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Woodworker’s attention to detail shows in masterpiece models

August 1, 2018

GREENWOOD, Ind. (AP) — The tiny blade was no bigger than a piece of grass.

But when Ron Brown used a scroll saw, small cuts on thin pieces of wood became works of art. Elaborate scrollwork accented replicas of Gothic cathedrals. Intricate details brought carousels and Ferris wheels to life. The girders and arches of the famed Eiffel Tower add a small touch of Paris to the models he created.

Brown was a dedicated woodworker for much of his life, relying primarily on the scroll saw to create beautiful models, working clocks and other decorations. Macular degeneration has taken his eyesight, and with it the ability to use the small blades.

But his work remains on display at Greenwood Village South, where he and his wife, Shirley, live. He misses the creation aspect of woodworking, but takes joy in the fact that others have a chance to enjoy his passion.

The small room inside the Manor at Greenwood Village South has been transformed into a gallery. Dozens of Ron Brown’s sculptures are carefully arranged and lit, available for residents to enjoy.

Clocks carved to look like cathedrals and medieval buildings, with pointed archways and cut-out brackets, sit on tables and bookshelves. A “county fair” section has amusement rides such as merry-go-rounds and swings, with everything from the tiny seats to the nearby ticket booth carved by hand.

Miniature versions of grandmother clocks are arranged together. Small gondolas sail under models of Venetian bridges. The centerpiece, and Ron Brown’s favorite item, is a train-themed clock bookended with a pair of engines that chimes throughout the day.

“There’s a lot of detail in all of this stuff, some with more than others,” he said.

Many of his creations have won prizes or ribbons at fairs in Indiana and Florida, where the Browns stay during the winter. One year, Ron Brown swept first, second and third in the Best in Show competition at the Lake County Fair in Florida.

“They didn’t invite him back the next year,” Shirley Brown said with a laugh.

Ron Brown first started tinkering in the woodshop as an employee at Eli Lilly and Co. He was assigned to the carpenter’s shop, eventually becoming supervisor, and learned to use a variety of different tools to manipulate wood.

Though he soon moved up to other positions at Eli Lilly, he never forgot the enjoyment he took from working with wood.

“One day, I had to stop at a hardware store for something, and there was a person demonstrating the scroll saw,” he said. “I watched him for a few minutes and thought, ‘I could do that.’”

In his home workshop, Ron Brown started practicing and playing with a scroll saw. The scroll saw uses a thin, fine blade to make small cuts, and is favored by crafters and artisans for its adaptability.

He slowly became more skilled with the saw, buying patterns and kits to make special projects. The first ones he started following exactly, but as he grew more comfortable with the saw, he would reduce some or change aspects to be more challenging.

All of the sculptures were created out of plywood, some of it 1/4-inch, others incredibly thin 1/8-inch wood. He would glue the different patterns that he’d buy directly on the wood, removing it after he had done his hundreds of different cuts.

When all of the individual pieces were cut, Ron Brown would put the pieces together with a small amount of white glue

The creations could take weeks or months to finish, and he often had a few different projects in progress at a time.

“I’d be working on one thing, and maybe I’d get tired of it, so I’d work on something else,” he said.

At both their home in Indiana and a second home in Florida, he had workshops dedicated to woodworking. That required him to duplicate the number of saws and finishing tools in both locations.

“He said he wasn’t going to do that, but plans changed. It must be a guy thing,” Shirley Brown said jokingly.

The Browns moved to Greenwood Village South in late 2017, and when residents and officials learned about Ron Brown’s talent, they offered a space to put the creations on display.

“I didn’t have a place to put them when we moved over here, and they offered to let me use this room here,” he said.

The facility also arranged for a special open house and celebration of the work in late June, with hors d’oeuvres, a jazz musician and wine, to show off the work. More than 100 people attended.

“It was a tribute to him. I met Ron and Shirley before they moved in here, and they impressed me so much,” said Dianne Davis, marketing director for Greenwood Village South. “When they told me what he had done, I wanted to give him a celebration of his life’s work.”

In the center of the gallery at Greenwood Village, Ron Brown has left his last unfinished project on display. What was envisioned as a merry-go-round was only partially done when his eyesight deteriorated to the point where it was unsafe to work with his saws.

He has been forced to give up everyday activities such as driving and reading the menu at meals, as well as hobbies such as golf. But nothing has been as difficult as the inability to do woodworking.

“I couldn’t see the blade, so I can’t do it anymore,” he said. “I really miss it.”

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Source: (Franklin) Daily Journal

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Information from: Daily Journal, http://www.dailyjournal.net

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