Purchase photos

Tin Man has heart for hobby

4/5/2014

By ABBY BELDEN

abelden@dailynews.net

LA CROSSE -- Fred Lohrey is a man who has many different passions.

Some of those passions, a 1938 Chevy and a 1949 Chevy truck, both of which he restored himself, are parked in his workshop.

Another of his passions is salvaging signs, old glass pop bottles and more, which are hanging on the walls and resting on shelves. Some of these items are from when he tore his grandmother's house down, while others he has found.

Lohrey, a Vietnam veteran, even has added another hobby to the mix: quilting.

But it wasn't pretty fabric or patterns that stopped Lohrey from flipping through glossy pages of a January issue of a quilt magazine. It was a piece about two men who started a steel-quilt company in Alabama.

The article got Lohrey thinking.

"I went online and I looked, and that's what they do," Lohrey said. "They make quilt blocks out of scraps and recycled metal, so I thought, 'That's kind of really cool.' So I came out here, and over a two- to three-day project, I just started piddling with it and I made a quilt block."

He gave the first quilt block to his wife for Christmas, who later gave him a book of patterns.

"Then I got started, and started looking at what kind of patterns," Lohrey said, "So she gave me a book of 110 quilt patterns, and I just started going from there."

It was the beginning of Tin Man Quilt Blocks.

One of the first blocks Lohrey completed was of the Tennessee Star, a quilt block with a design of a star on it.

"I make a lot of these. ... These are called Tennessee Stars, and my wife told me when I made this first one, 'You picked the hardest pattern,' " he said. "To me, after I got the knack, it wasn't hard."

Lohrey, who is semi-retired and worked in the construction business and as a carpenter for 40 years, aims to reuse materials to create quilt blocks.

He creates the patterns from metal building frames from his time in the construction business.

Lohrey cuts the metal with a shear, pencils the desired pattern on the metal and then uses standard tin snips or machinists snips to cut the pattern out.

"Being in the construction business, my next room over has got multiples (of metal). ... And my wife says, 'What are you going to do with this stuff?' And I say, 'Look at the bright side, everything's at one spot. The auctioneer doesn't have to move stuff,' " he said with a laugh.

Each pattern is drilled before it is placed on the block, then drilled again to the block before it is secured in place with a nail.

For the block portion, Lohrey uses plywood or barn wood for the pattern to be placed on, while he uses red wood for the border.

"I make my frames out of my redwood deck," he said. "I built a deck on my house probably 30 years ago, and now I've replaced it. ... It's soft and easy to work with. It doesn't split out but has that really nice weathered look."

One of the last additions to a block is a pop tab as a way to hang the block.

He also adds a Tin Man Quilt Block tag -- which includes the pattern name -- when it was finished and Lohrey's information.

Lohrey's finished quilt blocks can be found at KollectionS, 2308 Vine in Hays, which sells a variety of hand-crafted art and products from Kansas crafters.

In some respects, Lohrey said creating the blocks can be relaxing, even if angles and shapes weren't always his favorite.

"Geometry wasn't one of my favorite courses in school," he said. "And this is all angles."