Master Woodworker with FSHD

“Let me tell you how serious he is about this woodworking hobby,” laughs Diana Taylor about her husband Dale.

“There’s a horse field across the road from our house. He drove his scooter over there and waited until he could get a close-up photo of a horse’s jaw and snout. Then he had the picture right in front of him when he went to re-create it in wood.”

Intarsia is the craft of fitting together wood shapes into a 3-D mosaic. No staining is used; all the wood colors are natural. Intarsia artist Dale Taylor typically brings home blue ribbons from craft fairs.

Dale Taylor, 60, is not only serious, he’s also recognized as a master of the woodworking art known as intarsia. Definition: Cutting and meticulously fitting together varied shapes, sizes and species of wood to create a lifelike three-dimensional mosaic.

Taylor, who has had facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) for more than 40 years, creates precise intarsia likenesses of horses, deer, elk, frogs, teddy bears, real bears and cougars. His most frequent creation is a dove on a cross, for members of his church in Provo, Utah.

Intarsia artists are few and far between, and most use tools and carving knives that Taylor can’t. His limited muscle strength requires that he cut his big pieces with a scroll saw, then fine-tune the minute details with a small high-speed rotary tool and sander.

He does it pretty well. Diana says he’s won ribbons in every wood sculpture competition he’s entered, and in recent years has always brought home the blue ribbon in the expert category.

“I’m self-taught,” he says, although he notes that his father was a woodworker, too. “I’ll spend two, maybe three hours a day in the shop…unless it turns into nine.”

Dale Taylor and family
Dale and Diana Taylor, and family. Taylor may spend more than 100 hours on a project, carefully cutting and fitting wood pieces.

On big pieces of work like his Flying Eagle, which measures 10-inches high by 25-inches wide, he may devote more than a hundred hours of precision cutting and fitting. And since true intarsia prohibits coloring any of the pieces, he utilizes different types of wood with varying hues – aspen, alder, ironwood, walnut and yellow cedar in the case of the eagle.

For the 2008 Salt Lake City Labor Day Telethon, Taylor donated the proceeds from the sale of an intarsia eagle’s head, raising $1,500 for MDA. For 2009 he’s donating proceeds from a full Flying Eagle, which usually sells for $500.

For more details on acquiring the intarsia Flying Eagle, e-mail saltlakecityregion@mdausa.org or call (801) 438-0270.

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