When Ron Jungels disappears for hours at a time, he said his wife knows exactly where to find him. Usually, he hasn't even left the property.
He's walked through a doorway—with a wooden "Ron's Workshop" sign carefully placed overhead—in the back of his immaculately kept garage that opens up to about a 10-by-10 foot space. The area, to Jungels, is a sanctuary.
"It puts my mind at ease," the 63-year-old retiree said, while standing beside his devoted yellow labrador, Myla. "It brings me satisfaction, seeing what I can do. I like to work outside the picture frame."
Working outside that frame means pushing the limits, believing in your abilities and challenging yourself, Jungels said. Since retiring from his maintenance job at four years ago, he's kept his hands busy with detailed woodwork. He crafts ornate art that he assembles one tiny piece at a time. Each is carefully cut and sculpted using a saw blade that at first glance, resembles a piece of thread.
"Of course the blades break," Jungels said, of the meticulous work. "You have to expect that. But I enjoy the challenge of it. I like asking myself, 'How can I do that?'"
Although he has tackled a repertoire of projects like airplanes parked in hangars and 3-dimensional Hummers, wildlife remains a theme in Jungels' pieces. A sea turtle, goose, giant cheetah, eagle, lion, dogs and even 4-foot tall giraffe are displayed in a back room of his home. Several grand champion ribbons earned at the DuPage County Fair hang along with them.
He typically makes several hand-crafted pieces for the annual fair, he said. But he has spent the past year perfecting just one. It's a 3-by-3 foot American Indian bravely seated upon a horse.
The awe-inspiring piece, titled "The beginning of the trail," is made from several woods that are native to Illinois. It will be donated to Joseph Standing Bear, director of the American Indian nonprofit organization, Midwest SOARRING Foundation. Jungels said it will be displayed in a museum.
"It's an honor," Jungels said, of his work being in a museum. "But I think that's where this belongs."
When not spending long hours in his workshop, Jungels' passion is caring for animals. He volunteers at the Lockport-based Big Run Wolf Ranch—a nonprofit, federal licensed program that specializes in conservation of North American wildlife.
"I love to be around animals," he said. "When the wolves are born at Big Run, we raise 'em up from pups; bottle feed 'em and everything."
He finds both tranquility and inspiration in his work there, he said. He will continue to tap into those experiences when pouring himself into his woodworking hobby.
"I work on whatever grabs my attention," Jungels said. "I like going outside my frame and challenging myself. It let's you expand your mind and your eyes. It can take you anywhere you want."
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