Paul Dimmer, Wahpeton, kept nearly 30 former Bethel Lutheran Church pews from becoming firewood.
Construction continues at the Wahpeton church, with recent projects including the removal of old pews. Dimmer, who likes to say wife Kathy is the boss behind P&K Machining, had an idea for Bethel.
“It’s a shame to throw them away,” Paul Dimmer said. “They said, ‘Take what you want because we’re going to take them to the dumpster.’ I said, ‘If you’ve got anyone else who wants them, let them have them first. I’ll cut them down and make some deacon’s benches and see if you can make some money off them.’”
The benches were immediately popular. Once the first was completed, it was shown to Bethel’s congregation. Ten benches were sold, meaning Dimmer and Joseph Ziegler had to set up an assembly line of sorts to meet customers’ demands.
“We had 40-inch, 48-inch and 60-inch benches,” Dimmer said.
Examining the pews, Dimmer and Ziegler found graffiti and “lots of gum.” While Kathy Dimmer is a member of Bethel, Paul Dimmer is a member of St. John’s Catholic Church, Wahpeton.
“I’m actually subbing at St. John’s. We keep it ecumenical,” Kathy Dimmer said, smiling.
Paul Dimmer worked closely with Lisa Bassingthwaite, Bethel’s director of youth and family ministries. He told her that he’d drag all the benches he could home and cut them down in his spare time.
“I said, if you’ll give me some money for shortening them, you can resell what I make to the congregation. I know Lisa raised quite a bit of money, which I believe is going to the youth group for their trip. What was going to be garbage turned into a cash cow for them,” Dimmer said.
Dimmer was already familiar with the idea of old pews being converted into deacon’s benches. The same thing happened at St. John’s. If a parish individual or family paid for a new pew, they received the title of sponsor and received a deacon’s bench, he said.
“I thought we should have a bench from St. John’s and from Bethel,” Dimmer said.
P&K Machining has been around since 1992. Prior to that, the 71 1/2-year-old Dimmer spent nearly 20 years working for companies and individuals including Ro-Banks and Ed Shorma. Originally from Alice, North Dakota, Dimmer is a father of three, grandfather of six and husband of 44 years.
“We do a little bit of everything,” he said. “I’ve got two short-length projects coming soon for Wil-Rich. I do a lot for Valley Beet Services in Dwight.”
Ziegler, 23, has been working for the Dimmers for six years. Originally from Mooreton, North Dakota, he’s used to having “a lot of different projects thrown at him.” After all, Kathy Dimmer brings ice cream to the shop in the summer.
“There’s something new every day,” Ziegler said.
The Dimmers’ children include son Philip, daughter Stephanie and youngest daughter Christine. All their grandchildren are males, including Logan Dimmer, who drove one of his grandpa’s restored trucks earlier this year in the Twin Towns Social Distance Cruise.
“We’re working on our second pickup, which is going to my next grandson,” Paul Dimmer said.
The Dimmers showed off “Paul’s Toy Box,” which was originally going to be P&K Machining’s new space. While it houses pew components ranging from cushions to kneelers, the Toy Box also functions as a garage.
“The other day, I came home with a firetruck,” Paul Dimmer said. “Everyone should have a firetruck.”
Sharing space with the former Dwight, North Dakota truck is a truck which Dimmer bought in 1975 and has used for snow removal ever since.
“When my son came home from the hospital, we brought him home in this truck,” Dimmer said. “Papa was pretty proud. We’ve totally restored it and it does get used every winter.”
Every vehicle has a story. There’s the 1947 Chevrolet, Ziegler’s first project. There’s the 1947 Willys Jeep which Dimmer’s dad bought after his wartime service and used to plow snow with until 1980. The convoy continues, with items including a 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass and a 1985 diesel pickup that’s being restored.
“I spend the bulk of the day in the shop,” Dimmer said. “I’ve got nine CNCs (numerical control machines). What I can’t get done with them, I get done with manual machines.”
The Toy Box houses at least one actual toy, a wooden doll made by Dimmer’s grandpa for his son, Dimmer’s dad. It looks a bit like Woody from “Toy Story,” Kathy Dimmer said, although it is missing arms.
“I was going to make new arms, but I think it has a little more character this way,” Paul Dimmer said.
The Dimmers know a thing or two about beauty. Paul Dimmer recalled how St. John’s former kneelers were made of white oak, without any knots. The wood, cut more than a century prior, was given to Phillip Dimmer and used for a home woodworking project.
“I need a bigger shop,” Paul Dimmer whispered.
“No, he doesn’t,” Kathy Dimmer whispered back.