Chatfield youth finding success with woodworking project

Nathan Goldsmith has built a dog kennel for his 4-H county fair project, which has advanced to become a state fair project. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
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“Who let the dogs out?”

That’s why Nathan Goldsmith’s got something cagey, yet classy.

“With the metal or wire cages, the dogs always get out. This will go to my sister-in-law’s house for her dogs,” said the state fair-bound Root River Rabbit 4-H member. Goldsmith built a dual dog kennel as his 4-H fair project this year, receiving honorable mention at the Fillmore County Fair.

The kennel looks more like a piece of furniture than it does a dog containment unit. Many owners of large dogs are puzzled as to how to safely confine their pooches but not have to have mismatched plastic or wire cages sitting out in plain view. Goldsmith’s design will fit his brother and sister-in-law’s home to their interior design specifications to conquer that problem.

“It’s a size built to fit a certain spot, and I came up with the whole design and how to build it by myself,” Goldsmith said. “My dad helped me a little bit, but the project took three to four months off and on for the building. It’s got half-inch by half-inch steel square tubing for bars and a cedar frame. The face is one-foot by four-foot white oak, and the top is car-siding with red cedar with a barn door design. I stained the top and clear-coated it with polyurethane. There’s going to be Plexiglass over the top so it will be like a table so she’ll be able to put stuff like pictures on the inside. It got honorable mention, enough to get a state fair trip.”

Goldsmith, who will be a senior at Chatfield this year, has been in 4-H since he was a Cloverbud, or beginner 4-H member. This will be his fourth trip to the Minnesota State Fair with a project. His past projects include restoring a horse cart and building a coffee table, but he particularly enjoys woodworking and metalworking and the creative problems they present.

“I’d like to get into more metalworking, but it’s hard if you don’t have a welder,” he said. “The goal is to hopefully get the shop a little bit more set up and maybe do some metalworking, too. My woodworking projects came a long way since the first ones.”

He encountered some challenges while designing and constructing the kennel, as he built the two cages separately but had to make certain that joints matched up and the finished work resembled a single piece of furniture.

“It’s the size of a regular dog kennel, doubled up. I had to make sure that I didn’t make it too big – just enough room for the dogs to turn around – or they’d feel like they’re not secure. I changed the door a bit, too, because when I designed it, I had it so that the door didn’t come all the way down to the floor, and I decided that it looked better if I changed that so that the dogs wouldn’t be constantly stepping over the edge,” Goldsmith explained.

He has to explain the processes of design and construction to the county and state fair judges. He has to tell the judges when and how he came up with the design, what its purpose is, what he used to build it and how he did the joints.

He will also have to explain what hardware he used, what the most difficult part of the construction was and what he wants to do better next time. He will provide a booklet on pricing and tracking costs, pictures of what he did and how much he knows about how he built it.

“I’m confident that it looks good enough,” Goldsmith said. “I’ve fixed some stuff from the county fair that the judge didn’t like. I’d like to build another one and see how it turns out.”

In addition to his dog kennel and a coffee table, he will be taking a couple other projects to the state fair.

“I had built a model house in school, and I made a sign in school. I go up to the state fair on Aug. 16, and then I have to go back up on Sept. 2 to get judged,” Goldsmith said. “I can’t stay there too long because of football. I’ll also go up with our horses to show them, and I like fair food and a few rides.”

As for after the fair, Goldsmith said he would like to do a lot more woodworking – building and selling.

“There’s a lot of stuff I want to build. I want to build a dresser with a rising TV stand on it…I don’t know that it will be a dresser, but a TV stand,” he explained. “That will be a very difficult challenge, and there’s lots of stuff I’m looking into that I want to do, but I run out of space real fast. It’s hard to stay organized when you run out of space. I enjoy doing this a lot – it doesn’t really feel like work when I’m out here, and I’m getting pretty good.”

Being a member of 4-H has been beneficial, he observed. “It has taught me from a young age about responsibility, knowing that you have to do the work before the other stuff, go take care of your animals so that they’re ready to show, and it’s taught me how to talk to people, how to talk to the judges, and about time management – because as you get older, you keep everything you do and still make time for your 4-H stuff,” he said.

Goldsmith concluded he’ll likely remain in 4-H until he’s no longer eligible to be a member. “I’ll probably be in it however long. I think it would be cool to win at the state fair, the championship shop project, but that’s really hard,” he said. “That’s why I’m looking at stuff that’s really cool and difficult, but that’s even more reason to build it.”