Dick Yanikoski works on pieces of a wood clapper at his drill press. He made the clappers to be used for Good Friday services at local Catholic churches. Yanikoski keeps an extensive woodworking library in his shop. Other craftsmen often visit the shop if they have an issue while working on furniture pieces. (Staff photo by Steve Dickerson/sdickerson@madisoncourier.com)
Dick Yanikoski works on pieces of a wood clapper at his drill press. He made the clappers to be used for Good Friday services at local Catholic churches. Yanikoski keeps an extensive woodworking library in his shop. Other craftsmen often visit the shop if they have an issue while working on furniture pieces. (Staff photo by Steve Dickerson/sdickerson@madisoncourier.com)
A higher education professional never seemed to have enough time to dedicate to woodworking projects, so he knew exactly what do upon his retirement - open his own woodshop.

Dick Yanikoski's woodworking shop may look the same as many others at first glance. The historic building on Ferry Street in Vevay houses classic woodworking hand tools and modern power equipment, plus thousands of boards waiting to be used for projects at Ferry Street Woodworks.

But taking a closer look around, visitors see a few things other than the normal tools used to build a creation from rough planks of timber. The woodshop contains shelves filled with hundreds of books and rows of filing cabinets holding hundreds of folders full of information on wood species and plans for woodworking pieces.

"It's not just a woodworking shop," he said. "It's a wood library."

From different types of woodworking styles to scientific information about wood species, Yanikoski collected the books over the years to answer nearly any question he or anyone else might have about woodworking or types of wood.

Yanikoski developed a love of woodworking from his father's talents as a carpenter and craftsman. He began working with different projects at a young age, completing a fully-functional office desk at the age of 13 with hand tools and hide glue.

The woodworking projects continued from there.

Throughout the years, Yanikoski's knowledge of woodworking continued to expand, much like his library of woodworking books.

"It was more than a hobby," he said.

Yanikoski used his skills to create furniture pieces during his undergraduate studies at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. He created sound covers while serving as a staff sergeant and meteorologist in West Germany for the U.S. Air Force.

His expertise also allowed him to do his own renovations.

"We'd buy an old house and fix it up," Yanikoski said.

Yet just before the house would be completely finished with renovations, another job opportunity would have Yanikoski and his family moving to a different location.

During Yanikoski's tenure as president of Saint Xavier University in Chicago, he began to set his dreams of owning a woodshop in motion. The Yanikoskis bought a building in Kankakee, Ill., with enough space - nearly 3,000 square feet - for the woodshop, as well as enough room for an office. He named his woodshop the River House Limited, and planned to spend his retirement creating woodwork pieces and researching higher education issues like tuition pricing.

But Yanikoski didn't have time to enjoy retirement for long. His research and work in the collegiate world was needed by another higher education group. The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities asked if he would consider a five-year appointment as the president of the organization in the nation's capital.

"They said 'We need you to unretire,'" he said.

After a little thought, he and his family moved from their Illinois home, leaving behind River House Limited and putting his dreams of a woodshop on hold. When his term was complete, Yanikoski and his wife began searching for a new location for their home - and his woodshop.

They found their ideal location after a year's worth of searching and purchased an historic building in Vevay about four years ago.

"We came to Vevay for a lot of reasons," he said.

The Yanikoskis had always enjoyed the rural setting, and they liked the river. They also wanted to be within a reasonable distance of family.

Nearly two years ago, Yanikoski saw his retirement dreams come true for the second time - the doors to Ferry Street Woodworks opened for business.

All of Yanikoski's creations are made of solid wood. He chooses not to work with plywood in any of his creations.

"I don't use any plywood or MDF or that glued-together stuff," he said. "I don't do kitchen cabinets or built-in things. I don't do craft sale-type things. I'm just not into that."

Instead, Yanikoski uses his skills as a creative outlet.

"I like to make a piece that I haven't made before," he said. "I also - given my education background - work with the client."

Customers often come in to discuss ideas or ask what types of wood might work best for their projects or might match furnishings in their home. Yanikoski sometimes combines a couple of ideas or plans for the final product.

He also enjoys sharing his woodworking library with other craftsmen searching for answers specific to their projects. With several other woodworkers in the area, Yanikoski opens his library to help fellow woodworkers find solutions to issues they might be having with a piece.

"The craftsmen, as a group, are very supportive of each other," he said. "There's a lot of sharing."

Even though he's been creating furniture for more than 50 years, Yanikoski still finds the craft new and interesting with each piece.

"The thing that's always fascinated me is that no two woods are the same," he said.

Some woods have a different grain and color, while other pieces may bend in a certain way or need more prep work than others.

"It's a collaborative effort between the craftsman and the wood," he said. "It's almost like having a dance partner in the woodshop."



Dick Yanikoski plans to host tours at Ferry Street Woodworks during the sixth annual Creative Spaces, Rural Places in Switzerland and Ohio counties on April 20 and 21. Tours take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 20 and from noon to 6 p.m. on April 21.