Dad’s Tools Inspire Daughter

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As part of our Mother’s Day series, we will introduce you to several superstar moms (and grandmothers!) who combine their love of family with their love of woodworking. 

Corn Hole set

One of the many corn hole sets Denise has made and painted

Meet Denise Kerch

People in the New Philadelphia, Ohio, area know who to call when they want a great-looking set of corn hole boards. Denise Kerch estimates she has made more than 125 sets of them in the last seven years, complete with coordinating toss bean bags. Her painted designs on them are the stars of the show as she can create something to highlight each owner’s taste – favorite sports team, school, cartoon characters, military affiliation and just about anything one can imagine.

Denise said she has been doing some kind of woodworking her whole life, influenced mostly by her father who was a union carpenter. “My father always gave my twin sister and I his scrap pieces of wood, and we would make furniture for our Barbie dolls, but my earliest creation was a guillotine I made in 7th grade for a school project,” Denise shared. She has made many cutout yard decorations, as well as primitive décor and boxes from pallets. She often donates her creations to various benefits and fund raisers.

Superman and Wonder Woman

Denise has made many cutouts for yards and parties

Upon inheriting her father’s tools when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in March of 2006, Denise made him a promise that she would put them to good use. “When my father realized that he would not be around anymore to help me with my lawn decorations, he taught me to use his jigsaw,” she recalled. It was a bittersweet gift. Denise she will never forget her teardrops falling in the sawdust, as she learned how to cut out the designs he had drawn on a piece of plywood.  “At the end of that day, the jigsaw was to forever be mine.” 

After that, woodworking became a way for Denise to cope with the loss of her beloved father. “I felt that he was still in my garage with me when I was using his tools. Now when I’m working on a project, I find myself wondering what my father would think if I could show it to him, or asking him to guide me in the correct direction when something isn’t working out the way I want it to,” she said

Fall Decoration

A fall decor piece created by Denise

By the time she got into woodworking, her son Nathan, now 28, was older, but her 13-year-old daughter Katana reminds Denise of her younger self. “She has spent numerous hours with me in my garage. When she was younger she always wanted to help me paint. I would take scrap pieces of plywood and cut out shapes for her. It was her job to paint those shapes for me — flowers were her favorite.” Katana also enjoys gluing scrap pieces of wood together. “One time she created an amusement park that was actually very cool.” 

Dog Leash Holder

Great place to hang your dog leashes by the door and keep their treats

Balancing her hobby and family time with her job as HR director at Schoenbrunn Healthcare is sometimes a real chore, Denise shared. “Originally when I really started woodworking, I was looking for a part-time job that would allow me to be home with my young daughter and still earn some extra cash. Corn hole sets were the perfect opportunity to do that, as most of my painting could be done in my kitchen during late night hours after everyone else went to bed.” 

Memo Board

Memo board with places to hang and places to write

She also uses that time for herself. “When I am working on a project, I feel a sense of peace and calmness, it’s my relaxation time.” Denise said her husband Chris claims she is a “wood hoarder” because she won’t throw away even the smallest piece of wood. “You never know when it might come in handy!” His buddies tease him by asking to borrow his wife’s tools. But he supports her hobby wholeheartedly, saying she is the easiest person to shop for – Christmas can be wrapped up in one trip to the home improvement store. 

Restored Boat

The Kerch family now enjoys spending time on this restored boat.

One of Denise’s favorite projects has provided her family with many hours of enjoyment on the lake. “Six years ago my husband and I had the opportunity to purchase an old pontoon boat for a pretty decent price. Although most of the boat was pretty much shot, the framing and the motor were worth the price we had paid for the boat. For several months I worked on replacing a lot of the rotten lumber on the bench seating and armrests.” Not only did she redo the wood, she said “being pretty handy with a sewing machine allowed me the replace all the vinyl seats. We have been offered three times more for the boat than we paid for it, but I always tell everyone it’s not for sale.” 

Kerch Family

The Kerch family - Chris, Nathan, Katana and Denise

Denise’s twin sister Dorene is also a woodworker. “We both have different styles but we enjoy comparing our projects with each other!” she said. One of her wisest woodworking purchases was a 6” hole saw bit. “It has really made putting the holes in my corn hole sets an easier chore than the jigsaw did.”

When asked what her dream project would be to someday complete, Denise answered, “Several years before my father passed away, he and I had started remodeling our unfinished basement. We started with laying up a cultured stone wall, complete with a chimney and wood burner, in what would eventually be the family room. Unfortunately he got sick and couldn’t help me finish. My dream project would have to be to complete the work he and I started.” 

The talents Denise learned at her father’s side along with the promise she made to him should give her many more years of woodworking enjoyment.  

Happy Mother’s Day, Denise Kerch!

We hope you'll be inspired!

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