“Wooden” you like to learn about carving?

By LYLE T. GALLOWAY
Posted 8/10/21

CHERRY RIDGE, PA — The warm, earthy scent of basswood filled the room at the dance hall. Experienced hands guided novice ones as they worked at their own pace on woodcarving projects.

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“Wooden” you like to learn about carving?

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CHERRY RIDGE, PA — The warm, earthy scent of basswood filled the room at the dance hall. Experienced hands guided novice ones as they worked at their own pace on woodcarving projects.

The Cherry Ridge Carvers hosted the 19th annual Northeast Woodcarvers Roundup at the Cherry Ridge Campground.

During the four-day event, multiple classes in different styles of woodcarving were held, where individuals could learn to carve everything from cottonwood bark houses to “curly-haired Kris Kringles.”

Although it may look difficult at first, Muller said that basically anyone can learn to carve if they want to devote the time.

“You’ll get somebody that says, ‘Oh, I couldn’t draw flies on a hot day,’  But this is not totally ‘drawing,’ it’s ‘removing.’ It’s like erasing. You get a piece of wood and you erase until you have something,” said Muller.

Muller started carving in 1998. When he attended his first class at the woodcarver’s roundup, he was taught the art of relief carving by a veteran woodcarver named Andy Fairchok.

“It was amazing to have that person. He showed me how I was sharpening tools wrong and how to correctly sharpen them. The things I learned that took me months or years from a book or video was just … in hours,” he said.

One such teacher at the event was Michael Bloomquist. He specializes in Scandinavian flat plane carving, a type of figure carving done in large, flat planes.

Before he taught others the art of carving, Bloomquist was a physics teacher. Later on, he was traveling a lot for work in a different field. He would bring a couple of project blanks and a small tool kit with him to pass the time. His interest in Scandinavian culture arose from stories passed down through his older family members, who emigrated from Sweden in 1921.

“ is modeled after telling a story in as few cuts as possible. I start with a square, then knock off all the corners until I have an octagon,” said Bloomquist.  

Bloomquist showed his students how to carve a “Tomte,” a Santa Claus-esque gnome from Swedish folklore. He explained that Tomtes acted as the guardians of farmsteads. If the creature found out that livestock were being mistreated, mischief was soon to follow.

Other pieces he carved were wood spirits, trolls, pie crimpers and a whale intended for a sick friend inscribed with the words “Get whale soon!”

“I made them for friends in a hospital bed, you know, they can’t get away from a pun,” laughed Bloomquist.

Another regular at the woodcarvers’ roundup was George Basehore. Basehore taught classes on wooden spoon carving. He displayed a collection of wooden love spoons that he carved. “Love spoons are Welsh in origin….  A gentleman would carve a love spoon for his girlfriend, and it would be like a marriage proposal,” said Basehore.

One of the most interesting parts of his collection was a spoon carved from a 275-year-old tree that grew in President James Buchanan’s backyard.

Basehore began carving in 1997, creating wooden likenesses of animals. He was introduced to the art by a friend who said it was a good hobby and a good way to get out frustration.

“If you messed up, you threw it in the corner and you got designer firewood,” laughed Basehore.

Basehore’s good sense of humor has also provided him with another project: carving wooden cigars.

He recalled one evening where he was teaching a class on how to make them, when a fellow carver’s cell phone rang. Since the man’s wife was on the other end, he answered the call, saying they were all having a good cigar, prompting his wife to hang up on him.

“He said ‘George, I don’t know if I have a home to go home to tonight, I told my wife I quit smoking three weeks ago!” said Basehore.

On a serious note, Basehore belongs to the American National Cane Club, where he carved canes for veterans. Each one would be personalized and presented to the vet during club meetings. So far he’s given out 85 canes to vets.

To most of the instructors, woodcarving is so much more than just a way to whittle away the hours. It teaches valuable lessons in patience, attention to detail and an appreciation for art.

A raffle was held at the closing of the event, where tools, carvings, walking sticks and all sorts of other prizes were given out. The biggest prize of the auction was the “friendship stick,” a long walking stick composed of various unique sections made by the Cherry Ridge Carvers.

The lucky winner ended up being Amanda Brooks, who will be taking the friendship stick with her all the way back to Missouri.

The Cherry Ridge Carvers actively encourage new people to give the hobby a try. There will be a Fall Carve In, held from September 24 to September 26. To learn more, head to www.cherryridgecarvers.org.

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