DAN NOREN is shown in his woodworking shop in the basement of his West Side home. (Gail Lowe Photo)

DAN NOREN is shown in his woodworking shop in the basement of his West Side home. (Gail Lowe Photo)

Published in the July 7, 2015 edition


WAKEFIELD — West Side residents Dan and Joanne Noren have a pair of cocker spaniels named Archie and Veronica, there’s a bowl of fresh fruit on the dining room table and the kitchen is undergoing a complete remodel.

The All-American couple appear to be living the good life and are even thriving. They’ve earned it. After working in industry, academia and being an entrepreneur for most of his adult life, even now Dan Noren, in his 60s, is not slacking off. Neither is Joanne. She still works many hours a week at Melrose-Wakefield Hospital.

The 110-year-old home the Norens live in is a lovely combination of antique architecture (the front porch is especially inviting) and generous backyard where Dan grills and putters in the warmer months.

The basement, on the other hand, is another world entirely. As Dan leads a visitor down a set of old wooden stairs, he cautions her to watch her head at the bottom stair, lest she hit it on a low overhang.

Once in the basement, the visitor is greeted by the sight of saws, gouge skews and beading tools; various woods, both common and exotic; the fragrance of special lacquers and waxes and finished handcrafted wood products worthy of a “This Old House” photo shoot.

All made by Dan Noren, himself.

Dan has been “dealing with wood” for all of his life, starting with his father, Robert Noren, who worked for General Electric Company for more than 40 years.

The family lived in the Pine Hill neighborhood of Lynn and Dan has vivid memories of his father being “handy around the house.”

“He had basic tools and I followed him around, watching and learning,” said Dan.

Dan’s father would, without a doubt, be impressed by his son’s tool collection. As an example, Dan picked up a $9,000 drill press for $50. A tear might also come to Dan’s father’s eye to see that not only is his old saw still being used but also a band saw that belonged to his own father, as well.

Ten or 15 years ago, Dan’s lifelong interest in woodworking took a turn. He said he had always flipped through the pages of catalogs sent by Penn State Industries but never ordered anything.

“I threw it away for years,” he said.

Then, for his daughter Kristen’s 21st birthday, he decided to make a pen and pencil set, something she would have for life, something she could have to remember him by.

Out came the wood. Out came the tools. Out came the lacquers and sandpaper. And soon, he had in his hands a pen and pencil set fit for a queen.

Since then, he has made countless pens and pencils. Some are intricately designed and embossed with flags and other decorations, while others are made of various types of woods that have been “jigsawed” together and in-laid like a puzzle. The result is nothing short of stunning to the eye.

Noren’s woodworking “hobby” has actually turned into a business he calls WakefieldWoodworker. On Saturday, June 13, he set up a booth at Festival by the Lake and, though he did not consider sales brisk that day, he still went home with more than he started with.

Noren’s products — from salt and pepper mills and shaving brushes to pen and pencil sets and clocks — are absolutely exquisite in design and woodworking mastery. And they are also reasonably priced.

Anyone with a bridal shower or wedding on their agenda this summer might want to stay away from shopping malls and instead pay a visit to Dan Noren’s home. His custom made products are created from common woods like maple and black walnut and more sacred olive wood from Bethlehem (Israel) and kauri from New Zealand.

About kauri, he explains, “This extinct tree was covered with peat moss and was preserved. I’m making things out of a 100,000-year-old tree.”

Dan continued: “When I create a wood product, I look for the story behind it. My friends know this and are always on the lookout for various types of wood.”

He suddenly thought of a story of interest to Wakefieldians.

When the two sycamore trees were being taken down in front of the Hartshorne House, he asked crew members from the Tree Department if he could have some of the wood. The answer was “yes,” and now he makes garden stakes and many other wood gifts out of the old sycamores. Though the trees are gone, they continue to live on in Dan’s work.

Dan decided early on in his woodworking career that whatever he made must have a quality of “utility.”

“Everything has to have a purpose,” he said. “I didn’t want to make something that will just sit on someone’s table.”

And everything does have a purpose, whether salt and pepper mills, shaving brushes, cutting boards, pizza cutters or darts outfitted with turkey feathers. These items, bought in stores, do not last, he said.

It wasn’t long after he crafted his daughter’s pen and pencil set that he started making gifts in the span of an hour. Then, a neighbor suggested he launch a website on Etsy. He set up a website and called it WakefieldWoodworker and orders for his products began to pour in.

Chrysler Corporation wanted 150 pens for an ad campaign. Dan went to work and designed “shock absorber” pens that have a visible spring tucked inside the the body of the pen. The United States government also placed an order for 40 clocks for a special event in Ontario, Calif. Dan also has made many custom bridal and wedding shower gifts and he engraves names on the gifts when requested. There seemingly is no end to the demand.

Dan said that “expansion is coming soon” to his business.

“I want to be more artsy,” he said. “I want to meld wood and metal.” He pointed to a wood planter that sits on a table on his front porch. The planter is wood itself but it is braced with metal. Currently, he works with 24k gold, chrome, gun metal and stainless steel, so it will be interesting to see what designs he comes up with.

Whether it’s pink ivory, tulipwood, basswood (from Linden trees such as the one in front of the Unitarian-Universalist Church on Main Street) or curly maple, Dan is at home with wood. He works an average eight to 10-hour day but is never too busy to take a call from a potential customer.

Give him a call at 781-246-1053 or e-mail dannoren@verizon.net for more information.