Craftsman Terry Moore moved his fine woodworking studio north of the city and has never been happier
“The woodworker’s dream is to have your shop on your homestead,” says Terry Moore, the millworker, since 1997, behind Black Bear Woodworking. Moore’s wish came true loosely because of Jesse James – no, not Sandra Bullock’s ex, but rather, the American outlaw.
During a pandemic lockdown, Moore and his wife, Mieka (then living at Yonge and St. Clair) were hunched over steaming bowls of Uber-ed noodles. A program on TV popped up about James’ rumoured $4 million worth of buried treasure in Beeton, Ont. “Mieka threw down her ramen and hopped on realtor.ca looking for land and googled metal detectors,” laughs Moore. While the couple didn’t end up excavating for gold, they did find a picturesque, tree-lined property close to Beeton, in Bond Head, just off the 400. “Within 11 days we owned this beautiful homestead that feels like you’re in the country,” says Moore, though it’s just 20 minutes north of Finch.
Moore and his apprentice, Jack Murfitt Warne, spend hours in the studio crafting impeccable wood pieces, everything from extensive luxury kitchens and vanities for Toronto homes, to individual furniture pieces, such as beds, benches and credenzas. Each piece possesses flawless joinery that fits seamlessly like a puzzle. The pair work tirelessly at the slightest details to ensure the pieces are perfect and have staying power. “My work is meant to transfer through families, through generations or homeowner to homeowner,” says Moore. “And unless it’s a special request, I work exclusively in local, domestic species where I can be comfortable knowing the provenance of the material and confident in its quality,” says Moore, who often works with ash and hemlock.
The pair also make retail, restaurant and office furniture, as well as millwork that brings inviting warmth and customized richness to spaces. Clients include Momofuku, La Cubana and ARTJAIL, a visual effects studio. And Black Bear Woodworking has been commissioned extensively by the NHL, building the plinths that the Stanley Cup is presented on each year. “We also did a lot of offices during COVID,” says Moore, noting “we primarily do essential commissions for the home, and small bespoke millwork.”
Mieka, meanwhile, handles the administrative side of things. “She’s really, really good at it. She allows me to focus on designing, engineering and building,” says Moore. “We have a good pod of people, we’re family.”
As a singer in a band living in Parkdale in the early ’90s, Moore would resuscitate found furniture to assemble his pad on the cheap. “I would grab anything interesting like old buffets, dressers and coffee tables,” he says. “At some point I realized this rock-star thing is complete garbage – I don’t have what it takes mentally or talent-wise to make it. But I love taking pieces of furniture and figuring out how they’re made.”
After studying boat building at the Harbourfront Pier, he moved on to an intensive workshop at Sheridan College, where he learned traditional furniture methods. Stints in scenic display and fine art followed, and he apprenticed under master woodworker Buck Tibbitt at The Wood Studio in Toronto. But pretty soon Moore – who counts George Nakashima, Wharton Esherick and Finn Juhl as role models – realized to be truly happy, he had to set his own hours. Alas, Black Bear Woodworking was born.
Thirty years on, and he’s finally on his homestead. The hard work has paid off: Moore can cherry-pick commissions. And while the average person might think hiring someone like him, or another fine fabricator who does millwork, is too pricey, he insists that’s not so. “You can employ a local person and use local species,” he says. “One of the key things I learned coming up with these masters was that you work with someone’s budget to realize their vision … I learned in the scenic business, there are ways to make things look like a million bucks.” Nonetheless, Moore is not in the grain game to get rich, he says. “I do this because I love it. Even if it’s a bad day, it’s still a great day.” BLACKBEARWOODWORKING.COM