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‘Wood’en it be nice!

Woodcarvers Unlimited stretch county lines

 Harold Steele (standing) shows the group a holiday ornament he made. Gordon Carls of Tonica (left) admires his work.
Harold Steele (standing) shows the group a holiday ornament he made. Gordon Carls of Tonica (left) admires his work.

PRINCETON — A creative club has deep roots in the Bureau, Putnam and LaSalle county communities. The Woodcarvers Unlimited meets on the third Thursday of the month at the Bureau County Senior Center in Princeton.

Each meeting starts off with a show and tell at 6:30 p.m. where members bring projects to show to other members in the group. At 7 p.m., the regular meeting commences. Currently the membership stands at 17; two women and 15 men make up the group.

Each member of the group brings a unique set of skills which combines for the whole in a very positive way. Different members of the group favor different tools. They work not only in wood, but some in plastic as well. Some members make items on a smaller scale, while others work full scale. Some do both. Some carve. Some do not. They all have learned different types of wood can produce unique effects in their art.

The group tease other members with the familiarity of a family who have known each other for a long time. Individuals are not afraid to share their trade secrets to help other members of the group. Some of these ideas will spur new ideas or projects.

Gary Moreland of Princeton uses his skills especially at Christmas time. Moreland will make more than 100 Christmas gifts, often in the form of ornaments to give to friends and family who visit during the holiday season. Others in the group do the same.

Some members of the group enjoy their craft so much they go to school to learn more. Harold Steele of Dover attended a very prestigious school, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts run by nationwide expert Dick Sing.

“I made a copy of a 1776 Chippendale Chair,” Steele said. “He (Sing) was also a math teacher, and he created from a mathematical equation perspective.”

The group gives back to the community in many ways. Often as a group or as individuals, they have been asked to teach and pass along their skills. Another project the group does is making Braille boxes and giving them away.

“We’ve been doing this since 1998 I think,” Dave Sawitoski of Princeton said. “We have made more than 2,000 of these units. We have the 26 letters of the alphabet and numbers in the little case.”

Each unit is composed of finished wood tiles for each letter of the alphabet. Each alphabet block is designed so the user will know what is the top of the letter. Sawitoski explained the blocks can be made from scrap wood pieces. Bob Folty of Tonica said it was a real group project.

“Individuals can take and make a whole set, or different people do different segments of the set,” Folty said.

The group has affiliated themselves with the Hadley School for the Blind in Winnetka. The school distributes them not only all over the country, but also to poorer countries overseas. In 2001, they were recognized for their work.

“We won the Make a Difference Day nationwide,” Folty said. “We got a $2,000 cash prize that we donated back to the Hadley School for the Blind.”

The Woodworkers Unlimited will host a newcomers meeting on Feb. 20. Member John Damon will give a live demonstration of his skills with a scroll saw.

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