Salem woodcarver Dave Disselbrett never met a piece of basswood he couldn't carve into a whimsical caricature.
He has had a lot of practice because he has been whittling away on chunks of wood for more than 50 years.
"I started doing this (carving) when I was a Boy Scout, and that was a lot of years ago," Disselbrett said in a phone interview. "But I always wanted to carve caricatures and finally started carving them about 15 years ago."
Disselbrett will be the featured carver at this year's Artistry In Wood woodcarving exhibition, which is March 19-20 at Tri-Tech Skills Center in Kennewick.
The juried show is expected to have more than 200 entries including soap carving workshops, chainsaw art demonstrations, power carving, wood burning and vendors selling everything a woodcarver might need.
Show hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 19 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 20. Admission is $3, and kids 12 and younger free.
Disselbrett, 65, spent a good part of his childhood in Hermiston, where he graduated from high school. He spent years as a lumber broker and retired a few years ago.
His carvings are all done by hand, each intricate carving done with a tiny knife or other carving tool. He never uses power tools, and his subjects come from all walks of life -- whether it's Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, pumpkin heads, chickens, moose, pigs, bears, ducks, golfers, baseball players, hippos and even a few old sea captains.
Most are about 2-inch square creations, although he's made some as large as 8 inches by 4 inches. When a carving is completed, he slaps on some acrylic paint and a sealer to preserve the wood.
Disselbrett said he doesn't just create his small caricatures because he's good at it. He creates them because he has fun doing it. And that's the secret to a happy life, he said.
"I probably work harder at creating these caricatures than I ever did working for a living, but I sure have a lot more fun doing it," he joked. "The Lord has blessed me with good health and a love of people. I always have fun attending the woodcarving shows and talking with other woodcarvers as well as the people who come out to the shows."
Disselbrett admitted he rarely carves when he's alone. He saves his woodcarving savvy for the numerous classes he teaches and the shows that he attends all over the Northwest.
"If I teach people anything about woodcarving I think it's to inspire the love of the craft and how good you feel when you can relax and do something you love," he said.
Bob Gough, the show's chairman, said Disselbrett was asked to be the featured carver this year for several reasons.
"First of all, he is an accomplished carver and his enthusiasm for the hobby rubs off on anyone who watches him work," Gough said. "His caricatures are adaptable to everyone's ideas, and he's an entertainer for those lucky to see him carve and he's a fantastic mentor when he gives a class."
Gough has no doubt Disselbrett's engaging personality will be worth a trip to the show. And, perhaps, it will inspire a whole new generation of wood carvers.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com