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Published July 26, 2013, 10:00 PM

Turning a corner: Moorhead man who struggled in school discovers his talent

MOORHEAD – There’s gentleness about Ben Kandel. It comes through in his unassuming manner and the reserved tone of voice. Maybe it also finds its way into his work; in the simple, elegant shapes and natural finishes of the lathe-turned, wooden pieces he creates.

Where to buy: Ben Kandel’s woodwork is available at Unglued, 408 Broadway, Fargo, and online at turningpro.etsy.com.

MOORHEAD – There’s gentleness about Ben Kandel. It comes through in his unassuming manner and the reserved tone of voice.

Maybe it also finds its way into his work; in the simple, elegant shapes and natural finishes of the lathe-turned, wooden pieces he creates.

“One thing I love about this is that you can do anything with the wood you want,” said Kandel, 23, of Moorhead. “So you see a piece and then you can change it into something decorative or something useful like a screwdriver handle, or it can be a decorative finial or something like that.”

Kandel creates a variety of items such as bowls, pens, makeup brushes, wood boxes, honey sticks, crochet hooks and more out of wood. He also does some work using deer antlers.

He creates these works using a lathe, a machine that rotates a block of wood or other material, allowing the worker to carve it into the desired shape as it spins.

Kandel’s creations are sold under the brand name TurningPro. His sister, Anni, works with Kandel, handling business and marketing duties.

TurningPro products are available at the Unglued store on Broadway, but the Kandel siblings also find customers beyond the local area thanks to the TurningPro online shop. They’ve shipped items to Finland, Germany, Latvia, Australia and Belgium among other countries.

“He sells all over the world through (the online e-commerce site) Etsy,” said Anni, 17.

In addition to making items for stock, Kandel fills custom orders. One customer ordered a cone-shaped, wooden mold with a handle for cooking handmade ice cream cones. There was also a request for a letter opener made from purpleheart wood.

Kandel traces his start in wood turning to a visit at his grandparents’ home when he was a teenager. He and his grandfather were talking to a neighbor about woodwork.

“He was really into wood turning, so he came over with his four-wheeler with a mini-lathe on the back and just drove up and plugged it in and started showing me how to turn in their backyard on the back of the four-wheeler,” Kandel said.

He said he fell in love with the craft.

“The variety of what you can make with the one machine just really appealed to me,” he said.

Finding his niche likely means more to Kandel than it would to others. He has dyslexia, making many common tasks a struggle.

“If you don’t excel in a classroom, then to find a place where you do excel,” said his mother, Jill. “It changes your life.”

“I didn’t really know what I was going to do with myself, to tell you the truth,” Kandel said. “To find a job that I can actually do really well, it kind of was relieving, I guess you’d say.”

Jill talked about the bravery of her son and how hard he has worked as a result of his condition. She said seeing her son find what he does well has been affirming.

“I always felt that a lot of things people said about Ben weren’t true, that he had much more ability than people saw in him, but that his abilities took time to find. So to find those, it’s life-changing,” she said. “He has a purpose. He has a gift.”

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