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Reaching 4 Excellence: Teen craftsman wows with woodworking skills

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Marshall, Mo. -- Art comes in many forms and FOX 4 News has spotlighted dozens of children and teenagers in our weekly Reaching 4 Excellence report who do exceptional work in many of those forms. This week -- a first in our series -- a young craftsman who creates works of art with wood.

The wood shop at the Leimkuehler home just outside Marshall always seems to be buzzing with the sounds of power tools. And 15-year-old Nick Leimkuehler finds himself at the saw or the sander hours every week helping his dad work up beautiful wood for specialty cabinets and furniture they build.

"It's pretty relaxing," says Nick of the attraction woodworking has for him. "Getting to spend time with dad. Just kind of a one-on-one thing. You learn a lot of stuff with him. It's just enjoyable."

We asked Nick the secret to doing fine quality woodworking.

"Take your time," says Nick. "Don't rush. Have a little self-confidence. Don't get too ahead of yourself. And take lots of time sanding."

Masterful woodworking and furniture building run in Nick's family. He crafted an award-winning dresser with guidance from his dad and his grandfather.

"He helped me do everything on it," says Nick about his grandfather, Donald Leimkuehler. "There wasn't one decision I made without his approval."

In fact, it was his grandfather who convinced Nick to make the gorgeous oak and maple dresser this past summer to enter into competition. It's as tight as a drum -- straight and level and with a magnificent finish. Nick estimates he put 25 hours of dedicated work into it. But just as he was getting it done, his grandfather passed away unexpectedly. Heartbroken, Nick seriously considered not putting up the dresser for judging.

"And I was like, 'It's kind of lost its meaning now,'" says Nick. "And Mom's like, 'No, it's taken more meaning now.'"

Nick went ahead and the dresser took on extra special significance. He won the Central Missouri district FFA competition with it. And then this young craftsman became grand champion at the Saline County Fair and the Missouri State Fair.

"I'm glad I did it," says Nick. "I'm pretty proud of myself. And the way dad had helped out. And Grandpa's input."

"It's a really, really beautiful piece," says Saline County Career Center FFA Advisor Randy Plattner. Plattner is one of Nick's FFA teachers at Marshall High School and the career center. Aware of Nick's quality work, Plattner urged Nick to get into competition.

"It is a piece that is put together extremely well," says Plattner of Nick's award-winning dresser. "Fine craftsmanship. Matter of fact, it's attention to detail. And whenever you look at it and you think, 'A 15-year-old put this together.' I mean, it just kind of blows you away."

Nick's on to new work now, helping his sister Megan craft her new daybed and doing a display case for family baseball memorabilia that will be his project for competition this year. Nick says no matter what be builds from now on, the skills and strong values his grandfather helped build in him will always be his strengths.

"It's real special," says Nick.

Nick's community service is what originally got him in the spotlight for his beautiful woodcraft. He and his dad are well known in the Marshall area for the specialty cabinets and other pieces they do for churches and charities.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

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