ROCKWELL CITY — Rusty Farrington doesn’t just build a toolbox to hold a small part of his collection of lovingly cared for hand tools.
Farrington creates, instead, a finely crafted work of art.
Each chisel has a slot with an internal divider to protect it from its neighbor. Planes nestle in dividers just their size. A pair of drawers feature inlaid initials and a hidden internal lock to keep them from sliding out.
There’s even a secret compartment that can hold a small bottle of a refreshing beverage.
Farrington recently spent some time removing the steel screws and replacing them with brass screws. Each one is clocked, meaning the slot is aligned the same as the others, at 3 or 12. Brass screws are a requirement because they won’t damage the edge of a sharpened tool as steel does.
He works in a building on the south side of the square in Rockwell City purchased in 2008.
“It was Swanson Hardware, a Coast to Coast and Wolff Furniture,” he said. “That’s as far back as I go.”
The building has an old elevator that dates back to the furniture store days and one of the rooms was used to prepare the deceased — furniture stores and makers often also served as funeral homes.
“They embalmed in the back room,” he said. “I’m not doing that anymore.”
He did find an old yardstick from the business. Should one travel back in time, Wolff Furniture could be reached by telephone at 3115.
Farrington has been working to restore the building. He’s working on creating a platform display area in the front window like most retailers used to have. He’s put windows back in where they were gone and he rents part of the building out to a photographer and a painter.
“I’m still working on it,” he said. “I wanted to give this place a bit of its character back.”
Farrington’s work on the building, including a new roof, means that downtown Rockwell City has an occupied and cared for storefront where there might otherwise be an empty one. He’s happy that he’s able to contribute to that climate. It makes the community and its downtown better for everyone.
Farrington has also been an active leader in Rockwell City Boy Scout Troop 94.
“I started with scouting as a leader in the fall of 2001. I’m still involved,” he said.
He spent much of that time as the scout leader. He’s since stepped back a bit and let the other leaders he’s worked closely with for many years take over the role.
“We’re a well-oiled team,” he said.
All three of his sons were involved.
“I’m still committed to scouting,” he said. “It’s a very worthwhile program.”
Under his leadership, members of the troop have left behind a lot of completed programs that are still visible in the community.
One of them can even save lives.
His youngest son, Lucas, who’s now 21, raised money to purchase defibrillators for the community.
“He raised money after he witnessed a man die from a heart attack at a pool,” he said.
The list of projects is a long one. They include several park shelters, a bus stop, baseball diamond dugouts, a new higher fence behind home plate to protect the public from foul balls, and a shelter and handicap access at the Jamie Buenting Memorial Pond.
Its also the active group that has maintained and restored the log cabin now in the City Park.
“We stripped and redid the interior, replaced the bottom boards, moved it to its platform and we’re currently rebuilding the fireplace,” he said. “We’ve done a lot.”
In the latest scout project, they paved sidewalk to the police officer statue across the street from the fire station in honor of cancer victim Jacy McAlexander.
While, for many, the goal is to make Eagle Scout, Farrington tries to show them that there’s much more to it than that.
“The point isn’t just to get their Eagle award,” he said. “The whole point is to have them understand what service and leadership is about.”
His wife, Tina Meth Farrington, is the Calhoun County attorney and can frequently be seen working with him at various community events, including student athletics.
“We’re alumni parents,” she said.
He’s an eager volunteer.
“I do whatever they tell me to do,” he said. “I run the scoreboard and help with cross country when we can.”
Professionally, Farrington has been at Iowa Central Community College since 1988. He’s been a full-time art instructor since 1990.
Now, he’s part time.
He has enjoyed teaching.
“I like working with the students,” he said. “I like Iowa Central. I like the give and take. I like challenging students and students challenging me.”
Farrington recently left the Rockwell City Library Board.
“It wasn’t because I was tired,” he said. “The more people that you can involve, the more people in town know what the board does. That’s important when half the news comes from the coffee shop. It’s important for a lot of people to take their terms. It makes a difference on how your entire community takes ownership. You only gain as a community when a lot of people are involved.”
Farrington believes that getting involved is important.
“The only way to be a part of it is to be a part,” he said. “Towns like this run on volunteers.”
With more time available, Farrington plans on working on his own art in several mediums, continue to create in wood, toss a line in the water from time to time, and travel.
“There’s some places I haven’t been and would love to get to,” he said.
“Ireland, England and Scotland, that’s where a good part of my family history leads.”
The rest of Europe is on the list too, particularly locations with great art collections.
“I’d like to see some of the churches and art I’ve talked about for years,” he said.
He’ll also be doing some traveling around the Calhoun County area when the skies get dark.
“I’m also a weather spotter.”