Meet Promising Young Woodworker Ethan Kroetsch, 22 y.o.
The story begins in high school. Introduced to the fascinating world of woodwork by YouTube videos, Guelph resident Ethan Kroetsch got into a woodworking class where he met Dan Sernaise, his future friend and mentor. The teacher, “a great cabinet maker,” says Ethan, saw his potential and pushed him to become a professional woodworker.
And so, working part-time during high school, he got his first job at a cabinet shop where he assembled cabinets.
This year, he enrolled in the Skills Compétences Canada (SCC) competition in the Cabinetmaking category and scored 2nd at the Nationals.
SCC’s mission is to encourage and support a coordinated Pan-Canadian approach to promoting skilled careers in trades and technologies to youth and their communities.
Each year, the organization works with hundreds of industry, education and government partners, which makes it an excellent occasion for young woodworkers to network, share information and talk about their passion with experienced colleagues and mentors.
“The SCC is a great initiative to inspire and motivate kids. During the competition you meet a lot of people,” says Ethan. He explains that after his participation Ron Amoila, who runs the competition, found him and offered him a job that helped him pay for college.
He studied woodworking technology at Conestoga college in Kitchener, Ontario, where he met two new mentors, professors Richard Bruckeder and Ted Padfield.
Every year M. Bruckeder is involved in the woodworking student showcase organized by the College on campus. Completed with 120 hours of shop time, the projects demonstrate a broad range of skills. Pieces on display include shelving units, tables, cabinets, etc. Students are provided with basic lumber, but are allowed to source other materials and wood at their own expense.
Conestoga’s Woodworking Centre of Ontario’s, 50 000 square foot facility ranks among the world’s top woodworking training centres. Students have access to custom woodworking and production training as well as the latest in CNC and drafting technology.
During his time studying woodworking technology Ethan worked at Guelph based custom cabinet and furniture shop BND Woodworking Inc., where he became machining department head. He then worked for the tooling company Royce/Ayr, drafting and engineering saw blades and cutter heads. The decision to work for this company came from a desire for constant improvement. Indeed, Ethan “wanted to continue to find a job that better suited [his] passion for woodworking and continue learning,” he says.
He later worked for furniture manufacturer Gibson Home’s Furnishing in Waterloo, Ontario, before launching his own business as a fine woodworker, EK Wood Designs, in 2018. His idea is to take the time and take advantage of his autonomy to focus better on the quality on his project. He learned a lot, working on his own: how to really challenge himself and how to be accountable for himself, for example.
Here is a video he made about being a fine woodworker :
“To me what distinguishes a fine woodworker like myself from an ordinary one is the ability to go about exploring new ideas and creativity. All while making a connection with the material, the process, and the ability to express the richness of the material in a piece of furniture that serves a specific function.”
He finds inspiration in the work of his peers, in particular James Krenov and Steve Latta, and he particularly enjoys working with a domestic species, cherry, which he says is gorgeous. The Shelob side tables he made from cherry and wenge were his favorite project.
“Commissioning is a very unique opportunity both for the client and myself,” he writes. “I work closely with clients to help bring their design ideas to life, in the form of functional and decorative works of art. Each piece is tailored to your specific needs and desires.”
It begins with “a discussion to [establish] some basic parameters of the project,” he writes. “[…] Some basic dimensions, style preferences (e.g. shaker, contemporary, period, mid century, etc…), material selection, and budget.”
Then comes the design development, using sketches, 3D scale models or scale drawings of the piece. And finally, the project plan and the final price.
One of his biggest challenges was money: finding clients, working paycheck to paycheck, the long hours needed to set up his shop. So, in 2021 he found another job as a production engineer trainee for West Bros Furniture in Hanover, Ontario, to maintain himself and his business.
Meanwhile, he plans on getting involved in associations and organizations related to the industry, like the CKCA.
Here is what Ethan would like to share with young and not so young woodworkers.
For the young ones: “First, knowledge is an asset, continuously seek more of it. Go on YouTube, take classes, discuss with friends and family. Second, set goals and challenge yourself. And finally, don’t be afraid to pursue passion and what you love to do.”
For the elders: “Knowledge is an asset, you’re never too old to learn. Be adaptable to change and remember to always think of new ways to do things. Incorporating the best of old and new techniques is great.”