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Royal Chiselers is a group that’s inspired to carve

By Staff | Dec 30, 2012

It just takes one woodcarving project and you’re hooked.

At least that’s all it took for Bruce Ankeny, president of the Royal Chiselers woodcarving club.

He has been a member of the Royal Chiselers since about 1985, but can still remember the first piece that inspired him to start carving.

The woodcarver’s display was set up at the school and that’s where Ankeny saw a hillbilly chess set someone had made.

“I was so fascinated by it that I had to try,”?he says.

In fact, that was the first thing he attempted to make.

“I never did finish all the pieces,”?he adds.

But, it got him started and he says that anyone else could do the same.

The Royal Chiselers meet on the second Monday of every month in the Senior Center in Blue Earth. Anyone who wants to try their hand at the craft just has to show up at a meeting.

“There is always someone at the meeting that can line a person up with what they would need to get started,”?Ankeny says.

There are about 25 to 30 people that come to every meeting, and members can just attend when they are able.

And, there is always a small project to work on at each meeting that is planned out by different members.

“There are three main types of carving,”?Ankeny adds. “Caricature carving, chip carving and relief carving.”

Chip carving is the process of using knives or chisels to remove small pieces from the wood to create a design.

Relief carving is when the carver removes the wood from around the image so the design is raised.

Caricature carving, which is the type Ankeny prefers, is sculpting a figure out of the wood.

Members of the Royal Chiselers come from all over the area. Some are from Sleepy Eye, Faribault, Fairmont, Winnebago and most are from Blue Earth.

“We always welcome new members,”?Ankeny says.

He says the group would like to try to get more younger carvers involved with the club.

“I think I’m the youngest one in the group,” he jokes.

Ankeny has taught a group of Boy Scouts how to wood carve, to introduce the craft to a younger crowd.

“But, the scoutmaster had to follow me around with band-aids that day,”?he adds.

Ankeny says all it takes is the inspiration to start woodcarving and a somewhat artistic eye.

Some people can look at a piece of wood and visualize what they are going to carve. Others may need a pattern or model to look at as they carve.

Ankeny will carve the first one and send it off with a pattern so he can make duplicates.

“They remove a lot of the extra material, then I carve it the rest of the way and put the detail on them,”?he says.

That’s how he made around 60 santa figures a year for the last 15 years.

“I missed the last couple of years though,”?Ankeny adds.

He says it takes him around three or four hours to finish each one completely, carving and painting included.

“A good way to get started is to take classes or watch videos on woodcarving,”?Ankeny says.

He had taken many classes himself as he was learning how to carve.

The Royal Chiselers have a collections of books that can be borrowed for anyone wanting to learn a bit more.

“There is a lot to learn, even down to the details of how to sharpen your knives,”?he says.

But, all it takes is that one moment of inspiration to get into the craft like it did for Ankeny.

“Now I’ve added a whole little studio for my woodcarving,”?he says.

Anyone interested in joining the Royal Chiselers can just attend a meeting or contact Ankeny.