Feb. 27, 2006
By Steve Kuchera
Denfeld High School has played a central role
in the life of Don Graves and his family. Four generations attended
classes there. And Graves worked 30 years as a custodian and maintenance
worker for the school district.
"I spent two years tuck-pointing the tower"
at Denfeld, he said.
Now Graves, 79, is busy on another project to
benefit Denfeld. He has spent months working on a large, intricate
clock modeled after the school. He will donate the clock to school
officials so they can use it to help raise money to restore the
Graves' siblings were the first family members
to graduate from Denfeld. His five children attended the school,
as did his daughter's three children.
"And now my great-granddaughter is going
there," he said.
But the lifelong West Duluth resident didn't graduate
from Denfeld. He enlisted in the Navy at 17, spending the closing
years of World War II aboard a heavy cruiser in the Pacific.
After the war, Graves returned to Duluth.
He said that when he retired, his children said
they had to keep him out of the coffee shops. They gave him a scroll
saw and a sander.
With those tools he began making wooden lawn ornaments.
But he wanted more of a challenge, so he began making wooden clocks
nine years ago.
He began building his Denfeld clock in September.
"I decided I would do something to help raise
money for the school," he said.
At a scale of 1 to 96, the finished clock will
stand 37 inches wide, 24.5 inches high and 17 inches deep. Its tower
will contain three working clocks.
To create an accurate model of Denfeld, Graves
obtained architectural drawings of the building from the school
district. Fastening the plans over pieces of quarter-inch thick
oak, he marked where he needed to cut out window and door openings.
Then came the tedious, exacting process of gluing
small pieces of wood in the window openings to create the appearance
of separate panes of glass.
Graves estimates he has spent about 4 hours a
day working on his clock.
"It's quite a bit of work involved preparing
it," he said. "Now it's really coming together."
Using his son-in-law's cabinet shop, Graves worked
at assembling his clock last week -- brushing glue on nailing strips,
positioning the clock's base, walls and top, and fastening them
together with tiny pin nails shot from a pneumatic nail gun.
He plans on finishing the clock and presenting
it to Denfeld shortly.
"I think it is admirable
that he has dedicated his skills to build this clock to benefit
our high school," Denfeld principal Ed Crawford said. "I
know it's a time-consuming effort. It's very generous of him."