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For the love of Birds
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Carving is more than a hobby for Chuck Huddleston, it’s a passion
Chuck Huddleston’s back yard is filled with bird feeders that provide inspiration for the 76-year-old’s hobby – carving wood.
“My goal is to carve one of each of the species of birds that come to the feeders,” Huddleston said last week from his Leesville Lake area home.
The retired mail carrier and Regional Planning director is well on his way to reaching his goal. A small-scale artificial tree in his living room is a testament to that statement. The tree includes traditionals such as the cardinal, bluebird, robin, Carolina wren and house wren, Baltimore Oriole and woodpecker, as well as, the not so frequent red breasted nut hatch, which usually makes its home in northern Michigan and Canada. And, don’t forget the American Eagle, which is making a comeback. The eagle is positioned at the top of the tree, attracts the eye immediately with intricate details in the face, head and feathers.
“There’s 14 (birds) on there right now,” Huddleston stated, adding he enjoys carving miniature birds rather than larger scale items.
When asked why he carves birds, he admitted he just loves birds. “They are pretty and free.”
“I’ve always liked wildlife, hunting and fishing, even though I don’t do much of it anymore,” said the Vietnam veteran. “That’s how I got into carving birds.”
His interest in birds led to a large resource library in his carving shop, which is housed in the former one-car garage at the home he shares with his wife, Liz.
“You have to know about the bird you are carving, the anatomy, position of the wings and legs,” he explained, pulling a copy of Bird Digest off the shelf and leafing through the pages.
For Chuck, carving began back in 1976 when he attended the first Algonquin Mill Festival, just a few miles from his home.
It was there met a carver, Harry Carpenter of Richmond, who was sharing his trade with festival visitors.
“I saw him and thought I’d like to try carving,” Huddleston said. “I bought a set of knives off him and joined a carving club in Steubenville with Merle Coe.”
The first pieces he carved were what is known as Base Relief Carving, where the carver takes a piece of wood and carves a three-dimensional figure. His first was a duck carved out a of piece of walnut. That project required about 400 hours to complete.
“The duck, along with a like-life American Eagle that is perched on his mantle inside a protective case, are his favorites.
“That eagle took 200 hours to complete,” he noted, adding he tries to have a couple projects underway at the same time.
“It’s tedious work,” he admitted, adding he enjoys his time in the shop.
“I go to the shop, turn on some easy listening music and just get away from it,” he said.
In the 1980’s Huddleston took his carving hobby to the next level and attended a week-long seminar in Myrtle Beach where we worked with renowned carver Bob Guge, who died in 2013, leaving a legacy of carving and painting wildfowl that is unmatched.
“I began carving in earnest in 1992,” Huddleston noted. “People would be surprised to know I can’t draw a lick. I get the shape started and it seems like God directs me through the process.”
The process begins with a piece of tupelo wood, which comes from a gum tree, due to its close grain which holds detail well.
“I do a profile of the bird on the bandsaw and then use a combination of knives and power tools to complete the project,” he said noting creating the center line is very important so equal amounts are taken off each side as the bird carving is brought to life.
“Then you add texture, the feathers, which includes using a wood burner to give it a 3-D look,” the carver continued. “I use diamond bits and a ceramic stone bit as well in the texturing process, which can take many hours. The bird is then sealed and painted with acrylics.
Some have three or four coats of paint, while others, like the eagle, have six or seven coats.
His works can be found in the homes of local residents and throughout Ohio from purchases made at shows he attended through the years. As he flips through a photo album filled with pictures of his work, he can provide the name of the person who purchased the piece and about how many they own.
“I don’t want to make it a job, but I want to share them with others,” he explained, adding he’s made some and donated to the church he and Liz attend, Carrollton Bible Chapel, for fundraisers.
He is also willing to share his talent with others. “If someone is interested in learning to carve and they want someone to help, give me a call. I will help them get started.”
Huddleston can be reached by calling 330-627-5237.
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