Jeff Iller, a Code 722 crane inspector, shows off a wood crane he made of walnut and maple that resembles a GMK mobile hydraulic extendable boom crane. The two-foot long crane has a boom which extends to 52 inches. (Photo by Thiep Van Nguyen II)
Some of the hand tools Jell Iller has carved. Some are carved from multiple pieces of wood, and some are carved from a single piece of wook (Photo by Thiep Van Nguyen II)
Jeff Iller (left), Code 722 crane inspector, signals during load testing of a wall crane in Buidling 460 as Paul English, Code 740 rigger, looks on. (Photo by Thiep Van Nguyen II)
BREMERTON, Wash. -- The PSNS & IMF workforce is focused on quality and is always striving for perfection.
After spending all day testing cranes to ensure maintenance and inspections were performed to standard, Jeff Iller, a heavy equipment specialist with Code 722 Crane Test, goes home and continues to seek perfection in the shaping of wood.
“I teach wood carving,” Iller said. “I’m a qualified judge in the Pacific Northwest. I’m a master carver in the Pacific Northwest. I probably carve every day. I’m the former president a half dozen times of the Kitsap County Wood Carvers Club. I’ve carved for colleges and different commissions around the world. I do this more than anything else when I’m not at work.”
During the day, Iller ensures PSNS & IMF cranes have been maintained per the Naval Crane Center’s extremely high standards.
“We run all functions in all directions, through all speeds, loaded and unloaded. We purposely overload the crane,” said Iller, explaining how he determines if a crane can be safely returned to service after it has been maintained or repaired. “If I can’t break the crane, it can return to service.”
After the work day ends, though, his own standards apply.
“I like the idea that after working here and following someone else’s instructions, I get to go home and do what I want,” Iller said. “When I walk into the shop, I can make whatever I want. I know cabinetry. I know wood working. I know carving. If there is something that hasn’t been made before and I can figure it out and make it, that makes my day.”
While Iller’s grandfather was a master cabinet maker in Germany, and his now-retired father was a contractor, home remodeler and cabinet maker, Iller says he has taken wood working a step beyond both of them.
“Carving is a step up from woodworking,” explained Iller. “Mine is a finer craft. Although there is skill involved in cabinet making, it doesn’t have the exacting nature of wood carving.”
That exacting nature serves Iller well as a crane inspector and as a wood carver. He has also adapted skills he learned on the job into his wood carving process.
“The one thing that applies that I learned in my apprenticeship is the technical drawing,” he said. “Technical drawing helps me to lay out a carving on two sides and in two planes. By using technical drawing and looking at a top and a side view, I can plan the (initial) wood removal using power (tools). I then finish the project with a knife.”
He also has the ability to visualize things in three dimensions, just by looking at them.
“I can pretty much do CAD (computer aided design) drawing in my head,” Iller said. “I can take the dimensions I see and the detail, and work backward. I can take something and envision it in my head and see it change shape as it rotates.”
While Iller used his woodworking skill to build some award-winning crane replicas, his favorite thing to carve has nothing to do with work. He prefers the challenge of carving women’s faces out of Bass wood.
“If you wish a challenge, carve a woman’s face because everything revealed, is open to the eye,” he said. “If you do it correctly, everyone can identify the woman.”
While the cranes he tests at work every day must be perfect before he returns them to service, Iller will continue his life-long quest after work to carve the perfect shape out of a piece of wood.