Whittling Away The Winter
In the fading twilight of a winter evening, a chainsaw roars. Showers of sawdust surround Pete King as he wrestles a bear out of a large pine block with a chainsaw. As the last light fades, he puts up the saw, stops at the porch to pull off his heavy boots, and heads into the brightly lit farmhouse for supper.
Pete is doing as much chainsaw carving as he can these days. There’s a fierce bear guarding his front porch and an eagle in the corner of the kitchen. His sculptures are selling at the Freedom Farms Farmers Market, and customers are asking for more.
It’s midwinter. The days are short, and the nights are long. Work on a farm is seasonal by nature. In the middle of the winter, animals still need to be fed and watered. There are woods to clear, projects to complete, but the ground is covered with snow, and the work load is lighter. It’s quiet, and there is time for contemplation.
Many farmers hunt in the winter. A few write poetry. Pete King picks up a chainsaw. Most farmers don’t like to spend too much time with idle hands, and Pete is no exception. He finds it easier to relax with a chainsaw in hand. Chainsaw carving has to be done in the daylight, though. That means that Pete spends most of his evenings whittling.
After supper, Pete sits down at the kitchen table with a small block of wood and a pocket knife in hand.
“I like whittling,” says Pete. “It’s something I’m able to do inside. It gets dark early now, so I whittle after dinner. I like working with my hands and creating these little characters. Carving is good for the mind. It’s stimulating. It’s much better than watching TV. It changes your perception of things, because the carving is constantly changing. Sometimes, I just look at a piece of wood and see an animal. Other times, I have to find it as I go along.”
Sometimes, I just look at a piece of wood and see an animal. Other times, I have to find it as I go along.
The beauty of whittling is that it is a simple art. All you need is a knife, a block of wood, and time on your hands. Pete recommends a sharp knife and a soft wood, like the pine he is currently using. To begin whittling, just pick up a piece of wood and a pocket knife. Rough out a figure, and then work on detailing it. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Whittling is characterized by sharp, distinct cuts in the wood. The roughness of this folk style art is part of its beauty.
The art of whittling is simple, but Pete is always developing new styles and techniques. He just bought a band saw, and he’s experimenting with that to draw a profile and start his pieces. Pete’s girlfriend, Jessie, has been painting the whittled figures to give them some extra character.
“I like the paint. It brings the figures to life. I think they’re adorable,” Pete says, with a laugh. “Painting them also gives Jess something to do while she’s sitting there watching me whittle after supper.”
You don’t have to be a farmer to want to occupy your hands, but these days most of us spend our evenings fiddling restlessly with a phone. Pete suggests that you pick up a pocket knife instead, and give whittling a try.
If you’re interested in purchasing Pete’s chainsaw carvings or whittled figures, you can find them at the Farmers Market on Route 8. Pete can be found working at the market as well, so you may even be able to ask him for his tips on whittling.
Written by Kate Stapleton
Do you love to whittle or have hobbies that keep you busy during the winter? Send your ideas and tips to contact@FreedomFarmsPA.com so that we can feature them in the next issue!