True Grit Meets Fine Grit
While working a full-time hospitality job, Taylor Hubbell self-learned the meticulous artistry of woodworking. With a go-all-day spirit, he unabashedly put the pedal to the metal in every ounce of free time he had to feed his passion and launch his flourishing woodworking business, Hubbell Woodshop. Drawing inspiration from the California desert and driven by an ethic of fine attention to detail, you'll only ever see this woodworker delivering masterpieces with the utmost thought and care, never anything less.
For many, a tree is a tree. A piece of wood is just…a piece of wood. But there are a select few whose eyes are fine-tuned to see beauty at the most minuscule level of the intricacies within a timber's grain. These privileged few understand that the vanilla fragrance of white oak is sweeter than red oak's vinegar notes, that Douglas fir is so soft that any twitch of an unsure hand could leave a dent in the planking, and that oak is so dense that it will wear out a blade faster than any other wood.
Alone in his woodworking studio in Canoga Park, California, 34-year-old Taylor Hubbell turns a chunk of ash around a levee. As he makes the first cut, the wood's pores give way to the outside air, and the smell reminds him of a little stool he once made for his young sons Owen, 6-years-old, and Elijah, 8-years-old, out of the same material. His kind smile meets his cheeks.
"Ultimately, with any project, my goal is simply to have it be passed down. Even if it's a built-in unit and somebody else buys the house, they should know that when they inherit it, they're inheriting a piece of furniture that's going to last," said Hubbell. "If it's a dining table, a family will take it with them when they move. The point is that, if you wanted to, you could take this piece of furniture and you can pass it on from generation to generation."
Taylor Hubbell is the founder and chief craftsman of Hubbell Woodshop, a custom heirloom furniture business in the Los Angeles area whose pieces are made with exceedingly high standards of attentive care, that are often weeks, sometimes months, in the making.
Previously working in the hospitality industry as a membership director at several Los Angeles golf clubs, Hubbell founded the business after moving into his first home with his wife, actress Heather Hubbell, in 2013.
Finding himself with an empty house to fill following the move, Hubbell drew inspiration from his father and grandfather, both woodworkers who refused to buy a piece of furniture if they knew they could build it themselves.
"Instead of outsourcing or buying furniture, both my grandpa and my father would make it themselves," said Hubbell. "My dad made the bed that I grew up sleeping in, the picnic table we ate meals at, and forts in the backyard that I would play in as a child. They both showed me that making something on your own rather than store-bought is not only an absolute option but something that can be incredibly meaningful."
Motivated to fill the empty rooms of his home and inspired by the wood-working heritage passed down to him from his father and grandfather, Hubbell felt compelled and completely focused as he completed his first few projects in his and his wife's one-car garage.
"I found myself becoming more and more drawn to the craft, and I began feeling a connectedness to my family," said Hubbell. "I would be working on a project and look down and think, 'Those are my dad's hands.' Or my hands will get sore and I think, 'Oh yeah. Grandpa had some rough arthritis. I wonder if that's what's happening to me now?' I intentionally have a handful of my grandpa's tools and I do as best I can to implement at least one or two of those tools into every project."
LATE NIGHTS AND GRIT
It is one thing to be born with hands that already have the instinct of this trade; it is entirely another to pursue it with such discipline, grit, and pure perseverance as Hubbell has proved over his last nine years building Hubbell Woodshop.
=Though you couldn't tell from the success of Hubbell's enterprise, the move to realizing his dreams of being a full-time woodworker was not an easy road, nor was it a swift jump from one profession to another.
"My wife and I, we've really had to piggyback each other, supporting each other in our busy times and our downtimes and closely working together. I couldn't even describe just how supportive she's been," said Hubbell. "I can certainly say that to be able to do what I do just wouldn't be possible without her."
When Hubbell first began woodworking, the craftsman balanced his passion with raising two newborns and sustaining a full-time schedule in hospitality. The multi-generation woodworker squeezed in whatever time he could muster to practice the trade. After work and dad duties ended for the night, Hubbell would retreat into the make-shift woodshop he made in his garage, researching, and practicing until nearly 2 o'clock in the morning every night.
"The evolution of my work comes from me constantly trying to push forward," said Hubbell. "When I was first starting, I spent probably four years of constant late nights researching and studying woodworking and just experimenting and honing my craft before somebody finally paid me to make something. Then I spent the next six years on projects that didn't bring in any revenue just to build a portfolio. That was fueled by just pure passion for driving towards what I wanted to be doing, which was ultimately pursuing woodworking full time, and creating heirloom furniture to pass between generations."
Though Hubbell is largely self-taught, he attributes much of his growth to his relationship with fellow woodworkers at SoCal Woodshop, a small group of woodworkers in the greater LA area who meet once a month to talk shop, share ideas, or work on woodworking projects together. Hubbell joined the group in 2017 after finding them on Instagram, and it is through this group that Hubbell found his big break into the industry.
"I arrived at an impasse where I was really unhappy at my daytime job, but also I got an opportunity from a friend who was in SoCal Woodshop, whose business was expanding with a new office in Santa Clara. They needed somebody to build tables and desks for their new space," said Hubbell. "I realized that there was no way I could pull off a project of that scope within the timeframe that they gave me. I was either going to say 'no' to this project, or I'm going to say 'no' to the golf club. And so that's what I did. I jumped and just went for it, and it's been great."
While the one-car garage, old tools, and tennis shoes had served him as a novice woodworker, Hubbell's increase in business also necessitated an increase in the scope and the reliability of his equipment.
"I'll tell you, that was my last project in tennis shoes. I got about midway through that project and I thought, 'Man, I'm standing for 15 hours a day. This is not going to work in tennis shoes,'" said Hubbell. "I am a big proponent for shop safety, so I knew I needed something more stable and more reliable. My friend from SoCal Woodshop recommended Irish Setter Boots. I went out and bought a pair of Ashby boots a couple years ago, and man, I've been wearing that same pair for 15 hours a day, every day since, and they get more comfortable every day."
CALLED TO ARTISTRY
Beyond the jolt and grumble of power tools and creating quality pieces that will stand the test of time, what really captures Hubbell's spirit for the trade is the artistry of it all.
"What calls me to this trade is how artistic it is," said Hubbell. "I love taking two pieces of wood, cutting dovetails, and then as you tap it together, seeing the gaps remove themselves and everything seamlessly fits. It feels like such artistry to me. And I chase that every day."
Though it has not been an easy road, Hubbell wouldn't change it for the world.
"If there was a greater value than 100% to express my certainty in that this is what I am meant to do, I would use it. But you undoubtedly must have a certain amount of perseverance to make this happen," said Hubbell. "There are times when I'll finish a project, and I honestly don't know where my next project is coming from. It's a constant grind and not every project is as profitable as the last, but if you can put in the work, it is so worth it."
To experience Hubbell's elite craftsmanship, visit the Hubbell Woodshop website, www.HubbellWoodshop.com.