Mac Ancarrow is good with wood

September 07, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Clarence Mac Ancarrow works in his basement woodshop on a handmade wooden ornament. Ancarrow uses a scroll saw to cut animals and other shapes from dozens of different species of wood from around the world. Hell be at Boonesborough Days this weekend.
By Chris Tilley/Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG — While cold, blustery winds hold concert outside, the resounding melody of a scroll saw often fills a West Virginia cabin.

Here, tucked away from the distractions of the 21st century, Clarence “Mac” Ancarrow spends the winter months following in the footsteps of his artisan ancestors — using skilled hands and imagination to create one-of-a-kind products with a devotion to quality.

Ancarrow uses the blades of a scroll saw to cut intricate patterns in ornaments, wall plaques, puzzles and so much more.

But it’s not just the tool that makes his work unique. It’s the exotic woods he uses — 75 species from around the world.

While his designs are on display at craft shows during the summer and fall months, Ancarrow does most of his work from November to April, when he heads to his West Virginia cabin on weekends and stockpiles his inventory.

Many of his items will be available Saturday, Sept. 10 and Sunday, Sept. 11, during Boonesborough Days, an annual festival sponsored by the Boonsboro Historical Society. He also will be offering demonstrations of his craft.

Ancarrow has been making scroll saw crafts since 1994.

It’s satisfying work, he said, “a fun hobby” that allows him to enjoy something he’s loved for most of his life — working with wood.

“Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been fascinated with what you can do with a piece of wood,” Ancarrow said. “When I was in high school, I couldn’t wait to get to shop class. To me, it was the best subject in school.”

Ancarrow, who is retired, said he used to build furniture when he was younger and even built his own grandfather clock.

Now, he concentrates on smaller objects made from some of the finest woods.

“I have some suppliers who handle all sorts of exotic woods,” Ancarrow said — from orange heart and padauk to his favorite, Honduran mahogany.

“It’s a beautiful wood,” he said of the mahogany, “with lots of different colorations — from deep dark red to lighter shades. It’s really easy to work with and gives wonderful results.”

Ancarrow said he does a lot of inlay work — particularly with his ornaments, which have been one of his most popular items.

“They’re no longer just for Christmas,” he said. “People use ornaments to decorate all year round. Sometimes, they come to me with special requests and I always try to accommodate them.”

He also crafts a menagerie of wooden animals, which he said are big sellers— from walruses and pelicans to flamingos and deer.

“Everybody collects something,” he said. “And, boy, sometimes they’re looking for something different.”

At one time, Ancarrow said he did about 10 shows every year but has now whittled it down to two.

“I usually do Boonesborough Days and Colorfest in Thurmont,” he said. “Both are beautiful, quality shows and draw a lot of people. And, of course, as a vendor, you like that.”

Ancarrow said he enjoys doing craft shows, not only as a way to display and sell his wares, “but to meet interesting people.”

“With both of the local craft shows, people come from all over — Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New Jersey and Delaware,” he said. “And they come to buy. They’re looking for something they won’t see in a store. And there’s more of a personal connection to the items. They get to meet and talk to the person who created the product.”

Ancarrow said he once had customers from England who wanted him to sign his name on the back of everything they purchased.

“There are a lot of serious collectors,” he said.

While much time and energy goes into each of his pieces, Ancarrow said he tries to keep his prices reasonable and has many items below $10.

“You want people to buy your items and then come back,” he said. “That’s something I stress to young craftspeople just staring out.”

When he’s not busy in his studio, Ancarrow said he likes to visit craft shows throughout the year to see what other artisans are producing.

“It’s incredible the amount of talent we have right here in our own backyard,” he said. “And many of those people will be at Boonesborough Days. The organizers are always very welcoming to good craftspeople. That’s one of the reason I enjoy being a part of the event. You’re treated like family.”

If you go ...

WHAT: Boonesborough Days

WHEN: 9 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, and Sunday, Sept. 11

WHERE: Shafer Park, Boonsboro

COST: Free admission.

CONTACT: Call the Boonsboro Town Council at 301-432-5141.

The Herald-Mail Articles