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Group gathers in Lakeside-Lester Park to build Canoes

There's no room for a car in the Kesselhon garage. Instead, the space is taken up by cedar strip canoes in various stages of construction. Forms for more hang from the rafters. Welcome to the Lakeside-Lester Park home of the Burly Man Club, a gro...

There's no room for a car in the Kesselhon garage.

Instead, the space is taken up by cedar strip canoes in various stages of construction. Forms for more hang from the rafters.

Welcome to the Lakeside-Lester Park home of the Burly Man Club, a group of guys who gather to socialize and build canoes.

"There's a lot of good guy time out here," said Ryan Kesselhon. "It's been a lot of fun, and it just keeps growing."

Kesselhon, who works part time with Campus Crusade for Christ, formed the club two years ago after seeing a need for social activities for men.

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"Guys would rather be shoulder-to-shoulder working on something than face-to-face talking," Kesselhon said. "So we formed the Burly Man Club."

Since then, a loose-knit group of about 10 guys has built about that many canoes, ranging in length from 13 to 18 feet.

Not that the club is sexist, Kesselhon is quick to point out. Women have helped build the boats. His daughter, Havilah, 3, earns toy money by sweeping the garage floor. Club members call Havilah and her sister, Maren, 1, the Burly Girls. Their mother, Lora Kesselhon, is Burly Mama.

Ryan Kesselhon has a dream of him and his daughters building a canoe together, Lora Kesselhon said.

Recent UMD graduate Andy Thompson of Park Rapids, Minn., began helping build canoes with the Burly Man Club this spring. It's fun and a large stress reliever, he said.

"We spend so much time at school thinking, using our minds, sitting at our desks reading books or writing papers, that there's something really neat about being able to come to a place and just work with your hands and the only thing you have to worry about is 'Can I get this piece of wood to fit where I need it to?' " Thompson said. "There is just something really special about that."

Thompson plans to sell the 18-footer he's building and split the proceeds with Kesselhon. Some of the club members build canoes for themselves. Kesselhon pays some of the members to build canoes that he will sell.

Kesselhon is launching a Burly Canoe Web site, offering finished canoes, kits, products and classes.

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"I hope we can start putting on classes in the evening," he said. "Up here everyone and their sister want to make a canoe."

But he hopes to maintain the social aspect of the club even as he moves into sales and classes.

"The most fun is to get five guys in here and make canoes," he said.

STEVE KUCHERA can be reached weekdays at (218) 279-5503 or by e-mail at skuchera@duluthnews.com .

Steve Kuchera is a retired Duluth News Tribune photographer.
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