September 2015

Erwin de Roggenbuke displays his bear carving in progress.

Carvers bring wood blocks to life

By Liz  Richell

Mankind has carved wood since the time that we discovered how to use tools. In every corner of the world, our ancestors have fashioned wood into boats, totems, shelter, masks, weapons and a wide array of useful and decorative items.

Regrettably, in our increasingly instant-gratification society, such skills are no longer widely practiced. But right in our own back yard is a group of artisans who enjoy creating beautiful items from blocks of wood. They are members of the Orange County Woodcarvers, Chapter 2 of the California Carvers Guild, established in 1974.

At a recent meeting, carvings were taking shape in the skilled hands of members, including a polar bear, Christmas ornaments, a gnome and a family of small songbirds. Power tools as well as fine picks, files and knives are preferred tools. 

Proudly displayed was a falcon perched on a branch, for which master carver Richard Otsuvo had won blue ribbons for first place and best of category at the Orange County Fair. The piece is so lifelike, it could almost take flight – the intricate detail of the carving and the paint finish is a true thing of beauty. Bill Bahret explained that Richard is generous with his time and talents, always willing to help or advise a fellow carver and is also an accredited teacher.

The falcon, along with a large variety of carvings from members of this and many other chapters, will be on display at the 19th annual Orange County Woodcarving Show. A carver will demonstrate how to do things on a large scale -- using a chain saw.  The public is invited to view the display at the event on Saturday, Oct. 10 and Sunday, Oct. 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Santa Ana Elks Lodge, 212 S. Elk Lane. Admission and parking are both free. Raffles, auctions, demonstrations and tools and materials vendors will all be part of this family-oriented event.

A sub-set of the group is the gourd carvers. Using nature’s supply of these plants that have a rock-hard shell, they create imaginative containers and decorations that will also be included in the October event.

The chapter will host a booth at the Tall Ships Festival in Dana Point this month, and it participates in outreach programs with demonstrations and information.

The friendly folk of OC Woodcarvers welcome all newcomers who have an interest in carving. Just show up at the weekly meeting, any Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. in the recreation hall of the Church of the Foothills, on Newport Ave. immediately south of Foothill High. 

President Karen Reinsvold explains that they introduce children to the art with bars of soap, which they fashion with a hand-carved wooden knife. Soap is easier to work with than the more customary choices of soft woods such as bass or tupelo.  

Learn more about woodcarving at, or call Bill Bahret (714) 771-6129 for further information.