There aren’t many highways suitable for road-tripping in Alaska. But the ones we do have are dotted with plenty of interesting road-side attractions. In the fourth part of a series we’re calling “Roadside Attractions,” we head to Three Guys No Wood, which is just outside the city limits of Soldotna.
The big wooden bowl that sits out front is one of those things that’s always made me wonder: What exactly are they building in there? As I found out, they’re putting together bottles, vases and bowls. Gary Nelson is on hand to explain the bowl-making process. He worked as a shop teacher for 22 years and has been retired for the last 15.
“I just play in the shop.”
As he explained how to make the bowl, he took out a ruler and used it to find the center. He then drilled a shallow hole to get started. Nelson used another machine to slowly shave away the wood and make a bowl. He runs the shop and store with his partners Paul and Shanna Johnson.
“There were three of us up in Barrow and we were about 400 miles from the nearest tree. So, we didn’t have any wood up there. Paul teaches at Nikiski High School. He’s the shop teacher at Nikiski. And Shanna is a teacher teacher. She teaches teachers,” Nelson said.
He said the store sells products made by what are called “wood turners” across the peninsula. And they also teach classes for folks who are itching to learn how to make their own bowls.
“Nine is the youngest kid we’ve had in here and probably 83, I think, was the oldest. And there’s probably more women than men. Everybody walked out with a bowl except for one and he ruined it on the buffer at the very end. He said he knew how to use the buffer. He was a dentist and buffed all the time,” he said.
As Nelson continued explaining the mechanics of bowl-making, he was interrupted by Linda and Judy. They’d just finished lunch at Rocky’s Café in Kasilof and decided to stop at Nelson’s shop on the way back to Soldotna. They both had driven by this place many times and decided that was the day to come have a look around.
“You know, you’re always in a rush to get home,” Linda said.
Nelson gave us an impromptu tour of the store. Then we all headed back into the shop so he could finish off that small bowl he started when it was just the two of us. He was able to carve out the shape, and Linda, Judy and I left him in peace to add the final touches. But before we drove off, Nelson did share one little fact with us: that large, attention-grabbing bowl out front stands at 5’2” tall. You could certainly have quite the party with that thing.