America’s Master Sculptor

I’m interested in “hobbycraft” – building scale models of things, for example. It’s fun, and some people get very good at it. Right now I want to call your attention to a little-known master of the art.

Ernest “Mooney” Warther, a steel-mill worker with a second-grade education, spent over four decades carving the history of steam locomotives – over five dozen trains – in exquisite detail. Moving parts are lubricated with nothing but slippery wood; color is conveyed by different woods, not paint; he even made his own carving knives. The results are genuinely beautiful – not mere models, but works of art that gained him international attention in his lifetime. He did other carvings too, including a very impressive math sculpture, half a thousand working pairs of pliers sprouting from each other in a tree formation, all carved from a single piece of wood. Yet today, though his work still shows him to have been a major American sculptor, he seems to have been largely forgotten.

Thankfully, Warther’s impressive works are still on display in the family-run museum his home has become. I’ve been on the guided tour several times and always find it inspiring. The sculptures are displayed and lit very well, and there are some other things to see on the grounds. If you find yourself anywhere near Dover, Ohio, and have any interest in modelmaking, sculpture, trains, arrowheads, buttons, gardening, knife-making, or the power of a can-do attitude, be sure to check out this little gem of a museum.

Meanwhile, celebrate the power of the Web as you check out some samples at the museum’s Web page: