There’s probably not a pile of lumber in Allen County that the Hulls — Josh, Sam and Laney — couldn’t, if given time and tools, twist into an elegant piece of furniture.
When Josh Hull was only 7 years old, he approached the judges at the Allen County Fair with his very first 4-H woodworking project. A toy box.
Eight years later, Josh, now 15, is putting the finishing touches on a species of Adirondack chair with a special up-swooping cantilevered footrest, lined with a series of plywood slats. A solidly constructed piece of furniture — a lounger with a sturdy, imposing upper half, but one so light on its feet that it thinks it’s a Queen Anne table.
In the years since Josh picked up his first plank of wood, he’s completed a number of large-scale construction projects, including a coffee table and a porch swing.
Josh is enrolled in the fair’s photography and cooking competitions as well, but he enjoys woodworking best. “It’s hands on,” he explained. “It keeps my attention, rather than doing something where I’m sitting at a computer all day.”
On MONDAY, Sam, 11, was applying trim to his large, L-shaped desk. The Hulls work in their grandparents’ shop, and on this day, while Sam carefully sized his trimwork, one of the three Fox Red Labradors that roam the Scantlin farm found shade beneath the modesty panel on Sam’s new desk. Some of the staining was difficult, Sam said, but, other than that, building a desk of such advanced proportions — “it wasn’t that hard.”
The Hulls are members of the Humboldt-based Logan Pals club. Besides woodworking, Sam will compete in a handful of other categories at the 2017 fair — cooking, arts and crafts, buymanship and photography.
WHICH LEAVES Laney, the youngest Hull, a girl oozing with personality. Her woodworking project is a small, white, delicately crafted bench, with angled legs and a flower decoration, which she’s cut into all four sides of the piece through the aid of a circular saw and drill press (and with the attention, of course, of a safety-conscious adult).
But her projects don’t stop there. The energetic 9-year-old is sewing a Laney-sized jumpsuit. She’s crafting a delightful flower pillow. And, perhaps most inventive of all, she’s about to put the final, pachydermic touches on a large (though not life-sized) elephant made from old clay pots. Spray-painted gray, the many-sized terra cotta planters will connect to form a trunk, four feet and a head, and its hollow, upturned torso will be used, when the beast is complete, as a flower pot in some lucky person’s garden.
On Monday, Laney was running an electric sander once more over her new bench. “Once I’m done sanding it,” she said, “I just have to repaint it.”
Laney took the idea for her bench from a back issue of Wood Magazine.
“I have a whole stack in the house,” laughed Sue Scantlin, the Hulls’ grandmother.
At that moment, the foundation of Josh, Sam and Laney’s woodworking gifts hove into view.
It was their grandmother who taught them the craft, their grandmother who educated them on the difference between a band saw and a drum sander.
Carpentry is a sort of genetic stamp in that family. “My mom used to do woodworking, too” explained Scantlin, “and my dad’s grandpa was a cabinet maker. This table saw, that scroll saw and my lathe were all my great-uncle’s, who was 104 when he died.”
Scantlin herself was in 4-H for 10 years, from the time she was seven. Her three kids were in 4-H. “I think it’s a good organization for kids. They learn things and meet other kids and, if they keep at it, they have the chance to find a profession through what they learn there.”
Scantlin’s main reward has been watching each of her grandchildren forge the sort of independence that comes from seeing a project out from start to finish. An added perk: After the fair, she’s going home with Josh’s chair. “It’s soooo comfortable.”
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