North Pittsburgh carvers turn wood into works of art
Dale Kirkpatrick long has had a fondness for trees, having spent his upbringing exploring Midwestern backcountry.
But it wasn't until the mid-1970s that he started learning to turn wood into works of art.
After accumulating a trove of reading material and taking lessons on wood carving, he has proved prolific, using his imagination to carve countless works ranging from Native American figures and angels to caricatures and faces engraved in wooden spools.
“I just like being able to create things with my hands,” said Kirkpatrick, 68, of Penn Hills, a retired computer systems analyst who maintains a website displaying his hand-carved works. He said he recently was asked by a relative to carve a sailor bearing an American flag for his son-in-law, who is retiring from the Navy.
Kirkpatrick shares his enthusiasm for carving with others who are part of a woodcarving group that meets once a month in Parkwood United Presbyterian Church in Allison Park for discussions and workshops.
The group, Chisels and Chips Carvers of North Pittsburgh, formed nearly 20 years ago. It has about 50 members, most of them retirees, and it offers introductory classes.
For many carvers who are part of the group, the activity has a calming effect and allows one to enjoy the scents and textures of wood. They acknowledge, however, that the craft involves much patience and precision. A piece can take weeks, sometimes months, to finish.
“It's very relaxing,” said Ed Barnett, the president of the group, who picked up the hobby after retiring as an architect. He recently finished carving several crucifixes out of a piece of mahogany and delivering them to patients at a local assisted-living facility for senior citizens.
Barnett, 76, of Penn Hills, joined the Chisels and Chips group about five years ago after spending years with another group in East Liberty. The grandson of a carpenter, he said he built furniture and kitchen cabinets for the home where he and wife first lived after they married in the early 1960s.
“I just like the detail,” he said. “I have always liked the natural grains and imperfections that nature provides.”
Workshops, exhibits and juried shows for wood carving hobbyists abound, and one of the biggest annual shows in Dayton, Ohio, known as Artistry in Wood, draws thousands of carvers each year.
Many carvers use basswood, which grows across the country and has a texture that retains detail better than some other woods.
In Western Pennsylvania, the craft is less prevalent than in the central and eastern parts of the state, Kirkpatrick said.
Some carvers have turned the hobby into a livelihood.
Bob Stadtlander, who gave a talk at the last Chisels and Chips gathering on June 9, picked up carving as a diversion after graduating from college more than 25 years ago. He eventually grew so interested that he took time off from his day job as a quality control engineer in the mid-2000s, to devote more time to it.
“It ended up being five years” Stadtlander, 51, said.
The northeastern Ohio resident teaches woodcarving classes, traveling as far as Nebraska, and his works have appeared in juried shows.
He runs an online woodcarving supply store.
Carving can be expensive ”if you want it to,” he said, but spending as little as $50 would prove sufficient.
“All you need,” he said, “is one good, sharp knife.”
Jake Flannick is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- North Allegheny grad earns international recognition for public speaking
- Neighborhood movie theaters use unconventional methods to draw customers
- Arsenal hard cider now served at Soergel Orchards in Franklin Park
- Dormont library program to pay tribute to Japanese culture
- Event to offer glimpse of cemetery’s history at Old St. Luke’s
- Mt. Lebanon looks to tackle pedestrian safety issue
- Young Achiever: Brock Kitterman
- Former Upper St. Clair director to lead choir for final time
- Mt. Lebanon church plans $2M expansion project