Reedy carves his niche, and more

April 08, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

Ray Reedy of Hagerstown spends his days taking chips off the old block - a block of basswood, to be exact.

The retired carpenter hand-carves intricate wooden figures of animals, people and creatures such as trolls in his basement workshop.

His pieces are sought after by collectors and he does commissioned projects. Yet Reedy isn't one to brag about his work.

"Well, they say it's good," is about all you'll get out of him. And he says that almost apologetically.

While he's modest about his work, he's childishly enthusiastic about his craft.

"I'm 72, going on 13," he said with a laugh. "I love doing this. Every day I start at 8 a.m. and work until 8 or 8:30 p.m."

"I get a whole day out of it," he said. "When you have eight hours of day and eight hours of night, what do you do with it? I carve. It passes the time. It gives my hands and my mind something to do."


Reedy first tried his hand at carving around 1950, when he was in the Boy Scouts. But it wasn't until the mid-1980s that he decided to make it a hobby.

"I knew I was going to retire and I had to have something to do," he said.

Reedy's wife, Betty, a talented artist, started decorative painting in earnest at about the same time.

Reedy began carving carousel horses, which his wife painted, and the business the couple named "The Merry-Go-Round" was born.

It was a starting point. Reedy began carving Santas for his wife. He now crafts them for a collector. Then, fascinated by faces, Reedy took some caricature courses from a local artist and started carving his own figures, each with a unique expression. They show motion and emotion. Betty painstakingly paints each piece.

"It keeps us out of the bars and off the street," Reedy quipped.

Reedy used to sketch interesting faces at the mall. "The funnier the better," he said. Now he tapes TV shows to collect faces.

On the shelves in the couple's basement sit painted and unfinished pieces of Reedy's work. A World War I pilot with leather helmet and flying scarf wears an impish grin. A hound stands beside a hunter.

A tall, properly dressed English butler with a stiff upper lip and dignified countenance is Reedy's favorite. "Bert" the Scandinavian wood-seller troll has captured his wife's heart.

Reedy makes hand-carved heads that serve as bottle stoppers. He fashions donkeys and horses. He does Civil War soldiers and is carving the likeness of an old baseball great for a local collector.

Reedy carves his figures and then turns them over to Betty.

"It takes me about four days to finish a 10-inch-high figure," she said.

Reedy said his wife also is his best critic.

"She'll tell me if there's something wrong with one of my figures," he said. "She's my quality control."

Betty becomes more attached to her husband's work than he does.

"I have no problems parting with them, because I know I can do the same thing again," Reedy said.

In addition to doing commissioned work, the Reedys display their pieces at craft shows.

Ray Reedy belongs to the Cumberland Valley Woodcarvers club in Chambersburg, and has started another as-yet unnamed club for woodcarvers or would-be woodcarvers in the Hagerstown area.

Anyone interested in joining the club may call Ray Reedy at 301-739-1985.

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