Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for June, 2014

History of the Steam Engine – Ernest Warther Carvings

Ernest "Mooney" Warther

Ernest “Mooney” Warther working on one of many displays

“You have to have a vision.”  These words guided Master Carver Ernest Warther throughout his life. He instilled that concept in his family, who today can be found at Warthers in Dover, Ohio. The Smithsonian describes this museum’s displays as “Priceless works of art.”

Early in life, Ernest, called Mooney by most who knew him, worked for the railroad. When he began whittling, it seemed natural to use his passion to create the history of steam engines with moving parts.

During his early years when money was scarce, Mooney used chipped and cracked cue balls made of ivory for his trains. When he rode his bicycle around town, he would often stop at pool halls on his trips to a favorite spot, Woolworths. Cue balls, walnut, coal, mussel shells and beef bone formed his early locomotives because…they were free.

Brothers Fred and Ernest with their Famous Warther Models traveling show

Brothers Fred and Ernest with their Famous Warther Models traveling show

At this point, he no longer called it whittling, as now he carved trains to perfection. His intricate designs were displayed in New York Central Railroad and later in their traveling road show, Famous Warther Models, that carried his engines to the forty-eight continental states during its thirty year run.

Completion of one carving at a time was the order of business for this mathematical and mechanical genius. While Master Carver Mooney used walnut wood and soup bones for his early carvings, he later used ivory for the white parts of his trains and ebony for the black. None of his trains were glued, but parts were intricately pegged together.

The Great Northern Locomotive

The Great Northern Locomotive

Mooney carved one of his best and favorite replicas, The Great Northern Locomotive, in 1932-33.  The cursive words on the side were all hand carved out of ivory – each word a solid piece. The number on the side of the locomotive represents the number of pieces used – backwards; therefore, this carving contained 7,752 pieces, many of them moving.

A hobo at the train station told him about a  self-lubricating wood, arguto. If Mooney used this hardwood on the bearing surface, the parts would  never need oiling. Those trains built with arguto still run smoothly today nearly 80 years later.

Mooney enjoyed the neighborhood children stopping by his workshop. He kept a brick outside his workshop door. When children would stop by and ask Mooney to play with them, he had a quick answer. “If I throw up this brick and it stays in the air, I have to work in my shop.” The children adored him.

Abraham Lincoln Funeral Train

Abraham Lincoln Funeral Train

The eyetooth of the hippo, the finest grade of ivory, was used in the famous Lincoln Funeral Train, which Mooney carved at the age of eighty. Being a big fan of the history and philosophy of Lincoln, he paid tribute to him by carving his funeral train on the 100th anniversary of his assassination.

Types of ivory

Types of ivory

Since it was often difficult to find the treasured hippo ivory, he then settled for the second best – ivory of a walrus, and even third- that from an elephant. Much of the ivory came from baby elephants when they lost their baby tusks. You can imagine the excitement at the railroad yard as the ivory was always delivered by train.

The last carving completed was Old Ironsides in 1966. Mooney always tried to be accurate in his scale models and often used 1/2″ to a foot. Speed never figured into his carvings, as he might carve about 1,000 small pieces a month.

The Warther family story serves as an inspiration to organize your time so you can create something special, while leaving time for family first. In his eyes, everyone had a significant talent, the trick was in finding it. His exceptional natural talent for whittling and carving has filled the museum with amazing pieces. As Mooney remarked regarding his carvings, “Pretty good for a second grade education!”

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.


Variety – The Spice of Dad’s Life

Making glass was “in his blood”. Those words described my dad, Rudy Wencek, as working with glass intrigued him. That passion is the basis for my Father’s Day tribute to Dad and Variety Glass in Cambridge, Ohio. Dreams do come true.

Dad working at Variety Glass

Dad working at Variety Glass

At the age of twelve, Rudy quit school and went to work as a “carrying-in boy” at Cambridge Glass Company. As the years passed, Rudy performed a variety of jobs there from pressing to the skilled art of blowing delicate pieces. The only thing he knew well centered around making glass, while his wife, Kate, raised chickens on the farm.

Rudy never even considered doing anything else until the day in 1959 when the Cambridge Glass plant closed – this time for good. What would he do now?

