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School life: Summer session
Wayne Connell of the North Georgia Whittlers whittle an eagle's head at the club's latest meeting. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Several tools are needed to whittle, but perhaps the most important one is friendship.

The members of the North Georgia Whittlers forged bonds at wood carving workshops back in 1997, when whittlers would meet at the Murrayville Library.

Since their founding a few years later, the North Georgia Whittlers have continued to share their common interest with fellowship and food.

They meet the first Saturday of every month at the Northeast Georgia History Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The handful of regular attendees bring covered dishes so they can enjoy each other's cooking as well as their company while they work on their whittling.

"We eat better than we carve," member Mary Griffin joked.

The club's involvement in woodworking events across the state proves otherwise.

This March the club demonstrated their craft at the Cumming Arts Festival. Before that, they won first place in a chess-piece carving competition at Turning Southern Style, an annual woodworking symposium sponsored by the Georgia Association of Woodturners at Unicoi State Park and Lodge.

New members to the North Georgia Whittlers receive their own whittling knife and instruction on the basics.

Occasionally, the club holds classes with carving experts who share special techniques during the meetings.

Griffin said many members sell their works and do commissions.

"I did one war character for a gentleman who brought me a picture of one of his ancestors and I carved it according to the picture," Griffin said. "Everybody in his family said it looked just like the person, so I was thrilled."

Instead of growing up with video games, member Garland Hatfield said he grew up with whittling.

"I was born back during the war (World War II). If we had anything to play with, we had to make it," Hatfield said.

He learned to create everything from wooden swords and bows and arrows to forts. Nowadays, he likes to whittle figurines of storybook trolls, which he fills with personality and intricate details.

"The trolls have long claw-like fingernails and Count Dracula teeth. They're hunchbacked and have tails and only have eight fingers and toes, so they walk sort of wobbly. The last one I did had a powder horn, a lantern, a block of cheese, a stack of bananas and a string of sausages. Bigfoot is a supermodel compared to them," he said.

The whittling club provides company during projects, but Hatfield said there is also merit to whittling alone.

"You know, you would be surprised how calming and peaceful (whittling) will make you," he said. "You gotta concentrate a little bit, but it just clears your mind and your worries disappear."

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