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Fenton Resident Chisels His Way to Carving Award

The Hartland Area Woodcarvers Guild meets every Wednesday in the Hartland Senior Center Art Room.

Bird watching wasn't quite exciting enough for Fenton resident Larry Eichler.

So he does bird carving.

Eichler won Best in Show at the Greater Lansing Wood Carver's Show in April with his carving of a pair of northern Cardinals.

He is a member of the - a group of 21 men who meet every Wednesday in the Senior Center Art Room at the .

Recently, Eichler was working on mounting a Red-breasted Nuthatch to a piece of wood. He said the trick was getting the pieces of wire to look like real legs.

"One of the characteristics of these birds is that they always go down a tree frontwards," Eichler explained about how he was mounting the bird. "So this is the way you always see them. And if people have bird feeders, they're pretty common at feeders."

Eichler, who has been woodcarving for 40 years, said he carves more than just birds, he does a lot of relief carving.

"Relief carving is when you take a flat piece of wood and you carve it so it appears to be semi three-dimensional. The trick is to try and make the figure look like a three-dimensional figure when it's only a half inch high."

Hartland resident Chuck Smith is the president of the group and he was recently sitting an art room, attaching the carefully shaped wooden arms and legs of the teddy bear he carved.

"It's just a fun group," Smith said. "Guys get to come and do their own thing, talk and have a good time."

Smith helped organize the group about five years ago. They advertised in the senior newsletter for people interested.

"We pick up guys and lost guys," Smith said. "We've had one or two women, but they never stay long."

Smith first took up woodcarving in an RV Park in Florida 12 years ago.

"I went over to the screened-in tent to see what was going on," he said. "They asked me to sit down, gave me a knife and a piece of wood and told me what to do with it. It's something that I decided I liked."

The Hartland Area Woodcarvers Guild are members of the Michigan Woodcarving Association and individual members compete in different shows throughout the year.

Smith said he competes in about three to four shows a year. His carvings have won Best in Show at the Fowlerville Family Fair for the past two years. Last year, he entered a turtle and the year before that, a fish. 

Since he has a title to defend, Smith is probably going to enter a a larger carving of a muskie -- a large freshwater fish from the pike family. The carving also has two smaller bluegill fish as well.

Relief carving is what Brighton resident Jim Brumm was working on recently.

"I'm working on a gnome house," he said. "I'm just getting started."

Brumm was working with a piece of Michigan bark, but he also pulled out a piece of bark from out west that he bought online.

"This is from a tree out in South Dakota, probably 100 to 150 years old - that's where you get the good bark," Brumm said. "Around Michigan you get bark not as thick. Out west, you get thicker pieces. It's getting pretty pricey. Everybody's trying to make a fortune off it. What I have left is what I have left." 

The Hartland Area Woodcarvers Guild is open to all who want to learn to carve or to improve their carving skills. Dues cost $10 per year, which includes a subscription to the national wood carver magazine, "Chip Chats." For more information, contact The Hartland Educational Support Center at 810-626-2101.

"We're always looking for new members," Eichler said.

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