Glenn Carter poses with some of his wood carvings in his small studio in the Applegate. Jim Craven 3/19/2008 - Jim Craven

A life in wood

APPLEGATE — Glenn Carter is very, very familiar with more than 3,000 bar stools.

Indeed, he has spent long hours holding on to each one. He came to know how the wood grain flowed on every stool, how it felt to sit on every one.

"There were frogs and ducks and giraffes and parrots and zebras — 3,086 of them," he says. "They are very comfortable."

No, he wasn't seeing things after imbibing a bit too much. The master woodcarver built the whimsical stools patterned after each creature for Rainforest Cafes found throughout the world, including Disneyland and Disney World. The bar stool order came after restaurant chain officials spotted Carter's carvings in the Nieman Marcus Christmas catalog.

"Each of those bar stools was hand carved out of wood — that kind of burnt me out," he says, noting it took him a decade to complete the order.

Carter moved to the rural community of Applegate from Sun Valley, Idaho, a few years ago, ostensibly to retire.

But apparently his talented hands don't know how to retire.

Step inside the little studio where he works and you'll meet two wooden horses looking like they are ready to gallop out the door.

Next to them is a black and white wooden pooch named "Rascal" with a red bandana covered by white polka dots. Like the horses, he is running, caught in mid-stride.

There is also a bar stool in the form of frog legs, painted green with yellow spots. Comfortable, like Carter says.

"I love doing this — I've been carving since I was 6," says Carter, 69. "I asked my dad for a knife and he gave me one but he dulled the blade. He saw me working with the dull knife and he started sharpening it for me. I carved frogs."

He was soon carving Christmas decorations for his family's home.

In his hometown of Butte, Mont., Carter was reared near a park that had carousel horses.

"I had my horse — anybody else rode that horse, I was upset," he recalls.

As an adult, he built a replica of that carousel horse which he described as a 1922 outside row jumper.

"The outside rows were more painted," explains Carter, who has also restored antique carousel horses. "As the rows went in, the horses were less detailed and less painted. That was to attract the kids, to get them on the merry-go-round.

"A jumper is flying through the air as opposed to a stander," he adds. "A stander is just standing there, of course."

The larger of the two horses is a stallion running at full gallop, his 400 pounds balanced on one flying hoof. Inside the leg supporting the horse is a metal rod affixed to a metal plate on the floor that serves as a base, Carter explains.

"He's got a natural balance to him," he says. "That's how the foot comes down when he is running. The other three are in the air.

"I did him first, then I thought, 'He has got to have his son running with him,'" he says. "So the colt is an afterthought."

But the two appear to be running in stride, their nostrils flaring and their manes blowing in the wind. Their big brown eyes seem to follow visitors around the studio.

"Those are taxidermy eyes," Carter observes. "It really gives them life."

You expect them to blink. Incidentally, the brown and white St. Bernard on the floor does blink. He answers to the name of name Zoom, although at 12 years old, he doesn't zoom much nowadays.

As for the horses, he expects them to eventually go to someone's living room. He has some folks in Texas interested in purchasing the horses, which he will let go as a pair for around $17,000. He figures he has spent at least 500 hours on the two wooden equines ($34 an hour if you do the math).

Carter worked as an audio engineer for a number of years, focusing largely on jazz music. But his heart was always with woodwork.

"I was never happier than when I switched back to working with wood," he says.

Carter uses basswood, also known as linden, for each of his pieces. The wood is tough, easy to work with and has relatively few knots, he says.

"The wood doesn't dictate what's in there — I know what's in there," he says.

The pieces are built in layers with Carter carving each layer as he goes.

"I always carve the head first," he says. "Once that head is alive, he is talking to me. And the rest of the body just flows."

Although Carter has carved everything imaginable, from alligator coffee tables to zebra bar stools, there is one creature he'd still like to fashion out of wood before he really retires.

"I've always wanted to build a Pegasus — full wings with the feathers," he says. "The wingspan would have to be at least 6 feet on each side. But I'd need a bigger studio again."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

Share This Story