Patriotism and pine: Near retirement, Erickson taking on wood projects

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Posted: Friday, July 3, 2020 6:00 am

With retirement approaching, Lee Erickson is feeling like a kid again.

The 64-year-old Hillsboro insurance agent has spent the past five years building an arsenal of woodworking tools and will soon have a woodworking shop built in his backyard.

After spending many of his formative years around lumber and carpentry, getting to do fine craftsmanship has been a dream come true with his Lee’s Wood Shed business.

“It’s in my DNA,” Erickson said with a laugh. “This is something I’ve wanted to do for years.”

Woodworking has been a pastime that Erickson simply hasn’t had time for in the past.

While he owns The Erickson Agency in Hillsboro, he also has spearheaded prevention work as the head of Students Against Destructive Decisions across North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.

He is the head of Northern Lights Youth Services, based out of Hillsboro, which leads efforts to provide positive resources for young people in the area. It hasn’t been until recently, however, that Erickson has had more time to pour into his hobbies.

“I like to go downstairs into the basement, crank up the tunes and just immerse myself in the project,” he said. “I love to bring out the natural beauty of the wood in my projects.”

Erickson is no stranger to engineering and design.

In college, he studied architectural drafting and owned a lumberyard in Wimbledon, N.D. for eight years.

Erickson sold the business, called The Wood Shed, in 1988 but brought back his old business name for his latest adventure in made-to-order craft projects.

“It kind of harkens back to some of my roots,” he said. “I was in and around building materials and the construction industry for many years, and I’ve slowly been accumulating the tools.”

Erickson purchased a scroll saw in 2017 and began to experiment with intricate cutting projects. 

He’s expanded into intarsia woodworking, where different colored woods fit together like a puzzle to create one design.

“Most of the work I do right now is scroll-saw based, until I build my workshop,” Erickson said. “I’m looking to expand and do some more stuff, too, with slabs of wood.”

In the past year, he added a wood lathe to begin turning wooden and epoxy pens.

As he’s taken on new projects and challenges, he was approached about making a U.S. flag this spring. 

Erickson glued the stained pieces of pine together for the flag and carved out 50 stars with a Dremel and router bit.

After he posted the finished design in June, he received four more flag orders within a week.

“I’d never done (a flag), but I figured I’d certainly try,” Erickson said. “I’ve received a lot of compliments about it.”

Typically around this time, Erickson is designing items to show at craft fairs around the area, but due to COVID-19 concerns, many of those have been canceled.

Still, Erickson has a small inventory of items on display at The Erickson Agency building at 502 W. Caledonia Ave. in Hillsboro.

He also welcomes new challenges people toss his way.

“I’ve taken a lot of special orders from people,” Erickson said. “I like new stuff. That’s why, when the flag order came in, I said, ‘Sign me up.’ I’ll do my best.”

For orders, customers can contact Erickson at his insurance agency at 636-5852 or check out Lee’s Wood Shed on Facebook.

(Editor’s note: Erickson is the father of Banner publisher Cory Erickson.)

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