I was perusing the morning headlines, when I came across this piece from my hometown fish-wrapper, the Knoxville News Sentinel. It gave me a good idea for a Question of the Day. Do you do any wood carving, and if so to what level and with what tools?
Bill Henry is an 85-year old resident of Oak Ridge, TN. He has been whittling since he taught himself during down-time at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a young man. He has carved an estimated 20,000 pieces in his life, mostly with a $3.50 Camillus electrician that he bought more than 35 years ago at a flea market. Despite the fact that his work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian, Henry remains humble:
“A wood carver is a whittler with more ego and more money invested in his equipment,” he said. “I’m just a whittler — always have been, and always will be.”
There is a short video and a gallery of his work if you visit the website.
“Henry, who is 85 years old, specializes in carving miniature tools of intricate detail — everything from antique tobacco knives and axes to such obscure farm implements as churn dashers, featherbed smoothers, and ice breakers for cattle ponds.
His work — often described as “miniature Americana” — has been displayed in private and public collections, including the Smithsonian.
This month Henry was one of 10 Tennesseans to receive the 2015 Governor’s Arts Award. Produced by the Tennessee Arts Commission, the award is presented each year to individuals who represent the best in arts and culture in Tennessee. Henry was one of two people honored in the Folklife Heritage Award category, the other recipient being Jack Martin, a fourth-generation broom maker from Selmer, Tenn.
As for myself, I woodwork at a medium-high amateur level. I love using my Japanese hand saws. I have a couple of Lee Valley and Lie-Nielsen hand planes that with care will survive me to become family heirlooms. That being said, I haven’t really done much in the way of actual carving.
My most recent carving was a couple of “double-male” connectors for my children to use with their Brio trains. They aren’t pretty, but they work. Perhaps I will do more carving in the future as I teach my children how to use knives.
What say you?