As luck would have it, Rudy was good friends with Tom Mosser, another glassmaker whose family had a hand in operating Cambridge Glass. Rudy and Tom purchased some of the original Cambridge Glass molds for use in producing laboratory and pharmaceutical glass for doctors and science labs, plus a variety of other items.

Where should they start the business? How about in Kate’s chicken house near Indian Camp. While Kate didn’t mind giving up her chicken house, two things worried her.

First, the large propane tank needed to fire the furnace could explode. Second, taking out a loan frightened her as she watched every penny. But Rudy told her, “It takes money to make money.” Therefore, late in 1959, Variety Glass got its start – in our former chicken house.

Dad in front of future Variety Glass

Dad in front of future Variety Glass

Rudy and Tom worked long hours on their new business. Tom enjoyed making business connections to purchase supplies and generate sales. Rudy got to follow his love of being in charge of making the glass products, always working closely with the other employees, nearly all being former Cambridge Glass craftsmen.

Officers of Variety Glass: Mary Martha Mitchell, president; Tom Mosser, vice-president, Rudy Wencek, treasurer

Officers of Variety Glass were: Mary Martha Mitchell, president; Tom Mosser, vice-president, and Rudy Wencek, treasurer

The following year, a late night explosion caused a fire that stopped their dream. But Rudy and Tom were not giving up. They contacted former Cambridge Glass president, Mary Martha Mitchell, asking for her leadership expertise. Between the three partners, they discovered the empty street car barn on Second Street and began refurbishing it to meet their needs.

With the added room for growth, items were added to their production list with glass products being sent worldwide. Surprising though it may seem, some of their laboratory glass was used by NASA and the Atomic Research Center in Los Alamos.

But fate seemed to delay the three of them again, as once more fire caused extensive damage to Variety Glass in 1966. Mary Martha Mitchell kept the company going from her kitchen table office by notifying customers of the circumstances and encouraging them to wait until production started once again.

Today Variety Glass is still in operation on Second Street although none of the three originators are around to oversee its production.

Variety Glass in old trolley barn

Variety Glass in old trolley barn

Due to health problems, Rudy found it necessary to retire from Variety Glass in 1966, but he never lost his passion for making glass. He told his grandsons how proud it made him feel to see sand and a few special ingredients turn into beautiful glass objects, thus Rudy’s long-ago CB handle of “Sandman”. The sparkle in his eyes when he talked about making glass reflected his passion.

Dad’s cheerful, caring attitude provided a life-long example to follow. He was the best dad imaginable!

How to Use a Washboard

Columbus Washboard Company Welcome Sign

Columbus Washboard Company Welcome Sign

During my recent trip to Columbus Washboard Factory in Logan, Ohio, one of the highlights of the visit was discovering that part of their mission is to send free washboard kits to members of the armed services. This kit includes: a washtub, washboard, soap, clothesline, clothes pins, foot powder when available, and a set of instructions on “How to Use a Washboard”.

For some of you this instruction list will bring back memories of the past, while for others it may seem rather humorous compared to washing methods today. Notice the special suggested order for items to be washed. Not sure if I completely agree with this order, but it was the given instruction list. Maybe you will discover you have been washing things in the wrong order for years. Hope you enjoy the list!

Washboard kit being used by a member of the armed services.

Washboard kit being used by a member of the armed services.

Before you begin, there is a reminder that it is okay to wash laundry in cold water.

1) Put water in the tub until 3/4 full.

2) Put underwear into the water to soak.

3) Rest the soap bar at the top of the board.

4) Rub underwear over soap and then rub item vigorously on the metal rub surface. Repeat step 4 until item is clean.

Dubl Handi Washboard with two different rubbing surfaces

Dubl Handi Washboard with two different rubbing surfaces

5) Put shirts in water and repeat step 4 to clean.

6) Wash pants the same way.

7) Last item to wash would be your socks. Allow them to soak and then repeat step 4 many times.

8) Do not discard the water. Soak your feet for 20 minutes, it will feel sooo good!

9) Dry your feet, apply foot powder if available, clean socks and boots.

10) Discard dirty water, refill bucket and rinse items until no soap remains.

11) Wring out clothing items and pin on clothesline to dry.

12) We hope your laundry days are warm and breezy, and that you all come home safely – soon!

This list was developed by Columbus Washboard Factory, 14 Gallagher Ave, Logan, OH 43138.



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