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Going with the grain

After the first time he retired, Janus Waller decided to seriously dedicate time to his woodworking craft

April 23, 2011
Story, photo by Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent


Janus Waller of rural Clarkfield doesn't care how cold it is when he's out in his shop working on his latest woodworking project. He has a handcrafted stove to keep him warm during the winter months.

"This is a handmade stove," the 84-year-old Waller said. "That's an old transformer."

Article Photos

Janus Waller studies the instructions for a wooden bulldozer project he is working on.
Waller said he uses 13 different kinds of wood in his products and usually does most of his projects freehand.

Many of the items around Waller's house and buildings on his farmsite are handmade, from the wooden memorabilia boxes he constantly makes to the four-wheeler he created from a 1929 Chevrolet's frame, differential and transmission.

He said he's done woodworking for many years, but got serious after the first time he retired. Waller worked in construction for most of his life, building grain bins, houses, pole barns and garages. Once he retired from that job, he did grant jobs, basically rehabbing buildings around the area.

Then he developed tennis elbow in both elbows, so he couldn't "pound (nails) anymore."

While he and his family lived in the Twin Cities for 22 years, Waller built his first tractor in the basement of his house. But in order to get it out of the basement, he had to take it apart, move the parts up the stairs and put it back together.

Putting things together in one way, shape or form has kept Waller busy throughout the years. Now he devotes most of his time to woodworking.

"I always done this in the wintertime," Waller said of his woodworking.

Most of the memorabilia boxes Waller makes contain different colors of wood. He'll start with a base box for the interior and overlay it with the different colors.

"I use 13 kinds of wood," Waller said. One such box uses brown elm, walnut and lyptus. "No stain, nothing. Just a natural color."

Waller gets his wood from a variety of sources - his son's cabinet shop, part of a manger from a barn built in 1908.

"Anything I can pick up, I use it," Waller said.

One of his current projects was a little wooden bulldozer. Waller was looking at instructions in a magazine.

"Normally, I just go freehand," Waller said.

Waller said he can complete a woodworking project in about two-and-a-half days.

"If I'm in a hurry," Waller said

Waller has also created some of the equipment he uses for his woodworking, which includes a one-inch belt sander and a shaper.

When Waller gets up in the morning, he'll have breakfast and go work in the shop until 11 a.m. After a break for lunch, he'll be back at whatever project he's working on until roughly 3:30 in the afternoon.

Waller brings his products to one or two craft fairs a year, which included the one at Ole and Lena Days in Granite Falls. He said he charges enough for his products to break even.

"I give so much of it away, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends," he said.

He'll also do special projects for people. For example, Waller is creating a structure for a friend for her to plant vegetables and then sit and watch their progress.

"When the weather gets decent, I'm going to set it up for her," Waller said.

Inside his house, there are many decorative items Waller has made throughout the years - a wooden family crest, lamps, cabinets, end tables and toys. He held up a little bulldozer.

"There's 320 parts in that machine," he said.

But his days of making things that have a lot of parts are almost done as Waller said he has a tremor in his hands.

"I can't get close enough to the saw," Waller said.

For now, Waller will continue to spend his mornings and afternoons in his shop, shaping pieces of wood and putting them together to make boxes and other items.

"I love this work, this monkey business," Waller said.



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