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Carving creations in wood pieces at Senior Center
wood one
Beatrice Machado shows an alligator piece shes designing while some of her ongoing projects sit in front of her. Al Christensen, also a member of the group, looks on as she explains how the piece will eventually come together. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin

Dan Doyle sprays what appears to be water from a bottle onto a soft, light piece of wood before he picks up his tool.
Right now, the object is somewhat identifiable as a catfish – the form of the bottom-feeding Delta staple is evident, although it lacks any of the formative details that will turn it from simply a piece of wood into a handcrafted work of art.
But over the next few months, Doyle will painstakingly pour himself into this one piece of wood with the intention of making it a showpiece of creativity and dedication representative of the hours of work that goes into its creation.
“This is the secret right here,” says Doyle in a room at the Manteca Senior Center with other wood carvers that have been meeting every Monday at 10 a.m. for years to hone their craft. “It’s water and alcohol – it softens the wood and makes it easier to work with.”
On a given week, Doyle is one of almost a dozen people that show up to spend their time working on whatever project happens to be going on at the moment. Before he began the catfish, Doyle created a showpiece that featured a large-mouthed bass in an underwater setting – detailing every little thing, from the reeds to the turtle floating above, by hand.
For Beatrice Machado, who has been leading the Manteca Wood Carvers at the senior center for years, it’s a chance to be creative while at the same time relaxing and doing something that you love.
“It definitely occupies your mind and it gives you something to do, and when we’re down here we all help each other however we can,” Machado said. “It’s friendly here and it gives people a chance to talk and share what it is that they love to do.”
Machado has been hand carving wood pieces for more than three decades and has established herself amongst other Northern California enthusiasts by entering shows that feature beautifully ornate and detailed works that all started as a block of wood.
And while it’s still months away, Machado and other group members are aiming at a May completion date for their most recent undertakings so that they can showcase them for other Northern California woodcarvers in Sacramento.
Last year Doyle placed third in a division for first-time participants at a world event that drew accomplished wood workers from all over the United States, and with a new project already underway, he’s hoping to make a splash when he returns to the competition circuit.
Gordon Moody, however, is just hoping to keep doing as well as he has in the recent past.
The Tracy resident who comes to the meetings religiously every Monday has won competitions in the past – most recently for a rainbow trout carving that took three days of work simply to create the lifelike scales – says that he likes the camaraderie and the friendliness of the people, as well as the sense of community of working with other like-minded individuals.
“That fish had almost 100 hours in getting it just right,” Moody said. “Every single scale had to be burned by hand, one at a time.
“It’s a process, but being here among people who understand makes it much more enjoyable.”
The Manteca Wood Carvers meet at the Manteca Senior Center – located at 252 Magnolia Avenue – on Mondays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The group is open to any senior who is interested in wood carving, and prior experience is not necessary to participate.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.