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From Pilot to Craftsman: Taylorsville Man Finds Purpose Through Woodworking

Aug 04, 2016 02:54PM ● Published by Tori LaRue

Bart and Wendy Kadleck’s award-winning, handmade carousel is displayed in the front room of their Taylorsville home. The project took seven months and is the most intricate project the couple has worked on together, according to Bart.

Gallery: From Pilot to Craftsman: Taylorsville Man Finds Purpose Through Woodworking [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Tori La Rue | tori@mycityjournals.com


Taylorsville, Utah - Bart and Wendy Kadleck handmade the shelves, cabinets, bedframes, tables, chairs, cutting boards and clocks found in their Taylorsville townhome.

“If it’s wood, we made it,” Bart said. “Everything down to the coasters.”

And he may not be exaggerating. The couple’s wooden kitchen tools, TV stand, book nook, couch bases, decorations, pens and even some of their wood shopping tools are homemade.

Bart, a pilot of 27 years—eight of those years in the military—wasn’t always passionate about wood work, but he started the hobby in 2008 when his license was revoked after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic and progressive neurodegenerative movement disorder.

“The thing for me when I got diagnosed is that you lose that purpose,” Bart said. “You know, as a pilot, you got to wake up, you got this, you got that. You have that spark about life, and when that’s taken away, if you don’t find another spark, you’re screwed. The disease will just consume you.”

Bart’s neurologist advised him to find a new hobby that would help him improve his motor skills, and shortly thereafter, Bart found basic plans to construct a magazine rack. He decided to try his hand at woodworking. The completed rack was “incredibly crude,” but Bart said he felt accomplished in finishing the project and decided to pursue woodworking.

Bart said he never thought there would be a positive to not being able to drive, until he and his wife were able to convert their empty, one-car garage into a craftsman’s shop, filling it with wood and tools. He began to construct wooden boxes, chairs and stools.

“I don’t think my neurologist was recommending this kind of activity—using sharp, spinning things to create objects, but that’s just how it turned out,” Bart said. “To that end, never having done woodworking before Parkinson’s probably benefitted me because I didn’t know how normal people do it. I just have to find ways that work for me, and so a lot of the things I do would seem cumbersome and time consuming to a normal guy.”

 Because of the tremors in his hands that come along with Parkinson’s, Bart takes special safety precautions, including staying 6 inches away from all blades. He’s created special tools to help him cut wood while abiding by his self-imposed safety guidelines.

Wendy, Bart’s wife of 20 years, began helping Bart finish projects that he was unable to finish by himself, but eventually she started helping working on almost every project with him, Bart said.

“I wanted to become involved in his new hobby,” she said. “I’m just so excited that he’s found a new life through this. We’ve always had a special connection, and I can’t imagine not being involved to this extent.”

Out of the thousands of pieces the Kadlecks have created, Bart doesn’t hesitate to say that the most intricate is their one-of-a-kind, fully-functioning mini carousel that took the couple seven months to complete. About a foot in diameter, the carousel lights up and spins as hand-carved and painted animals move up and down and traditional merry-go-round music plays. The piece includes contrasting woods and detailed scroll work throughout.

The carousel has been displayed in several art shows, including the Taylorsville Art Show, where it won the “People’s Choice” ribbon, and was most recently featured in the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s 2016 Creativity & Parkinson’s Calendar.

The award-winning item is for sale on Bart and Wendy’s website, thewoodwackers.com, and Bart said he hopes someone purchases it.

“It would give us reason to build another one,” He said. “And that was the best husband-and-wife project ever.”

The Kadleck’s website and Etsy profile have a global following. People from Israel, Argentina, Switzerland and Alaska are frequent buyers, but the Kadlecks have yet to break into the local market, Bart said, noting that his custom built items can’t compete with IKEA prices. Still, the business keeps Bart busy which is the way he likes it, Wendy said.

“There are days when the PD is beating me particularly,” Bart said. “Sometimes you have your mind, but sometimes I will freeze both cognitively and mobility-wise. I’ll just lock up, and those times, wood becomes more important than air because it’s incredibly cathartic. When you are struggling with something that you can divert to your hands, it consumes you to the point that not only do you solve the problems in your mind, but your world becomes OK again.”

When one passion ends, there’s always another, Bart said. While woodworking is not for everyone, Bart said he believes each person can find a passion that makes them feel alive. 

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