ScoutingOctober 2002

Chips Off the Block

By Kathy Vilim DaGroomes

Since developing a passion for wood carving nearly 30 years ago, Doc Hasler has inspired three generations of his family and countless students and friends to find a niche in the hobby.

In 1973 at a Blue Grass Council camporee in Kentucky, Richard (Doc) Hasler, a veteran Scouter of 15 years, got his introduction to wood carving.

"A guy handed me a little boot block and said, 'Work on this,'" Hasler recalls. "And when I got through with it, he said, 'No, that's not the way you do it; this is the way you do it.' And he showed me how to carve it."

Hasler has been carving ever since. At age 71, the retired veterinarian has mastered most types and styles of wood carving. And countless other people, including his wife, brother, children, and grandchildren, as well as relatives, friends, and students, have caught the wood carving bug from him.

Doc explains his passion for wood carving in one word: "fun."

'It just got out of hand'

"It only takes about 15 minutes at the most for wood carving to be fun," asserts Doc. "Once you learn the basic skills and then get a little help from somebody, you'll be hooked for life."

Following Hasler's retirement in 1991, his wife, Rosemary, an accomplished oil painter, became involved in her husband's favorite hobby. She already knew how to wood-carve, so she offered to paint his wildlife and other carvings—a task Hasler had been doing himself.

"My wife's the one who's really made these things look alive," says Hasler.

"I tease him and say, 'I'll cover up your mistakes,'" says Rosemary with a grin.

The Haslers' eldest son, Jimmy, 49; daughter Bonnie, 47; and several grandchildren, lately Bryan, 17, and Saulomon, 13, have found their respective ways around wood carving, thanks to Doc. Ditto for Doc's twin brother, Rodney, a longtime and much-honored Scouter in Utah's Trapper Trails Council. And Doc's son-in-law, Scouter Jim Swain, as well as Jim's late father both took up the hobby after being inspired by Doc.

Then there's 10-year-old granddaughter Patience. She's too young to handle sharp implements, so she uses wooden sticks or plastic knives to carve figures from bars of white soap.

"It just got out of hand" is Doc's simple explanation for his ever-expanding hobby.

Santa pencils, honeymoon spoons

Two of Doc's favorite subjects are ducks (he's carved more than 50) and his ever-more-ornamented walking staff, on which he carves each chapter of his Scouting history.

"The latest thing he added was a little beaver sitting on top because that was his Wood Badge patrol," says Rosemary.

Son Jimmy started carving at 8 as a Cub Scout, when he whittled a peach pit neckerchief slide from a Whittlin' Jim column in Boys' Life. He has since migrated into woodworking: For example, a chess set he made combines stylized wood carvings for the chess pieces with the fine woodworking of a handmade chessboard.

"I have a bit of a utilitarian vent in me," says Jimmy, "so the wood carving skill transferred along with the interest into fine woodworking," for example, in making cabinets.

Jimmy's experience is typical of others who have been inspired by Doc to try wood carving, says Rosemary. "They have found some niche, something they like to do or could do."

Take daughter Bonnie. She and her father once teamed for more than a year on a difficult project, a large carousel horse. But due to a lack of time and space, her main wood carving project now is a much-less-complicated Santa pencil—a Santa Claus carved on a jumbo pencil.

"They are fairly easy, don't take a lot of time, are inexpensive, and can be done at home," says Bonnie. "And although they are kind of a beginner-level project, my Santa pencils have sold for $10 each in an annual raffle for charity at my work."

Doc's twin brother, Rodney, offers an example of carving's practical and sentimental value. "On our honeymoon, my wife and I went camping and forgot to bring any silverware," he recalls. "I carved up a couple of spoons so we could eat dinner, and my wife still has one of them as a keepsake."

Son-in-law Jim Swain has some carvings made by his late father as a result of visits the latter made to Doc's workshop. "It's nice to have those things, especially now that my father's gone," he says.

In addition to wood carving's practical, economical, and sentimental aspects, Doc's students learn that the hobby's greatest appeal is the enjoyment and satisfaction a person gets from personally creating something.

"My grandpa really taught me something about everyday life in the old times," says Doc's grandson Saulomon, who recently began his first relief carving. "I really like carving, because I can honestly make something out of wood, and I enjoy doing it."

"Once you develop your talents a bit, it's amazing how much fun and satisfaction you get out of being able to actually do something," adds Rodney, who enjoys carving small animals, canes, walking sticks, and balls in cages.

Walking staffs for Scouts

Doc's son Jimmy, a longtime Scouter like his father, emphasizes how Scouting, especially through merit badges like Wood Carving, Leatherwork, and Woodwork, offers opportunities to build skills in areas a boy might not otherwise experience.

"Wood carving and woodworking give you the confidence that you can create something," he says. "They're some of the things in Scouting that contribute to the whole person and that you don't get with a normal urban lifestyle."

Grandson Bryan likes to carve ducks, birds, and ornamented walking staffs (which he enjoys giving to other Scouts). "I do it for the relaxation, to fill my time, and have fun," he says.

Getting started is the hardest part of a carving project, Bryan admits. "You start with a block of wood, and sometimes it's difficult to get the shape and definition of what you want."

In the Hasler family, however, with four generations of Eagle Scouts, including Silver Beavers Doc and Rodney, there's always plenty of help available for someone having a carving problem. And the willingness to lend a helping hand is not unique to his family, Doc notes. Wood-carvers around the world enjoy sharing their hobby with anyone interested in learning.

"You learn by watching others in the family wood-carve," says 17-year-old Bryan. "You ask a couple of questions, and they'll counsel you. I ask my grandfather to help me carve, and then my grandma helps me paint. While we sit around [carving], we have a big family conversation and have fun."

Doc nods in agreement. "This is the way we were brought up—our family doing a lot of things together," he says, adding that Scouting and wood carving are two of the fun parts of being together.

"It's rewarding to see the light in the children's eyes when they say: 'Oh, that's the way you do that!'

"And I always tell them that the way you do it is: one chip at a time."

Kathy Vilim DaGroomes is associate editor of Scouting magazine.

Scouting magazine is seeking future candidates for our "A Family Together" series. Do you know a Scouting family with an unusual hobby all members share? Send the family's names, ages, phone number; your name and phone number; BSA councils for both (if applicable); and the reason you think the family would be a good addition to our series, to: Family Together Features, Scouting Magazine, S304, P.O. Box 152079, Irving, TX 75015-2079.

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