Monday, March 4th, 2013
Area artist designs with saw
By Margie Wuebker
Weston Hirschfeld, a junior at Memorial High School in St. Marys, uses a scroll. . .
NEW BREMEN - Weston Hirschfeld picks up a piece of beautifully grained wood and sees all the things it could become with the help of a scroll saw or some other power tool.
Hirschfeld, a 17-year-old junior at Memorial High School in St. Marys, is no novice when it comes to woodworking. He started nine years ago as a 4-H member with a simple bookshelf and then branched into furniture with a rocking chair. His latest project is a towering grandfather clock.
Woodworking of all kinds certainly runs in the family - his paternal grandfather Wallace Hirschfeld of New Bremen, maternal grandfather Jim Reinhart of Botkins and father Erik Hirschfeld - have proven to be good mentors. As the youngest in the family, he also has learned a great deal from his four older siblings.
He moved on to scroll work four years ago after watching his sister Victoria turn out decorative pieces.
"The scroll saw is very accurate and precise," he said. "It can be used to cut intricate curves."
He has settled on two kinds of scroll work - fretwork and intarsia.
Fretwork involves affixing a pattern to wood and then cutting along the lines with a reciprocating blade that moves up and down. Most designs are geometrical in design, but Hirschfeld keeps experimenting.
Intarsia is a woodworking technique that uses various shapes, sizes and species of wood carefully fitted together to create a mosaic-like picture. A variety of finishing products seals the wood without affecting its natural beauty.
"I select different types of wood for their grain pattern and color," he said. "Then comes the work of cutting, shaping and finishing each individual piece."
He sometimes raises the pattern to create more depth. When all the pieces have been cut, he fits them together like a jig-saw puzzle and glues them to wood backing, which is frequently cut in the shape of the intended project.
For a wolf project taking shape, he plans to use five different woods - hickory, walnut, maple, oak and blue pine. The latter wood comes from a tree infected with a worm that not only killed the tree but stained the wood bluish gray. A wooden chess set complete with 32 pieces also benefitted from a variety of wood.
"Each wood has different characteristics," he said. "Using light and dark grains really adds something to the finished project."
Exotic woods like zebra wood and cocobolo, which he purchases at specialty wood shops, produce a toxic dust when cut. He wears a double-filter respirator to prevent inhaling dust that could damage his lungs.
His most challenging project to date is an 800-piece intarsia recreation of the Last Supper using 15 kinds of wood. He donated the 6-by-4-foot piece to his church in New Knoxville.
"I like to challenge myself," he said with a smile.
His hours in the workshop are somewhat limited during school days. However, weekends and summer vacation provide the time needed for special projects.
Much of his handiwork eventually becomes gifts for family and friends like the intarsia pieces showing a woman at a grand piano. He and his sister Victoria collaborated on the piece for their mother. He has created a Facebook page highlighting examples of his work.
Under the name WASP (Weston's Artistically Scrolled Pieces), he participates in area farmers' markets and recently was commissioned to create a special piece for St. Marys' sister city in Awaji City, Japan. He also displayed his wares at The Arts Place in St. Marys and is looking forward to the upcoming Artistry under the Dome event at St. Charles Senior Living Community at Carthagena.
Hirschfeld, who plans to major in engineering following graduation, is not one to sit still. He enjoys hunting, sewing, raising livestock and helping with the family business, Hirschfeld's German Shepherds. He also plays french horn in the concert band and tuba in the marching and pep bands.
"Woodworking will always be my pastime," he said. "It helps relieve stress and provides a challenge with the best part being I have something to show for my effort."
Art on display:
Artistry Under the Dome at St. Charles Senior Living Community will feature the artwork of nearly two dozens artists residing in Mercer or Auglaize counties or having roots in the area.
Participants range from teenagers to senior citizens.
In addition, high school art teachers have been invited to display their students' art projects.
The event begins April 5 with a reception 7-9 p.m. for the artists, their families and friends. Artists will be on hand 10 a.m.-5 p.m. April 6 and 7.
Additional display hours are April 8, 1-5 p.m.; April 9, 6-9 p.m.; and April 10, 1-5 p.m.
Freewill donations will be accepted.
Planning committee members include Nick Wenning, Lisa Wolters, Jane Dippold, Ralph Stuckman and Sister Martha Bertke.
More information is available at www.facebook.com/ArtistryUnderTheDome.
- Margie Wuebker