Passionate Woodworker Builds Heirlooms, and Memories, for His Family

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When David Kastengren submitted his entries to Norwood’s Annual Photo & Video Contest, he included an intriguing note about how his sawmill supplied him with the wood to build heirloom chairs for his children from trees on the family farm. Here is a follow-up interview about the Kastengren sawmill, building furniture and the importance of crafting furniture and creating memories that will last beyond his years.

David and his wife live in northwest Iowa. Retired from working with Farm Services and farming on weekends, he isn’t one to sit out his retirement years. And he keeps his Norwood LumberPro HD36 portable sawmill equally busy – on behalf of three generations.

“I’ve been in the woodworking business for over 40 years,” David said. During time, he has acquired many woodworking tools, culminating in his Norwood sawmill. When he had to turn down a customer’s request for fifty chairs because he couldn’t get the wood, David took matters into his own hands. “I’m on prairie land and there’s not a hardwood dealer within 100 miles,” he explained. “I decided to get the sawmill so I could saw and dry the lumber exactly the way I want for my furniture.”

As David explained it, “It’s kind of one of those things that starts out small, and things just sort of grow and expand and go out of control on you – that’s sort of what happened here.” Years ago, when his daughter graduated from college, David made her a walnut and maple table made from trees on the family farm. He had no way of knowing where things would go from there.

“My granddaughter – and she’s got Grandpa wrapped around her little finger – looked at the table and said, ‘Mom, your chairs don’t match this table’,” David recalled with a chuckle. To address the omission identified by his granddaughter, David built matching chairs inspired by the Greene & Greene design, with a few modifications to make them more stable so the grandchildren could climb on them safely.

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David called upon his Norwood sawmill to mill even the delicate material needed to craft the curved back slats –
1/8″ laminated stock. “I had five chairs to make and needed twenty pieces. They had to be consistent,” he said. When his shop band saw proved to be too slow and inconsistent to cut the thin strips, David turned to his Norwood. “The Norwood was just amazing,” he recalled, “It took me twenty minutes to do what took me two weeks to do on the shop band saw.”

David glued a couple of 2x10s onto a cant so he could hold down the material and precisely slice it into 1/8″ veneer. As for the results, Dave says he was really impressed with how smooth and consistent they were. “When I stacked them together and glued them up, I had my 1/2” material with exactly the curve I needed. I could select the material for the grain to show. I can’t think of anything that could do better than this sawmill.”

Although all of his children have moved away, they still want a piece of the farm. “That’s what I can give them,” he says. Using his Norwood, he has milled lumber from trees on the property to build “… about everything from an 18th century reproduction desk for my son, to tables and chairs.”

The challenge of building quality chairs intrigues David: “I like doing chairs because they’re interesting. There are a lot of angles. It’s an art, and not everybody can build them.” While not everybody can build a quality chair, everybody can, and does, help. As David describes the process, “My daughter and oldest boy have run the sawmill and really enjoy it. They’re both woodworkers. My 10-year-old granddaughter helped with the sanding of their chairs. Now, she’ll walk up to a piece of furniture at a store, run her hand over it and say “I can do better than that!’”

Combining his long passion for woodworking with his new-found skill as a sawyer, David is doing more than crafting furniture – he is creating memories that will last well beyond his years.

Thank you, David, for sharing your family’s experiences with your Norwood!