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Published: Thursday, 6/24/2010

Cutting edge: Knife craftsman returns to Crosby Festival of Arts

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jim Parker, who took best in show at last year's festival, crafted these knives with Damascus black buck handles. Jim Parker, who took best in show at last year's festival, crafted these knives with Damascus black buck handles.
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The woolly mammoth will make an appearance at this weekend's Crosby Festival of the Arts. Fossilized ivory from a mammoth's tusk is a material Jim Parker uses to craft his extraordinary knives.

What's the connection between art and knives?

“There's no reason why a work of art can't be a functional knife,” says Parker. “They're my own design but 99 percent of them are practical. I make some kitchen knives but most are hunting or fishing knives.”

Parker, a retired Pennsylvania state police road trooper, won the best of show award at 2009's festival in West Toledo, and as such, was entitled to occupy the pole position, Booth No. 1 this year. He declined, returning to Booths 9 and 10, which served him well last year.

The 45th Crosby Festival, Saturday and Sunday at Toledo Botanical Garden, features 200 artists, of which about 30 are local. A preview party (tickets are $75) will be tomorrow evening. Set throughout the garden's 60 acres of lush plantings and sculpture will be artists, musicians, children's activities, and edibles.

For knife handles, Parker selects giraffe bone, armadillo, walrus ivory, sambar stag from India, sheep horn, banksia seed pod from Australia, and woods such as dymond and desert iron.

Mammoth ivory can be blue or green, indicating it has rested near copper or other minerals that have leached into the ivory. If it has a creamy or light brown color, it's more likely from Siberia, he said.

For the blades he uses surgical steel or Damascus Steel (layers of forged steel that has patterns). Leather sheaths are made by Kris Parker, his wife.

Parker also sells his nature photography.

“I got a picture last week I've been waiting for for 41 years: a hummingbird sitting on her nest in a maple tree next to the road,” he says.

Back for their ninth year — all successful so far — will be Don and Jeanne Wherly, who live west of Findlay. From their 22 wooded acres, he selects the four poorest-grade walnut trees he finds each year to cut down, saw into pieces, and dry in his solar kiln for six months. Poor-grade trees, with lots of limbs and crotches, are likely to have burls and saddlebacks that lend interesting designs to a finished piece.

His benches range from 10 inches to five feet long. He also makes nesting boxes similar to ones used by the Amish. Jeanne Wherly finishes the wood.

Retired from vegetable farming, he was about to pitch a bunch of lumber he had in 2000 when he decided to make something out of it. He made 20 benches that they hauled to a craft show and sold every last one.

Among the music, Kelly Clark will perform at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and Night Session Big Band will play from 5 to 7 p.m., both on the Main Stage near the Conference Center and adjacent to concessions.

If you go:

Information: 419-536-5566 and toledogarden.org.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Preview party (tickets are $75) is 6 to 10 p.m. Friday.

At: Toledo Botanical Garden, 5403 Elmer Drive.

Admission: $8; $12 for a two-day pass (children 12 and younger admitted free).

Parking and shuttle: Free, at Wal-Mart (5821 West Central Ave. at Holland-Sylvania Rd.).

Scooters: For rent (for people with limited mobility).

Contact Tahree Lane at tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.



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