Jeff Friedhoff, who lives in rural Adams County, carved this piece he calls “Defiance” out of mahogany trimmed with cherry and poplar. Photos courtesy of Jeff Friedhoff.
Woodcarver won’t give up on his art
The Associated Press
The buck has one foot up, ready to stomp out a message of warning to any intruder.
The image, carved in deep relief in mahogany, in a way mirrors the frustrations life has thrown at woodcarver Jeff Friedhoff.
After years of nagging health problems and being wrapped up in his real estate business, the 50-year-old
Adams County man put his foot down and started carving again.
Friedhoff started woodcarving in 1983 as a hobby, mostly giving his work to friends.
“I have a background in carpentry and woodworking (to go along with his real estate work),” he said.
Recently he re-opened up his wood shop and dusted off his tools.
“I have a nice wood shop and I want to get it going again,” he said.
He exclusively carves hardwoods like mahogany, oak and walnut. Images are carved deep into a hardwood background.
He doesn’t limit himself to wildlife — he also creates signs for businesses among other requested projects.
Friedhoff grew up on the Mississippi River, hunting and exploring islands in the river. He’s been a deer hunter for 30 years.
Jeff Friedhoff also creates signs and takes on other carving projects.
“I come from a long line of hunters,” he said. “I’m an avid bowhunter. I’m not the best bowhunter, but if (a trophy-sized deer) comes by me I’m going to shoot it.”
His interest in hunting led him to a career selling hunting properties through his business Two Rivers Land Company, Inc.
Complications from a series of shoulder surgeries set back his hunting and his business. He’s been shooting a crossbow for four or five years.
With his recovery mostly complete, Friedhoff decided to get back into carving, a skill he learned 30 years ago, mostly on his own.
“I’m self-taught,” he said. “A lot of carvers start out carving basswood, which, as you know, you can kind of push your carving knife through it. I started out carving red oak because I didn’t know any better. I was isolated from other carvers, so I’ve kind of got my own style.
“In the late 90s, I started selling my work,” he said. “But I just recently started carving again. I wanted to get this work out there.”
He posted pictures of his work to the Woodcarving Illustrated forum and received positive notices from other carvers.
Finding his own way
Friedhoff creates background effects, like a series of ovals, with detailing tools he developed himself.
Woodcarver Jeff Friedhoff created his own detailing tools to create background effects such as the series of ovals in his piece titled, “Defiance.”
Just the background behind the stomping buck took six hours to complete. The whole carving, in mahogany and trimmed and inlaid with cherry and poplar, took six weeks.
“It’s a lot of tedious work,” Friedhoff said. “There’s nothing on the market to do that, so carvers have to improvise. That’s kind of my thing that sets me apart from everyone else.”
That stomping buck that Friedhoff calls “Defiance” is on display at Pike County Archery in Pittsfield.
His goal is to portray his subjects as accurately as possible.
“I’ve got anatomy pictures that are used by taxidermists,” he said. “And I used one of my mounts (as a model) and hung it on the wall of my shop.”
Relief carvers have only one inch of depth to make the subject look real.
“When you carve a statue you can get the total perspective,” he said. “But I’ve got an inch to make it work.”
All carvers learn from trial and error.
“Any woodworker will always have a glue bottle next to you,” Friedhoff said. “That’s part of it. Everything you see that is handmade, I guarantee there is a glue bottle next to the artist.”
Friedhoff sounds like a man with a new lease on life since resuming woodcarving in June.
“I hadn’t done it for a long time, and I did four or five carvings in a row,” he said.
He buys two-inch thick hardwood boards to supplement wood harvested from his own timber in Adams County.
He also bought the contents of a second-story warehouse in Quincy that included mahogany and cherry boards 10 to 12 feet long.
“I was just tickled to death to get it.”
Chris Young can be reached at (217) 788-1528.