Crafting the perfect windmill

Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh.

Blades of a Subaru-sized windmill clipped around and around to the beat of the wind. I could have watched the mesmerizing circular movement all afternoon.

On a recent drive from Everett to Mukilteo along the waterfront, I caught the vision of a windmill in a tidy front yard. A pleasant-looking couple sat on lawn chairs behind a whimsical wooden wishing well.

What is sweeter than a wishing well, especially when it’s homemade? My first thought was that the woodwork was for sale. Surely the creator didn’t place this large windmill in the yard just for fun?

I was wrong. Jack Phillips’ mother-in-law, Hazel Haugen, 81, likes the windmill. How nice to meet a man who enjoys pleasing his mother-in-law. Three generations living at the Everett rambler delight in Phillips’ handiwork.

Phillips, 60, works full-time at Milgard Manufacturing in Marysville. He gets home in the afternoon and usually heads to the garage/workshop. Off to one side are two scroll saws and various tools.

"I don’t watch much TV," Phillips said. "I’ve got to keep busy."

Out by the road, at the mailbox, a wooden duck hovered under an umbrella over the letter receptacle. Little duckies waddled in a flower bed under the box.

A train engine held flower pots. There was a little wooden girl happily swinging in one corner.

Swans held plants.

A bear peeked out from a bush.

Butterflies hovered over the garage.

Passersby can’t resist the possible sale. They stop and want to buy Phillips’ innovations. A Dutch boy and girl in front of the windmill are delightful.

Sometimes, Phillips said, he sells a butterfly. Other than that, he can’t make things fast enough to keep up regular sales. After all, he was busy building a 5-foot-tall water wheel in the driveway.

His wife, Jeannie Phillips, 53, said she didn’t think he would finish the windmill project. As it came together, her pride swelled.

"This guy knows what he’s doing," Jeannie Phillips said. "My mother just loves watching the windmill."

One of his earlier windmills was sold from the yard before it was finished, Jeannie Phillips said. The buyers turned it into a playhouse.

"This is his way of relieving stress," she said. "You know, he really isn’t spending any money on it. Some people go to taverns; he goes to his woodshop."

It isn’t that Jack Phillips, raised in Lake Stevens, was weaned on woodwork. His previous hobby was building model trains. He said he began making outdoor decorations about five years ago and taught himself along the way.

"I designed the windmill myself," he said. "I started at the bottom and went to the top."

The hours he puts in are remarkable. Between cutting and sanding, it takes him six days to do the butterflies. The insect takes three days to paint.

For his newest project, the water wheel, Jack Phillips said he planned to dig a big pond with rocks. He had a wonderful way of visualizing completed projects as it grew board by board.

For instance, he knew exactly what he wanted when he decided the front yard needed a spinning blade.

"You see little windmills," Jack Phillips said. "I wanted to build one that stood out."

It’s a wonderful whoosh.

Kristi’s Notebook appears Tuesdays and Fridays. If you have an idea for her, call 425-339 -3451 or send information to


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