Laser focused on developing hobby into business

Mar. 31—GREENUP — It was a spirit of independence that drew Patrick Whitehead to woodworking.

"I was just interested in it. I've always wanted to be self sufficient," the 61-year-old said, adding he lived through a flood in his hometown of Williamson, West Virginia, in 1977 and had the experience of living in rather primitive conditions for a while as a result. But his family demonstrated that self-sufficiency he admired. "Most people were so helpless, but you don't have to be. We had 33 people stay at our house because everybody came there to be able to get out of the conditions. We had heat, canned food, a gas stove we could cook on," he said.

Completely self-taught, Whitehead started learning carving and woodworking while he was still in high school.

"I watched YouTube videos to learn carving and that led me to do a lot of stuff I never thought about," he said. "I've read books, but there's nothing like watching somebody doing something."

"All I use is knives," he said of his carvings. "I had a lathe, but never used it much. I try to put knife marks, or facets, on the wood. That shows it was hand carved. I want it to look like it's hand crafted. I don't like machine-made things."

But there is one "machine" he's learning to use on wood and that's a laser.

Last year, he decided he wanted to try something new with wood carving. He saw a YouTube video showing the use of a laser in wood crafts and he thought it would be a good addition to what he already creates. The laser, which he purchased in July, allows for customization and personalization of wood and other materials. He invited his daughter, Mara Tallent, who has always been artsy, to joining him in learning the laser and he said she "was tickled to do it."

"She's done vinyl and T-shirts and Cricut. She paints and draws and already had a touch of artistic stuff that she wanted to do," Whitehead said. "This gives her another outlet and she took right to it. She's designed things we have done and she's making earrings. All different kinds of art work."

Together, they learned to use the device and formed a business called Woodboogers Laser Design. Whitehead said the word "woodbooger" is an old hillbilly name for Bigfoot.

"When we first started, it was kind of overwhelming," he said. "It was such a learning curve, we struggled for a while to get anything to happen like we wanted it to, but we stayed on top of it and read and watched videos and kind of started getting the hang of things."

Use of the laser is computerized, Whitehead said. Once a design is scanned in, it can be manipulated into a different design or left as close to its original state as the operator wishes. Once designed, the laser carves out the design.

He said he does not have the very best laser, but he's still impressed with what it can do.

"It's hard for me just looking at (the pieces) to believe the precision," he said. "The one I have is not a top-of-the-line product, but it will still cut a line in 8-inch wood that is almost as thin as a hair."

"I still enjoy carving some, but I haven't done a lot of it since I got the laser," he said. "The laser has taken over as far as time."

Meanwhile, Whitehead and his daughter appeared with their wares at Old Fashioned Days, Christmas in the Country at Imel's Greenhouse and Christmas on the Square, all in Greenup.

"Once you get the hang of it, you can make your own designs. The possibilities are just about unlimited," he said, noting he hopes to learn to use the laser for leather work next.

The laser has even more to offer, Whitehead said.

"I can see doing it for years and still learning more," he said. "What you do with it is limited only by your imagination. It's fun experimenting, seeing what works and what doesn't."

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