GLENCOE, MINN. – A group of civic-minded citizens here faced an enviable choice: what to do with the kitchen space in the basement of the community center they had renovated at the city's old high school.
Months of deliberations ensued before they finally hit on the solution: a woodworking shop.
Oak timbers were sawed and tables made. There was painting and patching. A drill press was donated. So was a band saw and a lathe.
After two years of planning, close to $25,000 in donations and a lot of cleanup, the Glencoe Woodworking Club was born in two basement rooms of the community center in 2014.
"When we renovated this place, I looked around and thought, 'What are we ever going to do with this space?' And it turns out to be perfect," said club member and former Glencoe City Council Member Dan Perschau.
Where lunch ladies once toiled making Tater Tots, the sound of sanding and sawing can now be heard several times a week. Whether making simple cutting boards or complex miniatures, woodworkers of all skill levels are welcome. Their only qualification is that they be at least 18.
Many of the members have their own equipment in their basements and garages but find comfort in the camaraderie of the club in this city of 5,500 residents about a 45-minute drive west of the Twin Cities.
"You meet and work with people that you've never known before," said Dewey Klaustermeier, one of the founders, who admits most of his work these days is confined to cutting boards. "I've lived in this community for over 50 years and I never knew these people."
That spirit was evident on a recent Saturday.
At 92, Dick Swift is the club's oldest member. While a little stooped these days, he can still show the industrial-strength miter saw who's the boss.
In another part of the room, the club is a welcome relief for Karen Thell, who had a passion for woodworking that she could never pursue, forced instead to take home economics classes in high school rather than kick up sawdust with the boys.
"People always told me I couldn't do this," she said. "No one is telling me that anymore. If they do, I'm not listening to them."
Ann Wangerin said she had woodworking books at home but never had the time to look into the activity. Now retired, she has been a club regular for the past two years and admits she was "scared to death" when she started.
One of Wangerin's bowls won a blue ribbon at the McLeod County Fair. Even so, she still maintains a small-town modesty about her success. The bottom of her bowls are stamped "Knot so perfect."
"I've never been able to work with wood before because you had to have all these machines," she said. "It's more fun, the camaraderie, and talking with people about how you're doing. You get to know who likes to make cutting boards and who likes to make bowls and who likes to make this and who likes to make that."
On the top end, Bernie Venier's projects can take up to three months to complete. His specialty is intricate miniatures, including a detailed semitrailer truck and a military vehicle known as an MWRAP, complete with a down-to-scale turret and antenna. What does he get out of it?
"I guess I like tedious stuff," he said.
The club has since appropriated a third room in the basement for storing materials. Members pay $84 in annual dues and must work at the club to accumulate service credits for access. The original 11 members have grown to more than 40, including more than a dozen women.
And no one has lost a finger yet.
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434