Friday, July 28, 2006

The Warther Museum in Dover, Ohio

Ya'll realize that we're not on the road yet, so this post about the Warther Museum is one of those "blast from the past" road trips that I pull out and dust off and present for your reading pleasure. I do have pictures from the museum, but they are on the other computer in our rig and therefore are not available for this post. Most of the visit we recorded on the camcorder as the majority of the models presented there are working, moving models so we taped them.

The Warther Museum is located in Dover, Ohio near the Amish area. The museum itself is not large so you can combine a trip to the museum with a shopping/dining excursion in Millersburg or one of the other nearby Amish communities. But if you appreciate extraordinary workmanship you really need to see "Mooney" Warther's carvings.

Ernest Warther's education ended in the second grade, but he astounded math professors and engineers with his precisely carved, fully operational and perfectly detail carvings of steam engines and his "Tree of 511 Pliers" . All of his trains with all their wheels, trim, coal shuttles, screws, etc. were all carved by hand using a workbench, hand vise and hand tools, many of which Warther made himself.

The tour guide will tell you that Ernest started carving when he discovered an old pocket knife laying on the road at age five and that a hobo taught him how to carve a pair of pliers using only a few cuts in a small piece of wood. Eventually, Ernest could cut a pair of these pliers in about 15 seconds using only ten cuts. (See my pictures of a pair of these pliers above the text) Tiring of cutting simple pairs of pliers, Ernest set about creating the Tree of Pliers using a piece of wood that was 13 inches long, 3/4 of a inch wide and 5/8 of an inch thick. Thirty-one thousand cuts later he had the 511 pliers. Remember, this man's formal education ended in the second grade.

Mr. Warther started making his own knives when the ones he purchased locally wore out too quickly on the ebony, hard woods and ivory he used as carving materials. Today the fourth generation of Warthers are still creating fine knives by hand and you can watch them at work at the small workroom on the grounds as well as buy the knives at their store.

Wandering the grounds of the museum you'll discover Freida Warther's "Button House". Mrs. Warther collected thousands and thousands of buttons and sewed them onto boards in the form of quilt patterns to display them. The variety of buttons is astounding and the artistry of Mrs. Warther's method of displaying the buttons is unique.

You may not be "into" trains, but the Warther Museum is a must see for those who appreciate ingenuity, craftsmanship, artistry and a fascinating story about a simple man.

And being able to later pig out at Heini's Cheese Chalet sampling their 50+ types of cheeses makes it even more worthwhile.

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