Area resident Nick Pagel is running one of the most fun at-home operations during his family’s time at home. He is getting a lot of attention, too, because there’s a 16-foot wooden airplane parked in his family’s garage.
The owner of Imagination Woodworks, Pagel, who was born and raised in Garden Oaks, has been keeping busier than anticipated during the past few months. Deemed an essential business, he’s been continuing to build treehouses, playsets, pergolas and decks for clients. Mostly, he constructs playsets.
“Parents have called and said, ‘We need a playset now. Can you come build this?’ ” Pagel said.
While he enjoys the work, Pagel says it’s still work. It’s the creative freedom he’s been able to explore at home that has brought him joy lately.
“I don’t stay still for very long,” he said. “I’m always tinkering.”
At home, Pagel’s sons, 7-year-old Lucas and 5-year-old Greyson, have a treehouse in the backyard and a swinging bridge between two trees in the front yard. But it’s the plane, which Pagel started about a year-and-a-half ago, that has engaged them the most.
“It’s the biggest passion project and a great project with the boys,” Pagel said. “It’s a kid’s dream.”
The plane started on a Sunday afternoon when Pagel’s oldest son asked his dad to build something. A huge piece of cedar became the body of the plane and some two-by-six planks became the wings.
“It was as rigid and basic as you can get,” Pagel said. “Little by little it has morphed into something else.”
Now the plane has a working rudder, ailerons and one cockpit finished, with another under construction. There are working gauges – run by little DC motors – and dials and lights in the wings as well as runway lights. The front cockpit will control the steering, while the back one will control the lights and the propeller.
A custom paint job is also on the list.
“It’s a fully functional plane,” Pagel said. “It’s just too heavy to fly.”
He jokes that he wants to finish the plane before his kids are too old to think it’s fun, but says he hopes to be largely done with it by the end of the year.
“I’ve had to do it in stages because one step will lead to the next,” he said.
While Pagel has been able to do most of the work himself, he had to use a welder for some wing work. He also wanted to connect with a Lowrider Club to tap into its knowledge of hydraulics.
“I want the plane to be able to move as you steer it so you feel like you’re actually flying,” Pagel said.
He’s also toyed with the idea of a 3D projection system to show videos that complement the sensation of flying.
And while he wants his kids to enjoy it, Pagel is thinking about how other kids might enjoy it, too.
“I’ve thought about starting a nonprofit and taking the plane around to (hospitals) and other places,” Pagel said. “It has wheels so I can get it in and out of the garage and load it on a trailer.”
The short trips the plane has taken so far around Pagel’s house have generated curiosity from neighbors and passersby on the frequent walks many people are taking.
“We had a retired commercial airline pilot come by to look at it,” Pagel said. “He took a lot of pictures.”