Woodworker creates whimsical items

Dick Anderson, in his garage/workshop in rural Princeton in front of some of the birds he has made out of wood as part of his business, Andy’s Woodcrafts.

Princeton resident Dick Anderson, 73, spends a large number of his waking hours in his garage. It is there that he turns 2”x8” lumber into wooden ornaments, some of them whimsical, toys, birdhouses, wooden signs and more.

Anderson appears to be an amiable, down-to-earth soul. When a visitor recently called on him, he talked proudly about the wooden eagle he made that sits atop a pole next to his flagpole holding the American flag. The eagle is looking at the flag, Anderson said, calling that a “great tribute to our country.”

The retired Anderson has been woodworking for about 20 years and has made a small business out of it called Andy’s Woodcrafts. He began making crafts in wood when he and wife Patsy had a greenhouse and landscaping business in his hometown of Dayton. It started after people were asking back then how they might obtain yard ornaments to go with their landscaping, he says.

Anderson then looked around and found a catalog for a company that sells patterns, kits and materials to make such ornaments out of wood, including whirligigs like his Sylvester the cat, whose arms swing in the wind.

“I always liked woodworking,” Anderson said as he recently stood inside his garage which was filled mostly with his woodcrafts, woodworking tools and materials. One small stall held the couple’s car that was squeezed almost incongruously between a wall and a shelf with birdhouses. Above the workbench were rows of plastic bins full of woodcraft supplies and parts including plastic animal eyes, nylon spacers, buttons and hooks.

He also has thousands of patterns for making woodcrafts. Woodcrafting is a “fun business” but is expensive to get started in because of having to buy all the patterns and materials, he observed.

Actually it is “gratifying,” he said, mentioning people having complimented him on his woodcrafts. He pointed out items hanging from his garage ceiling, like the crescent moon and the giant replicas of fishing lures including the lazy Ike. That’s for the guys who like to add to their fish stories, he said.

Clustered atop his workbench were about a half dozen large painted birds including a bald eagle, cockatiel, owl and parrot. “Owls are good for gardens,” he said. “They keep a lot of nasty things away.”

Among Anderson’s past occupations besides landscaping and greenhouse work, were real estate sales, logo-product sales, and assembly work at Honeywell. It was when he was working in real estate in 1971, he says, that he had the accident that damaged his right eye. He was driving into Dayton one day with his pickup loaded down in back and lost control on sand atop a road that was being worked on. The pickup truck rolled, injuring his right eye, which still functions, but not as well as it once did, he says.

He also had to have part of his one foot removed because of another health problem. That has necessitated him having to get help from a friend to move some of his big lumber around to start projects.

He has given away or donated many of his woodcrafts, and has made toys for his children and grandchildren. Some large pieces he had cut out to make a big rocking horse for one of his grandchildren were stuck into one recess in the garage. Sometimes he also does small wood repair such as for rocking chairs.

And why did Dick Anderson name the business Andy’s Woodcrafts? Andy was what people called his dad, whose real name was George, Anderson explained.

The technique he uses to make his big wooden birds, is to cut out separate shapes for parts of the body and then stack and join them together into five layers.

He turns out about 200 wooden objects in a year and just finished making two cribbage boards.

The big birds are his favorite, he says. And as far as making a profit in his woodcraft business, the big birds are the only moneymakers, he says. In order to make any money on the small objects, a person would have to make them in massive numbers and have a sales outlet, he says.

Wife Patsy is also involved in the business, doing some sanding for him and a lot of the painting.

Patsy is not unlike a lot of wives who will at some point ask their husband with some force to make something or things for her. That was the case for the big birds sitting on Anderson’s workbench. She had apparently already placed her request only to see him give or sell a couple of the big birds she had her eyes on. “It’s time you made me a set,” is how he recalled her phrasing.

Now he and Patsy are planning to construct a peace garden in their yard, starting this spring. It will have a combination of woodcrafts, statues and perennials.

The Andersons bought two masonry statues, each about a yard high, in Texas to put in the peace garden. One is of the blessed Virgin Mary and the other is of St. Francis. Father Kevin Anderson, who heads the Catholic parishes in Princeton and Zimmerman, has agreed to come over and bless the peace garden when it is finished, Dick Anderson said.

Then their yard should be complete – with the wooden bald eagle out front next to the American flag, and the peace garden in another spot.