Louis Nizer once said, “A man who works with hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.”
Shannon Block, owner of Shannon Block Construction, might not use the word “artist” to describe himself, but after seeing his magnificent works built out of wood, labor intensive and artistically detailed, it’s a fitting title. He’s spent years perfecting his craft, starting as a young boy under the watchful eye of his dad and granddad, both skilled carpenters. He was drawn to the craftsmanship of log cabins from an early age.
“My grandma grew up in a log cabin near Wainwright that my great-grandpa built, and I was always intrigued by the craftsmanship in its construction,” says Block. “Not a lot of people know how to do that anymore based on how we do construction today. It’s a dying art to use joinery in the framing of structures today.”
After growing up and gaining more experiences with a local builder during high school and college, Block started his own construction company in 1999 where he could focus on building custom homes to his high standards. He knew he wanted to stay small so he could provide stellar craftsmanship and superior customer service to his homeowners. It was a strong vision that has paid off. More than 19 years later, he continues to build three to four new homes each year with his hands on every part of the project.
“I love to build things, but mostly I like to make other people’s dream homes come to fruition,” notes Block. “I get a lot of satisfaction by giving that to other people.”
When Block first started his business, he also began working on a personal dream. He wanted to build an authentic log cabin like his grandma’s using the same 1800s building process that his great-grandpa used. He started building it from timber on his father-in-law’s farm and, after working on it for years, eventually moved the cabin to a tranquil spot in the Ozarks overlooking a spring-fed creek. This cabin has now become a weekend getaway spot for Block and his son, Evan, who helped build parts of the cabin.
In addition to their hunting traditions at the cabin, father and son also put their kayaks on the creek and float miles downriver, even camping on the gravel bars along the way. It was a tradition that grew even bolder in 2015 when the two of them decided to tackle the Missouri River 340 — the world’s longest river race — in a tandem kayak they built out of cedar. It was a labor of love, handcrafting the kayak and completing the rugged race, but they crossed the finish line in 62 hours. The name of their kayak, Carpe Diem, reflected their mission of seizing the day together.
“It was an awesome experience to do that with my son. There are some beautiful places on the Missouri River to see from the water,” says Block. “We definitely stood out in our wooden kayak amid all the fiberglass. Now it hangs from the ceiling downstairs.”
Block is continuing his woodworking, including working with his son recently to tear down a 150-year-old barn that will be used in a new home Shannon’s building for a customer. He will also be breaking ground soon on a new home for his own family, which will be a rustic timber frame and log house sitting on 15 acres overlooking the river. Even after building houses every day, the excitement of taking what was and re-imagining it into something new still stirs his artistic spirit. It’s where he gets his inspiration.
“I’m hoping to take the wooden kayak and hang it in a prominent spot in our new home, so we can see it every day as a reminder,” says Block.