Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for February, 2014

The Sharpest Edge Around – Warther Cutlery

Warther's signature Single Pliers

Warther’s signature Single Pliers

World’s Master Carver Ernest Warther spent a life-time in Dover, Ohio. When Ernest was three years old, his father died leaving the children to help support the family. While the youngsters were unable to attend school regularly, Ernest’s inborn abilities surfaced by chance along life’s path.

For a penny a day, young Ernest did his part by driving neighborhood cows outside of town to pasture, then returning them home in the evening. When five-year-old Ernest was driving cattle, he spotted a treasure on the ground. A pen knife! His life’s adventure was about to begin.

A few years later Ernest met a whittling hobo at the local train station. This hobo could form a small piece of wood into a moving pair of pliers by making only ten strategically placed cuts in the small, rectangular, wooden block.

Ernest, called Mooney by his friends, watched the hobo carefully before he headed off to another town. Soon Mooney was making these magical pieces with ease. During his lifetime it is estimated he made nearly 750,000 pairs of pliers, most of which he gave to children. His fastest time for carving a pair of pliers occurred on the Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” when Mooney finished in 9.4 seconds.

Whittling became Mooney’s favorite pasttime, now making double pliers and more. But as is often the case, one thing leads to another. What do you need the most for whittling, especially ebony and ivory? A sharp knife! That was something Mooney could not find. Sometimes the best way to do something is to do it yourself, so Mooney developed a knife that would keep its sharp edge.

These are the knives Mooney used himself with  their accompanying 139 blades.

These are the knives Mooney used himself with their accompanying 139 blades.

In his workshop, Mooney developed techniques for tempering and sharpening steel blades so they would hold their sharpness. For whittling purposes, the knife had to have a big handle with small blades – shorter than his thumb. His knife had 139 interchangeable blades so he could work easily with any material of any size.

Warther Cutlery knife shop

Warther Cutlery knife shop

When his mother needed a sharper paring knife in the kitchen, seventeen-year-old Mooney created a small kitchen knife for her. Soon the neighbors were all wanting a knife just like Mooney’s mother used.He added a distinguishing trademark swirl on the blade so his knives were easily recognized. Thus began the business of Warthers Cutlery, handcrafted in the USA since 1902.

Realizing his real riches laid at home, his five daily hours of carving were scheduled for early in the morning before the family awoke. After breakfast, Mooney would ride his bicycle to work at the steel mill, then spend time in the afternoon playing with the children he adored. He didn’t really care much for money; however, when the family needed something, Mooney would make knives. He never sold his carvings.

In 1912, Mooney ended his whittling with a plier tree that can be seen in a glass case today.The tree was made with 511 cuts and was featured at Ripley’s Believe It or Not. This is the point where his whittling turned to carving as he began his history of the steam engine in walnut, ebony, and ivory.

Commando Knives made during WWII.

Commando Knives made during WWII.

During WWII, a lady asked Mooney to make a knife for her son to carry with him during conflict. Mooney made 1100 Commando Knives during this time and carved the names of the military men into the handles.

Family member, Steven Cunningham, makes pliers for children today.

Family member, Steven Cunningham, makes pliers for children today.

Today the knives of Warther Cutlery are still made in Dover, Ohio with all USA products by third and fourth generation family members. They continue demonstrating Mooney’s signature pair of pliers for visitors, with children usually receiving the newly carved pair.

Before you leave, stop by the gift shop and purchase one of the Warther Cutlery knives with swirl trademark. My little paring knife, “Old Faithful”, was purchased there over twenty-five years ago and is still like new. Whenever you happen to be in the area, visit their knife shop where they will sharpen your Warther knife for life at no cost. When you stop by, they will ask you which hand you use to cut with, so they can sharpen the blade accordingly. They strive for perfection!

Older residents still remember Mooney riding his bicycle down the middle of the road with his white hair flying. The basket on his bicycle was always handy for items he found or was given along the way that eventually might become part of his carvings, either mechanically or in their design. While Ernest Warther worked at his passion nearly every day for 83 years, he died almost penniless, but happy beyond imagination.

Warthers can be found easily off I-77 in Dover, Ohio. Take Exit 83 to the east and follow the well placed signs to Warthers.

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Explore Canadian Wilderness on Agawa Canyon Tour Train

Agawa Canyon Train

Agawa Canyon Train

Want to spend a day in the wilderness? The Agawa Canyon Tour Train will fulfill that desire. Starting early in the morning, passengers board for a one-day rail adventure that leads to the beautiful Agawa Canyon in the heart of the Canadian wilderness.

In the upper peninsula of Michigan, Sault Ste Marie is the place to begin. You will first cross the International Bridge into Ontario, Canada where you board the all-day excursion to the back country of Canada. Everyone settles in to watch the scenic view pass by the  large windows of the excursion train. Lakes, waterfalls, and many pines give a feast to the eyes as mile after mile of this 228 mile journey relaxes your mind. A knowledgeable tour guide delights travelers with stories of local history, Ojibway, fur traders and explorers. For breathtaking views along the way, monitors throughout the coaches are connected to a camera mounted on the front of the engine.

School children wave to the Agawa Canyon Train.

School children wave to the Agawa Canyon Train.

