Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

January 5, 2014

Creative Craftsman

By Julie Obermiller
Union-Sun & Journal

BARKER — A visit to Elmer Lyndaker’s barn is a bit like a visit to Santa’s workshop. Magic happens amid the dusty farm implements, piles of wood and projects in varying stages of completion.

Wood is Lyndaker’s specialty. After working in the lumber business for many years, he uses the colors, grains and distinct properties of local and exotic woods to create everything from furniture to heirloom clocks and bowls.

At age 90, Lyndaker is always busy creating beautiful patterns and intricate designs. One of the most popular features of his handiwork is delicate walnut shell art. Lyndaker cuts each black walnut on a huge saw, getting one perfect slice from the middle of the nut. Then begins the long process of poking out the nutmeats to leave the inside webbing intact.

I designed a special tool to poke the nuts out, but it’s a painstaking process,” Lyndaker said.

Only the black walnut is hard enough for the job, and neighborhood squirrels are always vying for his crop. A huge pile of cut shells and nutmeats sit outside the barn door, feeding birds, squirrels and Lyndaker’s longtime canine companion, Rascal.

Lyndaker has created clock sculptures that sit proudly in his Lake Road home, and he has been busy recently making bowls that were in demand for holiday gifts. The rustic-looking items always turn out to be one-of-a-kind, because Lyndaker’s imagination is always at work.

The master woodworker likes to use different wood colors and grains for inlays and scroll work pieces. He has designed everything from inlaid trays to magnificent scroll cut butterflies mounted on wire — an affordable way for more people to have a piece of his art.

The quiet, unassuming farmer loves that people enjoy his work and he loves to share it, but the painstaking process doesn’t lend itself to commercial enterprise.

While Lyndaker uses mostly local woods, friends and family often find more diverse woods in their travels and he has purchased some exotic woods from a hobby store.

Standing in his workshop is a bark-covered log that looks like it might be ready for a fire, but it’s a special treasure waiting to be cut. It’s a common evergreen, and most people would be surprised to learn that an arborvitae can be fashioned into a beautiful piece of woodwork.

If you look at it, you’ll see that there is a beautiful heart in the middle of the cross-section, and that’s what I will put into a design,” Lyndaker said.

Old quilting pattern books provide ideas for some of Lyndaker’s ornate inlay patterns.

There is no stain or paint on any of Lyndaker’s creations. The amazing patterns are the result of natural wood hues, and only a thin protective veneer is added so that the items can be used and not just displayed in a cabinet.

Lyndaker has had more time on his hands since the passing of his wife Elsie, so he and Rascal spend a lot of time in the workshop. He also grows and sells strawberries from a roadside stand. Giant sunflowers in a row greet visitors who enter under the wooden arch proclaiming “Memory Lane” that straddles the tree-enclosed driveway.

Stepping into Lyndaker’s modest home, one can see his handiwork everywhere. Intricate quilt square patterns are inlaid in the wood flooring throughout his home and everything from lamps to a giant grandfather clock are his creations.

Many of Lyndaker’s works grace the homes of his children, and he keeps photographs of some pieces lovingly crafted for others.

A member of the local Barker Seniors group, Lyndaker sometimes brings an intricate walnut vase filled with home-grown flowers to grace the lunch table of his companions, or an inlaid bowl holding fresh strawberries in season.

To the active nonagenarian, talent is something that should be shared and enjoyed by everyone, so he’ll keep slicing walnuts and turning old logs in little masterpieces, one by one.