Clinton man shows next generation about turning wood into art
Bud deNeui, 90, loves to do scroll work and enjoys teaching his great grandchildren what he knows about woodworking. Photo By Carol Stender
Bud deNeui is an early riser.
Most mornings the 90-year-old is up by 6 a.m. getting ready for a visit from his great-grandchildren. A trip to Grandpa Bud and Grandma Joyce’s Clinton home is a fun filled experience for them. Like their parents before them, the children enjoy the homemade treats Joyce prepares and a visit to Bud’s workshop.
In his workshop, each child works alongside Bud learning how to measure and use the woodworking tools. Amongst Bud’s own work, including detailed nativity scenes and wildlife scenes cut out of wood, he displays their work.
He proudly shows the scrollwork one great-grandson made then describes how a great-granddaughter discovered the fun of mixing his wood glue with sawdust.
“I put those bottles up high after that,” he said with a smile.
His shop, a renovated, insulated garage connected to the couple’s home, has a welcoming atmosphere, where, under the tutelage of Grandpa Bud, the younger generation learns a craft that Bud so enjoys.
It started 19 years ago when the couple sold their dairy herd and Bud retired from farming. He remodeled the 12-foot by 16-foot milkhouse into a woodshop. The whir of motors and the milkhouse bulk tank were replaced with drill presses, sanders and woodworking benches.
Kids have always been welcome to work with Grandpa in the shop.
‘When the kids came out to the farm, I knew what they were doing,” he said. “I wasn’t going to tell them to get out of here. Our kids, our grandkids and great-grandkids all work together. We all worked together farming.”
Bud and a nativity scene carved from a hollowed out piece of wood. Photo by Carol Stender
He starts them on small pieces, but when Bud began his hobby, he worked with larger items like benches and bookshelves. Over the past several years he’s turned to more intricate scrolling work.
Bud uses patterns for some of the pieces. Others are developed from people’s project ideas, he said. No matter what the project may be, Bud sets to problem solving to work through the piece with his natural patience and care. Twenty-five percent of a project is spent figuring it out, he said.
He uses old lumber and logs for most of his current work. The knottier the log, the better, Bud said. It gives the piece character.
One of his most popular items is a small log with a nativity scene seemingly cut into the piece. Actually, Bud cuts the log lengthwise in three pieces. Each carefully measured cut is then cut using very small blades on the drill press to create the scene. A magnifying glass helps him make the precise minute cuts.
The piece is carefully glued together and, when completed, it has a unique 3-D appearance. One log piece takes him about 16 hours to complete, he said.
His pieces won’t be found at any craft show.
“I don’t want to make it a business, because then it isn’t fun anymore,” he said.
Perhaps he got his creativity from his father. His dad, who operated a diversified grain and livestock farm, took bark and wood and co-mingled sand to create landscape art.
Although he enjoys showing the pictures his father created, Bud admits it wasn’t an artform that stuck with him. He enjoys working with wood and the different grains and knots. The knottier the better, he said as helooked for logs for some of his pieces.
Like his father, Bud farmed. First he attended the West Central School of Agriculture in Morris. He worked at the school’s farm in the chicken barns where he earned 30 cents an hour to help pay for his room and board. The farm butchered chickens every Monday and Thursday, he said. He learned the process at age 15, and when Bud and Joyce raised around 200 broilers at their own farm, taught the skills to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He was a 2C or ag classification during World War II, so he didn’t serve in the military, Bud said. But once the war ended, his classification became 1A, and he served as a medic technician during the Korean War. He was stationed in Europe at a medical training center.
When he returned, Bud worked for the Farmers Union and eventually took a job at Renville Cooperative. There he met Joyce, a Renville native, who was working at the local cafe. They married in 1953 and a year later, moved to Clinton where they started farming.
Two of their sons joined the operation, resulting in the addition of more cows. They milked up to 100 when they ended the dairy operation, he said.
The couple, who’ve been married for 62 years, stayed on the farm until two years ago when they moved to town. They had many living options, including assisted living, but they chose a house where Bud could continue his woodworking and the couple could entertain family.
They are active in the community. Bud is the local American Legion Post’s treasurer. This summer he got to raise the American flag at a Twins game, he said.
Together the two were hospice volunteers for 31 years, he said.
“It’s a rewarding thing,” he said. “You benefit as much through the experience as the people you are helping.”
Joyce worked at the Clinton Good Samaritan Center, now the Clinton Care Center and retired in 2002 at age 73.
They have three sons, nine grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. Fifteen of the great-grands live within 15 miles of the couple’s home, Bud said. They see them often. Almost every visit includes a trip to the shop and a check on Grandpa Bud’s latest project.
It’s hard to tell who enjoys the visits more – the family visiting or Bud and Joyce.
“If they aren’t here, we miss them,” he said. “It gets kind of lonesome.”