Area woodworkers make items of all shapes and sizes for the holidays
From cutting boards, to games and toys – there is a wide range of handmade items to consider for your holiday gift giving.
Bret Davis, a member of the Nokomis Woodworking Club, is joined by approximately 30 other members who not only make things for themselves, but for the community, those in need and will make custom orders as well.
“We get wood and make things,” he said. “As a whole community we have come together. We have a lot of equipment we have bought. A lot of equipment that was donated. We do adult education and youth classes – FFA, 4-H, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts – you name it.”
The membership to the Nokomais Woodworking Club is $30 a month or $300 a year. Members get access to lumber, tools, and a heated shop.
Davis said with the local high school no longer offering a shop class, this sort of service was needed.
“We are always trying to do good things for the community,” he said.
“It’s fun to do as a group or individually. A lot of people go down to the woodshop and tinker, however, they have had a lifetime of making things, they don’t need anything for themselves,” said Davis.
Members of the Nokomis Woodworking Club in Humboldt have been busy as elves making toys and other pieces to sell for a fundraiser.
Davis said the toys the club has made are being sold at Sister Homestyle’s Entrees with proceeds going towards a scholarship for a Humboldt senior who may want to purse an education in carpentry or another technical trade.
Toys and items range from a climbing bear, to trucks, cars, step stools, games and doll accessories.
The main toymakers from the Nokomis Woodworking Club include Daniel Holste, Mark Schultz and Kirk Whittlesey.
Holste said he has been making items that any dolly or stuffed animal may enjoy: chairs, rockers and even a highchair that hooks to a table so children can bring their little friends to dinner with them. He said he has also been making wooden utility trucks.
Schultz, who said he enjoys making older models of toy cars and trucks and semis that haul blocks, said his pieces will take about five hours to make.
To prepare for the fundraiser, they started making some toys last year, but ramped up their efforts this year.
Often, the toys are made from leftover scrap wood.
“You buy a few wheels and spindles and bingo! You have a toy,” he said. “Part of it is getting plans, different ideas and making it – it keeps your mind busy all of the time.”
These types of toys, Schultz said, just aren’t widely available.
“It’s something that we played with when we were kids. It was simpler,” he said.
Whittlesey said he used to do some woodworking a number of years ago, but has more time now that he is retired.
“Since I have retired, and they set the wood shop up, I have the opportunities to build things,” he said. “I have made toys for the grandkids and they just love them.”
For the fundraiser, Whittlesey said he has made some step stools.
“You can put them up to a counter for kids to step up and help in the kitchen. They are variable height, so you can change the height on them,” he said.
Whatever the toy – they are built to last.
“You know you’ll have fun with it and you don’t have to worry about putting batteries in it all of the time,” Whittlesey said. “They always work and they are built very tough. They’re made out of good wood. They don’t fall apart and they last a long time. And they can be more creative with those kinds of toys.”
There is also the passion that went in to the creation of a wooden piece.
“These are being made by your own two hands,” said Davis. “There’s emotion to it. Making it and when you are making things like this you know you are doing something that somebody else will enjoy. That is the emotional connection.”
A long time hobby
For Dick Silvey, of Moorland, the hobby of woodworking has been something he has loved since he was a teen.
“I was always interested in woodworking. I got hooked on woodworking when I was in high school,” he said. “They called it Industrial Arts. That’s where it started.”
Back then he made a gun cabinet for his cousin and a clothes hamper for his mother. But the love for the craft ended up taking a backseat for the majority of his adult life.
“Of course, with raising a family, I didn’t have much time to get into it,” he said. “Back in the late 1980s I started buying woodworking equipment and in the 1990s I got into more. I retired in 2005 and that’s when I started doing craft shows.”
Picture frames were the first items he said he started making large amounts of to sell. But he has evolved from there.
Cutting boards, rolling pins, expandable trivets, game boards – cribbage, checker and tic tac toe – seam rippers and pens are just a small part of Silvey’s inventory.
“I make a lot of different things – I diversify,” he said.
One of his favorite and most popular items is the expandable trivets. Two sizes are available, a 7-inch square closed trivet opens to a 7- by 12-inch rectangle when opened. The 9 by 9-inch square trivet closed opens to a 9- by 15-inch rectangle when opened.
“They’ll hold about any sized pan or dish and are made out of walnut and aspen,” he said.
Cutting boards are another popular item Silvey sells.
Not only are they attractive as a piece of kitchen decor, but useful.
“You can cut anything on them, they are treated with mineral oil. You need to treat them once in awhile, as they will dry out,” he said, adding they are made with closed grain hardwoods.
One of the most challenging pieces Silvey made was a checkerboard rolling pin.
“I think I made a half of a dozen of them and I have one left. I don’t think I am going to sell it, I am going to keep it as a memento,” he said.
His seam rippers and pens are made out of plastics and exotic hardwoods.
Some of his pens are perfect for the gun enthusiast in your life.
“I make bolt action and lever action pens like a gun,” he said, adding the body can be made using a 50 caliber machine gun casing.
A lot of these items Silvey makes are one of a kind.
“You’ll find wooden cutting boards, but the design, the color pattern I have, nobody else that I have ever seen makes them like that,” he said.
The rolling pins, he said, are the same way.
“I have never seen anybody put strips of walnut in them,” he said. “I start with a three-inch square block of wood, then corner to corner I will cut a groove and glue in the walnut – it makes a spiral affect. That is kind of unique.”
No matter the piece, one is never the same.
“It’s not exactly the same every time, that is the way woodworking is. It’s just with the grain of the wood, you can’t duplicate it,” he said.
Silvey said he prefers making his projects out of hardwoods such as hard maple and walnut. He will also use mahogany and cherry.
“I use hardwoods because they are more durable,” he said.
He also uses Padaukand Purpleheart woods.
Silvey sells the majority of his pieces at craft shows, but there is a large collection available at Hummingbird Confections in Callender. Silvey can also be reached by e-mailing him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A dying trade
Schultz and Silvey would like to see more people get into woodworking.
“If we don’t do this, it will be gone,” said Schultz. “No one is teaching this in schools. The only way you’ll get the education is in a tech college and if you are not exposed to that, you’re not going to go there. I love getting the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in here. They will make some littler toys. It’s just a way to lock up with some of these kids.”
Practice makes perfect when it comes to woodworking.
“Anybody can do woodworking if you’ve got some talent. It takes a lot of practice – you make a lot of sawdust,” said Silvey. “I am out here puttering around every day. I would like to see a lot of people get into it. I think woodworking is a good pastime.”