District carpenter using skills to craft customized urns

Ken Johnston

In Rainy River, many people know Garry Halverson for his expert craftsmanship as a carpenter and cabinet maker.
But as time goes by, more and more may know him for his new business called “Wood Art by Garry.”
Halverson started doing scroll saw art about six or seven years ago. Along the way of his 35+ years in the carpentry business, he also has dabbled with other hobbies related to his trade.
A few years ago, he saw people were making wooden urns for pet ashes. It wasn’t long before he decided to make a few pet urns for sale.
That morphed recently when he was looking on the Internet for a niche that no one was filling around here: customized urns for people.
“There was already someone making caskets in the area [someone in Barwick] but no one doing this,” noted Halverson.
He tossed the idea around with friends and it was not long before he had two of his friends in Rainy River asking him to make them each one.
With the positive feedback from them, and others, it was not long before Halverson was looking at marketing them to the general public.
He did some more research and discovered that in Fort Frances, they bore a hole 12 inches in diameter for urns. “Anything larger costs more,” he noted.
So Halverson went to work reducing the size of his first designs. “The one I made for [a friend] is much larger,” he remarked.
Halverson uses mostly ash to hand make the urns. The wood all is locally cut by Bennett Drennan of the Wilson Creek area.
Halverson is very selective of the wood he chooses for each urn. The planks he gets from Drennan are cut into strips, with all the knots carefully cut out. He then looks at the cup of the wood and glues them together meticulously, alternating the cups to provide for long-lasting strength and to avoid any cupping or warping.
On the front of every urn there is a scroll saw picture.
While he’s been making some to display including tractors, moose, deer, and a rose, he did do a caboose at the request of a friend.
“If there is a pattern for an image, I will make it for a customer,” Halverson said. In other words, a person can have a customized urn for their ashes.
He said if he has the time, he can make two urns on a good day. But generally, the urn work, as well as the other items he makes for sale, gets done when he is not busy doing his main job—building and renovating area homes.
Other items Halverson makes also come from other hobbies. Over the years, for instances, he’s kept his eyes open for pieces of diamond willow.
While most diamond willow is clear, Halverson has an affinity for chocolate brown diamond willow, which usually comes out of muskeg. He makes walking canes, lamps, and other beautiful works of art from the wood.
He also does scroll saw art for walls, bird feeders, and pet urns.
All of his work is available online at www.rainyriver-emall.com/wood or people can call him at home (852-3391).
Halverson has received a boost of confidence for his new customized urns from Northridge Funeral Home in Emo.
“I showed them to [Northridge owner] Jason [Lilly] and he gave me some ideas, and now wants to display them for sale there,” he noted.
Halverson said that with so many people leaning towards cremation these days, he’s hopeful his new product will catch on.
“You never know. This could be come a good small industry for Rainy River,” he remarked.