features ebony stringing.
  • Stone Tree Studio is a dual studio. My wife, Elise Muller, is a stone carver and makes up the other half of the studio.
  • I am more of a late shift kind of guy. My day usually begins in the shop mid morning cleaning the mess I left the evening before. I use that cleaning time to plan my day and then work until all surfaces are covered and tools are spread everywhere, and start all over again the next day.
  • CBC Radio 2 is what I listen to while in the shop. 
  • My favourite hand tool is a block plane. My favourite power tool is a band saw.
  • I get design inspiration from all around me. Other makers, old furniture in junk shops, even insects in the garden.
  • We live surrounded by mixed forest that produces some beautiful lumber. Going to local mills and wood auctions always inspires me to return to the shop.
  • I begin designs with an idea followed by very rough sketches and then straight to the band saw for quick mock ups.
  • By the time a piece is built I feel most design considerations have been worked out so they generally meet my expectations. After some time however, I can’t help but see a perceived improvement or embellishment that can be made on another version of the same piece.
  • I live in cottage country. I don’t need to see any more painted distressed “country furniture”.
  • There is a lot of large chunky furniture out there. I call it Flintstone furniture.
  • There is a lot more creative freedom in speculative pieces, but commissions pay the bills.
  • Most customers approach me with a general idea of what they want, and then I am in charge of solidifying the design. Once that is done we meet and decide on final details such as finish, inlay, or other embellishments.
  • Over the last 10 years my work has progressed from basic chunky designs to streamlined contemporary pieces with exotic inlays and surface treatments.
  • Bring shop class back to middle school.
  • I have always been a fan of Adrian Ferrazzutti’s “Luna Chair”.
  • Ron Barter from Rosewood Studio definitely has had a big influence on my work as a furniture maker. Dean Ungard, who I learned timber framing from early on in my time in Muskoka, also had a big influence on my career.
  • With the advent of CNC machines I feel big changes are on the way in terms of time savings.
  • I find design can be frustrating in the early stages until a clear idea comes forward, at which point it becomes invigorating.
  • I recently received an Ontario Craft Council design award for a small cabinet I built from Douglas fir. On the front are two small butterflies and some grass inlayed into the door panel. I came up with a new to me technique for cutting out the pieces of the butterflies involving hot glue and a chop saw that greatly increased the efficiency of creating all manner of inlays. Made my day!
  • With today’s throw-away culture I feel people are beginning to appreciate handmade objects due to their rarity, and as such custom furniture is becoming more desirable.

Butterfly Cabinet – Hamilton's Douglas fir cabinet won the Craft Ontario Design award at the recent Muskoka Arts and Crafts Spring Members show. The quiet grain of the quarter-sawn Douglas fir provides no distraction for the purple heart and holly butterfly inlay. The brass pull on an interior drawer comes from a 1972 Honda motorcycle carburetor. The inlay on the door panel was completed first and the cabinet was designed around the door.


Adrian Ferrazzutti (Apr/May 2015)
Arthur Perlett (Oct/Nov 2015)