Denny Myers is fairly new at his trade, but puts his heart and soul into it
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Little Falls resident Denny Myers has a diverse background. During the Viet Nam War he was a Marine, serving for four years. He continued with the Minnesota National Guard for another 19. He was also a fishing guide near Ely, has a biology degree with an emphasis on environmental analysis from Bemidji State University, a minor degree in English and worked for Crow Wing County as its Planning and Zoning administrator for many years.
Myers now lives in Little Falls, perfecting his trade/hobby as a woodworker and wood turner. He is currently preparing for the Central Minnesota Wood Expo in St. Cloud.
“There are three disciplines in my current field,” Myers said. “First is furniture making. I started with furniture when I got into working with wood. I lean toward the Shaker style, simple lines with no embellishments. The second discipline is wood turning, which I have been doing for several years. The third is wood carving. I am just beginning to teach myself that discipline by embellishing bowls and furniture with my own designs.”
Myers got into woodworking while attending a New Mexico middle school. He made a coffee table.
“I didn’t touch wood again for years,” he said.
When he was in his 50s, he got the job with Crow Wing County after 23 years in the military. During that time, he discovered he was tired of not doing what he thought were positive things.
“I was not creating, nor did I have an appreciation for an end product,” said Myers.
So, he got an extra job to get the money to stock his own wood shop. It was going to be his retirement job/hobby.
“I started by making the Shaker style furniture, but I found I couldn’t sell it for what I had into it,” he said.
Then Myers went to the Central Minnesota Wood Expo in St. Cloud. He watched a woodworker do wood turning on a lathe and he was hooked.
“My shop did have a lathe, one I found for $50,” he said. “But it turned out to be fairly dangerous. It threw a piece of wood which hit my shoulder and I spent a year of healing. The lathe went into the landfill.”
Myers remembers the first bowl he turned with his first lathe was awful, but he learned he had a definite interest in the work.
He purchased a lathe made by Delta which turned out to be too small for some of the work he wanted to do. So he purchased a larger Powermatic.
The lathe holds a piece of wood on both ends and turns it very fast. With various tools, Myers forms the piece.
“I need to have an idea of what I want the piece to look like before I start,” he said. “And while I’m working on a piece which is lying on its side, I need to visualize what it will look like standing on end.”
Myers always works with green wood. When the piece is roughly done, he puts it into a paper bag to dry. Also in the bag are wood shavings help to slow the drying process.
“That way there is less chance the piece will crack,” he said.
Myers said he has found that during the drying process, the piece may change shape somewhat. So it goes back on the lathe for more shaping.
“Sometimes the new look is one I like, and I leave it alone,” he said.
While Myers works with all types of wood, his favorites are maple and oak burls, the protuberances on a tree. He said the grain is more mottled and definitely more interesting.
Myers looks at a piece of raw wood and sees a pre-turned object.
“I never know what I’m getting until the bark is off,” he said.
For the finished product, Myers smooths each piece by taking off fine shavings with the lathe. He then does what he calls cool sanding.
Myers uses minimum pressure and a fine (120-400 grit) abrasive mesh disk. He power sands the piece to achieve a smooth surface and remove any marks.
“I spend more time on sanding than forming the piece,” he said.
Myers then adds a tung oil finish, shellac and/or lacquer. How much is decided as the grain is revealed. Shellac usually takes four – five coats and lacquer about 10 coats.
“The surface has a rough, orange-peel look to it, so it needs buffing,” he said. “I use a felt block soaked with oil and sprinkled with pumice. That is worked back and forth on the wood for about five minutes or until I achieve the level of sheen I want.”
Myers will have a booth at the eighth annual 2013 Central Minnesota Wood Expo to be held at the St. Cloud National Guard Armory Saturday, March 30. He and other woodworkers will be showcasing their craft for one day only, beginning at 9 a.m.
Myers’ work is also shown at Great River Arts Association in downtown Little Falls. For more information, contact him at (320) 360-0784.