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It has been our distinct privilege to participate in helping to decorate the Virginia Governor’s Mansion Christmas trees. This years decorations are wood related and are in honor of the 100th year anniversary of the VA Department of Forestry.

Winchester Star


Va. governor’s trees to have a local touch this holiday season

Posted: November 28, 2014

The Winchester Star


Christmas ornaments were made by Apple Valley Woodturners Club members Tim Gregory, Dave Hickman and Rich Vossler. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — The old trees at Handley High School may be just a memory, but parts of them have been resurrected as ornaments on the Christmas tree at the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond.

A miniature birdhouse ornament is one of six sent by members of the Apple Valley Woodturners Club in Winchester to be part of the display commemorating the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Virginia Department of Forestry.

John Campbell, director of the public information division for the department, said his agency is decorating two trees — one on the ground floor that is 12 feet tall and an 8-footer on the second floor of the mansion.

All the decorations are made from wood or other forestry products, he said.

More than 100 ornaments have been donated, he said, and all are either handcrafted or hand-turned.

The local Woodturners Club, now in its 13th year, heard about the project earlier this month and three members volunteered to supply ornaments.

Tim Gregory, a former teacher at James Wood Middle School and the editor of the club’s newsletter, took a historical slant for one of his ornaments.

The miniature birdhouse is made from elm wood from one of the trees taken down on the east side of the Handley High School campus. For a contrasting wood, he used maple from a tree removed from the Loudoun Street Mall.

“I really wanted to do a Winchester theme, for the history of the place,” Gregory said.

His second ornament was a globe, made from curly maple and with a finial, the descending “icicle” part of the ornament, of morado, also known as Bolivian rosewood.

Gregory, who now teaches technical education at Heritage High School in Leesburg, said he decided to donate the ornaments because of the honor.

“I’ve had stuff in the Smithsonian museum, so why not the Governor’s Mansion?” he said with a chuckle. “Besides, it’s a neat thing to be able to say!”

Dave Hickman, of Clarke County, sent an ornament that features a flattened globe, turned from native oak, with a top and bottom finial made from an exotic wood called purpleheart.

It’s difficult to say how long such an object takes to create, Hickman said, because the wood needs to be cut and dried before it is turned. Then, it must be sanded, polished, and in some cases finished with coatings of oil or lacquer.

“You do it in stages, not all at once,” he explained.

Hickman, who works in the computer field, has always enjoyed working with wood, but he didn’t try his hand at turning until 2003, when his wife gave him a lathe for their fifth — wood — wedding anniversary.

“I started turning and I got hooked,” he said.

Mentors at the Apple Valley Woodturners Club helped him improve his skills over the years, he said.

Now, he sells his work at galleries and through his own website,

Hickman sent his ornaments for the governor’s tree because, he said, “It was a good opportunity to let people see how beautiful a turned thing can be.”

The fact that this is the 100th anniversary of the Department of Forestry made it “interesting to have that confluence of events.”

The three ornaments sent by Winchester’s Rick Vossler, a former president of the Woodturners Club, are very different.

The first, he said, is from his early days as a wood turner, some eight years ago.

It is a “segmented” turning, where pieces of wood, in this case oak and bloodwood, are cut and glued together. Then the block is turned, exposing different types of wood in different areas.

The second, made of segments of walnut and oak, has a hollow body to allow different colors to be seen when looking through it.

The third features the body of a sea urchin in the center, with wooden finials on top and at the bottom.

Vossler, a sales representative for Green Bay Packaging — located north of Winchester — said he got interested in wood turning when a friend took him to a meeting of the local club.

Looking at its work, Vossler said, “I’d like to try that.”

Members helped him learn techniques, and “I’ve improved over the years,” he said.

The hobby gives him a chance to create something artistic, he added.

“When you make something you did with your own hands, when you hold it, you feel proud. It’s a different kind of feeling,” the Frederick County resident said.

Campbell said the governor’s trees will be decorated on Monday, and there will be an open house on Dec. 5, for viewing them.

This will be the final event for the Department of Forestry’s 100th birthday celebration.

The Governor’s Mansion will be open two or three days each week until Christmas, Campbell said, so visitors will have several opportunities to view the Christmas-themed wood products.

The Apple Valley Woodturners Club meets at 9 a.m. the third Saturday of every month at McFarland’s Mill, 587 Round Hill Road in Frederick County.

— Contact Val Van Meter at