New Brunswick

Fredericton-based YouTuber woodworks his way to 1.72 million subscribers

Since uploading his first video 15 years ago, Fredericton-based Matthias Wandel has amassed more than 588 million total views.

Matthias Wandel's videos approach woodworking through the mind of a world-class engineer

A man uses a small handheld camera in a woodshop.
Matthias Wandel's eponymous YouTube channel has 1.72 million subscribers and more than 588 million cumulative views. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

Matthias Wandel doesn't spend that much time woodworking. 

That might come as a surprise, given 1.72 million people have subscribed to his YouTube channel to watch him do just that.

But part of running one of YouTube's most watched woodworking channels — and doing it as a full-time job — means spending more time in front of a computer than in his workshop in Fredericton, which he's called home since 2018. 

"The amount of woodworking that I do, like if somebody has their weekends free to do woodworking, they could do as much woodworking as I do or more, if they're not filming it," he said.

"The part that pays is the video-making. And that usually takes more time."

And it has paid off. Since uploading his first video 15 years ago, Wandel has amassed more than 588 million total views through his practical, complex and sometimes quirky videos that approach the hobby through the mind of a world-class engineer.

WATCH | Step into the workshop where Matthias Wandel's videos come to life: 

Fredericton-based YouTuber woodworks his way to half a billion views:

5 days ago
Duration 3:16
Using his engineering skills, Matthias Wandel has racked up 1.72 million subscribers with his quirky, practical and complex woodworking videos.

Wandel said he's nowhere near the top of woodworking YouTubers when only monthly views are considered, but his channel's total number of views ranks among the best.

"There are people who are woodworking and it's like, you know, the old bearded guy in the log cabin type of image. No, I'm not like that," he said. 

"Or, you know, high-art type of woodworking. No, I'm more practical and I'm always interested in finding new ways of doing it." 

His philosophy comes through in his online content. Many of his most popular videos focus on him designing and constructing his own woodworking tools. In other well-watched videos, he uses his skills to answer great mysteries, like, what is the smallest hole a mouse can squeeze through? 

Other projects on the channel range from practical items to challenging creations. Wandel's made a wooden air raid siren, kid-sized chairs and a pistol that will perfectly remove Jenga blocks from a tower — without knocking the whole thing down. 

A life of woodworking

Wandel has always been around woodworking. 

He's originally from Germany, where his father worked as a farmer and had a wood shop. 

When his family moved to Canada, his father decided to make woodworking his main profession, which afforded the young Wandel a larger space to fall in love with the trade.

He's always enjoyed building the things he needs. And the ability to do so is what he loves so much about woodworking. 

"If you have a need for something, you just make it. So you can make it, you know, exactly the way you want to," he said.

A close up shot of a camera on a tripod. Through the camera's screen we see a man working at a wooden work-bench. The space around the camera is blurred out by focus.
Wandel said the bulk of his time is spent editing his videos, as opposed to actually woodworking. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

When he was studying engineering at the University of Waterloo, he built a desk and dresser designed for the mobility that university living requires. He designed furniture that could be deconstructed without tools. 

Before publishing internet content full time, Wandel worked for the Canadian tech company Research In Motion, which later renamed itself BlackBerry. In 2007, he left to pursue another opportunity that didn't work out and he was left with his side projects. 

"I'd always had a website for some years, and I noticed a few articles on there about woodworking were doing quite well. So I was like, well, let's try and expand on that." 

Getting into it early

After publishing some woodworking articles online, Wandel moved to a new form of blog that was gaining traction at the time. 

"YouTube was starting to catch people's attention, especially after Google bought it. So it's like, 'Oh, I could just put the video clips on YouTube.'"

As the platform grew, his output adapted. At first, he simply used YouTube to host videos he'd have on his website. But after a few viral hits — which at the time meant about 70,000 views — he decided in 2010 to prioritize his video content. 

Wandel attributes part of his sustained success to being a relatively early user of the platform. 

A man stands in a woodshop and has his hand on a camera on a tripod.
Wandel said he's nowhere near the top of woodworking YouTubers when ranked by monthly views, but the age of his channel makes it one of the most viewed for woodworking on the platform. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

He likes to say opportunities are transient. Once something's recognized as an opportunity, it may be too late. 

"By the time people get into the gold rush, or what is known as a gold rush, those guys don't do well. It's the guys that got into it ahead of time."

Now, the platform is so crowded he thinks it's difficult for anyone to gain traction. 

A photo of a screen showing Matthias Wandel's YouTube channel.
Wandel's YouTube channel began as a place to host videos that accompany articles on his website. As the platform grew, his focus shifted to video first. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

This proliferation of content on the platform has also altered his approach.

"With so much stuff out there now, to have yet another video about how to build a chair or a dresser or something like that, is not going to get traction, because there's so much of it already," he said. 

"So you have to focus a bit more on the entertainment aspect of it, or just sort of some interesting angle of it. So it's about woodworking, but it's also about entertainment."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lane Harrison is a reporter for CBC New Brunswick based in Saint John. You can reach him at lane.harrison@cbc.ca

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