Alta's Loren Friedrichsen enjoys working with wood

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Loren Friedrichsen "wood" rather be busy than have nothing to do.

The rural Alta man has been in the woodworking mode for several years and enjoys turning the wood into "things."

He admitted he has always enjoyed doing woodwork. In fact, he still has the first woodworking projects he made over 70 years ago from the wood of apple and orange crates. He traced patterns from comic books onto the wood, cut out the small pieces with a hand saw, and painted the pieces with watercolors. "It gave me something to do," he said.

While attending high school in Holstein he took part in the shop classes and still has two tables he constructed there.

After that time, he became too busy to go any farther with the hobby.

When he retired from 66 years of farming, he wasn't about to just sit back and let life pass him by.

His first project was a small train containing an engine, four cars with cut out letters spelling Noel, and a caboose. He made several of the trains and gave them out for Christmas. They were a big hit.

It was his granddaughter who suggested that he continue on with the engines, letter cars and cabooses and painting them pink and blue. Her idea also suggested that parents or grandparents may like to buy a train set, spelling out their child's or grandchild's name. The caboose also has an open spot for the birthdate of the child to be written in.

Now, years and several hundred trains later, he is still "on track" and continues to make the wooden items.

He attends several craft shows a year and continues to keep his inventory up. He estimates he has 4,000 letter cars ready to go. He also has boxes of engines and cabooses. Besides the two colors he began working with, he now offers the trains in lavender and red.

In the 14 years that he has been making and selling the trains, he said, he can count on one hand how many "Q" cars he has sold. The "A" car is the most widely used and the "E" car is not far behind.

He used to work on his hobby from 5:30 a.m. to midnight but he has slowed down to some degree.

Does his wife mind that he spend so much time working on his hobby? "Not at all. When I'm down here I'm out from under her feet," he said with a chuckle.

"It is tedious work," he said revealing the process.

He paints 5/8" dowels and saws them up into slices. These eventually become the wheels on the trains. He must sand, paint and repaint the tiny pieces before giving them a spray coating of clear acrylic. Rectangles and squares are put together to make the engine and caboose. The letters are all drawn on and cut on his band saw. He must pay attention closely, he said, so he doesn't take his finger off. the letters are only 1 13/16" tall.

He decided after some time that he needed a break from the trains so he began making layered animals. He enjoys the change. "If I work on one thing too long and get tired of it I can then go to another," he said.

He has cows, pigs, dogs, cats, goats, camels, peacocks, giraffes, llamas, beavers, elephants, horses, zebras, hippos, lions, tigers, and bears, and oh my, there are more.

The animals are in at least five layers and each is painted by hand with wonderful strokes of paint to make them realistic looking.

Loren has several of the wood items on hand for anyone needing a quick gift .

"I love doing this woodwork stuff," he concluded.

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