By Dianne Sudbrock
A few months back, we ran a photo of Larry Myers with a ticket tumbler box he had built and donated to the New Melle VFW.
Larry is a creative guy with talents in woodworking, carving and metalcraft. He’s been doing workworking for over 30 years, but didn’t have enough time to really focus on it until his retirement from McDonnell Douglas a few years back.
Larry has created a variety of items, from pull-toys to picture frames to original wood carvings, but among his favorites are two projects he built for his first grandchild, who’s still a toddler. One was a rocking motorcycle (like a rocking horse except it’s a motorcycle.) The other is a Noah’s Ark, complete with cutouts for each of the animals, plus Noah and his wife, and a dove for the roof.
Both projects, as well as some of Larry’s other woodcraft items, were made from published patterns, but what makes his work unique is that he prefers to use different types of naturally finished woods, with their own unique grains and colors, to get the multiple colors used in many of his projects. For instance, with the Noah’s Ark, he used Leopard wood, Zebra wood, oak, cherry, maple, and walnut, and put a natural (clear) finish on all of them, which resulted in light, dark, and orange shades with unique grains and stripes. For instance, the zebra wood has a striped grain like a zebra. The leopard wood has a very conspicuous flecking that gives this wood its namesake.
The ark itself is made from layers of walnut (dark) and maple (light) woods. Each layer pulls out from the side like a drawer, and has cut out shapes to store the specific animals (a drawer for giraffes, a drawer for zebras, etc.) Though the drawers are made from maple and walnut, the animals are made from other varieties of woods that have unique colors and grains. (The zebra is from zebra wood, the leopard from leopard wood. Some of the other animals are from oak and cherry.) The end result is both beautiful and functional as a shape matching/teaching toy that is sure to bring hours of entertainment to his current and any future grandchildren.
The ark is also very heavy! Larry said he didn’t think about it ahead of time, but being made from solid wood, “It’s like a log!” The overall size is roughly 18”w x 15”h x 8” deep. Larry also found that the drawers wanted to slide out when the ark was moved, so Larry came up with his on solution using a long dowel stick inserted from the top that extends down through each drawer to hold it in place. It was a very tricky task to make sure none of the dowel holes were drilled through the animals.
Larry and his wife, Shelly, are motorcyclists and love to ride. Therefore it makes sense that rather than a rocking horse, their grandson should have a rocking motorcycle! Like the ark, Larry started with a pattern, but added his own unique touches in the choice of wood and grain and decoration – including the two tone seat. He says he has hours and hours in the project, but the end result is a gorgeously finished, heirloom-quality toy that his grandchildren and his children’s grandchildren should be able to enjoy for generations.
Another of Larry and Shelly’s passions is Dash Hounds (aka Weiner dogs.) They currently have four that are treasured members of their family, so again, it makes sense that Larry’s grandson should have a Weiner Dog pull-toy – so Larry built one of those too, along with some toy trucks and air planes.
Larry also likes guns, and as a joke for his brother, built a very large pistol. He mounted it on a plaque that reads, “Walk softly and carry a big gun.” Then, inspired by the pistol, Larry built an oversized replica of a shot gun. He recently donated that to the New Melle VFW. It will be raffled off to benefit veteran’s programs.
Some of Larry’s other woodworking projects include wren houses, step stools, picture frames, display cabinets, a wooden heart that he colored with red wood dye and vanished, and a very large wooden woodpecker that hangs on the side of his deck. He’s also built a custom console for a friend who is restoring an old pick-up truck, and other items.
Larry enjoys wood carving, too. He’s attended wood carving classes by Harold Enlow and Steve Brown. He gets the most satisfaction from carving original designs from solid wood, but has used some “blanks”. A blank is a shape that has been previously rough cut out, but needs the finishing touches and textures to be personalized and completed. Larry said, “When you take a class, they sell you a blank and then teach how to apply textures. Using a blank saves time but is less satisfying because you are simply refining someone else’s creation. I’d rather start from scratch and create my own designs – but it’s very time-consuming.”
Larry’s very first carving was an old shoe he made for his wife, which he carved from scratch. Another favorite is a musical treble clef symbol he made for his daughter who is a music major. The treble clef was also cut from a solid piece of wood.
Besides working with wood, Larry also likes to dabble in metal sculpture – specifically creating sculptures from repurposed items (aka “junk”). In May, the Boone Country Connection’s Mystery Photo contest featured a metal motorcycle sculpture/planter that sits in his yard. Next to his house is a metal sculpture of a man walking a weiner dog – made from rebar, old chains, machinery parts, etc.