Whittlers carve beauty at show

March 28, 2009
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You see a raw block of wood. They see beauty waiting to happen.

Members of Pikes Peak Whittlers showed what a difference a knife can makes at Saturday's woodcarving and woodworking show, sale and competition at Colorado Springs Shrine Club.

The annual event drew a steady stream of people to see how it's done and the resulting boxes, figurines, walking sticks and whatever.

"It's my new waste of time," exhibitor Adam Leech said. "I found a piece of driftwood on vacation and had a pocket knife and I put the two together and I've been at it ever since."

Leech also uses his tools to deface nickels. He turns Thomas Jefferson's mug into the likes of Bart Simpson and Barack Obama.

"Whittling on a nickel was popular during the Great Depression by guys riding the rails who would trade the nickel for a place to stay," he said. "It's a tradition that's kind of dying."

Some novelty nickels sell for thousands of dollars, he said. His go for $15-$20.

At 30, Leech is among the younger set taking up the ancient past-time.

"You think of a guy in bib overalls on the front porch whittling a stick with a pen knife," club spokesman Bill Prager said. "Most of us are old."

Still, it's a craft that bridges the generations.

"I thought it would be something neat for my children to see," said Curtis Heck, a downsized software engineer.

It's a show where kids can't do too much damage.

His 5-year-old son, Andrew, tried his best to look without touching, but a colorful $3 wooden top beckoned. His daughter, Paige, 3, was content to clutch the wooden cutout of a bow she got free at the door.

"I'm going to paint it and hang it on my wall," the girl said.

Joanna and Jakub Tomaszewska came to the show to sharpen their skills. The couple, who moved to Colorado Springs from Poland three years ago, used to do a lot of paragliding. Now, as parents of two young daughters, carving is their hobby.

"It's something we can do when they are asleep," Joanna Tomaszewska said. "I'm trying to do scrolling and some jewelry. I made a wooden puzzle. My daughter loves it."

Linda Ross, a pottery artist, was by won over by the aesthetics.

"I look at all the detail and think, ‘Oh, my gosh, all the time that's involved.' It's a special talent to be able to make it all come together," she said.

She admired veteran carver William Zelt's $5,000 intricate linden wood sculpture of a shapely woman holding a baby.

"I don't know where these fantasies come from, but I just did it," said Zelt, who also makes animals and clocks.

Zelt and other exhibitors enjoy talking about their work. The event is as much show as sale.

Prager said the local whittling club, which meets weekly, has about 75 members.

"We usually pick up after the show," he said.

That's how Tom Crooks, a Canon City prison correctional officer, got hooked.

"I came to a show and my wife said, 'You ought to try that'."

That was four years and many carved bears and candle holders ago.

"This is my fun time," he said.


The show continues 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at Colorado Springs Shrine Club, 6 South 33rd St. Admission is $2 for adults; children under 12 are free.
Phone: 495-3391



Pikes Peak Whittlers meet Wednesdays at 9 a.m. at Woodcraft, 750 Garden of the Gods Blvd. for open carving sessions.

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