Carter Snell, a junior at Nantucket High School, has a knack for woodworking and construction. Born and raised on Nantucket, Snell began working in his dad’s woodshop when he was very young, quickly taking to the complicated and intricate process of woodwork.
“When I was little I always used to take scrap wood from my dad’s shop and try and build something with it,” said Snell. “My dad would always ask me what I wanted to make and then he would help me do it. I always had a love for building something out of whatever I could find.”
Kyle Snell, our artist of the month’s father, has been a carpenter on the island for over thirty years, and taught Snell much of what he knows. He has worked with him in the summer for the past three years, doing everything from finish work and outdoor showers to porches and roofing.
Upon entering high school, Snell was able to expand his interests by taking woodshop under the guidance of Michael Girvin.
In wood tech one, Snell started off building cutting boards, boxes and clothing racks, but quickly became interested in more difficult things such as the lathe.
“The lathe is a machine that you can clamp any piece of wood into and rotate it at high speeds to make circular or curved shapes,” explained Snell. “You can make anything circular you want, from bowls to cups to salt and pepper shakers to legs of chairs. It’s really relaxing and if you get creative with it you can start experimenting with new things.”
Now in his junior year, Snell is taking wood technology two,a more advanced course that provides more freedom.
“Now that I’m in wood tech two, instead of wasting time on learning what all the tools are used for and doing the basics, I get to be creative and push myself to create something a little more difficult,” said Snell. “And Girvin knows he can trust me because of my experience in the shop.”
Snell has done this many times, taking different types of wood, gluing them in different configurations and making a number of different combinations to form artwork.
“Girvin always asks me to make knobs for him, because he knows I just like to use the lathe,” said Snell. “When he makes a new shelf or a cabinet door instead of buying knobs he comes to me to make them for him and then I get to be creative with it and make something that I can come in everyday and see and that people use everyday.”
Snell also emphasized that woodwork doesn’t come easily, but takes a lot of practice and time, which is one of the reasons why he is so talented at it.
“Girvin doesn’t really trust anyone with the lathe,” joked Snell. “I think he only lets me use it because I’ve been working in the shop for a long time now and I know how it works. He’s constantly asking me to teach it to other people.”
A lot of Snell’s designs are intricate and require many different types and shapes of woods. His signature design is on the bottom of his bowls, where he creates a continuing circle scheme that involves layered cuts with one of the carving tools and rigorous sanding.
When asked what his favorite thing he’s ever made was, Snell said, “Girvin gave me a cherry burrell, which is a growth off of a tree with irregular grain, which I took and made this small bowl out of that I gave to my dad for his birthday. The grain on the burrell just had crazy patterns and was easily one of the most beautiful pieces I think I’ve ever made.”