Local woodworker will be one of 150 vendors at Boonesborough Days
BOONSBORO — Thomas Ankrum has been interested in woodcrafting since middle school and high school. During the past decade, the 46-year-old Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., man has been practicing the craft.
He went to a woodworking show in Chantilly, Va., where he used to reside.
“I picked up a mini-lathe. It’s the same one I’m working on today. That got me back into it, then I got hooked on woodturning,” he said. “This year, I was encouraged to start selling my stuff. I got my tax license for Maryland and Pennsylvania and went from there. I put together a plan and started booking shows.”
Ankrum has accumulated an inventory of small to medium-sized crafts including ink pens, styluses, rolling pins, cutting boards and vessels made of local and exotic woods. He will be selling these and other wares along with roughly 150 other exhibitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9 and Sunday, Sept. 10, at the 46th annual Boonesborough Days at Shafer Park in Boonsboro.
Sponsored by the Boonsboro Historical Society, the free festival is devoted to showcasing handmade crafts such as early American artifacts, paintings and unique gifts. The event will feature demonstrations of colonial candle making, blacksmithing, chair caning, basket weaving and broom, soap and pottery making. There will also be Civil War displays, live entertainment and concessions.
Ankrum, whose livelihood is in construction safety, said the festival’s attention to authentic, historical crafting appeals to him as opposed to shows with direct sale vendors.
“I took every single shop class I could in middle and high school,” he said. “I always liked working with wood. When I couldn’t get any more woodworking classes, I took metal because I liked shop so much.”
He appreciates being able to “make something from a chunk of wood.” He values aesthetics of various woods, and crafts with grain, texture and sustainability in mind.
“I take the shavings from my work outside and dump them in the garden or compost, or I give them to friends and family to use in their gardens,” he said. “It’s recyclable and useful.”
Many of Ankrum’s crafts are ideas he spots in trade magazines and sees as a challenge. He takes them on and adds a twist of his own.
“I like being able to recreate something. I’ll find something that looks challenging but doable. I’ve made a couple of things like that. It’s fun,” he said.
For example, Ankrum crafts paperweights from a design that uses a solid piece of wood. He adapted the design, adding a cap and laminating it.
“It looks like a large yo-yo,” he said. “In fact, a lot of people think it is a yo-yo at first. They are not yo-yos, but I do make those a well.”
For the paperweights, he hollows out a piece of wood, uses a lathe to make the cap, and puts BBs inside to weight it down.
“I can’t remember what the original design called for,” he said, but he conceived of the ideas to use BBs for weight.
Then he glues on the cap and flushes it with the rest of the oak, walnut and crabapple piece. According to the original design, the paperweight would be finished, but Ankrum added visual interest and flair by adding to it a ring of coffee grounds.
“They are used coffee grounds, of course. I never waste coffee grounds,” he said. “Coffee grounds work great if you have an oak burl.”
A burl, he explained, is a rounded knotty growth on a tree that can become an attractive handcrafted object.
“Sometimes trees have dark areas and sometimes gaps in some areas where the wood rotted or dried out a bit,” he said. “They are prized by woodturners.”
Ankrum will have a table with kitchen items like bottle stoppers and mortars and pestles. These are kitchen devices used since ancient time to prepare ingredients by crushing or grinding. Another table will show high end items like turned bowls and vessels.
“That might include a spittoon, and a quality cherry vessel with turquoise inlay,” he said.
The third table is the one Ankrum refers to as his “seconds table.”
“It’s where out I put out the items I maybe made a little earlier. They might have a warp here or there or the shape or something isn’t exactly something I like best. I discount them and they move pretty well,” he said. “People seem to like them.”
Ankrum sees the festival as a good opportunity to mingle with other crafters and learn from them both in terms of crafting and business savvy.
“They give me insights on the best shows around and help me get my network going. I’m just starting out professionally. This helps me find out what I need to do to get my skills up there faster while I keep my rates fair and competitive so I can keep getting business,” he said. “I want to earn enough money to keep my hobby going. My thrill is in making the product.”