Just by looking at Milton Erb’s wood creations you might think he’s been at it for a lifetime: wooden bowls, totem poles measuring some six metres (20 feet), moose and wolf sculptures and wooden pliers made of a single piece of wood are just some of the many items that the Wellesley woodworker has fashioned out of ash, walnut, and maple since retiring 22 years ago.
But while he has a lifetime of experience working with wood as a building trades carpenter, it’s only in the last 15 years or so that he’s been carving creations of a more artistic kind.
“A little bit of everything,” says Erb in describing his selection of carvings.
Erb, who showcases and sells his creations at local festivals – he plans to attend a festival in Blythe in the coming weeks and the Apple Butter and Cheese Festival in Wellesley in September – is currently working on a wooden steam engine. The approximately two-foot (0.60-metre) creation is made of local walnut and maple wood.
He’s working against time to be able to showcase the piece at the upcoming festivals, which he says are great for learning.
“You learn a lot by talking to people.”
With large, strong and steady hands, Erb is meticulous with his work: just a quick glance of a wooden moose sculpture reveals fine grooves resembling animal hair etched out of the soft wood.
His creations have caught the attention of many people, with word-of-mouth spreading news of his handiwork. Through a local contact, Erb was asked to create some wooden carvings for the altar at St. Clement’s Roman Catholic Church. His creations have also caught the attention of the township, which is thinking of commissioning his services for the purpose of beautifying a tree near the gazebo in Wellesley.
“He gave me the grand tour of his place, and it’s just amazing the stuff that he has there,” says Wellesley Mayor Ross Kelterborn.
“It’s not amateur stuff – unbelievable. He does deserve some recognition.”
Retiring after some 42 years as a carpenter – a career he got into at the prompting of his father-in-law – Erb was then able to pick up the hobby of woodcarving. In his trade, Erb, who was born a few miles outside of Wellesley, was unable to spend too much time carving. But his retirement freed up some time and now he carves “quite a bit” in his home shop.
“I just wanted to do it, just start,” he says.
It seems the desire runs in the family, as his brother also carves, using the facilities of the seniors’ workshop in neighbouring Wilmot Township.
“We just enjoy doing it.”