Making wooden Christmas tree ornaments is hobby for Eugene Enos


Staff writer

Working with wood has been a hobby for Eugene Enos of Marion since 1980.

Within the past year, the 77-year-old artisan has begun making wooden Christmas tree ornaments using a scroll saw. The ornaments are carved out of one-eighth-inch-thick birch wood.

A scroll saw is equipped with very thin five-inch-long vertical blades that move in an up-and-down motion to cut intricate shapes in thin wood.

Enos said he had the scroll saw for a while before he began using it. He kept busy making wooden toys for his 12 grandchildren.

"My toy-making days are about over," he said. "My youngest grandchild is almost in kindergarten."

Eugene's wife, Phyllis, a former schoolteacher, moved to St. Luke Living Center about a year and a half ago.

"I had to have something to do," Eugene said.

He decided to learn how to produce artwork with the scroll saw.

Since March, he has created 80 pieces. Of those, 36 are Christmas tree ornaments. Most of them have been given to family members but a few are on sale at River Mill Woods in Marion, a retail business operated by his son Daryl and his wife, Pat.

The other pieces are elaborate wall hangings or plaques which are made by scrolling designs into one-fourth-inch-thick birch wood and gluing them to one-eighth-inch-thick spray-painted wood backings.

He has hundreds of designs to choose from, including such things as nature scenes and college mascots. Many patterns come from Creative Woodworks and Crafts, a magazine to which he subscribes.

Eugene said it takes him an hour or more to cut out and design a Christmas ornament. It is delicate work. A tiny hole has to be drilled into each piece that needs to be carved out. Then the vertical saw blade is inserted through the hole, and the piece is cut out. The ornament is cleaned up by smoothing any rough edges.

Creating a wall hanging takes a lot more time. Many designs incorporate numerous small cuts which require a steady hand.

Eugene works at his hobby two to three hours almost every day and figures he makes about $4 an hour on the pieces he sells.

"I've got them strung out all over the country," he said.

Most of his orders come by word of mouth. As with the ornaments, he has made a lot of wall hangings for family members.

Before he began creating scroll artwork, Eugene dabbled in a form of wood art known as intarsia. He made decorative pictures and plaques by combining pieces of various natural woods with a backdrop of solid wood.

Eugene retired in 1992 after having served in the Marion public school system for 38 1/2 years. He and his wife moved to the Marion area in 1965, when he became Marion Elementary School principal. During his last five years with the district, he also served as director of buildings and grounds, as well as transportation director.

He has two bad hips as a result of having polio when he was younger. He uses a three-wheel walker to get around.

But he doesn't let those handicaps keep him from staying active and being involved with his family. He hones his craft every morning and visits his wife almost every day.

Eugene lives near the former Ehrlich flour mill south of Marion. The house he has lived in since 1980 was owned by A.T. Ehrlich, owner and operator of the mill.

Eugene does his scroll work at Daryl's shop, which is nearby. Daryl is a woodworker in his own right, producing furniture, picture frames, and even caskets.

Eugene and Phyllis also have four daughters: Debbi and husband Mark Heidebrecht, Towanda; Terri and Lloyd Snell, Ames, Iowa; Kelley and Derek Newsom, Belpre; and Kristi and Tim Wright, Emporia.

In addition to 12 grandchildren, the Enoses have four great-grandchildren.

Eugene's family hopes he will continue to produce works of art for many years to come.