When I was just a youngster there was an “old man” (who knows how old he really was?) who lived a couple doors down my street who sat on his front porch and carved stuff out of what I think was soft pine. I vividly remember he was carving a chain out of a solid block of wood. In fact, on one end, he had already carved a ball inside a wooden cage.
I spent much of that summer checking his progress which, I believe, had reached three or four links.
I’ve always had a love affair with wood. I built model airplanes stick by stick until there was no more room in my bedroom to display them. But planes have a short shelf life anyway — they crash. As I grew older I got to use real power tools, which in those days consisted mostly of a drill press and a table saw. I remember my brother and I helping dad build a speed boat without a power drill to sink those thousands of wood screws.
Like most husbands, I’ve done the handyman jobs around the house, fixing doors and drawers that stick, rewiring light fixtures and even water faucets that drip.
I never outgrew my crush with wood and continue to enjoy “puttering” in the garage. Just like the 10-year old kid who likes to build models, this 70-plus years “old man” delights in building scale model ships.
Recently, unable to find just the right kind of naval warship model kit, I decided to “scratch build” a World War II destroyer. I just love the looks of those ships. So I bought a plastic model of the World War “tin can,” as destroyers were called, and got to work copying it in wood.
I don’t know if I can call myself a wood carver, because many of the small items needed on the boat were shaped first by a power saw and then by pushing them against a spinning power sander. I don’t produce wood chips, just sawdust. I even took the six-foot long block of wood to a local mill to have them make the first rough cuts to shape the hull.
I love when some woodworking guy produces a scale model truck or ship that finds its way to the California Mid-State Fair, which runs through this coming Sunday night.
A friend, and former mayor, Ray Johnson, is a wood carver. If I remember right, he is among many who belong to the countywide woodcarver’s guild. I saw the sign at this year’s fair that the wood carvers have a display inside the building behind the Potter Mountain waterfall. I plan to check it out this week.
I have long admired the work of these woodcarvers and completely understand their fascination with things wood.