He makes time for the sake of others

When Orie Voth of Goessel discovered he had some extra time on his hands, he decided to make some for others-literally.

For more than 20 years now, Voth has been handcrafting wall and mantel clocks in the basement of the home he shares with his wife, Frieda, on Church Street.

During that time, he has made and sold literally hundreds of clocks-eight different models in all-at craft shows and by custom order.

But few clocks are more valuable to him than the ones he has donated each of the past 17 years to the Mennonite Relief Sale in Hutchinson.

This year is no exception. In fact, in addition to the clock, he’s also donating a handcrafted doll cradle to the Hutchinson event, and he and Frieda also plan to take a couple of clocks for the first time to another Mennonite sale held a week earlier in Aurora, Neb.

“I thought this was one thing I could probably participate in,” Voth said modestly.

Voth discovered a love for working with wood as a grade-schooler.

“Of course, we had the one-room school, and on Fridays, the last period of the day, we had woodworking,” he recalled. “That’s what I was always looking for.”

The late Waldo Voth, longtime mayor and leader in this small community in southwest Marion County, was his eighth-grade teacher.

“He was very instrumental in getting me going,” Orie Voth said.

He also appreciated the efforts of his high school instructor, Pete Kaufman.

“I had really good teachers along that line,” he said, then added with a chuckle: “It was probably the only place I could make good grades.”

After high school, Voth began farming on the homeplace just west of the Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church, where he and Frieda have been longtime members.

Except for some occasional projects, he said the demands of running a farm kept him from pursuing woodworking as much as he would have liked.

“I made a few things, one and off, whatever needed to be done,” he said.

But when their youngest son, Jerry, wanted to start farming, Orie and Frieda let him take over the homeplace and they decided to move to town in 1980.

“I wasn’t going to stay on the farm and do the chores and have him move to town,” Orie said with a laugh.

Once there, it was Frieda who encouraged her husband to pursue his interests in woodworking.

The first clock he made came at her request, too, because she thought they needed one to hang in their basement.

“He said, ‘I’ll draw a pattern and see that I can come up with’- that’s where he started,” Frieda said.

“I don’t know how come I decided to keep making them,” Orie said. “I always said, ‘Who needs another clock?’ But that is kind of how it got going.”

Eventually, the Voths began selling clocks at craft fairs, including seven years at the Hillsboro Arts & Crafts Fair.

They chuckle about their first “booth” at Hillsboro in the mid-1980s-a 4-feet-by-8-feet sheet of plywood setting on top of a couple of sawhorses.

“It was pretty crude,” he said.

After seven years at the Hillsboro fair, they decided to concentrate on smaller shows in the area. Today they are regulars at craft events at Berean Academy, Goessel, Newton and McPherson.

Voth has also made clocks by custom order as anniversary and wedding gifts, and as appreciation gifts when leaders compete a term of service with an organization-including 38 for retiring district secretaries of the Mennonite Aid Union, and 14 for outgoing presidents of the area Flying Farmers chapter.

Frieda said she may help her husband occasionally by cleaning the basement shop, but the clocks are his project.

“I would rather he did the whole thing, like all the finishing and everything, so he can feel like that’s what he does,” she said.

Most of Voth’s clocks are made with oak, although he also has used ash, walnut and one out of hackberry “that didn’t sell very well.”

Voth makes a variety of models of wall clocks, but his tambour mantel clocks have become quite popular, too.

“I have five different sizes,” he said. “The largest two are big enough that I can put in the Westminster chimes. On those, just about 100 percent want the Westminster chimes.”

He also offers a choice of light or dark stain, and roman or arabic numbers.

He said he tried roman numerals almost by accident after one of his suppliers shipped him some by mistake.

“Ever since then I’ve had that available, and actually it’s turned out to just about 50-50 (with arabic numerals),” he said. “People tell me (roman) looks a little more antique.”

The clocks are priced according to their size and inner workings. The model he has been donating to the Mennonite Relief Sale-a 35-inch tall model with Westminster chimes and quartz movement-normally sells for about $135.

What’s thrilling for Voth is to see those clocks sell for two to three times that amount at the general auction.

“It was almost embarrassing, but one year they sold one for $775-that was the highest,” he said. “They’ve been close to that once in a while, but a lot of them sell for $350 to $400.”

Knowing the money goes to feed hungry people around the world brings the most satisfaction, he said. The relief sale is a very meaningful event in that regard.

“We once had a person in our church say, ‘Why don’t people just give that money (instead of buying things),’ but they just don’t give that much money otherwise,” he said.

Besides that, making crafts for the relief sale generates an additional sense of personal satisfaction.

“I can do this, and I like to donate it,” he said of his woodworking skills. “I used to help (through Mennonite Disaster Service) whenever there was a tornado. I’ve been to a lot of those to help. But at my age, I just enjoy doing this.”

Voth said he hopes to continue his tradition for at least a couple of more years.

“I’ve had it in my mind that if I got to 20 (years), then I better quit,” he said with a chuckle.

Ultimately, only time will tell.

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