The Athens Review
By day, Ron Reeves has served as Chandler Chief of Police for more than 30 years.
By night, Reeves is one of the best craftsmen in the area.
It started with a simple design out of a bar of soap when he was a pre-teen and now, more than 40 years later, Reeves can carve just about anything into any surface imaginable.
“Since I was a young child, I have always been interested in art – drawing, sketching,” Reeves said. “I picked up a bar of soap one day and just thought, ‘I’ve seen people do this before.’ I was not even a teenager yet. I was a young kid. I carved out a statue like I had seen in school where the arms and legs were off. I’ve still got that bar of soap.”
From that point forward, Reeves knew he could carve anything he set his mind too.
“That showed me that I had a talent in carving if I wanted to explore it,” he said.
Reeves explored other artistic avenues during his teenage years before turning his attentions back toward carving in his late 20s.
“After I had become chief and started working here, there was an elderly gentleman that had a walking stick. He had several items carved on it that someone had done for him,” Reeves said. “There was a turtle, a lizard, a frog and a snake. I saw it and thought, ‘well, I can do that.’ So I went and got a stick and started my first walking stick.”
Like many of Reeves’ projects, there is a story behind that first walking stick.
“Me and chief deputy Dan Parker, when he was a Henderson County deputy, were out in an area where marijuana was suspected to be growing. I saw this tree growing that was growing up twisted with vines on it. We were creeping through the woods and I whispered, ‘I want that.’ He asked why and I told him I wanted to carve it.”
Reeves said the two had been quiet the entire time they were hunting for the marijuana patch before Parker broke the silence to help his friend.
“All of the sudden the quietness broke. He got his automatic rifle and let loose,” Reeves said. “He shot the base of the tree and took down the limb. We gave the hunt up after that.”
Inspired by the place where the limb was growing, Reeves carved leaves and vines into the stick with a pocket knife.
“From then on I was always looking for the sticks with the natural twist,” Reeves said. “I was somewhat amazed what I actually turned out on my first attempt with the pocket knife. A lot of my carving I started out with all I used was my pocket knife.”
The simple design has led to dozens of walking sticks since.
“After I started doing the sticks I started getting requests from other people. I call those, life sticks. They are all about the person who the stick is being created for,” Reeves said. “I include everything they want about their life, career or other items that memorialize their life.”
As he progressed in life sticks, he changed tools and his creations have become even more elaborate.
Now he uses a wood-burner where needed to burn in darker coloring while using utility knifes, X-ACTO knives, Dremel tools and of course the pocket knife.
It takes anywhere from 35 to 45 hours to complete one life stick depending on the amount of detail requested.
“There is a lot of time invested in it. It is all hand made with the hand tools that I have. I do not use computers or those things that do the carving for you,” he said. “A lot of people will ask me how I know what to do and I thought I was being original when I said, ‘well I saw what was in there and took everything away that didn’t belong.’ Come to find out that must be a common saying for woodcarver because I hear everybody saying it now.”
Over the last year, Reeves has branched out and started carving on surfaces he had never considered before.
Some of those mediums include pumpkins, deer antler and animal bones.
“One of my favorite mediums before I got into antlers was actually borrows off of trees,” he said. “All I do it take the knot off the tree and carver random items into it.”
He started antlers in late 2013.
“I saw someone had carved an antler and thought to myself, ‘I bet I can do better.’ I picked it up and ran with it,” he said. “It is one I have to be careful with because the dust off of it smells like burnt hair or burnt born. It is horrible smelling. I can really stink up a place.”
While he enjoys carving for others, Reeves has yet to sell a piece. Most of his carving have been gifts for others. He is open to working on commission, but some do not understand the amount of time that goes into each piece and balk at pricing.
After a tough day at work, Reeves simply slips into his workshop and allows the cares of the day to fade away.
“To me, it is my way of slipping into my own world and doing what I have to do to gain peace of mind... that is until I cut myself,” he said laughing. “I have scars all over my hands and some healing up now that are fresh.”
His favorite mediums are the tree knots and antlers because they are a harder surface and allow for more details without the fear of breaking the piece.
Nearing 62, Reeves has hoped to find someone in the family with the same passion for carving as he has possessed since he was a child. He grandson is showing interest.
“Fishing, being outside and spending time with my family are some of the things I enjoy. The one thing that I have wanted to see and haven’t seen until recently, is my grandson, Peyton Smith, who has actually shown an interest in carving. My daughter Stephanie has done some pumpkin carvings and she is good, but she has never carved anything else. Peyton has shown an interest in carving and wanting to do that.”
Like any grandpa would, Reeves bought his grandson the tools he needs to continue the family tradition.