Custom cabinet maker sets up shop

Whippletree Custom Woodworking’s fine cabinet maker Kurtis Aelick of Little Current stands beside one of his latest custom creations, a desk with large cabinets, drawers and shelves built to order and utilizing fine handcrafted local wood. photos by Michael Erskine

SHEGUIANDAH— Whippletree Custom Woodworking ’s professional workshop is just a hop and skip down Morphet’s Sideroad to Windover’s Sideroad, located on the local food truck farm operated by Mr. Aelick and his wife.

Mr. Aelick, who is also a luthier (that would be a maker of fine wooden musical instruments), began his woodworking career building boats, a great start for a fine carpenter as the trade calls for a very discerning eye for wood, grain and tight fitting joints. “If you can build a boat, you can build just about anything because there are elements of everything,” he said. “Curved joints, bending wood working with wood that is straight is easy after that.”

After working restoring wooden boats for about three years Mr. Aelick found himself in Ottawa, where he fell under the mentorship of a local luthier. “I was playing the violin at the time and I wanted to repair a couple of old violins I had picked up,” he explained. “I went to this old guy’s shop and ended up helping him.”

Mr. Aelick met his wife at Manitoulin Secondary School and while the couple settled for a while in Ottawa, where he wound up owning his own luthier shop, the couple missed the Island life and when their children began to arrive they decided they didn’t want to raise them in an urban environment.

Although Mr. Aelick has been back on Manitoulin Island for a while now, he has not been aggressively marketing his woodworking business until recently for a very practical reason. “It took quite a while to get the shop set up the way I needed it to be,” he said. Creating a well designed and set up woodworking facility, with proper venting and the many jigs and forms that make custom woodworking a practical endeavour, takes time and patience.

Cabinet maker Kurtis Aelick of Little Current has set up Whippletree Custom Woodworking’s professional facility on his Windover’s Sideroad farm. Mr. Aelick turns a custom foot for one of the fine custom orders he is currently working on.
Cabinet maker Kurtis Aelick of Little Current has set up Whippletree Custom Woodworking’s professional facility on his Windover’s Sideroad farm. Mr. Aelick turns a custom foot for one of the fine custom orders he is currently working on.

Mr. Aelick exudes the calm, unruffled demeanor of a fine craftsman. “I am doing something fairly niche,” he notes. “If you want something special, what I am going to produce is better than anything you will find in a store.”

The kind of craftsmanship that goes into Mr. Aelick’s work harkens back to a different era, and a custom built desk, table or sideboard will likely become a cherished family heirloom that can be handed down through the generations.

Although anyone who has sourced wood knows that it can be pretty costly material, Mr. Aelick points out that materials are actually the lessor of the costs involved. “I try to use local wood as much as possible,” he said. He has researched the woods available and discovered, much to his delight, that local sawmills like Taylor’s in M’Chigeeng produce an outstanding product perfect for many of his purposes. “Their wood is properly dried,” he noted, adding that the Island has a variety of woods well suited to fine cabinetry. “I like to work in solid wood.”

Mr. Aelick can be contacted at his business, Whippletree Custom Woodworking, at 705-368-2757.