Couple Makes Sawdust Together

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When the children grow up and move out and parents approach their golden years, they look for things to enjoy doing as empty nesters.

Husbands and wives might branch off into different interests. But not so with the Ericksons of Mandan, who have been side by side for some 50 years and decided to take up a hobby together.

You'll find Alan and Dolly Erickson in their garage just as often as you'll find them inside the house. This is their sanctuary, their refuge from the rocking chair.

They work with cherry, oak and other materials, having joined the Dakota Woodturners Club about five years ago. He's now the president, and she's the secretary.

"I don't know. We both kind of got hooked on it at the same time. I went along just to go along to the meetings and then ended up being roped into quite a few things. And I do enjoy it," Dolly said.

"It's quite a bit cheaper than seeing a shrink," Alan said.

Alan says working with a lathe can be relaxing and therapeutic. But he says you can't really let your mind wander too far.

"You really have to concentrate on what you're doing because it's all about form and shape and finish on the wood," he said. "Your cuts are all different, and a tool like this has a certain way to cut with it. So you're thinking all the time. Safety's a big issue. Pieces can fly off."

Alan works bigger pieces to create things like bowls, platters and birdhouses. Dolly likes smaller items, such as freedom pens, which the club presents to soldiers as they return from deployment. They use some domestic wood, but they also buy some imported from Africa and Asia.

"We spend six, seven hours a day and enjoy being together. We have the music on really loud most of the time. All the neighbors go to work and kids go to school, so we're pretty much all alone out here," Dolly said.

They say while some woodturners turn this pastime into a business, they just like to whittle away their days together.

The Dakota Woodturners meet every second Saturday of the month at the Bismarck State College Vocational Tech Center.

You can see some of their work on display in the lobby of the Bismarck Public Library now through early December.