Wood carving class good for the soul

Working on a bird cutout, Cecil Henderson of Pauls Valley whittles away in his workshop Tuesday afternoon. He will be offering a class, teaching how to carve, starting Monday, April 4 at the Reynolds Recreation Center. (PV Democrat photo by Ezra Mann)

No matter what new piece of technology or fad may catch a person’s eye, people still find a lot of enjoyment through more classic skill sets.

For a good portion of Pauls Valley resident Cecil Henderson’s life, that skill has been whittling. It’s something that has both helped him create what he needs at the moment and even been a teaching tool to help others express themselves.

“If you learn to whittle, you can make anything you want,” said Henderson. “You can whittle in your pickup, at the mall or on a bench.”

In fact, Henderson will be offering a wood carving class, what he likes to call elementary whittling, starting Monday, April 4 at 6 p.m. at the Reynolds Recreation Center. Each class will run about a couple of hours and it will end up being six classes over six weeks, every Monday.

It’s not the first time that Henderson has taught a class on carving, having at one point offered a course at Mid-America Technology Center in Wayne. That was about a four-year deal with students who came back to learn more each time, some going quite far with their developed talent.

“When I was a kid, we would make our toys by whittling,” said Henderson. “You can use all sorts of things.”

Henderson added how they will start off by learning what techniques to use as well as how to safely carve without cutting ones hands.

Students will begin learning with simple cutouts of feathers he has done for years on bass wood, going on to more complicated items if there is time.

There’s also always something new even someone with as much experience as Henderson can learn, especially when he traces back how he got started doing birds like ducks.

Though he had been carving all the way back to childhood and already knew how to carve things like pistols, it was his daughter back in the late 1970s who spurred his fowl interest when she brought home a magazine with a story on a wooden decoy.

“I didn’t think I could do that, but I did,” said Henderson, who has made a decent supplemental income over the years selling his works.

“When I started carving, I had no idea I’d be good enough to sell them. That was it, I didn’t quit.”

He promises that anyone who really gives it a try will not be bored and often recommends it to those who may not already have a hobby or need something to keep them busy.

In the end, the class is just the beginning and must be practiced on outside of the classroom and whether or not it continues as well as moves on to more complicated projects depends on the interest he gets.

“I will encourage them to whittle 15 to 20 minutes a day,” said Henderson, who hopes to have around 15 or so students, at least and will also teach students how to wood burn. “If they can do that, they’ll get to where they enjoy it.”

The cost will be $40 per person and participants will have to supply their own whittling knives, which can be the x-acto craft knives. For more info, contact the Rec Center at 405-238-1307.

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