New Lenox: Martino Student’s Big Ideas from Tiny Acorns Grew

Chris Arnold, a New Lenox Junior High student, has used acorns among the materials crafted into various gift items. (Photo courtesy of Chris Arnold)
Chris Arnold, a New Lenox Junior High student, has used acorns among the materials crafted into various gift items. (Photo courtesy of Chris Arnold)

By Karen Haave

A talented junior high school student has found a unique way to turn acorns into stunning artifacts and gift items.

Featured at vendor’s markets and craft shows like the New Lenox Young Entrepreneur’s Fair, which he started, Chris Arnold’s one-of-a-kind pens, aromatherapy necklaces, pie servers, razors, coffee scoops, pizza cutters and bottle stoppers make an uncommon use of acorns.

“I cut them up and pour resin around them in different colors. I also use pine cones, walnuts and many other natural items I find while out hiking.”

“I have many pens with wood from stadiums such as Comiskey Park, Soldier Field, Wrigley Field, The Crete-Monee Dome and many others. I can obtain wood from many stadiums, professional and college. “

Chris initially crafted items of general interest, but now accepts special orders. He recently made a pen using wood from Purdue’s Ross Ade Stadium, but he can recreate images of famous people, like Michael Jordan and Elvis.

“After doing a few shows, people started asking me for a specific color or pen, and I made it for them,” he explained. “There are some that have resin cast around a sticker or multiple colors of resin combined. Also, I have used dyed wood.”

To shape them, he uses a lathe, bandsaw, drill press, press, sandpaper “and sometimes a few other hand tools.”

“I have sold over 600 items and have made somewhere in the range of 800 to 900 items.”

Because his artistry is time-consuming, with costly components, Chris admitted, “My items are not cheap to make.

“They take time to make them look right. I mess up sometimes and make the woods and resins explode. Sometimes I can save my mistakes and make them awesome, sometimes I can’t, and I give them away. Or sometimes they just end up in the trash can.”

The 13-year-old eighth grader at Alex Martino Junior High School in New Lenox appears to come by his artistry naturally. He does not take any art classes, although he does go to woodturning conferences like the Midwest Turners Gathering that takes place in the spring each year in Chicago.

“I love seeing people enjoy and fall in love with my items,” he smiled, adding that he’s not sure if it’s something he might pursue professionally someday.

“I have thought about being a teacher, and I could do this on the side then.”

In addition to crafting pens, he loves Boy Scouts (he’s a Second Class scout and went to National Jamboree in West Virginia last summer), plays soccer, enjoys chess, learning Spanish, bowling and video games.

Chris lives in New Lenox with his parents, Rob and Rebecca, and siblings Max, 17, Lily, 10; and Sophie, 5. His dad grew up in Monee on the 100-year-old Arnold family farm just east of town, and his grandfather Ron, and his wife Paula still live there. Ron is an active member of the Monee Historical Society.

“We are very proud of him,” Rob said of his son. “He has worked hard to get as good as he is. We hope that he learns more and makes use of the skills he’s learned.

“Helping your child start their own business is one of the most rewarding activities we have done with our kids. They get gratification and learn so many things. If your child has an interest, nurture it.

“There are many kids’ business fairs in the Chicagoland area to join, like the one Chris started in New Lenox, the New Lenox Young Entrepreneurs Fair. Look it up on Facebook for more information.”

Chris’ pens are a popular seller at the Monee Historical Society’s Gift Shop at the Heritage Center, 5210 W. Court St., Monee, open every Tuesday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., and Saturday, once a month from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Check the schedule at Moneehistoricalsociety.com.

For more information, send Chris an email [email protected] or message him on Facebook @elementarywoodworkers.

Karen Haave is a freelance reporter.

To shape the various materials, Chris Arnold uses a lathe, bandsaw, drill press, press, sandpaper “and sometimes a few other hand tools.” (Photos courtesy of Chris Arnold)

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