Goltz carves out a life-long passion for woodworking

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Steve Goltz sits with some of the items he’s created over the years, including wooden boxes, bowls, walking sticks and faces. He also crafts furniture, including the hutch behind him, which resides in his Monona home. Some of Steve’s work—including carved bowls, fish and walking sticks—is displayed and available for purchase at the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

“It’s relaxing for me,” Steve said about why he’s enjoyed woodworking all these years. “I can sit in my rocking chair and carve away.” Here, he uses a tool to burn the morel mushroom’s honeycomb-like pattern into a walking stick.

Steve has made the walking sticks, which feature intricately-designed tops—with some that look like morel mushrooms—for over 15 years. “They just start as a stick in the woods,” he said, noting that it takes one to two hours to complete each one.

“When I find a burl in the woods, I bring it home and start carving, taking the soft, punky wood off to get to the good stuff,” Steve explained of the bowl-making process. Burls are growths that develop on tree trunks or branches. In burls, the wood grain grows differently, creating unique patterns. Steve enjoys discovering what lies beneath.

Steve enjoys creating wooden faces, which he carves free-hand. This Santa Claus look-alike hangs on a tree outside one of his kids’ homes in Monona.

Another face looks like an Old West character with its bushy eyebrows and handlebar mustache.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Woodworking has been a life-long passion for Steve Goltz.

“I started back when I was a kid, with my pocket knife, whittling away,” recalled Steve, who had his own construction business for 30 years before injuries cut it short. He then worked at Cabela’s for 15 years before retiring and taking up woodworking full-time.

Steve creates a variety of artfully-crafted wooden items, including furniture. The home he shares with his wife, Jane, in Monona, features a hutch, bench, decorative lantern, frames, a countertop and more created by Steve’s own hands. Carved wooden bowls, boxes, fish and walking sticks are some of Steve’s favorite things to fashion as well. 

He also enjoys sharing them with others. Wooden faces, carved free-hand, can be found on trees or buildings outside each of the Goltzs' kids’ homes in Monona. With full, white beards, two look like Santa Claus. The other, with dark, bushy eyebrows and a handlebar mustache, resembles a Western outlaw. 

“The kids’ houses are full of stuff too,” Jane noted. “He makes gifts and donates a lot of things.”

An avid hunter and fisherman, Steve has donated many items to Ducks Unlimited and Whitetails Unlimited over the years, including a number of clocks.

Last fall, he began selling some of his carved creations at the McGregor-Marquette Center for the Arts.

“It was something I never thought I would do,” Steve said of displaying and selling his work.

“He’s very modest,” quipped Jane. “He’d rather give it away than sell it, but there are a lot of people who love his stuff.”

The carved fish, bowls and walking sticks are some of Steve’s top sellers at the art center. 

Steve has made the walking sticks, which feature intricately-designed tops—with some that look like morel mushrooms—for over 15 years. The idea came about from using a regular stick while mushroom hunting, to beat back the weeds. Steve wanted to create something a little more elaborate.

“They just start as a stick in the woods,” he explained. He then sands and smooths the sticks down and uses a tool to burn designs, like the morel’s honeycomb-like pattern, into the wood. He said it takes one to two hours to create each stick.

The bowls are a little more intensive, taking one day to finish.

“When I find a burl in the woods, I bring it home and start carving, taking the soft, punky wood off to get to the good stuff,” Steve explained of the bowl-making process.

Burls are growths that develop on tree trunks or branches. In burls, the wood grain grows differently, creating unique patterns.

Steve enjoys discovering what lies beneath, noting that making the bowls, which he began two to three years ago, has become one of his favorite activities.

“I never know what it’s going to be,” he said.

Steve works with a variety of wood—everything from maple and walnut to cherry, poplar and purple heart. He often finds pieces while he’s in the woods hunting. One of his favorite re-purposed items, which he calls the jawbone, was a piece of driftwood he discovered along the river.

It’s not uncommon to find Steve working in his shop, located next to his house, for eight to 10 hours each day.

“He would go all night if I didn’t make him come in,” joked Jane. She also makes him abstain on Sundays.

“It’s relaxing for me,” Steve said about why he’s enjoyed woodworking all these years. “I can sit out in my rocking chair and carve away. I have fun.”

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