NEW ULM - Back when Ken Huebert, of New Ulm, was a boy he used to whittle wood.
Then about 20 years ago, an adult education class came along on wood carving and he wanted to take it - so he took it.
"I always thought that (wood carving) would be something I'd like to do," said Ken.
Ken Huebert (left) has carved birds, wizards, cowboys, spoons, santas, Hermann the German and the cast of Alice in Wonderland. Most of his work is displayed throughout his home in New Ulm.
For years he has loved spending the spring and summer months gardening with his wife, Kathy.
"He needed a winter hobby besides looking at gardening books," Kathy said.
So in 1988 he began wood carving as a pastime while he worked full-time as a maintenance mechanic at Holm Industries.
"It's a winter hobby (for Ken)," said Kathy, "He has a lot of fun with it."
He has been retired from Holm Industries for about three years and now he works part-time mowing lawns at the chancery.
A current project Ken is working on is a birdhouse.
"I like birdhouses, so I asked him to make me one," said Kathy.
His collection of carved pieces includes: Santas, cowboys, fish, a couple dozen birds, plaques for his grandchildren, a grey wolf, life-size Pinocchio puppet with strings, Christian crosses, love spoons (for weddings or anniversaries), wizard, and even a carving of Hermann the German. He has also carved some faces into pieces of driftwood.
"I just enjoy trying something new - and the challenge of it," said Ken.
He said he has many carving "how-to" books and carving magazines where he gets designs to carve.
It takes him about a week to two weeks depending on the size and how detailed he makes the wood carvings.
"It's relaxing," said Ken, "You never know what you're going to find in a piece of wood. You start with a blank piece of wood."
He finds bass wood to carve with, wood pieces he buys at carving shows or wood he has purchased at a hardware store.
He uses gouges (this is not a knife), v tools or rounded tools and flat knives to do the carvings.
"The knife is the most important," said Ken, "They have to be very sharp otherwise they just won't cut very good."
After he is done carving the pieces, he paints them by hand. He has a wide variety of colors to choose from to paint his pieces.
"The sky's the limit (for colors to choose)," said Ken, "Everybody's different on color. Sometimes wood carvings look better not sanded. They look more original."
He said he has sold very few of the pieces he has made.
"He finds it hard to sell them once he's put so much work into it," said Kathy, "It's fun for me to watch."
Ken likes to promote wood carving. He is a member of the Minnesota Wood Carvers Association.
He attends wood carving shows in Fairmont and Blue Earth where he and other carvers can exhibit their works.
"It'd be nice if more of the younger generation would get into it," said Ken.