Five men sit quietly around a table in the New Village Senior Center on a recent Wednesday. The sounds can almost be heard of light-colored shavings of bass wood as they settle to the floor.
Members from the Suffolk County Woodcarvers Guild gather in Centereach several times a week to create works of art.
Two of the carvers are creating Christmas tree ornaments. John Crawford, 76, of Mt. Sinai, numbers each of his Santa Claus ornaments — on this particular day, he worked on the 3,376th one.
At the other end of the table, Marty Mizel, 65, of Miller Place, created patterns in blocks of wood by making small, triangular cuts in a technique called chip carving.
The genial talk around the table revolved between past projects, politics, doctors’ visits and deer hunting before stories of battle wounds started to come out.
“If someone tells you they don’t cut themselves, they’re lying,” said Mizel.
“I once cut myself so badly, it wouldn’t stop bleeding,” said Fred Snyder, 59, of Farmingville. “Someone put household pepper on it, and the bleeding stopped like that.”
Many of the men around the table have been with the organization since its inception 18 years ago, but all have carved for much longer than that.
"I started carving when I was nine years old," said Crawford, as shaved curls of wood fell from his knife.
"And you'll stop when you get it right," quipped Bruce Johnson, 74, of Stony Brook, with a look up from his carving.
“It keeps us busy and off the streets,” joked Mizel. “It’s a really nice hobby.”
The guild, which is funded by members’ dues, is made up of people from all different trades. And it's not the good-old-boys club, either. Mizel guessed that about 15 of the approximately 100 members of the Suffolk County Woodcarvers Guild are women.
"We love when new people come by," said Mizel. If someone new wants to learn, "all they have to do is stop in and say, 'teach me.' ”