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Carving a special niche

Woodcarving group keeps craft alive with weekly meetings to share projects, give each other tips.

June 26, 2010|By Joyce Rudolph,

The Smoky Hollow Carvers, a group of woodcarving enthusiasts, take pride in their challenging craft and the fact they are keeping alive a tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages.

The group has about 35 members who vary from beginner to advanced levels. Chapter No. 45 meets from 1 to 4 p.m. every Wednesday at the Stough Canyon Nature Center in Burbank and from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday at Crescenta Valley Park in the main building at the corner of Dunsmore and Honolulu avenues.

Members say meetings are very informal, and there are no membership dues. It's a chance to share what projects they are working on and to give each other tips on tried and true techniques.


It's also a great bonding experience with members tossing jokes back and forth and offering their opinions on current events, they say.

President George Smith of Sunland has been carving for 15 years. He is retired from Lockheed Aircraft where he worked in computing, assisting the engineers who were designing the planes, he said.

His subjects are often people.

"Human faces are pretty much of a challenge," he said. "I'm working on a bust of my grandson. He lives in New Hampshire, but we've got some pretty good pictures of him."

Smith also does a fair amount of relief carving, or carving pictures, like landscapes and scenery onto a flat piece of wood.

"I've done Western ranch scenes and horses," he said, adding he uses gouging tools and when the wood piece is complete, he gives it a clear finish.

Vice President Ray Landry has been woodcarving for 20 years. He picked up the hobby after his retirement from the city of Los Angeles where he was a supervising carpenter.

The 86-year-old Glendale resident attends Chapter No. 45 meetings each Saturday at Crescenta Valley Park.

His favorite subjects to carve are famous people and bears, he said. He's carved U.S. presidents Lincoln, Obama, Clinton and Reagan and is now working on an Indian trader modeled after a famous piece carved by 19th century American sculptor William Rush.

Landry's fascination with bears came from hunting them when he was growing up in Berlin, N.H., he said. He's even created a technique using a nail on a spinning drill that gives the appearance of hair on his bears and passed it along to fellow carvers.

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