Brandon Knopf was diagnosed with adhesive arachnoiditis five years ago.
The Newton resident, an avid duck hunter and fisherman in the Red Rock Lake area, said the disability quickly affected his back and made everyday tasks, both at home and at work, challenging.
“To have to go home and try to take care of myself, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t maintain a house and my life as well,” Knopf said. “I could be in a wheelchair. We really don’t know what it will do. It’s awful. If you’ve ever pulled a muscle in your back or pinched a nerve, that’s what it (feels) like.”
Knopf couldn’t continue with his job, nor could he continue to live in his house, but he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life watching TV in his parent’s basement. So, to stay connected to his passion for duck hunting, he found a hobby which he eventually converted into a small business.
Knopf started carving duck calls, using nothing but his hands and a lathe. He began selling them roughly one year ago. He used the money he earned from sales to buy more tools until he was able to purchase a much-needed and more precise computer numerical control (CNC) router.
To find enough space for all the tools he needed, Knopf was able to rent space in the basement in Legacy Plaza, the former Maytag corporate complex, in February.
“I was originally working out of my garage, and I ran out of my space when I got my CNC,” Knopf said. “I had to find some place for it because it has to be a climate-controlled area. This worked out pretty well, DMACC’s been great.”
Originally, Knopf relied on a lathe to make the duck calls. With his bad back and the physical demand, Knopf knew he couldn’t do it all by myself. So, while working out some programming bugs and a fourth axis to be installed to serve as a rotary function, the CNC turned out to be a second set of hands.
Knopf also collected other tools of the trade including drill presses, an oscillating sander, a routing table, lathe, saw and laser engraver.
“Everything I do, I’ll still be able to turn everything by hand. But everything I turn by hand, I can still do on there,” Knopf said. “When you start to look at the market and everything, you kind of need that equipment just to be able to compete. You can get the basics to get started.”
With more than 130 duck calls and turkey calls made, Knopf has them available to purchase on his website, www.iowahuntingproducts.com. A video telling Knopf’s story on the website shows his story for entering the hobby.
Knopf said one of his secrets to making the perfect duck calls was intricate work on the tone board.
“That drives the whole duck call. I started with what they call a public jig. It’s just a metal jig with a flat surface,” Knopf said. “I manipulated that surface to get to the tone board that I have. Now, I sand every tone board by hand. From a quality standpoint, consistency there is a big deal for me.”
An avid hunter, it was always a passion for Knopf to fit the fields, to the point where he couldn’t sleep the night before opening day of the season.
When his disability began to flair about 10 years ago, Knopf was unable to do the hobby he loved.
“It was a tough thing to walk away from. I needed to find a way to connect with the industry and just be involved in hunting in general,” Knopf said. “So I tried to make a duck call. I had no idea how to do it, and didn’t own any tools. But I figured it out.”
Knopf laughed while reflecting on the first few calls he ever made. They were not a graphically complex as his latest designs, but they were still great because he had never built anything before, and found his new purpose in life.
“I get up at 4 a.m. every day, and I’m in here at 4:30 a.m.,” Knopf said. “And I can’t wait for the next day to come back in here.”
Contact Orrin Shawl at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or at firstname.lastname@example.org