New, veteran woodcarvers enjoy annual Evart Roundup

EVART — Just a couple days into his new woodcarving hobby, 12-year-old Thomas Pettway already has a growing collection of items he has carved — a small turtle and a decorative leaf.

Knowing not too many of his peers share his enthusiasm for his hobby, Pettway said he really enjoys woodcarving.

"I like to shape the wood, and with the quality of the wood to work with, it's something fun to do," he said.

Pettway, along with his grandfather, Gil Whitman, both of Eaton Rapids, have spent the last couple of days at the annual Evart Roundup at the Osceola County 4-H/FFA Fairgrounds. Woodcarvers from around the country have gathered annually at the Roundup in Evart for nearly two decades, as it serves as an inexpensive way for hobbyists to learn more about woodcarving from their fellow woodcarvers.

"He's impressed quite a few of the other woodcarvers this week," Whitman said on Friday, pointing out the small turtle Pettway recently completed. "He started it on Wednesday. He's also impressed grandpa this week."

Woodcarving for about 11 years, Whitman said he enjoys attending the annual Roundup as it gives him an opportunity to speak with other woodcarvers.

"When I started, carving was just something I wanted to try and thought maybe I could do it," he said.

Not belonging to a woodcarving group or club, Whitman said he's a "woodcarver at large" always looking to learn from others.

What's the biggest lesson Whitman has learned?

"Not to cut your finger," he said rather seriously, before smiling. "I'm actually still learning.

"The biggest thing is patience. You don't want to race through what you're doing."

The Roundup's free classes, which only requires woodcarvers to pay for supplies and tools, is what draws Art Bucholtz to Evart.

A retired salesman from Washington, Mich., Bucholtz said he's been woodcarving for only a handful of years.

"I had just retired and saw an ad in the newspaper for an intro to woodcarving class," he said while fashioning a piece of wood with a power carver as he contently sat in front of the community building Friday morning. "I went to see what it was all about."

Bucholtz said he found woodcarving to be an enjoyable, inexpensive hobby.

"To get started, it took me about $75 to $80, and probably now, I have about $200 in equipment," he said, noting he borrowed the $250 power carver he was using. "All you really need to start are knives and gouges, and a lot of patience. It's not a race."

The annual Evart Roundup concludes Saturday.

Many woodcarvers will stick around next week for the Floyd Fest Woodcarving Seminar, hosted by Floyd Rhadigan, and runs from Monday, June 12, through Saturday, June 17, at the fairgrounds. The event has fee for week-long classes taught by about a dozen artists. To register for Floyd Fest, call Rhadigan at (734) 649-3259.