John Grossmann has advice for anyone starting in the world of wood carving.
“The first thing you buy is a knife,” Grossmann said. “The second thing is a box of Band-Aids.”
Grossmann, 66, of Estero, is fairly new to the hobby of wood carving. He stumbled upon it after being stuck in a snow storm in New Jersey at his brother’s house one Christmas. After not being able to see his car from the house because of all the snow, he allowed his brother to show him how to wood carve.
“I got back to Florida, went out and got a bunch of tools,” Grossmann said.
Grossmann also joined the wood carvers club at the Estero Community Park Recreation Center. Every Wednesday, a group of 20-30 members gather in one of the classrooms and for a couple hours, carve, share what they’ve done and get help from more experienced members.
It’s a place where Grossmann can get help carving the faces on his Santa Claus wood sculptures. And a place where he can see inspiring works from other members, like Bud Petrey.
Petrey, 73, of Bonita Springs, sits next to his wife Linda, while he slices into a small chunk of wood he holds between his thumb and index finger. They will become the tusks of elephant he’s been sculpting for more than 20 hours.
“I told him, if you don’t stop carving on that thing, he’s going to get up and walk away,” Grossmann said of Petrey’s realistic wooden elephant.
Petrey added his wife wants him to carve a companion baby elephant after he’s finished. “I’ll probably make a whole herd,” Petrey said.
Petrey is one of the more advanced carvers. He’s been at it for more than 13 years. But the most experienced at wood carving in the room may reside with long time group member Lynn Sheeley.
Sheeley, 89, of Fort Myers, has been carving wood for more than 30 years. He joined the wood carvers group early in its existence. He’s seen the group grow to more than 100 members and move locations several times.
“I don’t even call it a club anymore,” Sheeley said. “I call it a workshop, because we help each other.”
When Sheeley began his wood carving, he wasn’t overly optimistic that he could be talented at it. “I couldn’t draw, so I was worried I wouldn’t be good at wood carving,” Sheeley said.
Not only was Sheeley able to carve, but the activity carried other benefits. He said that in order to wood carve, one needs to develop patience. “I used to have panic attacks,” Sheeley said. “Wood carving has taught me to relax. It’s helped me tremendously.”
It’s also taught him to see the world in more detail. “You think you know what something looks like, but then you start carving,” Sheeley said. “You realize you don’t know all the details, and you learn to notice things you never noticed before.”
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Connect with Greg Kahn at www.naplesnews.com/staff/greg_kahn