Woodcarving at the National Scout Jamboree

Introducing 50,000 boys a year to the joys of carving through the merit badge program

More than 1,000 Scouts, ages 12 to 17 took a three-hour class in the basics of wood carving at the 2005 National Scout Jamboree’s “Merit Badge Midway.” The Jamboree was held in Caroline County, VA.

“Each and every boy was a story,” said Paul Ries, chairman of the Woodcarving merit badge booth. “One day we had a few boys from Puerto Rico visit. They wanted to do a pattern with their flag on it, so the boys helped us design one. The next day we were inundated with the rest of that troop.”

Part of the challenge with Hispanic youth was that only one of the volunteers could speak Spanish, said Ries. Both bi-lingual and lefthanded instructors are a priority for the next Jamboree in 2010, the Centennial of the Boy Scouts of America.

The boys began with a safety lesson on tools and proper carving techniques, then whittled a three-quarter inch square into a ball. They graduated to carving a pre-cut blank into a relief and then finished with a three-dimensional item.

About 50,000 boys earn the Wood Carving merit badge every year. It’s one of the most popular merit badges that boys are not required to earn to become an Eagle Scout.

Giving the Scouts this introduction to wood carving required the help of 32 Boy Scout leaders and volunteers.

“It’s so great to work with a kid who is carving wood for the first time,” said volunteer Bob Reitmeyer, author of several wood carving books and a frequent contributor to Wood Carving Illustrated. “It’s exciting when he completes his projects. It gives him a sense of accomplishment. It’s more than just the woodcarving, it’s an accomplishment.”


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