Roundtable Woodcarvers Club
The club has grown to roughly 30 members of all skill levels
By Sean Barron
Joe Alessi doesn’t need a whole lot to make an impression.
Just give him several tools and pieces of wood.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie here. You can carve whatever you want,” Alessi said, referring to the Roundtable Woodcarvers Club, founded in the mid-1990s.
Alessi, a Cornersburg resident who retired in 1994 as a safety coordinator for the city of Youngstown, spoke recently at the Mahoning County Senior Independence Center, 1110 Fifth Ave., on the city’s North Side, where he and other club members meet for about 21/2 hours each Thursday.
Alessi also brought part of his collection of 18 or 19 cypress knees he had carved from pine, oak, bass and other types of wood as well as dehydrated sweet potatoes.
Those works are patterned after protrusions from the extended roots of cypress trees, common in the Florida Everglades and other parts of the South, said Alessi, adding that some can exceed 5 feet.
Alessi, who also has carved chess pieces from wooden yarn spools of varying sizes, said he tried his hobby at home. Joining the club gave him an opportunity to expand, he added.
“My wife calls this a ‘holy day of obligation,’” he said of the Thursday get-togethers.
Alessi’s wife, Pattie, also was instrumental in his decision to become a member in 2002 after she had read an item in The Vindicator about a group of woodcarvers, he recalled.
The club started with five or six members and has grown to roughly 30 men and women of all skill levels.
Its primary thrust is to allow participants to share their interest as well as teach and learn from other members, he continued, adding that woodcarvers work at their own pace and level without competing with one another.
“The main thing is that we have fun,” he said.
During a recent gathering, a few dozen members had their tool sets and were busy chiseling and focusing on minute intricacies of projects such as Christmas tree ornaments, Indians, angels, a dog and a turtle.
Techniques included chip carving using plate designs and relief carving, which includes a flat board to create a two-dimensional design.
The club has members of all ages, the oldest of whom is 95-year-old Ed Marchiori of Boardman.
The bookends of longevity belong to Fred Thomas of Hubbard, a founding member, and Tresa Kurz-Hedrich, who joined last month.
“I’ve always been interested in woodcarving,” said Kurz-Hedrick of Youngstown, who retired after having taught art to students in kindergarten through grade 12 in the Youngstown city schools. “It’s interesting to see what other people are doing.”
Kurz-Hedrich, who was working on a small wooden mouse and an Indian, said she became aware of the club during a visit to the Canfield Fair, where the group had set up a stand. She then saw a listing in The Vindicator regarding a meeting and decided to give it a try.
The woodcarvers club also is therapeutic with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, Kurz-Hedrich said.
Thomas, a Republic Steel retiree, said he often worked on his hobby while traveling for his job. He also spends winters in Florida, where he is a member of a similar club.
The Roundtable Woodcarvers Club is one of many offerings the senior center provides, noted Susan Gans, director. Joining the facility, which also includes tap-dancing, computer, nutrition and weight-loss classes, is $20 per year, she said.
For more information on the woodcarvers club, call the center at 330-744-5071 or Alessi at 330-792-4355.