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Small Town USA

June 19, 2016

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

I grew up in a rural Nebraska town of about 2,000 residents. I like to tell others that it’s a good place to be from. Would I want to live there now? Probably not, but only because we have become accustomed to what larger places have to offer. Also, small towns in central Nebraska can be hours away from a major airport, which is problematic when traveling often.

Small towns definitely have charm that you cannot find in larger communities. Almost everyone knows everyone else, so it’s easy to strike up a conversation. When driving the streets and surrounding country roads, people waive, even if they do not know you. People not familiar with this small-town hospitality may find it perplexing.

In some ways, returning to my home town of St. Paul feels like stepping back in time. The pace of life is slower and more relaxing, which is good, especially when I’m there and away from work. Life is simpler and choices are more limited. Going to a fine restaurant, for example, is 70 km (45 miles) round-trip, so it does not happen often. Theaters and other forms of entertainment are equally as far away, with the exception of local sports and other small-town events, such as festivals and county fairs.

Four generations of Wohlers lived in the St. Paul area and I was the first to move away. It was in 1981 when my bride and I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, for a graduate program at Colorado State University. The plan was to stay until completion, but then return to Nebraska. We never did.

Many decades earlier, my great grandfather, Fred Wohlers, Jr., chose to stay to serve as local a carpenter. He built one of the nicer homes in St. Paul, which is pictured in the following (left).

st-paul

My mother’s first cousin, Dorothy Lynch, was also a local resident. She created the popular Dorothy Lynch French-style salad dressing more than 50 years ago. As a small child, I recall seeing her fill bottles of the salad dressing in a small, one-room building (above, right) located across the street from our home. The location maintains her name to this day, but serves as a hair salon. The Dorothy Lynch product was purchased many years ago and is produced and distributed from another small Nebraska town.

My wife and I like to return to our Nebraska hometowns to see family and friends. She is from Lexington where we attended her high school class reunion last night. When returning to our hometowns, we often discuss the past and catch up on what everyone is doing. Sadly, a growing number are “missing in action” and a percentage of them are deceased. I would not trade my past for anything, but we always look forward to returning to Colorado—our home for the past 35+ years—even with the more hectic lifestyle.

Lundeen Sculpture

June 5, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 15:20

I had the pleasure of visiting Lundeen Sculpture in Loveland, Colorado, last week. The company produces world-class sculptures of about everything imaginable. The “sweet spot” at the company is the recreation of people and animals with spectacular precision and realism. The sculpting is done mostly by the Lundeen family, including Bets, George, Mark, their cousin Ann LaRose, and Joey Bainer, an unrelated sculptor. I first met Nelse Lundeen a few years ago. He handles accounting and other business issues at the company.

George Lundeen founded the company in the mid 1970s and was our host, along with Nelse. (My wife and two friends joined me on the tour.) George showed us many beautifully-crafted bronze versions of famous people, such as astronaut Jack Swigert, which is on display at Denver International Airport, and Dan Marino, a former Miami Dolphins quarterback that was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005. The Marino sculpture is on display at the Dolphins stadium in Miami.

George told an amusing story of his daughter, a big Marino fan. George asked her to visit the company after school, but did not tell her that Marino was present. When she arrived, Marino walked around the corner to her astonishment and addressed her by name. I can’t imagine how big of a surprise it was to her.

lundeen

The company is working on a two-year project involving the creation of the Stations of the Cross, which depicts Jesus Christ and others on the day of his crucifixion. Each station involves incredibly detailed clay sculptures that end up being larger-than-life bronze works of art. The effort is being sponsored by billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder and former chairman and CEO of TD Ameritrade, a large discount brokerage located in Omaha, Nebraska. He is building a Christian retreat center named The Cloisters on the Platte on 930 acres near Omaha. (The Platte is a major river running through the state.) The retreat will include the bronze Stations of the Cross.

George showed us the many clay sculptures that are underway for the Stations of the Cross project. Each are being 3D scanned, scaled up, and 3D-printed using a machine from Voxeljet. He explained that the process of scanning and printing is saving a dramatic amount of time. The 3D-printed patterns are shipped to the Lundeen team for inspection and light work and then delivered to a Loveland foundry for investment casting. The bronze castings are then  assembled, welded, and finished into their final form. George allowed me to take many pictures, but asked that I not put them on the Internet. A good video, co-produced by Analise Lundeen, shows much of the work and is found here.