By SARA ARTHURS
For the men and women who gather at Millstream Wood Carvers every Tuesday and Thursday, the time spent carving together is a chance to share a hobby. But it’s also a chance to form friendships that span age and cultural divides.
Take Richard Fenimore, the club’s vice president. Like a proud relative, he shows off photos of some of the University of Findlay students he has taught the art of wood carving. They come from China, India, Taiwan and many other countries.
Robert Haley, club president, said there is a lot of camaraderie and while people come to carve, they also come to chat.
Wood carving is an art form that dates back to pre-Christian times. Haley believes ancient man, upon first having tools available, practiced wood carving as one of his earliest activities. There have been wood carvings found all over the world, he said.
Fenimore has been carving for about 15 years. He experiences chronic pain and said wood carving gets his mind off of the pain.
“For me it was therapy,” he said.
Haley said there are three different kinds of wood carving: carving in the round, relief carving and chip carving. In addition to carving, some of the club members also do wood burning.
Carving in the round means a piece of wood is carved all the way around, Haley said. A relief carving is a three-dimensional carving but on a flat surface, so that the wood stands out in relief from the background.
Chip carving is done with a thin knife and involves cutting out chips of wood to form designs.
Haley is also interested in wood burning and said there are wood burning tools now available to hobbyists that are more accurate than the soldering irons young children might use when wood burning. Wood burning is not hard to do, Haley said. A person can use an image on tracing paper or something similar and burn the wood around the image.
A wood carver might create his or her own designs or use someone else’s.
Haley said wood carvers often like to decorate boxes and crosses. He created a box that serves as a camera case.
Millstream Wood Carvers was founded in 1985 and met at several locations before a member who died left a house to the club in his will. Today they meet twice a week at the house at 2230 Blanchard Ave.
The club is based in Findlay but members also come from Toledo, Tiffin, Fostoria, Glandorf and Ottawa.
One member even lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Millstream Wood Carvers has about 40 members and is actively trying to recruit more. Both men and women belong and there are members of all ages but are primarily older. Haley’s granddaughter, “an excellent wood burner,” attends club meetings. He’d like to see more younger people join.
Some of the other younger members are University of Findlay students, including the foreign students Fenimore has tutored. Fenimore said one club member lives near the university and would often sit on his porch, and students passing by would befriend him and he would bring them back to the club.
Fenimore said many of the students had never carved before.
“The trick to carving is to have a sharp knife,” he said.
Haley said the clubhouse is stocked with bandages for when people cut themselves. Fenimore has found that wrapping a horse’s ankle wrap around his thumb prevents injury.
Haley said carvers should learn how to hold the knife and cut both with and across the grain. They also learn about different types of wood.
Fenimore said any type of wood can be carved. Bass wood is the most popular, he said. Haley said some types of wood, such as walnut, are toxic and shouldn’t be used to serve food. Spoons should be carved out of fruit wood.
The carvers go to shows and have a “great big booth” at the Hancock County Fair, Fenimore said. In August there is a show at the Findlay Village Mall. Fenimore has also traveled to nursing homes for demonstrations.
Fenimore teaches beginners how to carve and said he has seen some of his former students go on to surpass him in their abilities.
Learning how to carve is “simple,” Fenimore said, adding that anyone can sit down beside him to learn at open carving. There is no charge for the lesson.
There are also more formal classes that club members sometimes teach on weekends.
Fenimore has taught people from China, Taiwan, India, Japan, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia to carve. Sometimes they’re homesick and connect with members who remind them of someone back home.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking when they leave, though,” Fenimore said.
One girl from China introduced Fenimore to her parents and grandparents when they came to visit from China. Because he had been the one to teach her how to carve, they insisted he be in a family picture.
The wood carvers also team up on group projects. Right now they have a Christmas tree which is decorated with ornaments contributed by many carvers. They’ve also created a “quilt” of wooden square panels, each carved by a different club member. They also carved a Noah’s Ark with each carver making a pair of animals, and once carved “a whole village of gnomes,” Haley said.
They have also worked on service projects such as carving feathers in honor of fallen soldiers. These carvings will be in a museum.
Asked what a new person coming to the club should expect, Fenimore said, “Friendship. And coffee and donuts.”
Tools are available and anyone is welcome, even if they have never carved before.
Millstream Wood Carvers meet for open carving from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Thursday. Visitors are welcome, and wood and tools are available to work on projects.
There is no charge to try it out.
For more information, call Fenimore at 419-722-3900.
Send an E-mail to Sara Arthurs