Coming from a law enforcement family, Garden Grove Police Officer John Yergler seemed destined to join the force. And he did.
As he completed police training at GGPD about 1 1/2 years ago, another passion sprung up alongside it: woodworking.
“It was really fun,” said Yergler, whose father, also named John Yergler, retired from the GGPD in July 2010. “Something to do while I wasn’t working.”
It was Yergler’s father who gave him the nudge to get into woodworking in the first place. The two were walking around a swap meet and saw a wood-shaping lathe machine. His dad encouraged him to buy it.
“I got it for a decent price and I bought it and I started tampering with it and seeing what I could do,” said Yergler, adding that the only experience he’d had with woodworking was one semester he’d taken in junior high school.
Since then he’s become the go-to workworker in law enforcement circles – making everything from wooden police batons and flags to furniture and various odds and ends for officers and agencies.
“I have a white board in my garage that’s basically full of names and basically all the different things that people have on order,” he said.
One of Yergler’s biggest hits is a giant wooden American flag with a thin blue line representing the law enforcement community.
“I’ve made one for Anaheim Police Department; it’s in their front lobby,” he said, adding he’s also made one for the California Highway Patrol and is working on one for GGPD, as well as Huntington Beach Police Department.
He also enjoys working on the wooden police batons, because “they’re pretty fun and fairly easy to make.”
Creating wooden batons all starts with the lathe, which spins the wood around. With the assistance of specialized chisels, Yergler rounds out the wood as it spins by holding the chisel tool up to it.
“Once it’s round and everything, you’ll go and start a different tool with a finer tip and you’ll carve different designs and curves,” he said.
The finish Yergler uses depends on the wood type – it could be a polyurethane or epoxy finish – but for the most part, because he uses dense, hard woods, he typically sands the baton to a very fine finish before adding a wax finish and polishing the wood with a high- gloss polish.
A baton can take somewhere around five hours for him to complete. On the other hand, a 4-by-8-foot flag took about three days spread over three to four weeks (between his patrol shifts) to complete.
Since that swap meet buy, Yergler’s garage has become a virtual treasure chest of woodworking tools and machines – including a CNC machine that lets him design via computer and program the machine to carve the intricate details on the wood.
“My garage started expanding and the tools started taking over,” he said.
Though the hobby is very calming for Yergler after a long day or night of driving on patrol, he never forgets he’s working with dangerous tools.
“You always have to be careful because there’s tools and the tools will take off your fingers,” he said.
But despite that, woodworking is his mental escape.
“My garage is definitely the place that I go to unwind,” Yergler said.