It’s not just what he makes, but how he makes it

May 5, 2008

Blind man’s hobby is woodworking

By Jen Bakken
Staff Writer

Behind the doors of an out-building nestled on an Independence gravel road, there is a man and his beloved hobby – woodworking.

Amongst the cedar, pine, oak and miscellaneous wood scraps lies sawdust created by many tools of the trade.

His finished products, such as treasure chests, benches, and birdhouses, are an amazing sight; yet what is truly amazing isn’t what he makes, but rather how he makes them.

This man is Dan Bryant, and he enjoys woodworking despite the fact he is blind.

After many years in the printing industry, Bryant was forced into retirement due to his failing eyesight about 13 years ago.

He was told he had macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive disease of the retina.

The disease is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, and it is most common in people who are 60 and over.

According to www.mdsupport.org, AMD is the leading cause of visual impairment in senior citizens.

An estimated 15 million people in the United States have it, and approximately two million new cases are diagnosed annually.

The diagnosis wasn’t easy for Bryant to accept, but it didn’t keep him from his hobby. In fact, he became even more serious about woodworking.

“You can’t do much in the printing business when you can’t see,” admitted Bryant. “But, I know my way around my wood shop.”

Now, at 76 years old, he may have slowed down a little, but that only means he doesn’t travel as far to craft shows as he used to.

He still spends countless hours in the shop next to the home he shares with his wife, Lynne.

“I don’t worry about him out there too much,” Lynne said. “It has crossed my mind, but he knows his way around so well.”

He also knows his way around this area very well.

Bryant grew up in Maple Plain, and Bryant Street is actually named after his father, Clayton Bryant, who was an area cement contractor.

He attended grade school in the old brick school building on Highway 12 in Maple Plain, and then attended high school in Mound.

His mother was on the Orono School Board, and he spent his senior year attending school there.

After graduating, he enlisted in the US Navy, during the Korean War.

“My friend and I talked each other into joining,” he smiled. “Well, I’m not exactly sure who talked who into it, but I don’t regret it, and we are still friends.”

Bryant spent four years as a crew man on a twin engine patrol plane. When he returned home, he began his career in the printing industry through the GI Bill, a benefit to servicemen designed to provide opportunities to returning war veterans.

With three daughters, two sons, and eight grandchildren, Bryant is a proud father and grandfather. Spending time with his family is important to him.

Since he doesn’t do woodworking for the money, but rather the joy, many of his projects end up being useful additions to the homes of family and friends.

“I just do it for the pleasure it gives me,” he said. “I don’t really enjoy the sales stuff.”

While he has an extensive list of items he makes, he admits to being selective because of his vision.

From the miter box, the router, to the nail gun Bryant is confident with his woodworking tools. Watching him work, one wouldn’t guess that he is blind.

“I use all the tools, and the nail gun is the best thing since sliced bread,” he said. “But, my friend runs the band saw for me. I don’t use that one.”

They say a man’s home is his castle, but for Bryant, his castle is his woodshop.

As he walks from one workbench to another, it’s obvious he is comfortable with his surroundings.

He only buys 25 percent of the wood he uses, and the rest he accumulates from other sources.

He uses wood from old church pews or telephone poles, and his friends help him get wood or scraps from other places.

There is another activity Bryant finds time for – fishing.

“Oh, I love to fish, and crappies or walleyes are my favorite to eat,” he said, then admitted, “Leeches and minnows are hard for me to put on, but you pay that price, I guess.”

For more information about the wood products Dan Bryant makes, call (763) 479-1715.

“Whatever happens, he battles through it,” Lynne said. “For his age, his eyesight and all, he is doing so well, and able to still do the things he enjoys.”

Do you know more about this subject, or have a comment? E-mail news@hjpub.com