As incredible as it may seem, the great quantity of beautiful organ casework that has earned Dobson an enviable reputation, even internationally, is primarily the work of just two men. Others contribute, to be sure, but cabinetmakers Lyndon Evans and Randy Hausman do the lion’s share of this work. [Randy was profiled in another issue.] For Lynn, who joined the Dobson crew in 1988, building furniture-quality woodwork on the scale of a small house is not a once-in-a-lifetime challenge, but an everyday occurrence. And we didn’t ease him in gently: his first major project was Op. 44, our largest organ up to that time.
Born the middle of nine children in the southern Iowa town of Mount Ayr, Lynn learned the meat cutting trade while still in high school. The seeds of his future interest in woodworking were sown in shop class, the only course he admits to enjoying in high school. After graduation, he worked as a meat cutter for a number of grocery stores in central and western Iowa. His interest in woodworking led him to set up a workshop at home. While cutting roasts and trimming sirloin steaks during the day, he would cut oak and walnut at night in his shop, making furniture for his home, and eventually for his children’s homes.
Although being a butcher provided a livelihood for twenty years, Lynn was eager to turn his woodworking interest into a career. In 1981 he joined the staff of Becker Manufacturing, a builder of bank furniture in Alta, Iowa. Becker’s business was strikingly like an organbuilder’s: after some months of work in the shop, the crew would travel to install the woodwork on site, generally in locations in Iowa or its surrounding states.
Lynn’s first contact with Dobson came in the late 1980s, when he helped Dobson employees Tom Kult and Bill Picht with several items that they brought from Lake City to be run through Becker’s widebelt sander. When we found ourselves shorthanded, Tom called Lynn, who coincidentally was looking for work, as Becker had recently closed its doors following its owner’s death.
For most organ cases, Lynn constructs the impost and tower tops or crowns, which frequently appear to be nothing but moldings. The impost, the “belt” of the organ on which the lowest level of façade pipes usually stand, may have many hundreds of miters, some connecting straight pieces of molding to curved ones. Perfectly fitting all of these angles is ticklish work. The impost is often near eye level, so “close” doesn’t count!
Like everyone else in the shop, Lynn wears a number of hats; anything made of wood may pass through his hands, from consoles and benches to windchests and wind trunks. He is also a capable welder and metalworker. In addition, he has served as a mentor to his coworkers, offering practical suggestions and quiet advice on how to approach thorny problems.
Lynn and his high school sweetheart, Sherri, have been married for more than forty years and have two children. Their son is a professional portrait photographer in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Their daughter lives in Michigan; now that her children are in school, she herself is enrolled part-time at Western Michigan University to continue her studies in special education. Lynn has seven grandchildren ranging in age from 21 years to 3 months.
Lynn is clearly uncomfortable speaking about himself or his work, and he would have preferred that this writer created an entirely fictional profile or skipped him altogether in favor of the next senior employee. But if you want to learn what Lynn really thinks of his job, you need only know that he drives from his home in Storm Lake to Lake City every day, a round trip of exactly one hundred miles. Only local school buses have higher odometer readings than his car.
And while his reticence may test a biographer’s abilities, Lynn’s work says plenty. It speaks eloquently of his love of wood and a good challenge, of a Midwestern practicality, and the rewards of collaboration. Just as the organ case is an essential part of the entire instrument, Lynn and his work are a vital part of our shop, and we can hardly imagine one without the other.
drawn from The Organbuilder, Spring 2005
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In February 2009, Lynn retired from our shop after 21 years. In that time he helped to build 46 organs, from three ranks in size to 125. On 11 February 2009, we celebrated his time at the shop with a lunch.
Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, Ltd.
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