After retirement, Kangas working with wood

Just a hobby ... John Kangas and his wife, Shirley, have a house full of wooden furniture, toys and other items. His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are also receiving gifts of his woodworking handiwork.

"You've got to have something to do. Guys who don't do anything after they retire don't seem to stay with us too long," said John Kangas, Philip.

Kangas, retired first after 17 years of farming, then after 15 of Extension work, now seemingly does even more than he did before retiring. His main hobby is woodworking. "I'd starve to death if I was trying to do this for a living. I couldn't make things fast enough. I love doing woodwork, using the different tools, and I still have all of my fingers," said Kangas.

Working with wood is kind of a family trait. Kangas has three uncles who were contractors. He has a brother in Minnesota who gives him free wood, from trees off of his land, which are milled and dried by a local sawmill. The only condition is that Kangas must come to visit for awhile to get the wood. "My brother used a little leverage to get me to go out there and visit him," said Kangas.

Kangas has been a dairy farmer and an implement dealer. From December 1989 to six years ago, he was the Extension agronomy agent in Haakon County. While farming, he did his own woodworking needs on sheds, work benches and some furniture. Eventually, he began to take it on as a hobby.

"Now that I'm retired, I don't have to stop what I'm doing so I (and the shop) will be ready for Monday's real work. It took a while for me to develop the mentality to stop woodworking so I could get some sleep and do real work the next day. Now, I can stay out here in my shop, cutting and staining wood, and pretty much relax," said Kangas.

With a table saw, band saw, miter saw, planer and drill press, Kangas builds a wide variety of items from toy trucks to a 126-piece glider lounge chair. He has also built wooden mantel clocks for his daughters. The most recent trucks, 50 or more pieces each, are going as presents to his grandsons. His two great-grandsons will receive his next projects, pickups. "The glider chair took a long time to make all the pieces, but actually putting it together was real fun," said Kangas.

Through recent years, he has built a computer table, a complete unit of library shelves, cupboards and other furniture. The "drawers" of one end table come out and fold out into self-standing TV trays. Except for a few larger sections, everything has been from "just scrap pieces of wood. I don't throw away anything," he said. He has made a showpiece coffee table from pieces of flooring. The most common types of wood he uses are pine, oak and black walnut. "Cedar is easy to work with, but it is terribly soft," said Kangas.

Some items are made from premade blueprints, while some are from designs that Kangas has created himself. Several boxes are filled with woodworking magazines and his own drawings.

"Everyone has to have a hobby," said Kangas, "Mine happens to be woodworking."