Today, we had the chance to ask some questions to Karell Ste-Marie, Crafter from Québec, Canada who make all kind of gorgeous projects from recycled wooden pallets. If you think you deserve to be featured in the next interview, please, drop us an email.
Tell us a little more about you? Who you are? Where are you from?
My name is Karell, I’m from Quebec, Canada – I co-founded a software company in 1999, sold it in 2015 and today am an executive of that company.
Why do you craft?
I have always been a crafter, I’ve been crafting software for more than 25 years. I wanted to have a hobby where I could craft outside of computers. I’ve created several items from chainmail the biggest being a chainmail shirt, I’ve also made several necklaces using Byzantine weaves.
How did you learn to do wood crafts?
I am mostly self-taught. A few of my friends in construction gave me guidance. The rest I have learned from YouTube and trial/error.
How long have you been working with pallets?
I started working with Pallets around 2013.
Why did you choose to work with pallets instead of purchased wood?
The price… In Quebec, Canada is it quite cold and trees pretty much only half of the year, which means we have to ship wood all around. Dismantling Pallets also gave me an excellent way to stay active and stay in shape.
What are your can’t-live-without essentials?
I am a technology person first, I cannot live without my phone but I am not a Facebook or texting person… I use my phone' camera to film some of my YouTube content and to find inspiration on Pinterest.
When I am out hunting for Pallets I always have some of my cordless tools just in case I need to "help something fit" so I can bring it home.
Are there any brands that are your favorites?
My cordless tools are Ryobi, other than that I tend to use Dewalt and Ridgid.
How would you describe your crafting style?
At the moment I am definitely a rustic type of crafter, even when I’m not working with Pallet wood.
Are there any crafters/artists/designers that you particularly look up to?
I learned about Pallets first from Izzy Swan (Think Woodworks), then from Mike Fulton (MF Woodshop). My original inspiration for woodworking is Marc Spagnuolo (The Woodwhisperer) and favorite is Alain Vaillancourt (The Woodpecker). All of them are on YouTube.
Where do you do your wood crafts? How would you describe your workspace?
I have two houses and use both garages. I am moving to the new bigger garage more and more but do not yet have electricity there. This will ultimately become my woodshop.
Where do you look for inspiration for a new woodcraft?
I watch YouTube, browse Pinterest and of course look at articles on 1001 Pallets!
When do you feel the most creative?
I am an executive and boss during the week… I am a woodworking during the weekend…
We live in such a mass-produced, buy-it-now society. Why should people continue to make things by hand?
Mass production makes you dependent on someone else’s; it causes you to become dependent on those companies. While it would be unrealistic to be able to be completely independent (some people are able to do it) I like to keep some basic skills as they just help me save money.
What is your favorite medium to work in (other than pallets)?
I like to use firewood quite a bit; I have managed to turn some logs into planks. I have done this using a chainsaw and a bandsaw – the bandsaw is my favorite approach. Otherwise I’ll get some rough wood from different stores which I run through the jointer and planer.
What are your tips for people who'd like to start crafting?
Start with a nice kit of cordless tools: circular saw, reciprocating saw and drill… That is really all you need. Anything else you go out and purchase will be a luxury and is difficult to justify… Learn to read pallet codes, 1001Pallets has an excellent article on this. Pick a simple straightforward project and just do it. Accept failure and just try again, success comes from keeping on your craft and not giving up.
What are your most important safety tips when woodworking? Have you ever had any injuries or close calls?
I have experienced kickback on the table saw where a plank flew in my lower abdomen; I have run nails through both my planer and jointer and seen wood explode in the process… I have seen a friend of mine use the wrong side of a table disc sander and end up in the hospital with non-permanent consequences. You should slowly raise the bar and only do things that you are comfortable doing. I find that people are more levelheaded when they are working alone… Do not try to impress anyone, focus on your goal, which is to get the job done safely. Always wear gloves when handling a pallet, you have no idea what it feels like to have a splinter in your good hand and not be able to get it out until your wife comes home from spending the weekend at her mother’s…
What is your guilty pleasure?
I love a good beer… Too much beer and power tools don’t mix… Ever since I bought myself a new table saw I find that I can use it without any beer in my system which I have mixed feelings about… My old table saw was terrifying and I’d use it only as a last resort.
What are some of your other hobbies or favorite things to do (other than crafting)?
I am a YouTube content provider. I like to do pretty much everything myself. I also have brewed beer, brewed wine, made a chainmail shirt, made chainmail necklaces (for my family only) and try to educate my kids about financial intelligence (which they don’t teach in school).
What are some of your best tips for breaking down, prepping, and cleaning pallets before you build with them? Do you have a specific tool you use, or a technique for cleaning the boards/removing nails, etc.?
As you can easily see from my videos, my favorite tools are the Pallet buster and the air punch. The pallet buster will break down those pallets into nice planks without splitting (if it’s not below freezing and you go at a certain speed) and the air punch will allow to remove nails from boards at around 1 nail per 2 seconds.
Have you designed any special tools or jigs for wood crafts?
I have made the same basic things that most woodworkers will do, nothing of significance or special. Wood track saw for cutting straight lines and a table saw sled – those types of things. I have made my own wood cart (you can see it at the end of one of my videos) and my own bench (the bench was not made from pallet wood).
What are some wood working skills you really want to learn?
Given the beautiful types of woods (and colors), you can get from pallets I would love to do intarsia but am nowhere near that yet.
What is the one project you’re the proudest of so far?
2 years ago, I made some wood wall sconces for my mother. Using a birch firewood log that I cut it into planks I created her Christmas present. I included the candleholders for her and she absolutely loved it. The lines in the wood and the amount of time I spent on it made the piece simply awesome.
Editor’s Note: Thank you for your time and for sharing your story with us, and with our fellow Crafters. Your work is beautiful and inspiring to all of us, and we truly look forward to more from you in the future! Keep those gorgeous pieces coming!
Thanks Karell for this interview :)
To find more on Karell: