September 14, 1996 in Washington Voices

Broken Tools, Odds And Ends Take Wing By Sculptor’s Hand

By The Spokesman-Review
 

For Ben Kraut, rusty shovels, broken rakes and discarded saw blades are more than junk.

They’re “tool birds” waiting to be built.

Case in point, the metal turkey.

While pawing through the scrap pile at American Recycling on Mission, Kraut came across a small crane hook.

“I thought, that’s a perfect head for a turkey,” Kraut said.

And so the tool-bird turkey was hatched. It’s just one of hundreds the Pasadena Park resident has built out of scraps of all kinds during the past 13 years.

A new batch - about a dozen tool birds - stood grouped on the lawn next to Kraut’s backyard workshop last week.

“Every one’s a little different,” Kraut said, pointing out the electric motor he used to build the body of one. That one’s for an electrician friend, he said.

Others were not quite finished.

“Four or five of them have got to have wings,” Kraut said. “We call them wings, but they’re really garden rakes.”

Bicycle sprockets, nuts, bolts, washers - “they’re made out of almost anything,” he said.

Kraut scratched his chin when asked what started him building the junk creatures. But his wife, Helen, remembered.

“You retired, that’s how it started,” she hollered across the yard.

A sheet metal worker, Kraut, 79, called it quits in 1983 after working for a handful of Spokane area businesses. He has been disappearing to his backyard shop ever since.

“He’s always building something,” said Kraut’s grandson, Tony, who was building a rack for his pickup truck.

Besides the tool birds, Kraut also carves wood sculptures and builds tables, benches and wire animals.

“I’ve got to do something to keep busy,” Kraut said. “I’ve worked all my life. You can’t just stop.”

Kraut welcomes requests, but said building the lawn ornaments is far from work.

His show case is his front lawn, where the pieces are displayed periodically. The tool sculptures typically sell for about $40.

“I had one woman come in and buy three of them,” Kraut said. She was so satisfied with her purchase that she promised to return after her vacation to buy a fourth.

However, the hobby is not without its challenges. Finding supplies is getting tougher. That’s why Kraut recently expanded his search for old tools to include recycling heaps.

“It’s a bigger job getting the materials than it is making them up,” Kraut said.

But once Kraut finds the weathered treasures, his imagination takes off.

“You just get some pieces and see what you can do with them,” Kraut said. “It’s kind of a challenge to see what you’re going to end up with.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: Saturday’s People is a regular Valley Voice feature profiling remarkable individuals in the Valley. If you know someone who would be a good profile subject, please call editor Mike Schmeltzer at 927-2170.

Saturday’s People is a regular Valley Voice feature profiling remarkable individuals in the Valley. If you know someone who would be a good profile subject, please call editor Mike Schmeltzer at 927-2170.

Get stories like this in a free daily email


Please keep it civil. Don't post comments that are obscene, defamatory, threatening, off-topic, an infringement of copyright or an invasion of privacy. Read our forum standards and community guidelines.

You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in here or click the comment box below for options.

comments powered by Disqus