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Hobbyists give it a whirl

June 26, 2004|by RYAN C. TUCK

ryant@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY - Jenna Hall, 10, of Hagerstown, came to Valley Mall expecting to walk away with shopping bags, but left instead with stories to tell about the history of the carousel.

Hall was one of the patrons who stopped to learn more about carousels Friday at the third annual Miniature Carousel Builders' exhibition.

"That's really neat," she said after hearing about the origins of the carousel from the group's secretary, Dee Lynch.

Charlie McDaniel, of Williamsburg, Va., was the creator of one of the more than 10 miniature carousels on display.

His "Virginia Carousel" weighed approximately 110 pounds and stretched 3 feet. Its walls were lined with pictures of historic sites from Virginia.

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McDaniel, who continued to carve miniature horses while talking, said he has been building miniature carousels for 10 years and learned to carve them after seeing a carousel show in Lake George, N.Y.

Some club members sell their carousels and other miniatures such as trains, tractors, Ferris wheels and clocks, but McDaniel said he gives his to charities because it's "just a hobby."

Although he never has sold a carousel, he told Ernst Herlinger of Martinsburg, W.Va., who stopped to compliment his work, that a carousel he donated to a children's home in Virginia was appraised and valued at $20,000.

Ken Adams of Chambersburg, Pa., president of the Miniature Carousel Builders, and Howard Chic Hutton of Waynesboro, Pa., the group's historian, said a group from Japan bought 25 miniatures after visiting a show and used them to start a carousel museum in Japan. Hutton said each carousel was sold for between $6,000 and $10,000.

The club has more than 200 members, including ones in Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.

Adams said no two miniatures are exactly alike and some are based on actual carousels. Hutton's carousel at Friday's display was an "exact duplicate" of the carousel in Pen Mar Park, which was moved to Alaska during World War II and destroyed shortly thereafter.

Hutton said he saw the carousel in its original form and set out to build a model to show at the club's annual display in Pen Mar Park on Everybody's Day.

Walter Kohler of Maugansville, Anthony Mitchell of Hagerstown and Charles Gerstenberger of Fremont, Ohio, explained that typical carousels start with 32 horses and two chariots "so the older people can sit." They are built using basswood, ceramic, plastic or porcelain.

McDaniel uses copper tubing attached to mechanical rotators for the poles, but said almost any metal can be used. The roof can be built from plastic, wood or leather and members usually decorate the sides with pictures, mirrors and the miniature's name.

"It's easy," Kohler said. "If you have time, you should look into it."

Mitchell said he learned by watching Kohler build one and then started his own.

Adams said miniatures usually take between four and 10 months to build, depending on the size.

The Miniature Carousel Builders was formed in 1986 to share and spread information on how to build miniature carousels and to show them to the public, Adams said. The club publishes a quarterly newsletter and instructions on how to build your own miniature.

Traveling to senior centers, malls, carnivals, parks, museums and craft shows in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Ohio, the group tries to "remind the public of the beauty and nostalgia of the carousel," Hutton said.

The exhibition will be at the mall through Sunday.

Member carousels are featured monthly on the group's Web site at www.carousels.com/mcb.

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