By Liz Verley, Staff Writer
“I was born with a hammer in one hand and a saw in the other. I have always been interested in woodworking,” said Mel Larson.
Mel and his wife, Joyce, can be found in their workshop almost every day except for Sundays.
The couple graduated from Castana, Iowa in 1952. They met in the sixth grade. Their first date was their senior prom. “The rest is history,” they said.
Mel is a retired civil engineer. He worked for Wells Concrete in Wells, retiring after 38 years. He earned his engineering degree in Ames, Iowa and worked in the pre-stressed concrete plant.
Their hobby peaked when their son, Scott, was in the construction business and his supplier of kitchen cabinets could not keep up with the demand.
Mel said, “He called and asked how would I like to build cabinets for him. I said yes. We have slowed down in building cabinets. We will not do big projects like we used to.”
“We now enjoy building special furniture items,” he said.
They have built bedroom sets, book shelves, china closets, their own dining room table, rocking chairs, etc. as well as a large variety of smaller items such as his seven model tractors, travel mugs, ring boxes and clocks.
Mel said, “By the time we have completed one of our tractor models we have 50 – 60 hours of work into it.”
Joyce said, “We do enjoy building special order furniture.”
“I cannot throw away a scrap of wood,” said Mel. “That is what many of our items are made from. We work primarily with six different types of wood.”
Their items are for sale although they don’t advertise. “We create the items for our own enjoyment. Most of our ideas come from pictures or something we have designed ourselves. We will sell if someone asks and meets our price,” Mel said.
A typical day with the Larsons starts with devotions followed by working crossword puzzles. Then it is usually out to the workshop.
“Rose is a meticulous woodworker,” said Mel. “She does all the finishing work.”
“I do that because he has never found a paint brush that fits his hand,” said Joyce.
“If you are going to make something you should do your best,” Mel said, “That is why she does the finishing.
Mel has also enjoyed carving items. Although he does not do much now he said, “If you are going to carve you have to make sure you use a wood that is carveable. Some are not.”
Mel retired from working in the concrete business after 38 years. “Don’t ever retire completely. Keep doing something you like. Don’t vegetate,” he said. “There is no such thing as can’t, just won’t. You never know what you can do until you try.”
“We get up every day and look forward to what we will be doing,” said Joyce.
“We are never bored,” said Mel.”We never have a problem knowing what we are going to do.”
Joyce said, “When our sons were small (they have two, Scott and Ross), I used to make their clothes. They would have matching shirts. They would get so excited when it was time for new shirts because they would pick out the material.” Now she said there is no need to sew because material is so expensive, it is cheaper to purchase clothing.”
She does enjoy cooking. “She feeds me well,”said Mel.
Besides woodworking, the Larsons enjoy reading and Joyce enjoys putzing in her flowers and watching and feeding the many birds that visit their yard, especially the orioles.
The largest challenge in their history of woodworking was for a new home. “We did cabinets for a new home on Mille Lacs Lake. The order kept getting larger and larger as plans changed. Finally when we started to install the cabinets it was discovered there was a 3/4 of an inch bump in the kitchen floor. We kept working around it until all were satisfied,” Mel said. The couple does not take credit for any talent.
“The talent is the Lord’s,” said Mel. “He just uses our hands.”