Having a whittle fun

Kitsap County Woodcarvers president Jay Williams works on a butternut wood piece Wednesday at a ‘Spit & Whittle’ gathering at the Bremerton Senior Center.  - Photo by Sean Janssen
Kitsap County Woodcarvers president Jay Williams works on a butternut wood piece Wednesday at a ‘Spit & Whittle’ gathering at the Bremerton Senior Center.
— image credit: Photo by Sean Janssen

“When we get together, it’s a good time ...”

Kitsap County Woodcarvers president Jay Williams shared that piece of information Wednesday when about a dozen carvers gathered for one of their weekly “Spit & Whittle” sessions at the Bremerton Senior Center Wednesday.

Williams went on to make a political statement, but newsletter and Web editor Tom Weese stopped him short.

“No politics,” Weese said. “Let’s not even go there.”

Nevertheless, it does come up among other things when these folks gather.

“We’re bound to talk about just about anything down here at the Spit & Whittles,” said club librarian Conrad Heller. “Politics (included).”

Indeed, walking into the room full of woodcarvers is to walk into a chatty bunch no quieter than any kindergarten class.

And don’t let the demographics of this particular meeting fool you, said John Koslosky, the club’s show chair. There have been members as young as nine years old. Spit & Whittles are held not only in Bremerton every Wednesday from 12:30 to 3 p.m. but also regularly in Poulsbo, where the crowd tends to be a little younger, and Port Orchard.

There are plenty of long-timers and newcomers to the hobby. Weese said it’s a simple thing to get into, with the club itself a bargain ($12/year for families, $4/year for members less than 16 years old), a knife provided to new members and an inexpensive piece of scrap wood to start with.

Newbies, explained one member, if honest, are apt to pick up a Purple Heart award if they admit at a monthly meeting to cutting themselves. An award is fashioned from purple heartwood and plenty of friendly ribbing comes along with it.

For rookies, it’s really not so bad though, all in all.

“I’m a retired machinist and I’ve always wanted to try carving wood,” said Gene Gregory, who began carving last May. “It’s relaxing to me. I really enjoy it (for) the fellowship. I get to learn a lot from folks, what I’m doing wrong and what I’m doing right.”

The monthly meetings, on the first Saturday of each month excluding August, are located at the Active Club Recreation Building in Port Orchard, and include a “show & tell.”

“The show & tell ... gets me used to getting up in front of people, which is pretty good,” Gregory said. “It’s interesting to me to see what everybody else is doing, too.”

The club has about 100 members, a handful of whom have been with it since its inception in 1973. The monthly meetings include programs with speakers from all over the state, and carvers come from as far and wide as Auburn, Sequim, Port Townsend and Gig Harbor to take part.

“Different clubs have different types of meetings and different kinds of flavors,” Williams said.

The club has its biggest annual event coming up just around the corner. The Woodcarvers host their 20th Annual Juried Show the weekend of March 11-12 at the Westside Improvement Club at National Avenue and E Street. Carvers will come from out-of-state and even Canada for the show, assembled this year by Koslosky.

“There’s a lot of talent at the show,” he said. “I used to look at the people who did this in amazement and now I’m doing it.”

“Some of that stuff (entered at the show) looks like it’ll get up and walk away,” Williams said. “A lot of real expert carvers come. They had an eagle there last year, looked so real it was ready to take flight. There was a cougar one year ... looked like it was ready to eat.”

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