David P Schulze
I have been a wood carver for a year now, but I still feel like the new guy. But that only lends more credibility to the guys (and gals) that can wield the tools of the trade on a fine edge. I have seen their work, and I am humbled looking at birds, and rabbits, and foxes, cats, snakes, etc that are so life like, they could run or fly away if you move too quickly towards them. Sometimes, all it takes is a little coaching to really make an impression.
Ed Ertle is one of the masters of the knife. He is a regular at our weekly carving sessions in Columbia. On this particular day, he came into the room with a plastic bag full of basswood blocks, smoking a big, fat cigar, and wearing a Cheshire cat grin. Did he smoke? I didn't remember. A few others around the room also noticed, and the question was asked. Again, another grin. He tossed his burning cigar on the table, but the ash didn't fall off. It was Ed that was showing off. He asked if anyone was interested in trying to make one of these....
The cigar looked so real, you could feel the heat coming from what looked like a head of smoldering ash on the business end of the butt. Several carvers took him up on his offer, and took a long, skinny block of Basswood from the bag. "OK", I said. "I am curious", and I took one too.
I studied the sample for a little while. It is amazing how the master can make something like this look so simple....
To make a long story short (and save the actual instruction for Ed), by the end of the two hour carving session, I was holding a "smoldering" Cuban cigar in my hand that would burn your hand if you touched it. Previously, I have carved simple things in a few days that look respectable. I have carved a delicate array of leaves around the stem of a scepter over the course of several weeks. But never have these hands of mine ever imagined making something that looked so real in less than 120 minutes. OK. So much for my ego. Now I really had to test it to see how good it really was.
My next stop after carvers that day was the post office. The Lebanon post office is small, and Kathy knows everyone. I casually strolled up to the counter under her typical friendly gaze and began conducting my business. Then, I held up the cigar, and in an attempted Humphrey Bogart voice, I grinned and asked "Hey doll... Do you mind if I smoke?" Kathy was polite and told me that smoking was not allowed in here. "But hey...", I slurred on, "this one is special...". There were no other customers at the time. She toned down her smile a bit, and assertively said "No". Then she took a closer look. There was no smoke. The grin came back and spread from ear to ear. "Where did you get that" she asked.
Nuff said.... I would call this carving a success. Thanks Ed.
David P Schulze