has the eyes of an eagle, the hands of a surgeon and the feisty wit of a “Seinfeld.”
He is Lancaster County woodcarver Thomas David Grassel and he is a good deal
more. During the course of my forays, collecting,
buying and selling antiques and collectibles, I spend a lot of time in Pennsylvania
Dutch Country at farm sales, estate sales, auctions and markets. Along the way I encounter many interesting
folks I’d like to introduce you to one of whom is Mr. Grassel of Conestoga, PA.
Grassel has farmed where he’s lived for about 50 years, raising corn, hay and
with mule teams, tobacco. He has also owned and operated a very successful
paving company. About ten years ago a friend, who was a good wood carver, got
Grassel interested in carving figures.
His first piece was a large Conestoga wagon complete with a team of six
mules. Pieces like that one today carry price tags in the neighborhood of
$3,500.00. He’s also done a collection
of family members, friends and neighbors.
“I always liked old people,” he remarked recently, “and enjoyed carving
their likenesses.” Grassel donated 16 of
his carvings to the nearby Conestoga-area Historical Society for a “Down on the
train enthusiast Mr. Grassel has embedded a winding loop of train tracks on his
property on which he and his grandkids ride scaled-down railroad cars.
Grassel turns 73 next December and is starting to wind down his carving and
collecting activities. A recent on-site
auction featured dozens of the oil and kerosene lamps he has collected over the
years along with railroad lanterns, fine china and many of his carved figures. The sale was very well attended by family,
friends and neighbors so there were few opportunities for outsiders to successfully
bid on his wood work. But seeing them all in one place at one time was in itself