A “World’s Largest” Kind of Day

As I mentioned before, DeDe and Denny are avid blog readers, and the last couple of times we have visited they have put together some very special days.  I’d love to say I had visited every place in Central Ohio, but as I have discovered hanging out with them that is simply not true.  What makes it so special is not only do they plan the days, but they go to great pains to pick things that they know would interest us and make great blog posts.

Well, they certainly outdid themselves on Wednesday with an adventure that was jam packed with cool museums and several “world’s biggest thing.”  If you know me at all by this point, you know I love, love giant anything.  Biggest chair, biggest iron, largest wind chime etc…I am there.  So when we were on our way tour first stop, Denny made a slight detour so I could see the world’s biggest basket.

Longaberger is a local company that in it’s heyday was the maker of some amazing handcrafted baskets.  They had so much success that their corporate office was built like a giant basket.  Nope, not making that up…see for yourself.

For scale see the orange traffic cone at the bottom.

The company also owns a large campus that used to have shops and beautiful gardens and was a popular tourist destination at Christmas time.  This campus, according to Roadside America, held the World’s largest basket of apples, and since it was pretty close by we also decided to stop there.  Technically it wasn’t open, but we drove in anyway and wandered about a bit taking pictures.  The facility is obviously being used for something (trash bags in cans and a few potted mums) but it had definitely seen better days.

The large;y empty facility

With the giant basket of apples

After seeing the apples we stopped at a gas station for “fry pies”.  These are made in Berlin, Ohio which has a thriving Amish community and are so much better than the standard fruit pies you see in stores.  These were more like a fruit filled donut and really yummy, but very sweet.

Despite the side trips we eventually made it to the Warther Museum and Garden.  Neither one of us had ever heard of this small museum, but DeDe and Denny had been a couple of times.  Ernest “Mooney”Warther led an extremely interesting life.  At the age of 5 his father died and all of the children had to go to work.  Mooney’s job was herding neighbor’s cows for which he was paid 1 penny a day.  When he was 6 years old he came across a carving knife in a field and started whittling. As the story goes, one day he met a man at a train station and the man taught him to carve wooden pliers.  Without any instruction, Moody duplicated the effort and spent years carving the wooden pliers.

Eventually he stopped his “whittling phase” and started carving trains.  The first few weren’t very good of course, but even the early works showed a high level of talent.  He started working in a steel mill at 16, got married, had 5 kids and eventually built a small house and work shop.  Despite having a regular job and family he never stopped carving and as his access to more expensive materials became possible he added ebony and ivory to his carvings.  He also started using blueprints and learned to carve to scale starting at 2:30am and carving until he had to go to work in the morning.  This was his hobby and despite numerous offers he never sold a train, and in 1963 the Warther museum was built to house the collection.

The museum building was built on his home property and around his workshop which he continued to use while the museum was open until his death. The workshop is that little white building to the left.

Workshop

He had an extensive arrowhead collection found during walks in the area and his early days he used the arrowhead material for embellishments on his trains

The museum itself costs $13, which initially I thought was high although I felt it was justified after seeing the train collection.  The grounds themselves are free and that included touring his home and the little button house he built for his wife.  Frieda, who was born in Switzerland (Mooney was second generation with Swiss born parents) started her own hobby after they were married.  She collected so many buttons that he eventually built her a place to put them all.  He also used the button material when money was tight for his trains and I loved the idea that she found her own hobby and passion in their marriage.

The button house

Each panel was grouped by a specific type of button and then put into a pattern

Her prized possession was the button in the center which was from Mrs’ Lincoln’s 2nd inaugural dress

The dining room was her work space and there were strings of buttons everywhere

The grounds were also very beautiful.  The grapevine on this arbor was over 100 years old

He built a large play area for the kids which included a 65 foot swing (that is not a typo). Lee was a little freaked out by this picture of one of the daughters swinging on it lol

After touring the grounds we entered the museum, which started with his earliest works.  One of the most interesting ting for me was that as his carving got more intricate he needed better knives to work with.  Eventually he created his own knife, with multiple interchangeable blades.  This carving tool was revolutionary and is actually not available for sale.  Only family members know how to make these blades. More importantly learning to make these knives led to him making a carving knife for his wife, which was so admired by the neighbors that the Warther knife business was born and the family still runs a knife business in a workshop attached to the building.

