Around town

by Irene Grahek

After living across the alley from the Frank Pengal family since 1958, you’d think you would know a lot about your neighbors, but it was only in the past couple of weeks I discovered that Frank has been and still is a wood carver, and a very good one, for the past 20 years. It was not a little bird who told me, but another neighbor, Denece Socknat, who clued me in. And, so a story was born!<BR><BR>Frank, a very quiet, modest, unassuming individual is the main reason I didn’t know anything about his talent. He doesn’t brag about his work, and he didn’t learn his craft at Reserve Mining Co. where he worked in plant protection for 30 years. <BR><BR>When I asked where he learned to carve, he responded, “I liked to work with wood, so I bought some books on the subject and learned to carve.” (I don’t know of very many people who could read a book, then carve a bird, a figure or a canoe.) He discovered that he enjoyed carving so much, he just kept doing it. His first attempt was a cross country skier, a model that he kept to remind him when he started. Because that skier turned out so well, before long he was carving trophies for ski races that were held in winters past. <BR><BR>He has since expanded his work to ducks, loons, birds, gnomes, Santa Claus, hunting figures, fishermen, animals, Christmas ornaments and any decorative pieces desired.<BR><BR>The latest popular item is the float airplane, patterned after Forest Service airplanes according to specifications and design, such as the Cessna and the Beaver, a water dropper used when fighting forest fires. These models show some planes with a canoe tied to the float and all have spinning propellers. <BR><BR>He has been working on a supply for the coming tourist season, which will be available for purchase at Pengals Basswood Trading Co. or can be purchased on line at www.basswoodtrading.com.<BR><BR>Frank’s workshop is his garage in the summer or a workroom near the kitchen in his home. He uses basswood to work with and some pine wood. His chisels, knives, glue, sanding paper and paint are all neatly placed, set up and ready for use. He breaks up his day, working about 2 1/2 hours at a time, to rest the eyes, then gets back to the job later, when corrections or changes are made before the final inspection.<BR><BR>Retirement for Frank required the need for something to do to keep busy, so he turned his carving into a very worthwhile pasttime. Those float planes are great souvenirs, and also are reminiscent of Ely’s fame as the largest inland seaplane base in the world in the 1940s.<BR><BR> You might say that artistic talent runs in the family because his daughter, Ruth, an art major graduate of UMD, continues her art work at the store with her original designs for the tee-shirts and sweatshirts. She will be coming out with a new design for Blueberry Arts weekend at the end of July, also another great souvenir from that weekend celebration.<BR><BR>