Artist – Ernest Warther had an artistic eye in selecting materials that contrasted and highlighted various parts of the carving. His masterful sense of scale and proportion are clearly evident in his carving of the steel mill and walking canes. The Smithsonian Institution declared his carvings “Priceless works of art.”
Mechanical Genius – Ernest Warther’s carvings are moving, working models. The steel mill, powered by one sewing machine motor, required him to create a series of belts and pulleys to control the movement and speed of each figure. With only a second grade education, he was able to engineer rotational motion into linear motion, making the various carved figures move about the steel mill.
Philosopher – Mooney Warther had strong convictions complimented by his extensive reading in a variety of subject areas. Some of the beliefs he lived by included:
“Start right where you are and act as if no one is trying to hinder you.”
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
“There is more wasted energy spent getting angry then there is in fixing what broke.”
“Everything has its’ own rhythm or tempo that is in step with nature and if you can find the tempo of the task at hand, the work becomes effortless.”
He strongly felt that everyone had a significant talent; the trick was finding it.
Inventor – Warther invented his own woodcarving knife with interchangeable blades. He developed carving techniques such as inserting arguto wood (a self lubricating hardwood) at the bearing surface on all the moving parts of his carvings so that the carvings would not need oil. He also invented his own knife making techniques that are still used by the Warther family today.
Collector – Mooney and his wife Freida spent many Sunday afternoons taking long walks looking for arrowheads. He also inspired local children to begin collecting. He loved taking children arrowhead hunting and would sometimes “seed” the field so each child could find an arrowhead. Mooney and Freida loved to collect American Indian Arrowheads and artifacts. His lifetime hobby amassed over 5,000 pieces, most of which he found in Ohio.
Family Man – Mooney loved his family. He and Freida raised 5 children whom he spent countless hours with going for walks, swimming, picnics or just playing in the sandbox. The Warther home was also a gathering spot for many children in town. Mooney built a playground for the kids and coordinated events like a checkers championship.
Showman – Mooney Warther did not fit the common stereotype of the introverted artist. Mooney was an extrovert who loved meeting people and taking his carvings on tour. In 1923 he toured the United States on the New York Central Railroad, showing his carvings to over 100,000 people. He displayed his carvings in Grand Central Station in New York City for two years. There, his sense of humor, natural showmanship, and amusing insights were as much of the show as his carvings.
Knife Maker – Mooney first made knives because he couldn’t find a knife that would stay sharp while carving hard materials like walnut, bone and ivory. Then his mother complained about her kitchen knives not staying sharp, so Mooney made his mother a paring knife. Word spread about the wonderful kitchen knives that Warther was making and soon he had a thriving business. When the local steel mill he was working in shutdown, Mooney turned to knife making to support his family. 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation Warther’s still use the same techniques Mooney developed to create Warther handcrafted kitchen knives.