For Don Dailey, better known as the Sunday Woodcarver, the craft has always been a way of life. It started when he was a teenager and would toy around with pieces of scrap wood. This fascination with wood continued throughout his adolescence and into college.
After college, Dailey continued to feed his passion by teaching himself more about the trade through woodworking magazines and various jobs at woodworking shops.
After having kids, Dailey got involved with the boy scouts and started woodcarving with them. However, he had a problem: he would start a carving but lacked the motivation to ever finish it.
This is why the Huntington Station resident decided to start an Etsy shop. “It forced me to finish things, make them look presentable and put a price tag on it. It forced me to up my game a little bit.” says Dailey. From this, his Sunday Woodcarver persona was born. “It started as a blog. I would say follow me and see my mistakes and my progress. The whole idea was that I would try to get better at carving by sitting down one day a week for a couple hours and doing it rather than just once a year or something at Boy Scout camp. People were expecting it now. That’s how I started finishing things. It forced me to follow through on it.”
Working out of a shop in his garage, Dailey primarily specializes in two items: kitchenware and garden gnomes. “I had a favorite spoon that broke, and I wondered if I could rebuild it. I then had a friend who was a chef who wanted one and from there it’s just grown organically. I primarily build kitchen stuff-utensils, cutting boards, bowls etc. At first it was really just going to be spoons but then people wanted other things. If someone asked for something to be made I would just make it.” While Dailey’s kitchenware carvings arose from pure practicality, his gnome carvings sprung from his personal admiration for the creatures in popular culture. “I always liked a book called Gnomes by Wil Huygen and the gnomes from the Travelocity commercials and from the movie Amelie, so I gave it a try.” Now, Dailey receives all kinds of requests for gnomes, one of the most memorable being a “Parrothead” Jimmy Buffett themed one and during the holiday season he always has Santa gnomes readily available.
Dailey can be found around Long Island selling his wares at local craft fairs. This has taught him a lot about business while also interacting with the community. “You learn with each one. You make adjustments and realize you can charge more or less for certain things or I need to make more or less of this or that item. I like talking to the other crafters. It’s an interesting community of people who help each other. It’s fun, you meet nice people, hear lots of stories, and can make money.”
During SuperStorm Sandy, Dailey even had the opportunity to use his woodcarving skills to help victims of the storm. “There was a tree that was blocking two of our streets and all of our neighbors were trapped. I took some of the wood and made some spoons and handed it out to neighbors as a memento of that event. It was like taking revenge against that tree and making something instead of just being a victim.”