posts tagged with the keyword ‘making’

2018.09.15

roman-prodoehl-snowshoes

The following is an article about my grandfather that appeared in the Milwaukee Journal (or Sentinel, I’m not sure which) on February 26, 1981.

If you know me, this article will probably seem familiar to you… and if you don’t know me, reading this article may give you some insight into why I am the way I am, and tell you a bit about my family.

When the Boy Scouts of Troop 501 in Greenfield needed snowshoes for their winter hikes in deep snow, they turned to an American Indian design—and Roman Prodoehl.

Although it was his first venture into snowshoes, Roman Prodoehl of 4429 S. 66th St., Greenfield, has spent the 10 years since his retirement from Falk Corp. concentrating on his woodworking hobby.

One of the boys in Troop 501 knew all about Prodoehl’s work.

Peter Prodoehl grew up knowing how grandpa could turn pieces of wood into something magical.

The scoutmaster did the research and found a snowshoe design developed by the American Indians of the northeast-tribes that lived in the area that is now the state of Maine.

Roman Prodoehl took the design and started working on the snowshoes in mid-September.

Now Troop 501 has 11 pairs of snowshoes, and an easier time of it when they hike (with full backpacks) through the deep Wisconsin snow.

“I do it for the love of the work,” says Prodoehl. “My son Ron (Peter’s father) says it keeps me out of mischief!”

Prodoehl didn’t have much time for mischief when he started on the snowshoes.

The troop supplied the two 4 by 8 sheets of plywood and Roman supplied the know-how and the help of his wife, Lucille.

Each snowshoe was soaked in hot water for half an hour. Then Prodoehl curved the tips in a woodpress for four hours.

The three-foot long snowshoes, stained brown, are not only authentic but also “custom made”—coming in different sizes depending on the boy.

On a recent hike through Whitnall Park, Troop 501 reported that the snowshoes worked beautifully.

Prodoehl didn’t know it at the time, but 50 years ago, while attending Boys’ Tech woodworking classes, he was learning the techniques needed for the snowshoes. Later he used the same principles in his job in steel fabrication at Falk Corp.

On and off while working at Falk Corp., Prodoehl made use of his woodworking skills—fixing the family wood toboggan after a run-in with a tree, for example—but it is in the last 10 years that he says he begun “to tackle anything.”

That includes a dollhouse for daughter Fleurette and later, over 300 pieces of doll furniture for Fleurette’s children. He patterned all the pieces after furniture in his house.

“I’ve made refrigerators, stoves, davenports, beds, rocking chairs…everything,” he says.

Even a grand piano made out of black walnut.

One Christmas Roman Prodoehl presented family members with handcarved horsedrawn sleighs. Used as centerpieces they are perfect for holding Christmas cards and candy.

Now he is working on a series of shadow boxes for son Ron. One is a miniature old-time saloon.

When summer comes Prodoehl puts away his miniatures and concentrates “on the big stuff”—picnic tables and benches, for example.

“I could be very busy every day of the week,” he says. “People call up and ask if I can make something…”

But although he prefers to take his time “and do what I want to” he can be quickly caught up in a challenge.

That happened recently when Prodoehl was walking through a store and noticed some shoe-boxes-the kind that hold polish and buffing material-selling for $25.

“I looked at them and thought, ‘Oh boy, I can put that together for five bucks,” he says.

So he did. Several of them. And gave them to his grandchildren.

Even after making 22 snowshoes and an entire Boy Scout troop happy, Roman Prodoehl remains stubbornly modest.

“A little whittling. A little carving. It turns out real nice.”

Leave it to grandson Peter to tell the whole story:

“Grandpa can make anything.”

Reading this 37 years later brings back a lot of memories, and brings with it a new perspective on where I came from, and who I am. I don’t think this article would have resonated with me so strongly 10 or even 15 years ago, but right now, it sure means a lot.

2018.04.15

chad-blasters

It’s been an interesting six years… Back in 2012 I was just a lowly member of Milwaukee Makerspace who stopped by Kenilworth Open Studios to check out what was happening there, and mainly to meet Frankie Flood.

mike-flex

I remember running into Mike Massie at Kenilworth, and he said he had stopped to talk to Frankie on the third floor, so I went to find him. I’m gonna straight up say I was really excited to meet him, but what threw me off was how excited he was to meet me! It was weird, but totally awesome, and we hit it off right away. It’s safe to say becoming friends with Frankie on that day changed my life. (I’m sure many of his former students would probably say the same.)

adam-gear

A few months later we started the Milwaukee 3D Printing Meetup and later on I somehow got him involved with the e-NABLE project, then I left my job to attend grad school and work with him, then left grad school, then taught at UWM, then Frankie left, and I left, but Kenilworth is still an awesome place to visit each April.

chad-carbonite

This year I saw co-workers, and former students, and friends, Sometimes people were all three of those. I saw the work of people I really don’t hang out with much, but follow online every day, and much of it was inspiring, and got me excited about art, and design, and making. (More excited than usual!)

mike-wood

Kenilworth (and UWM) will always hold a special place in my heart. I really would not be where I am in my life right now without it, and I’m thankful for that. Also, there’s really nothing that compares to seeing former students doing amazing work and being excited about it. My time teaching at UWM was brief, but I enjoyed every minute of it, and hope I had a positive impact on the students I interacted with.

stern-plants

sarah-costume

chad-skulls

I look forward to attending Kenilworth Open Studios next year, and for many years to come.

