GREENFIELD — Where most people might see a shame, one Greenfield resident sees an opportunity.
Dan Hill, a retiree who often plays bridge at the Patricia Elmore Center Recreation Complex, also enjoys creating wood crafts. In late October, he noticed workers piling up branches from the 125 ash trees within Riley Park that had to be cut down due to the deleterious effects of the emerald ash borer.
Hill has been honing his skills on a lathe in his shop and making families of miniature snowmen out of tree branches. He made several snowmen out of ash wood from Riley Park trees and gave them to city employees around Christmas time.
“I asked if I could take some stuff they were gonna put in the chipper,” he said, adding that any time he sees piles of sizable branches, he stops and asks for permission to snag them for his wood shop. He also asks for leavings from the sawmill in Knightstown, he said.
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Kim Voorhis, Patricia Elmore Center director, shared the snowman he gave her with the Greenfield Parks and Recreation Board in February. Board members passed around the figurine and appreciated Hill’s creativity.
The ash tree branches make unique crafts, as some of the completed pieces show the trails of destruction left by the emerald ash borer larvae.
Hill began working on a lathe after one of his grandsons showed off the pen he’d made on a lathe in manufacturing class. A lathe is a machine tool that rotates a piece of wood or other item on its axis and the item is formed by sanding or cutting.
Hill’s wife, Brenda, said he is multi-talented, not only at making wood crafts but wire-wrapped jewelry and parachute cord key chains for area craft fairs and stained glass decorations for their Greenfield home. Hill has tried his hand at duck calls, back scratchers and bird houses as well, he said.
He and his similarly handy brother supplement their income by going to craft bazaars and farmer’s markets to sell their handiwork.
Hill said his favorite part of making wood items on the lathe, especially with the ash wood, is how different each one is.
“That’s what I like about it, too,” Brenda Hill said. “You never know what you’re going to get.”