YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

A Little Corner of the Whirled : His Gig Makes Life a Little Breezier


When Daniel Fleming swore off cigarettes and stopped watching television three years ago, he wanted a hobby to replace his vices. He wanted a little something that would occupy his hands and keep him from gnawing the linoleum off the kitchen floor.

A union carpenter for more than 25 years, it seemed only natural that Fleming would follow the way of the wood. He got the idea for his hobby after visiting a friend, a retired carpenter, who had a whirligig in his back yard.

Fleming took one look at his friend's handmade whirligig and a sort of envy set in. When he got home, Fleming headed straight for his workshop.

Then Fleming sent away for a catalogue of patterns. He's been making whirligigs ever since.

Whirly whats? Whirligigs are gaily painted wood ornaments, usually in the shape of birds, with movable parts that whirl or spin in the wind like a pinwheel. Some say they frighten off gophers and birds, but Fleming says they simply add some color and activity to liven up a yard.

What Fleming hadn't counted on was a hobby that turned into more of a part-time job. His evenings are spent in his workshop, crafting pieces of ash and sugar pine into wings and bodies. His Sundays are spent selling his finished product on the shoulder of California 76 near Interstate 15 in Fallbrook. He calls his weekend business "Wood 'N Wind."

"The whole thing is silly," the 57-year-old Vista resident said. "I had no intentions at all of selling them, but I had so many of them around the house."

With the help of a pattern, a scroll saw and a small belt sander, Fleming can make as many as 12 whirligigs at a time. Each whirligig is hand-sanded and gets three coats of paint, the most time-consuming aspect of the whole operation, Fleming said.

Besides the more standard whirligigs of ducks, flamingos and woodpeckers, Fleming makes models of a woodchopper chopping wood, an Indian paddling a canoe and a woman washing clothes. Depending on the type, the ornaments range in price from $35 to $75.

Fleming is open for business on Sundays, usually from about 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

To find Fleming, look for a huge American flag staked alongside California 76 in Fallbrook. He'll be surrounded by dozens of hummingbirds, ducks and eagles, their wooden wings just blowing in the wind.

Los Angeles Times Articles