Monday, July 9, 2012

Bill Henry - Whittler, Artist

Bill is a native of eastern Kentucky who's spent his entire adult life In Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he is retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. For much of that adult life he has been a student of Appalachia and a practitioner of the ancient art of whittling, Appalachian style. He is or has been a member of the most prestigious craft guilds in the mountain south.

His carvings reflect Appalachian life, from items of everyday use reproduced in wood to traditional toys. My favorites are his jackstraws.

The game of jackstraws is an elaboration of the ancient game of pick-up-sticks, similar to spillikins in Britain. Styles vary both between and within regions of the U.S., but always the jackstraws are carved pieces that like to hook onto each other as a player attempts to remove them one-at-a-time from the pile. Bill's sets feature tiny carvings of everyday items.

In addition, he carves pieces that are jackstraws in form, but which are meant to be displayed as small mountain sculptures, such as these bluebirds sitting on an ax handle.

Bill formerly owned one of the historic houses in Rugby as a second home, and he still comes frequently to participate in festivals or simply to demonstrate his art for visitors.

He always is popular with visitors, not only because of his talent, but also because he happens to be one of the finest men one can hope to meet in a lifetime.


  1. Great pictures (and words) that seem to bring the man and his whittling alive, even across all the hundreds of miles of land and sea that separate us.

  2. My husband and I are personal friends of Bill's. You are right. He is one of the nicest people who I have ever been blessed to meet in my lifetime. And his God-given talent is incredible.