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Boonsboro man's carved dinos delight students

August 03, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

BOONSBORO -- It might be the 21st century, but dinosaurs are back and it's all John Estes' fault.

Actually his dinosaurs -- carved in great detail from poplar plywood -- are quite harmless. They have been appearing in libraries and schools all over Western Maryland.

It all started in 2007 in a newly built library in a small, rural town in West Virginia. The first set of six carved dinosaurs was donated by Estes, a member of a rather specialized group of retirees in Washington County.

A veteran of 35 years with AT&T and Verizon, Estes is a member of the Williamsport chapter of the Communications Workers of America.

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"One of our members is from Levels, W.Va., where there was no library until recently," Estes said. "Our club took on the project of stocking that library."

Estes' personal contribution was a set of dinosaurs. Each set contains a stegosaurus, a tyranodon, a T-rex and three other popular dinosaur denizens of the Jurassic period.

From that simple beginning, Estes decided to make a set for the new Boonsboro Library. Next came the Boonsboro Elementary School, which his grandsons, Kyle, 9, and Jordan, 11, attend.

"Now I have made a set for each of the 26 elementary schools in Washington County," Estes said.

A set was also made for Potomack Intermediate School in Berkeley County, W.Va., Estes said.

He then decided to make sets for the elementary schools in his native Allegany County, Md.

"I have sets in six elementary schools there and by Aug. 26, I will have finished all of those," Estes said.

Garrett County, Md., will be next.

First, Estes consulted a book of patterns and found dinosaurs. Then, he enlarged that pattern so each of the models is at least a foot high or wide, depending on the dinosaur.

"I get 4-by-8-foot sheets of poplar plywood from an Alexandria, Va., lumber yard and cut them into 1-foot squares," Estes said. "Poplar is soft, flexible and very light."

He paints both sides white to mimic what a dinosaur skeleton would look like and then cuts out the interlocking pieces with a scroll saw in the workshop of his Boonsboro home.

"I've been getting a lot of feedback," Estes said proudly. "I want to give back to teachers and students for years to come."

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