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Hastings man’s hobby is woodturning: Among his projects are unique boxes that are donated to sick children across the United States

Jim Jacobs gets to work on a candlestick holder in his Hastings garage. Star Gazette photos by Chad Richardson2 / 3
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As a 12-year-old boy living on a farm near Rochester, Jim Jacobs needed a hobby. He began building things with wood and hasn’t stopped since.

He started out making simple bird houses and dog houses. Now, he’s making elaborate goblets, beautiful bowls and even special boxes for sick children.

He is a woodturner, spending his free time in his Hastings garage using a lathe to turn pieces of wood into works of art. He has taught classes, built pieces of furniture at St. Philip’s church in Hastings and his home is filled with dozens and dozens of his pieces.

Among Jacobs’ recent projects are special wooden boxes used as part of the Beads of Courage project. The project provides sick children a unique bead to remember each procedure and treatment they’ve undergone. The children collect the beads and the custom boxes Jacobs makes are donated to the project. He and the Minnesota Woodturners Association have donated 35 boxes so far and plan to donate many more. Jacobs’ daughters, Laurie and Kelly, have helped out by painted some of the boxes.

Just a few weeks ago, Jacobs finished up 20 kits for fellow woodturners to complete.

“This is something that is going to a good cause,” he said. “It’s a worthwhile project.”

His hobby

Jacobs said he had his first paying customer when he was 16 years old, and by then he was hooked. He took every shop class he could in high school, then studied cabinet making at a St. Paul vocational college. He graduated on a Friday in June of 1976 and started making cabinets as his job on the following Monday. He’s built all kinds of things over the years, including the front desk at the Hastings Area YMCA and the back bar at the Parlay Lounge at Treasure Island Resort and Casino.

He’s liked it all.

When asked why he does it, Jacobs had a quick response.

“Just to be creative, I guess,” he said. “I’ve always been an inventor kind of a guy and I like trying to exercise my brain a little bit.”

One of the great challenges of being a woodturner is finding the burls he needs to work with. Trees, when stressed, grow deformities and those deformities are sought after by wood turners.

Jacobs either finds them himself or purchases them. He then gets to work on his lathe to turn that large piece of wood into a prized piece.

He said anyone interested in learning more about the hobby can contact him by email at