Becketwood Cooperative
An Active, Independent 55+ Community of Owners in Minneapolis

In the Display Case: Creatures from the Wood

by Joel Mortensen, Becketwood Member

In their curves and textures, these critters almost come to life beneath your fingers—even if you haven’t joined Joel Mortensen or Leif Duus in the workshop to shape them. Some, like the impertinent fox, change their attitude depending on how you turn its 360 degree turning head. The animals’ history began with Rev. Enok Mortensen (no relation), who revived a tradition of Danish folk schools while pastor at Danebod Lutheran Church in Tyler, MN in the late 1940s. His carving tradition morphed into a mechanical, sanding method led by Harald Petersen, also of Tyler, which he introduced to hundreds of campers at the Danebod Family Camps. When Harald retired in 1994, he taught leaders from each of the camps his methods. Both Joel and Leif attended and have carried on the wood-finishing tradition to many more campers.

The sculpture begins with a block of wood. An outline of the basic shape is drawn and then cut out on a band saw. The pieces are run through seven gradations of sandpaper, from 50 grit to 600, and finally polished with 1,000 -- not sandpaper -- but cloth with jeweler’s rouge. They are finished with oil, wax, or shoe polish. Some of the woods that Joel has used are cedars from the Arizona desert and New Jersey, padauk (a beautiful red from the rainforest), white oak, and a black walnut tree that went down in a tornado. If you would like to learn how to make a critter, see Joel.

Leave a Reply