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Carrollton woodcarver Jones
carves Santas, animals from scrap

By Jarrett Boyd
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. • Look around the home of Larry Jones and everywhere you cast your eyes, you see water fowl, whales, moose, bears, mountain lions and hundreds of unique Santas with loaded packs.
Jones does not practice taxidermy, but he does carve amazingly life-like representations of many of the creatures of the wild. After they are painted by his wife, Ellen, they are mounted on bases and displayed throughout the house.
"I give some of them away to my sons and other relatives, but my wife usually wants to keep whatever I do," he said.

Larry Jones

Jones can't remember when he first began working with wood. The 53-year-old native of Carrollton says, "I was always hacking around with something since I got my first pocket knife when I was five or so.  I used to build stuff out of toothpicks. Then about 1964 I started doing folk-art stuff."
As a boy, Jones moved around frequently with his family, as his father was posted at different U.S. Army bases. He remembers his earliest projects being boats. His twin brother, Lonnie, who did not share his interest in woodworking, did make a suggestion that Larry took to heart. "I was building boats and putting furnishings below deck. I made this one chest for the Captain's quarters real tiny. It even had drawers that would open and shut. Then I would put down the deck, and no one could ever see what was below.
"I didn't care. I knew the stuff was there. But Lonnie asked why didn't I make the deck so it could lift off." Jones used that suggestion again when, a few years ago, he built a miniature two-story log house for his wife. 
"Ellen told me she had never had a doll house when she was a girl, so I decided to surprise her with this," he said, lifting the roof off the beautifully built house. He gestures to the the top floor, complete with furniture for every room, curtains, and rugs. Before beginning a carving of a bird or animal, Jones studies taxidermy models and books and materials from the local library.
About those Santas, he said, "Ellen was looking at a magazine and saw a story about a woman who collected carved Santa Clauses. She asked me if I could make her one, so I did, and it turned out pretty good. Then she told me that the woman in the article had over 300. This led to an obsession. Pretty soon I had over 700 Santas that I had carved, and we had painted, and I was burned out. But I will still do a few for family and friends."
His newest Santas are carved from soapstone, which does not need to be painted. This makes Jones happy: "I don't like to paint."
Jones does most of his carving from basswood. "It's soft and easy to carve," he said. He used to carve using an Old Timer pocket knife. But in 1992 he ordered a set of Swiss made tools from Woodcrafter's magazine. Ellen, well known in the Carrollton area for her special occasion cakes, is the recipient of most of Larry's work. But his two sons have also adorned their homes with a few pieces.
"They tell me they don't have room, but I make them take one anyway."
Matthew, who trained at Sullivan, is a pastry chef in Louisville at The Patron restaurant. Patrick, the youngest son, is a mathematician working toward his master's degree at the University of Louisville.
While his job at Dow Corning takes a good bit of his time, Jones is also a bricklayer who has plenty of work in the area.  When not busy with his two jobs, he can usually be found in his garage, where he keeps all of his wood, his tools, and his projects in progress. One of his finished projects is a prominent feature of the garage. A beautiful wooden canoe is suspended upside down from the ceiling. "It's made of western red cedar. Strips are glued together, then I wrapped the whole thing with fiberglass, put on four coats of epoxy, then four coats of marine spar varnish."
The finished boat is 17-feet, 6-inches long and weighs 62 pounds. "My wife and I like to get out on the Little Kentucky when we can. We really enjoy the canoeing."
Despite his frequent moves as a youngster, Jones, from his colorful speech to his many skills, is pure Kentucky. Self-effacing and shy about his work, he has chosen not to participate in large craft shows, such as the Kentucky Craft Market. However, anyone who might wish to speak with him about a commission or to talk with his wife about one of her beautiful cakes may call (502) 732-6827.

Back to December 2000 Articles.

 

 

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