New lease on life

Canby student turns old logs into craftsmanship

Photo by Jim Muchlinski Josh Steffen, a sophomore at Canby High School, built a specialized chest of drawers with a space to store hunting rifles as a semester-long project. The red cedar and black walnut wood was taken from trees at Burr, located on the west side of Yellow Medicine County near Canby.

CANBY — Remnants of cut down trees were given a new lease on life through one of the year-long furniture projects at Canby High School.

Sophomore Josh Steffen built a chest of drawers that included a long, narrow top section for guns based on his interest in outdoor sports. He designed several other storage compartments below it that he’ll be able to use for related items or for other purposes.

The lumber was from trees that grew in the unincoporated town site of Burr, located west of Canby in Florida Township, Yellow Medicine County.

Steffen worked with a combination of red cedar and black walnut, which are not often combined into a single furniture piece.

Both, however, are well-suited to woodworking. They can lead to an eye-catching color combination when used in a well-planned design.

The intricate pattern was one of two details that helped to make the chest a year-long project. Another was Steffen’s use of stained glass for two of the storage cabinet drawers, for which he utilized a full range of techniques used by artisans who create stained glass.

“It took a lot of time to plan and then build,” Steffen said. “The wood needed to be planed in the best way, and all of the dimensions had to line up.”

In return for his investment of time and materials, he created a durable, visually impressive handcrafted furniture project that he expects to keep for many years into the future.

“It’s something I’ve wanted for storage,” he said. “I’ll take it to my parents place for now. Someday when I have my own house, I’ll take it with me.”

Canby High School faculty member and furniture class instructor Dan Lutgen said Steffen’s project is a good example of what can be accomplished in the class with a combination of a good idea and many hours of skilled carpentry.

“Josh did a great job,” Lutgen said. “We have really good projects like it every year. The students come up with many different kinds of ideas, so there’s always some variety.”

He added that class members tend to create something that reflects a personal interest. Frequent examples are outdoor activities, mechanical work, shop activities, farm enterprises and family room pastimes. One student in a recent class created a medicine case especially designed for veterinary health products.

The project is a major part of every students’ grade for the year, something that shows the value of starting with a good overall concept and then working toward the best results with every detail.

“It’s more of a challenge to work with one big project that takes a long time,” Lutgen said. “They learn more from all the hours it takes for something like planing rough cut boards. The rewards add up near the end of the year when it all comes together.”


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