SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — A senior at Sparta High School, Blake Olney already has a job lined up for when he graduates, even if it’s not what he intends to do as a career.
The Plainfield Fire Department recently hired him to join the cadet program, which involves training on the weekends and after school.
Olney also has a lot of hobbies he takes up in his “spare” time, including beekeeping, raising animals to show at the Kent County Youth fair and watering flowers in downtown Sparta as a volunteer. However, the activity that he enjoys the most — and where he likely spends the most time — is woodworking.
“We have a barn with a bunch of woodworking tools, and we go and buy lumber and cut it down,” Olney said. “I get help from my dad for boards and cutting with certain tools, and my (older and younger) brothers also do woodworking.”
These aren’t simple projects like birdhouses: Olney recently built a 20 foot long, 3/4 inch cedar strip canoe.
“The strips were all glued together and then I took it off the mold I built it on, and sanded it down,” he said, explaining all the steps involved. “Filled it with an epoxy, and took fiberglass and wrapped it over, then epoxied the fiberglass to make it stick down … I put more reworking finishing touches around the edges, more structure to firm it up.”
After that, he hand weaved the seats together and put those in before setting the boat on the water, hoping it would float. It did.
The patience and dedication it took to complete that project paid off. Beyond seeing a seaworthy watercraft stay afloat, Olney also won best in show for woodworking at the Kent County Youth Fair this year.
Olney is also an excellent student. He’s taking Advanced Placement and honors classes, including one college course. That will help him achieve his goal of going to college and becoming a wildlife biologist, but his passion for woodworking isn’t going anywhere. He already has plans for his next project.
“I’m going to build a wooden train set, and then some railing on a four-by-four-foot sheet of plywood,” Olney said. “I plan to take that to the Kent County Youth Fair next year.”
Whether he wins best in show or not, his accomplishments, future goals and humility make Blake Olney our Football Frenzy Tailgate Student of the Week.