Bringing new life to old wood

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When is a tree stump less than a nagging pain to get rid of?

Always, or at least nearly always.

To most of us who aren’t grinding away stumps for paycheck, a stump is one of our worst enemies.

We’re talking expensive to get gone, and a never ending, in the way, needs to be gone, anything but attractive, worthless, fire snuffing, homeless insect living, and in the way of every landscape idea at best.

But that’s just for the masses of us.

Florida carver

Not so to Tony Minio, a long-time Floridian, an escapee from the frigid winter wonder land known as eastern Pennsylvania.

He made his Key Stone exit nearly 40 years ago, saying simply, “I was tired of the cold weather.”

He settled in Nokomis, a Gulf Coast town, and once adjusted to year-long sunshine, he began to carve out a living.

That leads us to a stump — a really gaudy piece of ground level hunk of tree at that.

We’re talking about a rather large hunk of locally grown wood, one with enough gangly root extensions to look more like a giant spider. One that took up a lot of someone’s yard space to be certain.

Surely the local stump grinder guy was licking his chops. But only until Minio was made aware of this very special stump, one that Minio had to have.

New life

You see, Minio, who makes his living turning found wood into life-like sea creatures and shore birds, could see life in the stump, a new life if you will, as a giant octopus, eight legs and all.

“Sometimes I can see something in a piece of wood. Then it’s just a matter of bringing it out with my carving tools,” Minio said.

I guess that makes him a one man log and stump rescue squad.

Creatures

Minio carves mostly birds with long flowing necks and long pointed beaks and long spindly legs. Birds that he can fashion from long straight logs.

He takes those long pieces and makes a finished product of tall and slender pieces that say “beach” and don’t take a lot of living room space to display.

His favorites are herons and egrets. But there are plenty of calls for pelicans, birds he likes to whittle out of short cut-offs or butts of logs.

He does a lot of porpoises, and turtles as well. He does them because his never ending list of requests never seems to shorten.

That’s why, he said, that the octopus project and a six foot shark that seems to be just starting to take shape are always next to feel the blade.

The woodshop

Minio works under a carport style roof near the busy road to Nokomis Beach, an outdoor shop with lots of visibility.

I saw the octopus taking shape and stopped for a chat.

The smell of wood chips permeate the shop, and deep heartwood colors light it — deep reds from the pieces of cedar, the checkered browns of turtle shells, and well, all the rest.

Minio said that his favorite woods to work with are cedar, rosewood, and a pine called North Oak Island pine — a straight, sky reaching pine that grows locally now but was transplanted to the area by early ship builders who prized it for masts.

Minio sells everything he creates, usually far ahead of carving it.

Asked if he used a web site for marketing, he just chuckled and said that the people and requests keep coming and the chips keep flying, so no need for the web.

Visitors to the Nokomis-Venice areas looking for the perfect piece of hand-made art for that empty spot at home owe it to themselves to see Minio’s work; it’s all nearly alive with character. He can be reached at 941-716-0450.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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