A dentist for 44 years, Burt Saidel, 75, spent most of his adult life with drill in hand, making people feel better. But even as he was engaged in a successful practice, the Dayton resident dreamed of using another kind of drill and helping people in a different way.
Now he's doing it. Saidel's passion is woodworking. He has used that talent to craft more than 100 intricate pieces, most of which he's given away.
Many, of a spiritual nature, are featured in places of worship. He's lovingly made the Great Hall Ark for Dayton's Temple Israel, a pulpit for Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Dayton and the altar at Lewisburg United Methodist Church.
"Religion plays a very important role in my life," Saidel explains. "I believe in building bridges instead of putting up walls."
Saidel admits he's always been handy, dating back to the days when he built model airplanes. But since his retirement in 1999, he -- along with his assistant, retired engineer Harold Prigozen, 87 -- has devoted an average of 10 hours a day to the projects awaiting him in his home workshop. Currently that includes an as-yet-undetermined piece for the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton.
"It seems I'm always making something for someone," he says about the host of items, ranging from dining-room tables to cradles he's crafted for friends and his family, which includes one grandchild and a dozen nieces and nephews. "That act is so enriching."
Naturally, Saidel says, dentistry and woodcraft require comparable skills.
"They're extremely similar," he says. "I did fairly complex surgery, which included putting jaws back together. So there was never a big transition to woodworking."
And the piece he's most satisfied with?
"Whatever the last one is I've worked on," he says with a laugh.