2016.11.26

ART

“Sometimes we don’t understand the significance of something until we create it.”

2015.11.04

Blogging: 2015


It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a “bloggers your should follow” post, so it’s time. I mean, I’m sure you’re content with just reading the insane ramblings at RasterWeb!, but there are some people I know who are doing some amazing sharing, or are new at the game and could use a few more eyeballs, so here’s the list… and yes, they are all maker-focused.

handverkerfrankieflood.blogspot.com – Frankie Flood is responsible for the DCRL at UWM and a prolific maker and crafts-person. He shares many of his own projects (which often involve motorcycles or vehicle rebuilds) and he also shares the work of his students, and things that inspire him.

Bryan Cerabryancera.blogspot.com – Bryan is a former student of Frankie’s and leans a lot more towards physical computing projects involving computers and electronics. He also shares project with lots of photos and great detail. Like Frankie, some of Bryan’s posts involve things he’s working on for his students. (Instructors take note: blogging is a great way to document your curriculum!)

BridgeMakerchadbridgewater.blogspot.com – Chad is another former student of Frankie’s (sheesh!) and he’s a lot more focused on machines and machining and has a love of old tools. Like Frankie and Bryan, Chad also shares projects he works on for his students. Chad tends to do multiple posts for projects so you get to follow along with the progress. It’s better than TV!

MAINSPRINGjohnmcgeen.blogspot.com – John McGeen is a co-worker, friend, and also a former student of Frankie’s (see a trend here?) John is an obsessive maker, in a good way! I somehow convinced him to start blogging many months ago, and since then I’ve been greeted with documentation of his projects and skills on a weekly basis. There’s even been a bit of cross-over where we’ve worked on projects together, which is totally awesome, in my book. John’s also a motorcycle and vehicle guy (like Frankie) but he’s always trying something new, which is very inspiring.

Digital Fabrication and Designdigitalfabricationanddesign.blogspot.com – Caitlin Driver is a current student of Frankie’s and spends her days (and nights) in the DCRL at UWM merging art and technology through digital fabrication. Caitlin is documenting most of her work in grad school — from exploration to process to finished piece — which is going to be extremely valuable in the future. (Bonus! Caitlin has another blog at caitlindriver.com/blog)

VRvishalrana.net – Vishal is a member of Milwaukee Makerspace and one of the main organizers of Maker Faire Milwaukee, and he’s finally starting to document his projects. If you want to keep an eye on some projects you might see at the next Maker Faire, keep an eye on Vishal’s posts.

Kathy’s Worldkathy.lt – Kathy is also a member of Milwaukee Makerspace and one of the main organizers of Maker Faire Milwaukee. She’s just recently started blogging but I’m hoping if we keep bugging her she’ll keep going, because she works on a lot of awesome things, and the sharing them with the world would be a good thing.

Well that was fun! All of these people are friends of mine, and they do cool things, so check them out, and hopefully you’ll be inspired to make something.

2015.03.27

Sketch

Graduate reviews are done, and I got feedback from faculty on my current work. I was a great opportunity to gain insight into how others view the work I do. Typically these sort of things help reveal ideas that you don’t think about while making the work, or bring up new questions in regards to why you make specific choices.

One of the interesting takeaways from today was when a few of my pieces were called “sketches”. If you think about a sketch, it’s defined as “a rough or unfinished drawing or painting, often made to assist in making a more finished picture.” Many of the pieces I created are experiments, or explorations of ideas. They’re often not highly crafted pieces. I appreciate craft and people who are skilled at creating beautiful objects, but I often think I don’t have it in me to do that sort of thing.

I thought more about sketches, and the fact that in the Processing and Arduino worlds, the programs are called “sketches”. As I understand it, this was done specifically to appeal to artists and creative people who didn’t have a background in computers. Tell an artist they are going to write a computer program, and that’s a frightening proposition, but tell the same artist they are going to create a sketch and that’s an achievable goal.

I sketch with physical things…

That’s today’s revelation. Many of the things I make are real-world sketches. The physical manifestation of an idea. Often there’s an immediacy to the creating of the thing, but not always. I tend to work in two ways. The first is a reactionary mode, where I have an idea and act on it immediately. I start building without too much thought, and see what the process and the piece reveal. The second method involves thinking, designing, and prototyping as an iterative process. The pieces created from the second method are often more polished, but both methods produce valid work, and the reaction to each kind of work may be equal (meaning, people don’t always gravitate to the work that had more initial thought or took more time.)

Oh, I also want to drop the other definition of sketch here, “a short humorous play or performance, consisting typically of one scene in a comedy program.” This also relates to some of my work, but I’m going to leave that exploration to a future post.

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