Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Last Wednesday I loaded the van with the usual accoutrements for an overnight stay and added to that my woodcarving seat and tools and headed up to Manatee Springs State Park about an hour north of me for the 2nd annual Suwannee River Wood Carvers Round Up.

For those of you who have no idea what that is, it is not an attempt to lock all the woodcarvers away, but rather to let them all out. Time to get out of the shop and gather together with other woodcarvers, even from across the pond, and carve, take some day courses with noted names in the carving world, socialize with like minded fellows, and enjoy the great outdoors.

I arrived about 2, saw Lucille at the sign in booth, then spotted old friends Sandie and Ol Don, then the organizer of the event, Jim O’Dea welcomed me and told me where to set up. I then borrowed a cart volunteered by carver Pam and set up my canopy and display, drove my van to the adjoining camp site, parked it, walked back to show area, and did a tour of the area and started with the photos. Met co-organizer Tony Erickson, and he told me to grab an instructor’s hat, so I decided I would teach non-powered sharpening on an on-demand basis. This also obligated me to produce a segment for the cane that was being put together with carvings from each instructor to be raffled off to cover costs of putting on the event.

A few minutes with Tony also revealed that he was teaching much more than just how to carve his incredible bark houses - and we quickly passed into a brief discussion on art. I was thrilled with a couple of his pieces and he snuck up behind me while I was looking at one and presented a very tall cane he had done for my inspection. It was incredible! A museum piece! The entire surface was carved in perfectly executed sharp cuts creating a climbing collection of fantasy dwellings from the bottom to the very tip of the top. The sharpness of the cuts, and the clarity of design and flow just awed me and I spent the next several minutes trying to get a good shot of it.

As I moved on from there, I started thinking about what to do for my cane segment. That night, the evening “spit n’ whittle” was sparsely attended and quickly over due to the coolness and many mosquitoes.

Thursday, I got up, showered, and headed right over to the area and picked out a spot at Pete’s table where he was just arriving and getting set up. I slapped my five dollars down on the table in front of him and said, “I’m in!” I chose the Tudor rose for project and bought a blank of most excellent basswood, screwed it to my Power Arm vice, and prepared to carve. I had little interest in the project itself, but great interest in learning the techniques used by a master carver to create such things. The apparent shape of a subject is not always the way the cuts are made, and by the end of the day, I learned those secret cuts for this one. I was happy. Pete spent the day jumping from person to person across two tents full of students, each crying out for his attention. His skill was unquestionable, and his teaching superb, but the overall structure was somewhat chaotic. Still, by the end of the day, I knew I had advanced in my carving skills, exactly what I had wanted to achieve. I did take a break during the day to stroll out on the boardwalk that ran through the wet lands along the side of the “river run” that ran the short distance from the manatee springs right at the campground out to the main river, the Suwannee- as in the Suwannee river. That night we attended a special performance of the head park ranger, performing on the side as the “Suwannee Cracker” at the park amphitheater. He entertained us for about an hour with his music and tales, including to my delight, explaining the derivation of the term cracker, and how it was that Kissimmee was historically a cattle town. Some of us then hit “Sandie’s Café” for a bit of TV before bed. Survivor.
Instructors Ol Don Burgdorf, Chris Howard and
Peter Benson examine one of the club displays

Instead of bed, I headed over to the enclosed area of our display that had electric lighting to get a start on my cane segment and carved until 11, finishing the basic overall shape and went to bed in the van with a feeling of relief at my progress. I decided I would take the next day off to finish the segment knowing that my speed of production would need the whole day to insure completion for the Saturday deadline.

Friday, I did indeed spend the day whittling on my segment while sitting under my canopy and occasionally gave a quick sharpening lesson to some interested carver. By quitting time, I was well along, but as usual, had a lot of tiny detail cuts to make, mostly utilitarian and boring and time consuming. Also during the day, I found out that the Round up was far short of raising the amount of money needed to cover expenses and thus in danger of not returning the next year, so I jumped in and offered my services as “barker” for raffle ticket sales. Over a couple of hours, I probably managed to alienate any future relationships with the attendees, but did move ticket sales to a higher level. That night was the big pot luck dinner, and as the main course was a stew to which a packet pf unknown seasoning had been added, I couldn’t risk possible gluten poisoning, so drove out of the park to get something at Taco Bell. I returned with it and joined the group.

Saturday I continued work on my segment desperately cutting out little bits and finally finishing and then asking Jim about his washing technique. He supplied a bottle of blue Dawn, and I put a quarter size glob in my hands, wet the block briefly under the faucet, and washed it between my hands. Then scrubbed it all over with a toothbrush and voila! Clean! Pencil marks and all hand oils and dirt- pure white, and as Jim had said, so pretty now I wouldn’t want to give it up! But that didn’t stop him from grabbing it and sticking it on the cane. Lucille joined me about 11 and we made another round for ticket sales, and then a short time later, about noon, called the crowd to attention and with as much drama as we could muster, drew the winning ticket. Unfortunately, the name called was not present, but a call to the number on the ticket turned out to be his cell phone and he had just left and said he would be right back to claim his prize. The presentation was made about an hour later. Meanwhile, several other tickets were drawn for consolation prizes of T-shirts and a ball cap.
Event Organizers Jim o’Dea, left, and Tony Erickson, right award cane to winner Orlo Hibbard
At 3 that afternoon, Jim called folks together for the Carvin Jack contest and had to draw lots to cull the sign ups down to the limit of 8 contestants. Two hours later, time was called, and the judges spent a few minutes making their decision. Given the short time of two hours there were no masterpieces created, and in fact, only one piece was actually finished, but it was a fun time for all and the winner was quite happy with his prize of the Carvin Jack, a special knife with several blades more along the lines of shaped gouges than the traditional flat blades of the carving knife.

Dinner that night was hot dogs, and after dinner, I was called upon to auction off an extra cane segment that had come in after the cane had been done and gone. It was a beauty but I knew we would need more than one item to get an auction warmed up, so Jim put together a bag of carving blocks, and another vendor gave a beautifully decorated gourd. The auction went well, and when the bidding on the block started to slow, suddenly four more bidders jumped in and away we went again. After the auction, Sandie set up a blanket trade, where anyone who had anything they wanted to trade put it on the blanket and others would put some item they were offering for it on the edge of the blanket. The original person would then select what he wanted or take his item back. This went around a few times until all was done and provided some laughs and a few items now moving to somewhere where they were more wanted. I offered a CD of all my photos of the event and it went well, covering my gas home.
The instructors gather for a groups photo.

Sunday, I again set up my display and then set up my carving seat at Pete’s station and took another day with him, this time working on a classic acanthus leaf motif. I didn’t get anywhere near to completion, and by noon was pretty much wiped out after all the activities and the poor sleep over the previous four nights, but I once again managed to learn some significant lessons,
including a few matters of sharpening, especially stropping, and a few other things about gouges that I chalk up to a “British accent” on the subject… my training had more of a German accent. I managed to last until about one, having Pete simply do the last few strokes of one element so I could at least see them. Satisfied, I began the process of taking my canopy down and packing it all up and getting ready to go.

Overall, it was a great event in a beautiful location and with a lot of talent sharing their skill with a lot of carvers. Tony and Jim, assisted by their wives Lucille and Christine, did a great job running it and everyone had a great time!

Thanks Jud for the great article and pictures. Looks like it was a very enjoyable time.
Hey Jud
I always thot you were taller,......
and less hairy, ....... and .........
well.......... better look'n........

Hi Reddog,

Well, my spine is collapsing, my face is now shaved, but better looking? How high is up?


Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?