● By Style
Photos by Dante Fontana, © Style Media Group.
Tucked away in a forest of the Sierra foothills lies a little woodshop.
Gentle light filters through ceiling skylights, past photos of grandchildren and auto memorabilia, until it rests on the workbench of a man intent on his work—crafting the inlay for a model of a 1934 woodie.
Dick Arnold is an artist whose medium is wood. With his wife, Susie, he is the creator of KnotRods: “cool wooden cars.” But these cars are more than the sum of their parts. They are true works of art that invite the viewer to caress their hoods and spin the wheels. “I’ve always been in wood. My dad was a cabinetmaker. I started monkeying around with wood at age 15,” Arnold says. “Then I became a cabinetmaker and a furniture maker for 50 years.”
Upon retirement Arnold knew he wanted to continue to work with wood. But what direction? “Throughout my life, I’ve had three passions, after my wife, of course,” he says with a chuckle. “Fishing, woodworking and classic cars. It took a seven-year-old to get me on the path of combining two of my passions.” His grandson’s interest in having a toy car made by Grandpa sparked the beginning of Knot-Rods. At first, Arnold made toy cars for kids. Then his interest in the wood caught hold, and he began crafting fine inlays, using exotic woods and applying smooth, fine finishes. These weren’t kids’ toys anymore. These were objects appreciated by those who value fine art, wood, cars and Americana. The KnotRods lineup grew to include 1932 and 1934 Ford models of coupes, sedans, roadsters, vickies, panel trucks, pickups, roadster pickups and deluxe woodies. Soon, Arnold and his wife were on the road to auto shows and concours d’elegance to market the unique model cars.
Each KnotRod is very detailed. It may be crafted from any number and combination of quality woods, including American black walnut, hickory, Oregon myrtle, lacewood and padauk. “I try to use environmentally sustainable woods whenever possible,” Arnold says. “The myrtle wood that I’m working with right now is from a log that was felled in Oregon over 75 years ago. A friend of a friend sourced it to me. These are woods that aren’t on the market otherwise.”
It takes between 100 and 120 steps to handcraft each KnotRod, and a quick glance at the walls of the woodshop confirms this. Hanging from hooks are jigs labeled “1932 Roadster hood,” “1934 Woody” and more. Dick crafted each jig as he created each wood model. A Woody can take up to 60 hours to craft, depending on how elaborate the inlay is, and developing a prototype can take months. Collectors commission their special vehicles; one such commission has Arnold working on a prototype that will take KnotRods up into an even more detailed level and into the classic “Flatheads” automobile era of the 1940s. What’s more, followers of his art are signing up for limited editions. Arnold says, “These things are one of a kind,” he says. “And they are 100-percent American made. I’m very proud of that.”
For more information, visit knotrods.com.