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(This article was reprinted by permission from the Freeport, Illinois based Freeport Ink Newspaper.  The article was written by Mike Leverton, reporter.  The story is meant to give you a broad overview of Kitchen Carvers, it's owner, Harry Charles Clarke, and his woodworking business.  This article was taken from April 16, 2003 issue of the Freeport Ink paper.)

Kitchen Carvers

      When Harry Charles Clarke of Lena, Illinois looked at a Cedar tree last summer and saw a spoon wedged between a branch, he considered it an omen.  "It was an omen," he says, "because I will be building a shop on the property that will be used to carve spoons."  Wooden spoons are made here at Kitchen Carvers.

     Harry's profession entails carving wood into spoons and other kitchen utensils. He discovered the spoon when hanging a bird feeder on one of the trees on the property. 

     Harry says he noticed the spoon after running his hand over it as he leaned against the tree.  "It felt just like a shape I had felt in my hand a thousand times," Harry said.  "It seemed so familiar that I knew what it was before even looking at it."

     Harry first became interested in wood carving as a profession after seeing some work another man had done.  "I saw what this fellow had done with the wood in making spoons," Harry says, "and I thought it would be nice to make them.  I wondered to myself if I could make them as well." 

     Now Harry runs his own carving business, Kitchen Carvers.  Harry makes all sorts of spoons, bowls and decorative pieces from wood.

     He learned to carve simply by trial-and-error.  "I've tried any way I thought might work," Harry says.  "I've never had a teacher."

     Harry says he never cuts down good trees just for their wood.  "I try only to find trees that people are going to be cutting down anyway," Harry says.  "I want something special, wood that you can't just go to a mill and get." 

     Last October, when the historical society moved the original Lena post office from its location, they had a Cedar tree removed at the same time.  Harry noticed the society was discarding the tree, so he retrieved it from the side of the road and turned it into seven bowls.

     Most bowls take up to nine months to completely dry after being carved.  If wood is not dry, Harry says, it does not form as easily and is more susceptible to cracking. 

     But with the bowls he formed from the old Post Office cedar, Harry specially dried them on heat registers.  "You can dry them on a heat register as long as the wood isn't too wet." he says.  The cedar bowls dried in less than a month.

     Harry says he's taken in trees while on trips across the state line, including in Iowa and Wisconsin.  Other times, people give him wood. 

     After carving out a tree that someone has given him, Harry always presents them with a piece of handiwork from the old tree.

     When he used wood from a few fallen trees from outside Lena Citizens Bank, Harry brought back some of his work to the bank and left them with a few pieces.  One of his cedar bowlfigurines, called a modern angel, is displayed on the wooden spoons  Colorware teller station.  "I thought the pieces were unique because of their different wood grains and colors," says Carol Mau, who works at the bank.  "I thought they would make good gifts."  Mau bought some items for her kitchen, including several spoons and a spatula.

     Most people who buy the bowls use them for decorative purposes, Harry says.  Others use some of the smaller bowls as salt holders or to hold keys. 

     "All wood is decorative," Harry says.  "The first thing people notice about my work is the smoothness of the wood.  They pick it up and they're surprised.  The second thing they comment on is how light it is." 

     He even make spoons specific for left-handers.  Another specialty spoon is the sweetheart spoon, named for its heart-shaped look.  "Those are the hardest spoons to make," Harry says, because the hearts are so hard to shape.  I've broken a lot of hearts."

     Harry makes some spoons from three different woods pieced together.  He calls these spoons "Colorware™."   To make those, Harry uses industrial-grade waterproof glue and clamps the pieces together to squeeze all excessive glue out from between the pieces of wood.  The finished product, a multi-colored spoon, is just as smooth as any of the other bowls and spoons he carves. 

     "I like to surprise people," Harry says.  "One day a friend had just given me a piece of firewood and I turned it into a spoon.  He was shocked that the scraggly piece of wood could be turned into something nice.  Sometimes I get surprised, too."

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