Meet a dedicated craftsman who, in his seventy-eighth year, is still busily engaged in striving for perfection.
It is a long way from a cramped little cabinetmaker’s shop in Oslo to gruelling trail dog sled races in Alaska and northern Norway. Since 1975 Thorleif Nordengen has been building dog sleds in his backyard workshop. Time and time again Robert Sørlie, Norway’s premier dog sled driver, has been first across the finishing line with one of Thorleif’s sleds. Meet a dedicated craftsman who, in his seventy-eighth year, is still busily engaged in striving for perfection.
Thorleif is one of the last practitioners of the dying art of cabinetmaking left in Oslo. He started when he was 24, and many are the shops he has fitted out and select pieces of furniture he has made since then. But in 1975 something happened to divert him. ‘A cousin came in with a “Nansen sled” and asked me if I could repair it. I had long yearned to make something I could call my very own, but I never dreamed that it would be a dog sled', he laughs.
Now the OT sled, a high-tech marvel in duraluminium, fibreglass and carbon fibre, is a byword among those who know. Thorleif has never done any dog sled driving himself, but for 25 years he has worked closely together with Robert Sørlie. More than 4,000 OT sleds have been dispatched from his workshop to render sterling service the world over.
But Thorleif builds more than dog sleds. His toboggans, trim, ultra-fast constructions made from 22 layers of birchwood and mahogany, are in a class of their own.
‘If I were to have my time over again,' says Thorleif, ‘I’d do just the same. There’s nothing to beat the art of cabinetmaking.’