Sheldon Roberts, of Cañon City, begins his wood carving Wednesday for the 10th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous carving competition that takes place in Craig City Park. Roberts, who has competed in the Rendezvous on and off since 2001, is one of 11 carvers this year.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Sheldon Roberts, of Cañon City, begins his wood carving Wednesday for the 10th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous carving competition that takes place in Craig City Park. Roberts, who has competed in the Rendezvous on and off since 2001, is one of 11 carvers this year.

10th annual Whittle the Wood competition starts

Carvers choose stumps, begin sculptures

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The 10th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous

Carvers began their sculptures Wednesday for the 10th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.

Carvers began their sculptures Wednesday for the 10th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.

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Ron Eye, far right, of Vernal, Utah, signs up Wednesday morning with help from Pennie Bricker, an administrative technician with Craig Parks and Recreation, after the tree lottery. Carvers drew numbers on the first day to choose the stump they will be carving.

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John Clay, of Beulah, works on his carving Wednesday on the first day of the 10th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous carving competition. This is Clay's sixth year at the competition.

Faye Braaten

Age: Not given

Hometown: Loveland

Carving experience: 10 years

Previous Whittles: This is her 10th year competing.

Why are you competing in Whittle this year? "It's just really fun. This is the main competition I do, and I really enjoy it."

Ken Braun

Age: 36

Hometown: Cortez

Carving experience: Has been carving for a living for 2 1/2 years.

Previous Whittles: This is his first year.

Why are you competing in Whittle this year? "To compete against other great carvers."

Rick Burgess

Age: 50

Hometown: North Platte, Neb.

Carving experience: Has been carving for a living for 11 years.

Previous Whittles: This is his third year competing.

Why are you competing in Whittle this year? "Because it's fun."

John Clay

Age: 57

Hometown: Beulah

Carving experience: Has been carving since 2000. It makes up about half of his regular income.

Previous Whittles: This is his sixth year competing.

Why are you competing in Whittle this year? "To learn and to experience the camaraderie with other carvers. Also, just the fact that this town values this so much to pay for all this, you know. It gives you a lot of support and encouragement."

Ken Davis

Age: 49

Hometown: Montrose

Carving experience: 20 years

Previous Whittles: This is his seventh year competing.

Why are you competing in Whittle this year? "It's just kind of fun. I miss it, and I got a lot more time to kill this year."

Forrest Dorman

Age: 32

Hometown: Cañon City

Carving experience: Owns a chainsaw-carving business selling wholesale to shops across the state.

Previous Whittles: This is his 10th year competing.

Why are you competing in Whittle this year? "I love the competition. I learn new things, new techniques. There are good people here."

Ron Eye

Age: 42

Hometown: Vernal, Utah

Carving experience: Carves part time but has enough work for full time.

Previous Whittles: This is his second year competing.

Why are you competing in Whittle this year? "I just like it, but more than anything, to meet the guys. There's nine carvers here that I know. If you're a wood carver, there's usually not other wood carvers in your town to come to and share your experiences with."

Mark Rexinger

Age: 47

Hometown: Lincoln, Neb.

Carving experience: Does this as a part-time business.

Previous Whittles: This is his second year competing.

Why are you competing this year? "Just for fun; I love to see what everyone is up to."

Sheldon Roberts

Age: 44

Hometown: Cañon City

Carving experience: Has been carving for a living for 10 years.

Previous Whittles: Has participated a few times off and on since 2001.

Why are you competing in Whittle this year? "It's been a while, (and) I just wanted to come back and hang out. The town treats us really well; we like it."

Chad Stratton

Age: 34

Hometown: South Jordan, Utah

Carving experience: Has carved as a hobby for nine years after learning by practicing in his garage.

Previous Whittles: This is his fifth year competing.

Why are you competing in Whittle this year? "I just love coming. Craig's always a good place; it's like a vacation."

Robert Waits

Age: 50

Hometown: Lander, Wyo.

Carving experience: Full-time business as a chainsaw artist.

Previous Whittles: This is his seventh year competing.

Why are you competing in Whittle this year? "This is a blast, they treat us real good, and it's just an annual thing now. Get to have a little vacation - its wonderful here in Craig."

Forrest Dorman walked slowly around his chosen stump, a beer in one hand, looking at his soon-to-be sculpture from every angle.

"It's the ears," he said. "I just can't figure out the ears."

At the very top of the stump, the shape of a wolf's head was beginning to emerge, carved roughly with one of Dorman's many chainsaws Wednesday, the first day of the 10th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous in Craig City Park.

"I wanted to do a wolf this year because it's something hard for me," he said. "I've only done a few wolves before, and I want to learn new things."

Dorman, who finished first in last year's Whittle the Wood competition, envisions the "spirit" of the father wolf rising from the top of the statue. Underneath, he plans to have a mother wolf teaching several small cubs how to pounce on their prey.

Dorman owns a wood carving business in Cañon City and is participating in his 10th Whittle the Wood.

"It's a chance to do new things," he said. "And have fun. They take really good care of us here. It's almost like a paid vacation."

The Rendezvous kicked off Wednesday morning with the tree lottery.

Competitors drew the order in which they chose their stumps - and began carving immediately.

The carvers can work until contest judging begins at 4 p.m. Saturday.

First place in the best carving category will take home $1,000, with $750 going to second place and $500 for third. There also will be categories for artist's choice and people's choice awarded at the Saturday ceremony, which will feature food and live music.

Chad Stratton, of South Jordan, Utah, said he started carving wood 10 years ago by trying to make gunstocks and smaller pieces.

"But I realized I sucked at it," he said. "So I started going bigger."

As an inspector for the Salt Lake City water department, Stratton's woodcarving is a weekend hobby.

His wife fully supports his pastime, and when she saw an ad for Whittle the Wood on television, she sent in pictures of a few of Stratton's pieces.

Stratton and his wife were invited out for the competition, and this year marks his fifth as a Whittle the Wood competitor.

Stratton said he had a great respect for his 10 fellow competitors.

"All these guys here are so hard to compete with," he said. "But what do you do? I'm just going to outwork them. I'm going to work harder and longer when everyone else is out taking breaks."

Wednesday brought the threat of rain, but Stratton put a tent over his stump and said he will keep working on his sculpture - a giraffe - in whatever weather may come.

He said the trunks were a lot smaller than in years past, so he has to rearrange his carving by putting it in a different position.

"You definitely have to improvise," he said. "If you hit a soft spot or a hollow spot, you have to work around it."

Dorman said that although the stumps are smaller, they're also of uniform size, placing all of the carvers on an even playing field.

"Most years you can have some huge ones with limbs sticking out everywhere," he said. "This year, everyone's starting with the same kind of stump."

Dorman focuses more on the friendly aspect of the competition.

"When I'm not working, I like to hang out with the other carvers," he said. "I like them all. It's like a family here."

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