By Katie Erdman
Working with wood and woodworking are two very different concepts. Working with wood can encompass many things such as carpentry, repairs and other small projects.
While working with wood can produce beautiful products, woodworking can be described as art. A person who creates beauty from wood is doing the most creative of woodworking.
The touch, smell and beauty of wood has always fascinated Lowell Evink of Hancock. So, in 2000, shortly after retiring from Hancock Co-op, Lowell decided to pursue a hobby in woodworking. He saw something in a Toys and Joys magazine that interested him so he sent for the pattern to make an 18-wheeler out of wood.
This initial pattern was adapted somewhat by Lowell so the trucks could be made to fit images of the various brands and styles. After completing his first truck, Lowell brought it to the church auction where it was purchased by the minister. However, before he knew it, he had requests for several more trucks.
John VerSteeg asked him to build a truck similar to the ones in his fleet. Lowell began to take photographs of the trucks and built them to look like the larger model.
In creating the trucks, Lowell would cut each piece separately, sometimes out of different types of wood for color variety. The cabs of the trucks contain many pieces, with horn, fenders, head lights, mirrors, doors, and windows all being different part. These pieces are carefully sanded and then glued together. The only non-wood part of the cab is the wire used for the rear view mirrors. The cabs even include a steering wheel and seats put in before the backs and sleepers are added.
The style of the cab can also be changed depending on the order. Lowell has made Peterbilt, Kenworth, International, Volvo, Freightliner and Mack trucks. Each have their own unique style and detail. He even made a needle-nosed Pete for a trucker from Canada.
The trailer portion of the truck is also varied. Lowell has made flat beds, tankers, cattle boxes and grain haulers. Naturally, the flat bed trailers are the easiest to make with the cattle boxes, including miniature air holes, as the most difficult.
The tankers are made round by taking 1/8-inch basswood, which is very flexible, wetting it and then slowly bending it around a frame. As it drys it remains in the rounded shape. The trailers are finished off with tiny wooden ladders, lights, and nozzles if needed. The semis include a full set of wood wheels.
After making a few semis, Lowell decided to try a few other vehicles. He made a Chevrolet pickup for a grandson and other special orders for people. In all he has made 115 trucks and trailers, two school buses, 11 golf carts (which include tiny wooden clubs in a miniature wooden bag), three airplanes, a gyro-copter, a road grader, two motorcycles, three Dutch windmills and a squad car.
The motorcycles are the most difficult to make. For the cycles, he ordered in some special woods. Wenge wood, which is a black wood from Africa, was used for many of the special trim parts on the cycle. PAU Amarillo, a yellow wood from Brazil, was used for the headlights. Lowell primarily uses oak for cabs, sleepers and hood, pine for framework and doweling and mahogany or walnut for the darker parts. Padauk is a red wood that he uses for stripes. Some of these special woods can cost up to $36 a board foot, so it is used sparingly and carefully.
For several years now Lowell has been taking his wooden models to the Truckers Inn in Sauk Centre to be put on display, sold or have orders taken. Thus far, he has sold 78 pieces there, mostly cattle, hopper and tanker models.
Lowell estimated that if he works on a truck pretty steadily, he can have one completed in two weeks time. He does most of the work in a small shop in his garage, where he can go and simply relax and work at his leisure. He tries not to take on more orders than he feels he can do.
Recently, Lowell had a minor set back to his work after an encounter with his table saw. He cheerfully explained that all his fingers are still attached, but are wrapped up pretty tightly. This will slow down his work for a time, but it will also give him an opportunity to plan for more of the beautiful things he can make out of wood.