Meet Charlie Hamilton, 14-Year-Old Woodworking Prodigy

Instagram is overflowing with talented makers and creatives. I've been using it for five years and it has become a daily source of inspiration. And while there are countless accounts that share beautiful photography, every once in awhile you come across something special. Someone who stands out from the crowd.

Courtesy Instagram @youngwoodworker

Courtesy Instagram @youngwoodworker

A few weeks ago one of the Instagram accounts I follow shared a photo of a gorgeous wooden bowl credited to the account @youngwoodworker. I clicked over and was astonished to find @youngwoodworker was only 14 years old! 

I remember age 14. It was 8th grade and I took Mr. Keto's woodworking class. One of my projects was a media box that was precisely planned to hold 30 CD cases. The final product turned out so crooked that at least 4 of the slots were too cockeyed to even hold a bent paperclip.

To make matters worse, during production of the box I dropped the antiquated belt sander I had been using to smooth the wood to a grade-A finish. The impact busted off the aluminum handle of that sander and a tangle of white and black electrical wires popped out of the gaping injury. I sheepishly, slyly, placed the decrepit machine far back in its cubbyhole and swore I would never speak of the crime. I was petrified that my teacher would discover "whodunnit" so I suffered months of gut-wrenching guilt. Make that years. Actually, this is the first time I've ever come clean!

It's no wonder, then, that I was so impressed by the talent of 14-year-old Charlie Hamilton. He can turn a tree stump into a piece of art...presumably without busting his tools! I immediately had to know this young man's story so I reached out to him with a few questions. In his first ever interview, I'm honored to introduce Charlie Hamilton. Pay attention folks, this kid has the talent and motivation that doesn't come around often, but when it does it's a game changer...

Charlie's wood shop is a 10'x7' converted shed. Photo courtesy @youngwoodworker

Charlie, I first saw your work on Instagram and was instantly impressed. Tell readers a little about yourself and your hobby.

I am fourteen years old and am in the 8th grade. I live in Richmond, Virginia. In my free time I woodwork. I make many things out of wood, like bowls, plates, hand carved spoons, and other decorative pieces. I make all of my wooden art pieces in my parent’s shed that I have converted in to my shop.

Your Instagram handle is “Youngwoodworker”. How old were when you got started?

I have been making things all of my life. I first started out building with Legos, competing with my brother to see who could build the coolest spaceship. From that it evolved in to me starting to make paintings, drawings, and constructing small Popsicle stick buildings. In later years I started to make simple electrical circuits trying to make little electric cars. Recently, I realized that all of this stuff was fun, but it just wasn’t right for me. It was about that time when I took my first woodworking class through school. This really sparked my interest in woodworking.

What were your very first projects?

When I first started making my very first woodworking projects they were very simple. Making things like plywood skateboards, little wooden signs, and wooden pens. I learned how to make all of these things through watching instructional YouTube videos.

Why did you decide to try woodworking? Is someone in your family a wood worker? How did you learn the craft?

I started woodworking because of a woodworking class that I took in school. From there I started building different things with instructional help from YouTube videos. My Woodworking interests really got set in stone when I made my own Instagram account that featured my woodworking creations. It was here that I started becoming a part of the woodworking community. On my Instagram I started obtaining new inspiration and advise from other woodworkers, and started trying out new ideas.

What are your tools of the trade? Power tools? Hand tools?

I have a mixture of hand tools and power tools. Some of the main tools are a wood lathe, band saw, and scroll saw. All of my tools serve different purposes, and each new tool I get allows me to make new things and explore new regions of woodworking. I have gotten most of my tools used off craigslist.

Photo courtesy Charlie Hamilton

Photo courtesy Charlie Hamilton

Those are potentially dangerous tools to be using at any age. How have your parents felt about your use of heavy-duty machinery?

My parents continue to worry about me getting hurt while I am making things, but they have grown more comfortable with me working with my tools as time goes on. They also refuse to let me buy certain tools because they are more dangerous than others. At some points I just wish that they wouldn’t be so protective, but than I realize how dangerous woodworking really is.

What kinds of wood do you use and where do you source it?

I use a variety of woods that come from multiple sources. Where I get my wood changes a lot of what kind of project I am working on. Some projects like my wooden bowls require that I start out with a whole log and mill it up from there, because buying that size of wood is just impractical. Other projects I use premade boards that I buy from the local lumberyard.

After you’ve found a great piece of wood, what does your carving process look like from start to finish?

The process on how I shape the wood from start to finish changes from what project I am making, but I will go in depth about the process I use to make my wooden bowls. It all starts out with a freshly cut log. From there I cut the log up into slabs that I can cut out into circles that are called bowl blanks. After that I take a bowl blank and mount it to my lathe. On my lathe I rough turn the bowl making sure to leave the walls of the bowl very thick. From there I let the bowls dry for about 6 months. When it is dry I finish turn it and apply finish.

Charlie's start-to-finish process from selection, to aging, to turning:

Charlie, how much time do you spend woodworking during any given week?

It honestly depends on how busy I am with other activities. I play basketball and hang out with my friends a lot, and of course I have school and homework. When I am not doing those things I am woodworking. On average I spend about 10 hours a week woodworking.

Courtesy Instagram @youngwoodworker 

On your Instagram it appears you’ve been dabbling with clay/pottery. Will we be seeing more work in this direction and what other artistic mediums might you like to explore?

So the reason I have been posting about my clay creations is that I took a class over the summer that focused on clay, but ultimately yes I would like to other mediums. I don’t know what those mediums are yet, but maybe metal, clay, or leather working.

It seems like Instagram was instrumental in developing your skill and finding a creative community. Who are your favorite Instagram accounts?

The woodworking community is so full of creative makers. It is so hard to recommend just a few accounts, but I really look up to: @Bigashbowls @woodwoven and @rosannacoyne

Do you sell your creations? If so, where can our readers find them?

I sell my products through my Etsy shop, and am looking to start selling my stuff through some local stores. You can find my Etsy shop at Youngwoodworker.etsy.com

What’s next for you? Do you have a specific woodworking project you’d like to tackle or a dream of turning this into a business?

Right now I am just working on honing my skills. Someday I hope to turn this hobby into a full job!

We hope so too, Charlie! Be sure to follow @youngwoodworker on Instagram and support his creative aspirations. If you'd like to purchase one of his pieces, check out his Etsy shop. Here's a slideshow of his recent work via Instagram. Please feel welcome to leave questions and comments for Charlie below.

Cow wall art, Charlie's own design - Courtesy @youngwoodworker

Cow wall art, Charlie's own design - Courtesy @youngwoodworker