Dayton Carvers Guild shapes 35th Artistry in Wood

By Erin Callahan

We’re living in the age of technology, when we can use computer design programs to create something on screen and build out designs with a vast selection of materials using 3D printers. It may seem that with this advanced digital technology, the traditional handcrafted artistic techniques applied to found elements could quickly become a thing of the past.

However, the Dayton Carvers Guild and its woodworking and woodcarving show, Artistry in Wood, is clear evidence this is not yet so.

The Dayton Carvers Guild is a group of men and women who share a love and passion for working with wood. They hold monthly meetings to share in the craft, swap tips and techniques, host guests and demonstrators and they partner with and support the United Rehabilitation Services of Greater Dayton. The 35th event, according to its site and co-chairs, is the largest of its kind in the nation, attracting more than 5,000 attendees each year, and hosting more than 225 exhibitors and vendors from Canada and nearly half of the 50 states in 2015 alone.

Artistry in Wood will take place Sept. 3 and 4 at a new venue, the Roberts Centre in Wilmington. It was previously held at the Dayton Airport Expo Center, but the guild was required to find a new venue after the Dayton International Airport began using the Expo Center as a storage facility.

“I think we’re going to do very well here,” says Don Worley, event co-chairman. “We have the opportunity to draw from the Dayton crowd, and pick up some from Columbus and Cincinnati, as well. We’ve already filled three major area hotels and are taking up 80,000 square feet in the venue.”

The event gives the artists and hobbyists the chance to showcase and/or sell their work – and teach the art of woodworking and woodcarving. Tools and supplies will also available for purchase. Many hands on opportunities, like “spit and whittle” carve-alongs hosted by Woodcarving Illustrated magazine, will be set up for those wanting to participate.

“We wanted to encourage people to get into the hobby, so we came up with the idea of the carve-alongs,” Worley says. “Years ago, you would think of whittlers, sitting outside the courthouse, whittling on a piece of wood and spitting on the sidewalk. That’s where the name comes from. So, carvers will come by to see other carver’s techniques, others will stand back and watch, and a few will want to try it.”

“At the Woodcarving Illustrated booth, you can sit right down with the guys that are carving,” Ken Bedel, event co-chairman, says. “They’ll have a different person there every hour or two, and if you sit down, they’ll hand you a knife and say, ‘Hey, try this!’ If you’ve been working on a project and you tell them, ‘I can’t quite get this to work out,’ they’ll help you. There are just a lot of opportunities to learn.”

While some of the attendees come to learn a new trick or technique to enhance their own skills, others are there to appreciate the skills of others. There will be a raffle, a silent auction, a judged competition and a Christmas ornament-carving contest, where they can observe and purchase items.

“Many people do their Christmas shopping at the event,” Bedel says. “They can find everything from small items like wooden flowers to high-end items like furniture. Or, if they’re looking for something unique, something customized. If they see something they like but want it tweaked, many exhibitors will be happy to do it for them.”

Though Artistry in Wood draws several thousand attendees each year, the Dayton Carvers Guild is still trying to expand its reach. One of the challenges they face is getting more young people involved.

“We do work with the Boy Scouts,” Bedel says. “Some of our members are former scout leaders, some of our work goes along with some of their programs and badges, and scouts in uniform get in free at the event.”

Worley and Bedel both started experimenting with wood as kids. Worley used wood from produce boxes to make toys, bought his first jigsaw at age 12, took industrial arts in high school, and has been woodworking and carving ever since. For him, wood is a readily available medium and requires minimal outlay for tools. Bedel learned the craft from family.

“My mom had taken off somewhere for the weekend, so when my dad got fed up with me and my siblings, he sat us down and taught us to carve,” he laughs. “My grandfather had taught him, and he taught me.”

And while technology is becoming more prevalent, the desire to build and craft is still just as relevant.

“I think even with all of the technology we have, people still want to build something, whether it’s an application on your phone or computer or something else like wood—pick your medium.” Bedel says. “As a hobbyist woodworker, the whole point for me is to be able to go out, work on a project and relax, and I want to have something to show for the time I spent. And, the opportunity to meet other people who are interested in the same craft just offers another outlet for creativity.”

Artistry in Wood takes place Saturday, Sept. 3 from 10 a.m.– 6 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 4 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Roberts Centre, 123 Gano Road in Wilmington. Admission is $8 for an adult one-day pass and $10 for an adult two-day pass. Scouts in uniform and children under 12 accompanied by an adult are free. Free parking is available. For more information, please visit


Reach DCP freelance writer Erin Callahan at


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Reach DCP freelance writer Erin Callahan at

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