Carving out tradition

By Carrie Haderlie
The Sheridan Press


Ash, birch, cedar, cherry. Hickory, mahogany, maple and oak. These woods have shaped our world, from the furniture and tools we use every day to the art we cherish.

Timber has been used for centuries in architecture, religion, agriculture, recreational activities and for survival, according to Timberbits, an Australian company that sells woodworking tools and machinery for the DIY woodworker and woodturner.

It was by developing woodworking skills that humans were able to hunt more effectively, create shelters, build boats and make life easier. In fact, woodworking led to the advancement of society, according to Timberbits.

Two vibrant Sheridan groups are keeping the woodworking tradition alive: Wood Carvers of the Big Horns and the Sheridan Area Woodturners.

Roger Haight of Wood Carvers of the Big Horns said what draws him is the challenge of converting an idea into a piece of art.

“Slowly removing wood and watching the form one has in mind emerge is pleasing and ego-boosting,” he said. “The diversity of using different kinds of wood and having the choice of creating a wall hanging or a standalone piece makes the art interesting and captivating.”

Carving also requires many different tools — and that makes a tool junkie like Haight happy.

Harold Golden of the Sheridan Area Woodturners said he loves his craft because he is able to make whatever he wants.

“When turning wood, we can start out with a single chunk of wood cut from a fresh cut tree and make a usable bowl the same day,” he said. “Or we can glue pieces of wood taken from different species (and color) of trees to create a hollow form vessel that contains over 3,000 pieces of wood.”

Haight said that his uncle carved, and he always admired the pieces he made.

“My interest in carving has been there for most of my life,” he said. “As a Boy Scout, I carved to earn a carving merit badge and made marquetry pictures a hobby during my early years of employment.”

After retiring in 2003, he began carving in earnest.

Most members of Wood Carvers of the Big Horns create small-scale art, including caricatures, chains, balls in cages, canes and walking sticks, wood spirits, spoons, animals, fish and birds.

The Wood Carvers of the Big Horns meet at The Hub on Smith on the first, third and fifth Saturdays of the month from 9 a.m. to noon.

The Sheridan Area Woodturners have about 25 members and meet once a month, Golden said. Meetings are held at a different member’s workshop each month. Meeting turnout is usually about 15.

“We start out with a general show-and-tell session where members share their current experiences, successes and failures,” Golden said. “The second half of the meetings usually has a demonstration conducted by the host for that particular meeting. Our focus is on education and support.”

The woodturners make anything from pens to vases and bowls or platters and goblets.

“Some of our members make things of a more utilitarian nature, and some create museum-quality objects d’art,” Golden said. “Some of our members have only been turning for a couple of years and some have more than 30 years experience.”

Most items make wonderful gifts, Golden said, and some members show pieces in local art galleries.

“Our wives, of course, get first pick,” he said.


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The Sheridan Press has served Sheridan County, Wyoming, since 1887. The award-winning independent newspaper offers print and online news delivery platforms to the thriving community, which boasts a college; a lively arts, culture, and music scene; a bustling downtown; and many other amenities, including unlimited outdoor recreational opportunities. To subscribe to The Sheridan Press, click here.