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Lake City man has affair with A Chair Affair

February 26, 2017 GMT

LAKE CITY — Lake City native and carpenter Dave Dinsmore always gets the same question.

For years now, Dinsmore has handcrafted and donated a chair to A Chair Affair, the Boys and Girls Club of Rochester’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Dinsmore, in fact, is the only artisan to have made a chair every year of the gala’s 15-year existence.

The fact is, Dinsmore, 58, has had a bit of an affair with A Chair Affair. And at this stage, it would take too much energy to stop.

“At this point, it’s inertia,” Dinsmore said. “The week between Christmas and New Year’s, I build a chair.”

Chair Affair is tonight at the Rochester International Event Center. Last year, the event raised $392,000.

Dinsmore’s chairs have fetched anywhere from $400 to $1,700 in the event’s auction. Most have a distinctive offbeat quality reflective of Dinsmore’s personality: chair backs shaped like scorpion tails or sting rays or set at odd angles. Similar to his chairs, Dinsmore has a way of talking that keeps the listeners on the edge of their seats.

Dinsmore calls the auction/fundraiser his “yearly dose of external validation.” But truth be told, the Lake City carpenter is rarely disappointed in people’s reactions. He’s tickled when people say they like his work. He’s overjoyed when people screw of up their faces and look disgusted.

“If you truly disgust somebody, you have done your job,” he said.

Dinsmore got his gift for woodworking from a long line of family carpenters. The gift for the gab, he says, came from his dad, who was a minister.

Dinsmore was a self-employed carpenter doing home remodeling work for 35 years until the housing market went bust in 2009 and forced him into a different line of work. Today, he is a process operator for Federal Mogul and appreciates perks such as walking to work and having health insurance.

“I’ve spent my whole life building boxes and what other people wanted me to build,” Dinsmore said. “So when left to my own devices, I don’t build boxes. And I don’t use a plan.”

Today he builds only what he wants to build — except for what his wife, Kris, wants.

His chairs are made of wood from three main sources: old Christmas trees, wood purchased from mills and the stuff found floating and resting along the Zumbro and Mississippi rivers.

His building plan is usually nothing more than an idea in his head. Sometimes, it’s less than that. He might scatter the wood on the floor in his workshop and wait for something to happen.

“Something always happens,” he said.

To his favorite creations, Dinsmore has given names, such as “Angular,” “The Swing” and “Scorpion.” This year’s chair is called “Crooked Stool.”

He can’t imagine a year when he won’t be building and donating chairs for A Chair Affair. There are more ideas for chairs bouncing around his head than “enough years left to make them all,” he said.

“I have lots and lots of ideas for chairs I would like to build — and things that aren’t chairs and things that aren’t much of anything but something,” he said.