Food professional relaxes with wood hobby

Tom Loewy

Bill Cassell spent all of last Wednesday morning hunched over a work bench in his cellar.

He cut. Paused. Lined up the Flying Dutchman No. 2 blade in a new hole. Tightened the tension. Cut again. Paused.

“I got down here at 7 in the morning,” Cassell said. “I’ll be down here until 2 or 3 in the morning tomorrow.”

He smiled.

“This is what I do when I’m not working. I get started on a pattern and I have to see it through. I have to find out how it will turn out.”

Cassell returned to the Craftsman scroll saw and the painstaking work of cutting a tractor pattern out of a piece of oak. The other tools of the 36-year-old’s passion were neatly organized all over his cellar workshop.

Piles of cherry, oak, poplar, cottonwood, ash, walnut and mahogany occupied the corners. Clamps, rafter squares, framing squares and T-squares hung from the wall. The long work bench was home to a 10-inch radial arm saw, 10-inch table saw, band saw, compound miter saw and a drill press.

Cassell paused again. The five-inch crown tooth blade in the scroll stopped.

“I’m a cook at the Broadview Restaurant five days a week,” he said. “This is how I relax.”

The cook wiped sawdust from beneath the piece of oak.

“I like working at the restaurant. I like seeing the different people who come and go. It’s a social job. I like the people I work with and the stories you hear and the things you see over at the Broadview are always ...”

Another pause.


Cassell chuckled.

“Working down here is not a social environment. I come down here and I’m away from everything and everyone. Working with wood is unconditional. There are so many things you can create.

“I really like my job, but the bottom line is I pretty much cook the same things day-in and day-out. With wood, I can make something different every day.”

Cassell rose from the stool in front of the work bench and disappeared from the cellar workshop for a few moments. He returned with a framed cut out of an ornate dragon.

“I remember looking at the pattern and thinking I could never do it. But I did. I loved the work. I’ve been doing this for about two years.”

Cassell returned to the stool in front of the work bench and surveyed his work on tractor pattern. He considered the evolution of his passion. 

“I’ve been working with wood for, oh let’s see, about 15 years,” he said. “I took shop in high school, and built decks and put up fences.

“I always liked working with wood. I built hutches and shelves and I saw the scroll work some guys did. I never thought I’d have the patience for it.”

Tucked away in an album are photos of some of the 50 projects he’s completed. Patience is evident in every picture — an ornate pendulum clock, portraits of Elvis and Marilyn, religious iconography, jewelry boxes, signs and much more.

“Some I’ve given as gifts. I’ve sold some. A lot of them I just made for me.”

Cassell checked the Flying Dutchman No. 2 blade and the 232 crowned teeth contained in the wire-thin, five-inch strip. He blew on the tractor pattern.

“I use patterns. It’s never-ending. There are always more patterns and more patterns. And I think I make every one of them my own. I get started with one and I can’t stop. The more intricate pattern, the better.

“It’s a passion. It’s an obsession.”

Tom Loewy can be reached or (309) 343-7181, Ext. 256.