Appreciation of the natural beauty of wood leads to retirement hobby
Lyle Woodford is not only a fine woodworking artist but a collector as well. Most of the hand-tooled models he has created are on display in his home. Photos by M. Kate West
Chester resident Lyle Woodford makes time, in each day of his retirement, to create movement and beauty from discarded scraps of wood.
Looking for a job, he moved to Chester in 1962 and was hired by the Collins Pine Co. Over the next 36 years he worked in the Woods Division, where he performed automotive maintenance and welding on a variety of heavy logging vehicles, both at the mill site and out in the woods.
After 36 years on the job he retired in 1998, but the change of daily location obviously didn’t dim his desire to tinker with a variety of heavy vehicles and tools.
Instead, he invested his years of knowledge of how heavy equipment looks and moves into a highly creative and what would be called today a very green hobby.
Just prior to retiring, Woodford began to build models of vehicles from blueprints he purchases from a company called Toys and Joys.
“Toys and Joys is a pattern company that provides blueprints for making wood models and toys. They also provide wheels, pegs and all sizes of dowels for the models.
“I enjoy working with wood and started out making little tiny things and kept going until I got to the bigger models. My projects are now from 12 to 25 inches in length,” he said.
While logging equipment models dominate his collection, he has also built a fire truck, a large Army truck commonly called a “deuce-and-a-half,” an Army jeep and a school bus.
All of his models are built with hardwood scraps. Among the types of woods he uses are maple, birch, hickory, ash, walnut, oak and cherry.
“I get almost all of my scraps from Dave House’s cabinet shop at the lake (House of Custom Cabinets); they save me all their scraps. I also have friends who donate lumber scraps like the ash I was given today,” Woodford said.
Over the years he has built at least 30 models. When asked how much time each project takes he said, “I spend one – three hours a day working in my shop. I’ve never averaged out what a project takes.
“My last project was a skidder. It was the most complex and time-consuming of any of my models,” he said.
The complexity, he said, came from the angles and the number of small pieces to be fitted.
“All the parts articulate on each of the models, whether wheels, buckets, winches or backhoes. Tracks move, grader blades go up and down, and a natural bend occurs in the model equipment where the real-life equipment would bend during operation,” he added.
There are no metal parts on any of Woodford’s models. They are joined with fitted, natural wood. He also has a firm opinion on the use of paint on his models.
Some of his individual pieces have a two-tone effect.
“I use what I have and it makes a contrast. I don’t paint anything. I spray my models with Verathane to keep the wood natural. I don’t believe in painting hardwood,” Woodford said.
Asked what he does with his completed models he replied, “I collect them myself.”
He did add that he has given away two of his models. He said he gave Dave House a large Army truck and retired Plumas County Road Department employee Len Barry a grader.
When asked if he is going to reach a point where he will stop working on his models, Woodford said, “No, I don’t ever get tired of it. It’s a real good hobby and I don’t know what I’d do without it with me being retired.”s