A group of local woodworkers have carved out a niche for themselves, but are always open to welcoming new members into the fold.
The Collingwood Chippers — who meet every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Collingwood Leisure Time Club — is a 50-plus, member-based club that includes about 15 members with skill sets that range from beginners to world champions on the woodcarving stage.
While COVID-19 put the club’s meetings on hold for two years, now it’s back to meeting in person and is looking for more members to join to whittle away their time.
Winston Smith is a Wasaga Beach resident who is a former club member and returns from time to time to offer advice and guidance and show off his carvings.
“I like meeting and joining up for coffee and chatting. When you get old, you realize that’s important,” said Smith.
The world-champion carver competed at the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition in Ocean City, Md., in 2014 and brought home three first-place finishes and one second-place finish. He also holds national titles in the art.
“I retired in 2005. In 2006, I went to Midland. I walked by a little cabin and I looked in, and there were a bunch of guys in there whittling with knives, so I went in to see what was going on,” said Smith. “I bought a knife and started chipping. I guess the rest is history.”
Smith grew up in Newfoundland, but these days he spends time carving birds of prey.
“Hawks and owls. I find them very interesting when you look at them. It’s kind of like they’re looking into your soul when they stare at you,” he said. “I used to study them as a boy back in Newfoundland.”
This past Tuesday, club member Tom Sudak brought his grandson, Taylor, who was visiting from Saskatchewan, with him to the club.
Sudak has been attending the club for about five years, minus the two lost to COVID-19.
“I had retired. When you’re retired, the worst thing you can do is nothing. This was kind of like a next step over from my painting,” he said.
“The only thing I have to do now is get good at it. I learn from the people here because they have a ton of experience. We learn off each other.”
Sudak says the craft is a positive one for those who are artistic and would like to try something new but don’t want to spend a lot of money to get started. He says he enjoys carving birds, but he also does relief carvings and wood burning.
“I’d like to get up to Winston’s level sometime in the next 20 years,” he said.
Eleanor Burke has been part of the club since 1996.
“There was quite a good-sized group at that time. It was fairly new,” she said. “The older people are no longer with us.”
Burke says there are benefits to joining the club some may not consider.
“We get the gossip from all over the place,” she said, with a laugh. “Other than woodcarving, we’re the hot air club. What club isn’t?”
For more information on the Collingwood Leisure Time Club and how to join and participate in any of its activities, visit its website here.