An early knife he created and used to whittle

Very cool fountain outside. The “whimpled” look on the blade was originally used to hide imperfections in the steel he could afford, but they continued the look even with better materials

The current workshop is part of the tour

The knives for sale were very beautiful, but way out of our price range

I did like this hanging knife rack though

Denny bought me a paring knife when I wasn’t looking and it is a beautiful knife. Wonderfully balanced and designed for right handers so Lee is not allowed to use it 🙂

But really it’s all about the trains and I know I am taking forever to get there, but there was alot going on in this museum.  There were three rooms of trains and they were all beautifully displayed.  Out tour guide was excellent, sharing lots of personal informaton about his process and although I am not really a train person I loved the craftsmanship.

One of the many display cases

This was one of my favorites and he carved this piece mutiple times to get it right. Whenever he recarved a piece he would usually throw the older “flawed piece” in the fireplace

There was a great display showing his materials including a block of ebony, an elephant tusk…

And the eyetooth of a hippo which contains the purest of ivory

He also had a fascination with Lincoln carving many pieces that pay homage to the type of man he felt the president was

This culminated in a replication of Lincoln’s funeral train which contained an amazing level of detail

Tiny carving of President Lincoln in his coffin

Truly the detail was amazing and some of the tiny carvers and train wheels are even on motors and parts of them move

My absolute favorite piece though was a recreation of the steel mill he worked in.  The piece is incredibly detailed and many of the pieces move, powered by a motor that he made using an old washing machine motor.  He created this device completely on his own and it’s clear what a creative genuis he was.  He only had a second grade education, but he was an avid reader and his mind never stopped. We took some pictures and Lee took some video, which is really the only way to really understand how wondrous it was.

The mill replication

Each little figure was a recreation of someone he actually knew

The sitting sleeping guy in the middle was a worker and  his head would nod up and down, and the guy on the left was a foreman who would slam his fist into his open hand and the other guy would wake up.

He included himself in the work and I think he is the guy on this machine

Really amazing museum, but we weren’t done yet.  We stopped for a quick lunch at McDonald’s and headed to Berlin to see the museum of ships started by David’s grandson.  We found time on the way to stop at the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock and this may have been my favorite part of the day.  The clock performs on the hour and on the half hour and through sheer luck we only had to wait 8 minutes to watch it chime. Very cool and we all enjoyed watching the free show in the town square of Sugar Creek.

DeDe and Denny

The band started to come out. The figures were probably 4 feet tall

The second museum is the David Warther Carvings and Museum and inspired by his grandfather he started carving ships as a small child. His museum is $10 to enter, although they gave us each a $2 discount when we showed a coupon from the other museum.  David is still a working carver and when we joined the tour in progress he was actually explaining how he makes ivory thread for the masts on the ships.  He couldn’t find what he needed so he and a friend invented a block of steel which he rubbed the ivory in to create very tiny threads.

David Warther..really nice guy

His thread creator

The ships were beautiful and almost all in ivory, but I have to say I liked the trains better.  Lee though, who loves ships, was fascinated.  He started with the oldest ancient ships and works his way up to ships from the 1800’s.  One of the things I did like was every ship had a magnifying glass in the case so you could see some of the detail.

David works in his workshop and stops and gives part of the tours

The detail is even more amazing when you realize that to create the black line he scratches the ivory lightly then blots the piece with ink.  The ink wipes off the polished ivory but stays in the scored material creating the thin detail lines you see above.

One of my favorite pieces

Lee loved the pirate era ships

This ship had 179 oars and each oar took 1 hour to carve

My favorite ship looked very different from the others but the tour guide wasn’t sure why.

This piece was really neat though and I was curious about how he made the “basket look”

The level of detail was really beautiful

 

After the ship museum we headed into Berlin to eat some dinner at Mrs Yoder’s one of our favorite Amish restaurants.  But we had to stop at a couple of places first.  We saw the World’s Largest Amish Buggy first inside the Wendell August Forge and we stopped at DeDe’s favorite gift shop The Village Barn

I bought this really cool triangle basket

It was made by a 6 year old Amish child and I made sure that the kids receive 80% of the profits before I bought it. It was really well made

And pretty inexpensive. . . I also bought this silverware basket to put pens and pencils in.

Loved browsing the gift shop although we don’t have room for anything

I think this is one of my favorite pictures I have ever taken of Lee and his mom

Tempted by this little sign but again no room

By the time we drove back it was almost a 13 hour day and I was pooped.   It was a truly lovely day and incredibly thoughtful of them to plan it.  Loved that we saw so many cool things, but I definitely needed a good nights sleep!


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7 thoughts on “A “World’s Largest” Kind of Day

  1. I have the same knife Denny bought you. My parents love that museum. When they visited it years ago, the guy would carve working wooden pliers from one solid block of wood for each person waiting in line to see the museum. My parents still have their pliers.

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