A splinter group

By Dean Shipley

February 19, 2014

He is not necessarily a chip off the old block, but Dick Hout is carving a place for himself.

Colloquial wordplays not withstanding, Hout and two other men, Roy Johnson and Hikmat Al-Khouri, find cutting edge satisfaction in wood carving once a week at the Madison County Senior Citizens Center.

One of the centers two display cases in the main hallway carry the creations of these three talented artists. The shelves are filled with an assortment of characters, still lifes and other items cut, gouged, sanded and/or painted mostly from basswood.

Hout said basswood is the ideal medium in which woodcarvers carve because of its “tight” grain. That means basswood holds detail well, doesn’t split, has straight-grain, and carves easily.

Hout has been carving since 2003. At that time, he had entered the senior citizens center and an encounter with the late Richard McKenzie. He encouraged Hout to take a piece of wood, try a couple of different tools and create some shavings. Hout said as he worked the basswood blank, he harkened back to his high school wood shop days in Crawford County. Though not necessary, his own background in working with wood in high school helped him.

The biggest help to him, now as he’s carved numerous characters and still life objects, are his variety of woodcarving tools called gouges, V-cuts, cups fitted with a large knob which fits his palm. Called palm tools, Hout said they give good control.

He advises any person who is ready to give woodcarving a try, is to invest in good-quality tools — his are made with German steel — and, while working, sharpen them frequently.

“Dull tools will cut you,” he said.

Hout cuts out “blanks” on a band saw for his fellow carvers, Johnson and Al-Khouri. The variety runs the gamut. He will cut a blank of, say, a rooster in profile. Hout can create a blank from a picture or from a two-dimensional drawing in a woodcarver’s catalog. Then the carver, with his arsenel of tools, digs into the wood to bring out the details.

Hout leaves many of his creations displaying the gouge marks and knife cuts. Some he paints, some he leaves natural. It’s up to the individual carver how each finishes a piece.

When asked if he keeps track of his hours, Hout chuckles and says no. He calls his weekly soirees at the senior citizens center as much of a social gathering as a hobby pastime.

Johnson has done it since 2002, I carve for several years and laid it down for another hobby of painting. But then he missed it and returned to it about a year ago.

His first project was a dog. “It’s square and I put a face on it,” he said. He chooses to wear a glove while carving to protect his hand. They don’t, but do carry a supply of bandages.

“We have a good time,” he said. “It’s a good hobby. We would like to encourage others to join us.”

Hikmat Al-Khouri started when he moved to Madison County from Columbus. His wife, Maria, said the carving group has provided a good social outlet for her husband. He had no previous experience but learned from watching Hout and Johnson.

“It’s a good way to visit with other senior citizens and produce something,” she said.

The three carvers work will be displayed at the Madison County Senior Citizens Center until the end of the month.

They meet at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays.

Dean Shipley can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 17 or via Twitter @DeanAShipley.