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Retirees share love of ‘sawdust therapy’ bonds retirees

Local men form bond over passion for woodworking

Published: Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Alex T. Paschal/
Lloyd Beckman turns a piece of wood on the lathe at his Sterling home. Since retiring from Northwestern Steel and Wire 12 years ago, Beckman has spent many hours in his woodworking shop. "I call it sawdust therapy," he said.
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukval)
A sampling of the work of local artisans Lloyd Beckman, 68, of Sterling and Tom Boerjan, 59, of Rock Falls.
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukval)
Former Rock Falls High School teacher Tom Boerjan of Rock Falls shows a bowl he turned on his lathe and set aside to dry. "I was looking for a hobby related to woods," he said, adding that woodworking gives him a sense of pride and accomplishment.
(Alex T. Paschal/
Beckman uses a woodworking tool to shape the spinning wood.

STERLING – Lloyd Beckman and Tom Boerjan have much in common.

Both are retirees with extra time on their hands. Both have the ability to take a simple piece of wood and transform it into something beautiful.

Beckman, 68, of Sterling, and Boerjan, 59, of Rock Falls, were introduced by a mutual friend and became friends themselves through their shared passion for woodworking.

Beckman was a member of the Quad Cities Woodturners Club, which Boerjan later joined. The two now share tips and insights on their craft.

Both say using a lathe to make wooden bowls, platters, vases and other household items is therapeutic.

Beckman began dabbling in the art form 12 years ago, when he retired from Northwestern Steel & Wire Co. He made a dining room table and chair, but it took a long time, so he started using a lathe to make smaller creations. He since has made a large circular serving platter, serving bowls and vases.

The work takes hours of patience and careful carving. It took Beckman 20 to 25 hours to make the wooden platter, for instance.

“Then you get down to the finish, you put all the work in it, and the finish is what everybody sees and that’s really the hardest part,” he said.

Also among his handiwork are tiny wooden wine glasses with a ring around each stem, meant for a bride and a groom.

It also took Beckman 25 hours to make a small, intricately carved wooden Christmas tree ornament.

He gets most of his wood to make the platters and bowls locally.

“When I first started turning, I thought, where am I going to find wood?” Beckman said. “Now I got so much wood I don’t know what to do with it.”

His pieces are on display in galleries in Kewanee and the Quad Cities, and at The Next Picture Show in Dixon.

His woodworking hobby keeps him in the shop and “out of his wife’s hair,” Beckman joked.

Boerjan always has had a flair for the arts. The retired Rock Falls High School teacher taught industrial arts, math and computers for more than 30 years.

“I was looking for a hobby related to woods,” he said. “I put up a shop in the back of my yard, didn’t really know what I was going to do out of it.”

He got his own lathe in February, and began turning small items. He continues to try to improve his skills, he said.

Boerjan makes colorful serving bowls and vases. His bowls are defined by a colorful center row, called a feature ring, which is created by taking small pieces of wood and attaching them to form a ring, then attaching the rings to create a vase or a bowl.

“Lloyd’s been great as far as a mentor and someone sharing his experience with me,” Boerjan said.

Woodworking gives Boerjan a sense of pride and accomplishment, he said.

“I call it sawdust therapy,” Beckman added. “Just to go out there and make chips, it’s fun and it’s also challenging, and then you end up hopefully with a piece if you don’t blow it up.”

To see more

Tom Boerjan and Lloyd Beckman both have pieces on display through December at the Quad Cities International Airport, 2200 69th Ave., in Moline.

Go to the Quad Cities Woodturners Club website at to see more of their work.

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