WHEELING - Woodcarver Dave Sloan estimates he made 30,400 cuts and spent 120-160 hours to create just one wooden Christmas tree.
For some, that may sound like a lot of work. But for Sloan and the many Oglebay Woodcarvers Guild members, taking a chunk of wood and turning it into a work of art is an afternoon well spent.
"It's worth it," said Sloan during one of the club's evening sessions at the Stifel Fine Arts Center in Wheeling.
Bellaire resident Joe Hodorowski, who serves as the group's corresponding secretary, said there are about 100 guild members from across the Ohio Valley. The group holds carving sessions at Stifel from 6-9 p.m. Mondays and 9 a.m. to noon Thursdays. There are several filing cabinets full of patterns people can use. Some people, such as Sloan, create and use their own original patterns.
Guild membership costs $5 a year.
"It's relaxing - I enjoy it," Hodorowski said.
"Some people use a pattern or start with a picture, or you may have a statue at home that gives you inspiration."
Hodorowski said he enjoys carving animals, along with caricatures or people with exaggerated features. He noted there are a few basic methods of carving: in the round, relief and chip. In the round means one takes a whole piece of wood and turns it into something such as a Christmas tree or bear. Relief carving means one carves deep into a piece of wood to create sort of a 3-D scene. And chipping is a method used often to create patterns in wood, such as decorative boxes. The guild members, he said, help each other learn.
Wellsburg resident Tom Clark enjoys carving and woodburning. He uses a burning tool to create images on wood cabinets and more. He periodically teaches his fellow members how to use the burning tools to add depth and color to their carvings.
Wheeling resident Joan Nugent and her husband Milt joined the guild about six years ago and have been carving ever since. She noted it takes practice, but it's best to take it all in stride.
"You have to have instruction, someone to get you started. If it turns out well, pat yourself on the back. If it's bad, you can blame the one who taught you and throw it in in the fireplace," Joan Nugent quipped.
Nugent said she learned about chip carving in high school but didn't pick up the hobby until she and her husband attended the guild's annual Woodcarvers Show at Oglebay Park. This year's show is slated Sept. 1-2 at Oglebay.
"We have a lot of fun, and we do good things for the community," said Canonsburg, Pa., resident Clark Adams, guild president. He jokingly added, "I started to keep out of my wife's hair."
Each year, the guild donates money to the Stifel Center to help pay for needy children's art classes. It also donates funds to local soup kitchens and food pantries. Last year, in total, the guild donated $4,906 to various groups and charities. It raises money via raffles, such as the annual Christmas tree decorated with ornaments made by members.