David Warther Carvings
Berlin, OH - Events of Monday, August 11, 2014
When we decided to spend most of the summer in Berlin, OH, we wanted mostly to relax, enjoy the rural atmosphere and occasionally indulge in the good food that's available in the area. We didn't plan on doing much sightseeing, but we did want to do some. Since last Monday was a rainy day, it was a good time to do something indoors so we headed to David Warther Carvings located a few miles to the east of Berlin between Walnut Creek and Sugarcreek.
David Warther is the grandson of Ernest "Mooney" Warther, who was a self-taught carver of locomotives and trains. We visited the Warther Museum in nearby Dover, OH back in 2012. Click here to read about that visit.
While his grandfather carved trains, David carves ships. The exhibit of David's carvings just opened a little over a year ago in a brand new building with 10,000 square feet of exhibit space.
Admission to David Warther Carvings is $10 for adults. There are guided tours that tell about David's work and point out important features of selected ship models. After the tour, visitors are free to roam around on their own.
David Warther was only 14 when his grandfather died, but his interest in carving and in ships had already taken root. The exhibit has several of David's early ship models, including the first one he did at age 6. It is a Viking ship, and it's in center of the photo below.
Like his grandfather, David uses ivory as a major material for his carvings. When we think of ivory, we generally think of elephant tusks. However, ivory can be obtained from the teeth and tusks of many animals including walrus, whales and even wild boars. There was a display of ivory from various sources. The long one at the top of the next photo is the tusk from a narwhal, which is a medium-sized whale. The dark one in the center is a tusk from the extinct woolly mammoth. Even though the mammoth tusk is partially fossilized (some of the original tusk has been replaced by minerals), ivory can still be found toward the center. There were also several examples of ivory on the table that visitors could touch and lift. We were surprised at how heavy ivory is.
The importation of ivory has been banned in the United States and many foreign countries due to the dramatic decline of elephant populations in Africa and India. Therefore, all ivory used for the carvings is antique ivory, which is legal to sell and own. It is bought or is donated from museums and private collections.
Warther's carvings depict the history of the ship from about 3000 BC to the present. There are 4 or 5 exhibit rooms, each containing 15 to 20 models. The first room has mostly ancient Egyptian, Phoenician and Greek vessels.
Some of the models have magnifying lenses next to them to make it easier to see the intricate details. Warther uses scrimshaw to add additional features like windows, planking and decorative elements. Below is the model of King Tutankhamen's royal ship looking through the magnifying lens. Click on the photo if you want an even closer view. King Tut reigned from 1339 to 1327 BC. The scale of the model is 1/8 inch = 1 foot. The original ship was 88 feet long.
Incidentally, the rigging on all the ships is ivory, not thread or wire. When David was only 13, he developed a method to make ivory strands for the rigging. Over the years, he has perfected the method so he is now able to make strands that are only seven thousandths of an inch (.007") in diameter. It takes him about 90 minutes to make one strand about 9 inches long.
The next room features Viking ships. The Vikings raided and explored from their Scandinavian homelands from about the 800s to the 1100s.
From the Viking ships, we moved to the sailing ships of the 1400s to 1600s. Models included Columbus' ships - the Santa Clara (better known by its nickname the Niña), the Pinta and the Santa Maria. There is also a model of the Susan Constant, which brought settlers to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1606-1607 and the Mayflower, which brought settlers to Plymouth, Massechussetts, in 1620.
The last room contains models from the 1800s and early 1900s. The entrance to the room is flanked by massive tusks from a 12-foot elephant.
Last summer, we saw a half-scale replica of the whaling ship Lagoda at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. David Warther's model of the Lagoda is built to a scale of 1/16 inch = 1 foot (1/192nd actual size).
We also learned about clipper ships at the Maine Maritime Museum last year. Clipper ships were built with a narrower hull and with a large sail area. They had a smaller cargo capacity, but were much faster than standard ships. They were built primarily for the China tea trade.
Warther has a carving of the British clipper ship Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark was built in 1869. The restored ship is on display in London. You can see how much more slender the hull is than that of the Lagoda pictured above.
Also on display is David Warther's first major ship model, the U.S Coast Guard Cutter Eagle. By the way, David is now working on his 81st major ship model. Warther built the model of the Eagle from walnut and ivory when he was only 17 years old. The real ship was built in 1936 and is still in use today as a Coast Guard training ship.
The last room of the exhibit building also contains a model of an F4U Corsair from WWII and early in the Korean War. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you will see it is covered by tiny white dots. Those white dots are ivory pins that are inserted into the surface individually to simulate rivets.
David's workshop is also off the last exhibit room. During the week, visitors can usually watch him work through a big picture window. Unfortunately, he took the day off when we were there. The shop is filled with hundreds of small tools, many of which David had to make himself because there was no existing tool small enough to do the job.
With our tour of the carvings complete, we exited through the gift shop. There were items with a nautical theme and items with a country theme. There were also a few items of women's apparel and accessories like jewelry, scarves and purses. Margery was impressed with the variety and quality of all the items.
We (especially Paul) really liked David Warther Carvings. Paul used to build model kits when he was a kid, and he used to play around with model railroading. He also had a summer job when he was in college building custom models from scratch for plant layouts and for industrial exhibits, so he really appreciates what goes into building models like these.
The rain was predicted to continue for the next couple of days, so we headed back to the motor home to take it easy and wait it out. Look for our next post to see what else we find to do.