AMANA — Two years ago, organizers revived the once annual Woodfest festival in the Amanas.
This year, the festival, planned for Friday through Sunday at the Amana Colonies RV Park, will once again showcase a variety of wood products made in the Midwest. The festival — a revival of Holzfest, which was held from 1981 to 2005 — also will feature demonstrations.
Holzfest was founded by R.C. Eichacker who continues to organize Woodfest. So far, he has lined up dozens of different wood-related exhibits.
He’s most excited about Les Casteel a woodworker from Arkansas who hand crafts rocking chairs inspired by the German craftsmen of the Amana Colonies.
According to his website WoodthatRocks.com, Casteel was born and raised in Seminole County, Okla. He began his college career in engineering and earned a degree in computer science. He worked for several major American corporations and worked on projects several where a working knowledge of ergonomics was needed. In 1997 he left the corporate world and transitioned into building sculpted rocking chairs.
He learned the basics of woodworking while helping to build barns, gates, fences, and tree houses on his parent’s farm when he was young. He has crafted toys, tables, clocks, cradles, beds, bookcases, bowls, entertainment centers, racks and now rockers and chairs.
He works with cherry and walnut woods. He also learned his trade at Shaker Villages in Kentucky and so the simple lines and design of the sculpted rockers and other furniture produced tend to emulate that style.
In addition to the rocking chairs, Casteel will occasionally be commissioned to carve a full size carousel horse or rocking horse.
He says these rocking horses satisfy the urge to do things freehand and further express creativity through wood carving.
He also produces wood-turnings and is particularly fond of creating bowls or urns out with a technique called polychromatic segmented turning, which involves gluing several pieces of wood to create patterns.
See Casteel’s work at Woodfest along with other furniture and crafts made with real wood.