The Times West Virginian

My Hobby

February 22, 2012

Birds of a feather

COLFAX — When you enter Earnest and Carrie Lee Storms’ Colfax home, you stop in wonderment at the hulking form you see in their living room.

Is that Annie, the famous red-tailed hawk from the West Virginia Raptor Center?

But when you approach it and it sits still, even as you reach out to touch it, you realize it’s one of Storms’ many bird carvings.

He’s been at it since 1994, when he carved a blue jay. He’d been inspired by a carved mallard duck given by a daughter and a visit to a decoy bird carving world championship in Ocean City, Md.

He took pictures of Annie one day at the raptor center on Bunner Ridge.

“I came home and decided to do this. It looks almost identical to her. It was so big I couldn’t work it out with the bandsaw. I had to make it in four separate pieces.”

It takes care and attention to detail, hours upon hours of dedicated work, and a keen eye and steady hand to coax these lifesize and lifelike birds from blocks of wood.

But Storms is up to the task.

He picked up the blue jay, now proudly displayed along with several other birds in the living room, and held it beside a Baltimore oriole.

“Let me show you the difference between the two,” he said, pointing to the wings of the blue jay.

“There are no feathers here. They’re just painted in. Now look at all the little feathers, the detail, in the oriole.”

Here you can see every notch, every tiny line in every feather, etched in oh-so carefully and skillfully. Completed in 2004, it demonstrates the artistry he’d gained in the 10 years since he finished the blue jay.

His favorite is the blue jay. Carrie’s is the little barn owl, complete with a mouse for a snack.

In addition are a male and female cardinal, a tufted titmouse, a Carolina wren, a robin, loon, mallard duck, goldfinch, woodpecker, chickadee and green heron.

If these birds could talk, the quiet home just off Pinchgut Hollow Road would be a loud riot of chatter.

He invests around 100 hours of labor in each lifesize carving. It takes time to get the details as accurate as possible.

“Everybody says why don’t I sell them. With all the work I put in them, even at $10 an hour ...

“Who around here’s gonna pay $1,500, $2,000 for one of them? You have to be willing to pay.”

He doesn’t make enough birds to sell, either, he said, maybe just one or two a year.

“This is just a hobby,” he said. “I don’t do enough to sell. If I’d started when I was in my 20s, I probably could have made a living out of it after I’d worked on it eight hours a day and got good enough.

“But I’ve got to be in the mood,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll start and work on a piece for a day or two in the basement and then may not touch it again for three weeks or a month.”

“This keeps him busy,” Carrie Lee said. “Somebody will call for him, and I’ll say I still have him locked in the basement.”

She laughed.

Most carvings are made of basswood, while a few are done in white pine.

“Basswood is softer and easy to carve. There’s not much grain in it,” he said.

He subscribes to several magazines, where he orders patterns for his projects.

“That hawk is the first big thing I’ve done,” he said. “A lot of people see it and think it’s real.”

Once he’s transferred the pattern onto a square block of wood, he cuts the shape out with a bandsaw. He roughs out the piece with a handgrinder that whirs up to 35,000 rpm. Then he gets out his X-acto knife and gougers and wood burner to cut in the details.

Finally, he’s ready to paint.

“That’s the hardest part,” he said

He also carves Old Man in the Mountain figures, which he gives as gifts.

Storms served in the Army in 1957-58, stationed in Germany. He and Carrie Lee have been married for 55 years, together for 58. He retired from Martinka Mines in 1995 when they shut the mine down and he was 60.

“I’d had enough,” he said.

He’s made other birds for family members: a hummingbird, dove, pigeon, bobtailed quail, mallard duck.

He just finished a green heron a couple of weeks ago and is ready for a break. But already he’s thinking on what his next project will be.

Maybe a killdeer. Or a shore bird or seagull. He hasn’t decided yet.

“Take 5” is featuring local residents with interesting hobbies. To be included as a Wednesday “Take 5” feature, contact Debra Minor Wilson at 304-367-2549 or

Email Debra Minor Wilson at

Text Only
My Hobby
  • cards.jpg Quite the master

    Everybody knows Dora Grubb as the master of Marion County history.
    But you may not know that she has this competitive side, and is really quite the master.

    March 20, 2013 1 Photo

  • Wild blue yonder

    Up, up and away!
    For as long as he can remember, Michael Bond has been fascinated by things that fly.
    “I grew up around aviation,” he said. “My dad was a pilot and managed a small airport in New Jersey. I followed in his footsteps and became a pilot.”

    March 13, 2013

  • IMG_0790.jpg A scrappy hobby

    You could call Debbie Cooper a scrappy kind of person.
    She wouldn’t mind. She’s been that way for a long time.

    March 6, 2013 1 Photo

  • 1.jpg Thrill of the hunt

    When he was able to hold a tube of glue, Bob Rogers started putting together model cars.
    Now that he’s older, he still does ... only they’re real cars and he uses real tools.
    Restoring cars is one of his passions, he said.

    February 27, 2013 2 Photos

  • ship.jpg Intricate models

    Please don’t ask Charlie Fawcett if he makes those little model ships in a glass bottle.
    Just don’t.

    February 13, 2013 1 Photo

  • Daft Generation.jpg Sharing stories

    When he was growing up, Jack Daft would hear all these wonderful stories from his parents, Lewis and Edith Cole Daft.

    January 16, 2013 1 Photo

  • Robert “Sparky” Sparks It’s our history

    The tall young soldier rests against the long muzzleloader that’s become his best friend. His bright red coat blazes against the gray weather-beaten wooden fence of the Indian refuge fort in the background.

    March 28, 2012 1 Photo

  • Garry Boros Fix it his way

    Since he was 6 years old, Garry Boros has been putting together models.
    The first, a robin, was given to him by his dad, Louis Boros. The youngster put it together and painted it “exactly the way you’re supposed to,” he said. He did that with the next model, a submarine.

    March 21, 2012 1 Photo

  • Terry McLain A good, clean game

    Terry McLain leans over the red felt-lined billiards table, draws a bead on a white cue ball and, aiming carefully, raps it with his cue stick.

    March 14, 2012 1 Photo

  • 3--DS.jpg Holding a memory

    It isn’t often you can hold a memory in your hands.
    But Jon “Tom” Merrifield can.
    One of his most cherished memories of growing up in Barrackville is seeing and hearing all the trains that passed through the small town on their ways to and from the coal mines.

    March 7, 2012 3 Photos

Featured Ads
NDN Lifestyles
House Ads