Around nine o’clock, the train gives a whistle as it passes the elementary school where students line the track waving to the Agawa Canyon Tour Train. The guide said the children look forward to this break in the morning, while the teacher attempts to involve them in the history of their area.

Although this is a wilderness area, some people still live here. Every few miles the train will stop at a small depot to leave mail and packages. Once in a while, a passenger might board for a ride farther into or out of the canyon. Locals are accustomed to the arrival of the train as the tracks were laid in the canyon during the winter of 1911-1912.

Towering trestles provide spectacular views of the valleys below and once in a while you can catch a glimpse of the end of the train as it curves around the valley walls. It is thought that Agawa Canyon was created from a fault, which occurred over a billion years ago.

Waterfalls at Agawa Canyon Park

Waterfalls at Agawa Canyon Park

At the farthest end of the tour, the train sweeps down to the floor of the canyon stopping at Canyon Park. There are only two ways to reach this spectacular park area : by train or hiking. Great views of the waterfalls appear from the canyon floor, so this is the perfect time to stretch your legs and do a little exploring. The Overlook is a great place for breathtaking pictures while the train stops for about an hour.  As you might imagine, there is a Souvenir Car here in case you want to purchase a special memory of the excursion.

As you get closer to Agawa River you notice that the color is rather unusual. It has a near rusty color caused by staining of tannic acid, which comes from the roots and bark of the many cedar trees in the area.

Agawa Canyon Overlook

Agawa Canyon Overlook

A box lunch on the way back settles everyone in their turned around seats to enjoy the scenery from another direction. Although many small animals live in this area, none were seen on this particular trip. The larger ones have two reasons for avoiding the canyon: the walls are too steep and the train is too loud. This is truly a day for relaxation and visiting with friends and new acquaintances.

For those who enjoy the sound and feel of a train ride,  Agawa Canyon Train Tour is a great, relaxing experience.As David P Morgan said, “Things that move are a lot more exciting than things that stand still.” I agree!

Agawa Canyon Tour Train can be reached in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario across the International Bridge from Michigan. Boarding takes place at Bay Street along the St. Mary’s River. The train runs from June – October on its regular daily runs. However, the Snow Train operates only on Saturdays from late January until early March. Check ahead for changes in schedule.

Beautiful Ohio’s Winter Wonderland

Jackson Park near Byesville provides a scenic place to walk on a winter day.

Jackson Park near Byesville is a great place to walk on a winter day.

Snow flakes fall against the window panes while the wind howls through the cracks in the wall. Looking out the window here in Ohio, there is snow as far as the eye can see. This is the perfect time to get out the picture album and reminisce about other snowy days.

Dad shovels snow.

Dad bundles up to shovel snow.

Shoveling snow has always been a winter chore throughout the years. Often this task got delegated to the man of the house as he bundled up in buckled boots, old overcoat, and toboggan to protect himself against the winter cold. At the time of this picture, the car wasn’t driven into the garage because the tires had chains on them to enable better traction in the snow. Sometimes it may have been days before anyone cleared the roads. It may be a neighbor with a blade on his tractor or perhaps the highway department, that finally opened the roads for needed supplies. Often when the snowplows cleared the roads, they would push a pile of snow a couple feet high across the end of your driveway. Or you may have lived in a place where the winds blew drifts several feet high. Those were and still are the times that try men’s souls and their backs.

Children enjoy a sled ride.

Children enjoy a sled ride.

Children always enjoy a ride on their sled whether they are being pulled by someone or gliding down a hill. Many neighborhoods have a favorite hill where children gather to race on their sleds. Sometimes they may use a large lid or piece of cardboard with the front bent up so it can slide easily down the hills without getting caught in the snow. An old innertube also provides a great way to slide down a hill. You can be certain that everyone is going to come home covered with snow and ready for some hot chocolate.

Carrot nose placed on his first snowman.

Carrot nose placed on his first snowman.

Another favorite activity in the wintertime is building a snowman. Parents enjoy helping youngsters build that first snowman as it makes dad and mom feel young again too. To add the finishing touches, a nose is created by using a carrot, while its mouth and two eyes are made out of coal. Many times a hat is placed on the snowman’s head with a scarf around their neck. Then everyone hopes it doesn’t melt away too quickly after all that hard work.

Pepper, the Pony, pulls a sleigh through the snow.

Pepper, the Pony, pulls a sleigh over the snow.

If you are lucky enough to have a horse of your own, or a kind neighbor with a horse, hooking up a sled or sleigh behind a horse is great fun. It is important that someone either lead the horse or ride it as otherwise the horse might take off too quickly leaving passengers on the ground in the snow. What a treat when it works properly!

Deer wander over the Ohio hills.

Deer wander over the Ohio hills, as seen from my kitchen window.

This is also the time to see animals seemingly enjoying the snow as well. Kittens leap over snow covered chairs and playfully wrestle on the ground, while dogs might just sit and watch the activites around them. Deer graze on a few blades of grass still poking through the snow, while keeping alert to any danger around.

While this is not a favorite season for all, many truly enjoy taking a walk in the snow, skiing, or ice skating on a frozen farm pond. Winter recollections can be an enjoyable way to pass a homebound day. Wonder what your favorite wintertime activities might be? To tell the truth, this gypsy would rather take a road trip on a sunshiny day!

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