By Glacial Wood / July 28, 2016

From the Floor: Ryan Felton. An Inside look at turned wood.

Ryan is a five-year vet who began his career in waste reduction. “I started at the end of the line. I basically was gluing sticks together. Then, I moved around. I moved up. I’m working on getting into the office with drafting and projects, and starting the work on that concept end.”

From the Floor: Ryan Felton

He was born and raised in neighboring New London, a town of roughly 1,500 people. He always aspired to leave his hometown, and leave central Minnesota. And, he did.

But he came back.

AN ARTIST, BUT NOT

Ryan took woodworking classes in high school, and attended St. Cloud Technical and Community College for Mechanical Drafting. Why drafting? “I’m not artistic. I don’t make art. Yet rulers, compasses, and triangles enable me to create. I really enjoy doing it. I can’t freehand draw; but I can visualize what I want the project or product to look like in my head, and drafting it in 3-D makes it comes to life.”

“Working here at Glacial Wood, we get to see the whole process. Sometimes, I can draft the part and then go out onto the floor and watch the part I drew up get made. It’s really neat being able to see what we can create starting with raw materials all the way to the ready-to-finish piece.”

“The possibilities of wood are almost endless. Of course, you can break wood, but you can also break metal. It’s so much easier to mold and shape than any other medium. You get to spend some time, work with your hands, and see a finished part. I really like mahogany woods – that dark chocolaty look. Brazilian Cherry is really pretty, but it’s incredibly hard. It cuts nicely, but it’s not the most pliable. It has no flex to it.”

WE CAN DO ANYTHING

“Instead of being limited by parameters on size, we can make anything our customers want. We can make one-inch parts and 16-inch parts. We are a custom lathe shop. We don’t stock parts. We stock materials to make parts. We don’t have a catalogue so if our customers want something, they can ask for what they want. And, we make it from scratch – from boards to complete parts. That’s our job.” 

“The lathe that I run is a specialty lathe – it’s the one that can do the roping, fluting, twisting, and the wave. The wave is my favorite. They (the craftsmen) give me a part and I make it fancy – more or less. I add just that finishing touch of class, that unique part that makes it different. It’s a value-adding step. I also run the big lathe – that makes columns. The difference between the two is striking. You go from the (smaller lathe) Winner, which is used for details and fine precision to this machine that handles massive hunks of wood. We create columns that a customer uses for tables that are 34” across at the top. It’s incredible to be able to still handcraft something that is so BIG. It’s unique, a project like that. You sweat over it – sometimes you bleed over it.”

In Ryan’s tenure at Glacial Wood, he’s seen vast improvement in effectiveness. He says, “the job only seems to be getting easier, and I catch a lot of flak from my family and friends for sounding arrogant when I talk about working at Glacial Wood. We produce really beautiful, high quality materials. When I’m away from the shop, I’m naturally drawn to other woodworking. I feel like a woodworking snob now! I see other pieces or projects and automatically think of how Glacial Wood could have made it, but better.”

CONSTANTLY MOVING

Ryan seeks the mountains each year, and he heads west a few times to both snowboard and snowmobile.

“I own four vehicles that I like to work on – my hobby. I own a small sports car, a motorcycle, a pickup, and I just bought a ’67 Cadillac that needs a little TLC. I also own a snowmobile, a four-wheeler, and a kayak.” Ryan is social and always on the go (clearly), and up for anything – at least once. He likes seeing movies, going to music shows, and spending time with his friends.

What’s it like for Ryan to be part of the Glacial Wood team?

“This is a tiny town, in a small area. I wanted to leave so bad the minute I could. I wanted bigger spaces and more people. Then I came back. I found this job. And now … how or why would I ever leave? It blows me away that we’re capable of putting out such great quality, amazing work and I’m part of it. And, doing work in a small town is great. I’m able to spend money right here where I live and work, supporting that local theme. There’s nothing better.”

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