Kempner carver crafts wooden treasures
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Located in Army veteran Jay Byerley’s backyard in Kempner, Jay’s Carving Studio holds dozens upon dozens of wood boxes and carvings of all shapes and sizes.
Byerley learned how to carve and whittle at age 6-years-old from his grandfather and learned how to use a lathe and build things at a later age from his own father, Jay C. Byerley.
As a child, Byerley would get teased for being half- Cherokee, he said. His grandfather told him to be proud of his Native American heritage and to find something he enjoyed doing, which ended up being able to craft just about anything from wood.
Byerley joined the Army in 1983 and retired in 2007, after 23 years, nine months and 25 days. While in the Army and on deployments, Byerley occupied his time by carving. He would carve names and other items for soldiers and different commands. Soldiers would see him carving and ask for him to carve their names, which he agreed to if they could find a piece of wood for him to carve.
“For 23 years, nine months and 25 days, that’s what I did on my off time, but as an army E6 and E7 I didn’t have a lot of time, so I would just do small things,” Byerley said.
Byerley said he only has a few items left from his time in the Army but one of those is a medium sized dragon he carved while in Iraq.
Byerley moved to the area in 2005 and after retiring in 2007, he built his studio in his backyard, where it now houses his creations as they wait to be claimed or shipped out.
Byerley will carve and create just about anything out of wood, from canes to boxes to name pieces to larger items like tables, benches and more.
Some of the canes Byerley makes are personalized for the buyer- one has a wolf’s paw, another a horse’s hoof and another features a wine barrel.
He makes the boxes, in all shapes and sizes, with a removable lid, by cutting slabs of wood into thin pieces and gluing the wood together and forming the designs.
“Some of this stuff is like, I just keep making stuff because I enjoy putting stuff together,” Byerley said.
Byerley has also carved smaller figures, like a replica of a motorcycle or a fire truck. He has also made chessboards and unit plaques for various units on Fort Hood. In his backyard, there are several trees filled to the brim with birdhouses that he has made for people who never picked up their order.
Byerley uses all kinds of woods, collected from all over. Some of his pieces feature wood from an Osage Orange tree that he found past Gatesville. Other pieces include mesquite and the purpleheart tree.
Since retiring, Byerley has kept busy with his creations and has continued his carving even during the COVID-19 pandemic. He owns motorcycles and would normally ride with the Patriot Guard to attend funerals for soldiers who have no family, but with the pandemic, those rides have been cancelled. Carving has offered him a way to keep calm.
“It relaxes me, and I get to see what God made that we get to enjoy,” Byerley said. “The things that come out of just a piece of wood, you would not believe it.”
To place an order with Byerley, readers can find him on Facebook at Jay’s Carving Studio or by sending him an email at email@example.com.