Flagpole manufacturing and restoration is more than a job for Adirondack Flagpoles owner Danny Kaifetz, it’s something he believes in. Sure, he knows the technical stuff as well as people know their own names, but when he starts getting into why he makes flagpoles his voice changes. There's deep emotion there, an unmistakably strong feeling of pride when he says words like salute, sacrifice, and veteran.
Danny is the kind of man who doesn't do anything halfway, and he could just as easily be crafting rowboats or Adirondack chairs. But he's a Vietnam veteran, and the son of a man who was on the beach at Normandy in World War II. Flagpoles, it seems, were his only real option.
To honor the fallen
Adirondack Flagpoles' products have homes in 35 states and four countries. Some are enormous — we're talking 60 feet long — but one of the most significant ones for Danny is the modest, 12-foot-long pole he made for a firehouse in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He was there to see it put up on the day before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, in honor of the firefighters who lost their lives when the World Trade Center collapsed. His voice got shaky when he described the scene: As the first responders gathered around to prepare the flag, traffic paused and people lined the sidewalks to watch.
The thousands of people who stopped what they were doing did so with good reason. Two rigs from that firehouse — Engine 202 and Ladder 101 — were among the first to respond to the 9/11 terrorist attack. None of the firefighters on Ladder 101 were above the age of 40, and none of them were ever seen again. They’re now affectionately called the Seven in Heaven.
“When you go in there, there’s a memorial with all of their fire helmets. Kids who have been orphaned since 9/11, that’s where their old man is. That’s where they go on his birthday,” Danny said as tears welled up in his eyes.
And that’s where the passion comes in. To Danny, flagpoles aren’t just objects, and the American flags that are raised on them aren’t for decoration — they are symbols of bravery, courage, and sacrifice. They ensure those efforts are acknowledged, that the people who have died for others aren't forgotten.
“To see so many people out there, saluting that flag; it’s just the best thing in the world to me,” Danny said.
One flagpole at a time
Danny delivers most of the flagpoles he makes and refurbishes, and his customers run the gamut from people who simply want a beautiful complement to their flag for their property to large-scale projects, like the nine flagpoles he made for a veterans’ park in Poway, California. The ceremony drew thousands, and included nine people skydiving into the center of the flags.
Danny is heavily involved in the North Country Veterans organization, and every year he donates one flagpole to the Wounded Warrior Project, a charity that offers services and support to wounded veterans. He’s also done 17 “Second Tour of Duty” flagpoles. That idea came when he delivered a wooden flagpole to Steve, another Vietnam vet in South Carolina, who was replacing an old, metal flagpole. Steve offered the old pole to Danny.
“I told him I wouldn’t give him a nickel for it because I’m not going to resell it,” Danny said. “I’m going to bring it into the shop, refurbish it, weld any cracks in it, and when it’s perfect we’re going to give it away, and we’re going to give it away to a veteran.”
That sparked a conversation — the effort to reuse old flagpoles needed a name, and Steve suggested Second Tour of Duty. In Danny’s mind, it was settled.
“There’s no better name for this effort to give these flagpoles a second life instead of sending them to the dump,” Danny said.
The workshop: visitors welcome
Adirondack Flagpoles sits just off the main road in downtown Keeseville, and just like the beautiful poles made inside, the outside of the facility also has meaning. The flagpole just to the right of the entrance is the second one Danny ever made, and at the other end of the facade there’s a memorial to his father and his service in World War II.
Visitors are welcome to go inside, where they’ll find that the large, open workshop is organized in a way that shows flagpole production from beginning to end. Since flagpoles are heavy — they can weigh 1,000 pounds —this assembly-line setup minimizes how far they need to be moved during production, just a few feet from one stage to the next. Last year, Adirondack Flagpoles completed 56 flagpoles. It can take about 12 days to complete a 24-foot pole, with 60-foot, double-masted poles taking much longer.
Freestanding poles like the ones Danny makes have to be built to withstand a lot of drag, especially if they’re supporting a large flag. To that end, most of a flagpole’s weight comes from the solid red oak used for the exterior and the chromoly steel that comprises the interior. The fabrication of the long-grain wood, which is milled from the core of the tree, is truly a work of art. Pieces are carefully joined so the grain lines up perfectly, and the seams are razor thin. Unless you know where to look, they’re nearly impossible to spot.
“The finish and the joinery is what makes these what they are.” Danny said. “People think it’s an outdoor product, like a kid’s jungle gym or something, but it’s not. It’s furniture quality.”
To protect the delicate work, marine epoxy is applied and wet sanded to produce a completely smooth, blemish-free finish.
“When they are being assembled in the epoxy phase, we’re working against the clock,” Danny said. “It’s a very volatile chemistry — as soon as it’s bonded with the hardener it creates a chemical reaction. If the pole isn’t assembled fast enough, it’s ruined.”
Visitors will see examples of that final stage at the far end of the workshop, where the nearly-finished flagpoles are pointed directly at the large garage door adorned with an image of soldiers raising the American flag at Iwo Jima, an iconic World War II photo. Once they go through that door, the poles are on their way to their new home, where they'll undoubtedly be admired for decades to come.
“I do this because I’m a veteran, and because my old man is a veteran,” Danny said. “It wasn’t an accident. It’s by choice that the flagpole is what I choose to have my name associated with.”
Adirondack Flagpoles is located at 59 Kent Street in Keeseville. Take Route 9N through downtown, turn right on Main Street, then turn left on Kent Street.
This week in related ADK stories: