Woodcarvers chip away at creating art

Sallie Smith works on carving a Christmas ornament Saturday at the Senior Center in Central Point. Mail Tribune / Julia MooreJulia Moore

CENTRAL POINT — Eyes focused in concentration, Sallie Smith digs her small wood-carving gouge into a piece of wood, and as small curls fall away, a Christmas ornament emerges.

Smith is one of several people wearing the same intent expression at the Central Point Senior Center Saturday afternoon. The dozen or so attendees of a weekly Central Point Woodcarvers meeting sit at tables, tools and chip piles in front of them, while small pieces of wood — mostly bass wood — are transformed slowly, cut by cut, into funny faces, animals, a baseball, a fisherman statuette.

If you go

What: Central Point Woodcarvers

When: Noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays

Where: Central Point Senior Center, 123 N. Second St., Central Point

Cost: $1 per session

Information: www.centralpointwoodcarvers.com

This meeting, held from noon to 3 p.m. every Saturday, has been going on for about 13 years, and it's generated quite a following — a group of 35 or so — in that time.

"I like to do things with my hands," Smith says. "There are a lot of different things you can do."

The group's meetings are open to the public, so anyone interested in carving can bring their tools and soak up some knowledge — and all it costs is $1. Group members say the collaborative atmosphere helps them improve their skills, but it also makes their hobby more fun.

"You never get any better carving by yourself," says group president Donna Edsel.

The group started in 2000 with a few friends who had an interest in woodcarving. Group member Bill Newport says he had been involved in about six woodcarving clubs while living in Arizona. He's been interested in carving since he was 10 years old. As a boy, he whittled away at bits of wood with his grandfather's pocketknife.

After retirement in 2000, he and his wife moved from Arizona to Central Point.

"I got to looking around in the Rogue Valley for a woodcarving club, and there were none," Newport says.

So he started coming to the Central Point Senior Center and doing it on his own. Word got around, and more carvers started attending.

"Almost every week somebody new would come in," Newport said.

Edsel got involved with the group in 2003, but she became interested in carving in the 1990s because of her husband's interest in wood-working.

"I looked in some of his magazines and thought, 'I could probably do that,' " Edsel says.

She started coming to the weekend meetings and later helped formalize the group. They created a website, www.centralpointwoodcarvers.com, last year, which includes a calendar of events, photos of member projects, patterns carvers can follow and how-to ideas, such as Edsel's lesson on how to make knife shields.

Carvers of all ages and skill levels attend the group's meetings. Even children are welcome if they're accompanied by an adult.

"We encourage any age," Edsel says.

"It's a good bunch of people," adds carver Robert Fitzgerald.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

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