By Jessica Walker
When Dean Wyatt retired from the work force, he was hoping to find something to occupy his newly acquired free time. He found himself 15 pounds heavier – and bored – just one month into his retirement. “I had to have something to do to get me out of the house and away from the air conditioning and the television,” Wyatt says.
After working with his hands for most of his life – building cabinets and furniture, sub-contracting, and performing other hands-on jobs – he found his way back to a former passion: creating woodcarvings. “I’ve been making them off and on all my life,” Wyatt says, “but I really got into it when I retired.”
Now in his seventies, he uses poplar and red cedar wood with a little glue to create a variety of objects, including tractors, bulldozers, motorcycles, helicopters, pickup trucks and lawnmowers – and that’s just the short list. “If I see something I want to build, I try to build it,” Wyatt says.
When he spots something he wants to recreate, he takes a picture of the item and measures it with his tape measure. Then, he goes home to his shop and begins to fashion a new creation.
While he’s willing to take on just about any challenge when it comes to carving and building, he does admit the process – taking anywhere from 40 to 200 hours – can be pretty time consuming. “It depends on the complexity of the toy you’re building,” Wyatt says. “Most of my stuff is very detailed.”
But he’s in no hurry; Wyatt’s creations are not for sale. And don’t even think about making a request. He makes what he wants to make, when he wants to make it – and then gives it away. “I’m retired,” he says. “There’s no pressure; I can work at my leisure.”
That’s right – Wyatt is committed to being truly retired, refusing to turn his hobby into a business. “I’d rather just build something and give it to someone,” he says.
So, receiving them as gifts, a lucky few can call Wyatt’s creations their own. “I also build wooden vases and bowls and give them away at Christmas,” he adds.
In fact, Wyatt donates much of his work. He gave the Dover Museum a red cedar Ford tractor and supplied the Dover Library with a fire truck, complete with extending ladders, in memory of his late friend Edward Smith, former chairman of the Stewart County Volunteer Firefighters. Visitors to the library can see his work on display.
Wyatt’s inspiration comes from individuals in his community who he feels are rarely recognized for their good work, such as those serving in the Stewart County EMS or the local sherrif’s office. “They are constantly on the go,” he says. “They don’t get the respect they need. I want them to know there is somebody in the world that does appreciate them.”
Even when he’s not carving and crafting, Wyatt can typically be found working with his hands. “I quit hunting and fishing years ago, and I’m not too much into sports,” he says. Instead, he spends time doing yard work and renovating his home.
Though his work is in high demand in his community, don’t expect Wyatt to change his mind any time soon. He has no plans to put his hand-carved creations up for sale. “If I started selling, I’d be back to working,” he laughs. “I just want to keep it as a relaxing hobby.”
For now, Wyatt simply intends to continue enjoying his retirement – with a little carving, building and designing, of course. “It keeps my mind working and active,” he says. “To me, that’s special at my age.”