Hand Carved (1 hour version)

Director: Herb E. Smith
Release Year: 1980
Running Time: 58:03
Original Format: 16mm Film
Color / B&W: color

Chester Cornett has made chairs for Presidents and his work is displayed in museums across the country. In Hand Carved, Chester fells a tree on the site of his family’s homeplace near the top of Pine Mountain in southeastern Kentucky and transports it back to his small apartment/workshop in inner-city Cincinnati. Intricate camerawork illustrates the process Cornett uses to chop, whittle, and carve the wood into an exquisite, eight- legged, “two-in-one” rocker designed for the film. Cornett tells the story of his apprenticeship with his grandfather and uncle, and the personal and economic reasons he left the mountains. Chester reveals the precarious life of an artist struggling to survive in a society accustomed to mass production when he states, “I’ve traded a chair many-a-time for groceries.”

Screenings & Festivals

The Learning Channel

Columbus International Film Festival–Honorable Mention

Dayton Art Institute

San Francisco International Film Festival


“A remarkably sustained series of privileged moments….a lovely machine-made tribute to fading handmade craftsmaking.” –Gary Arnold, The Washington Post

“There are times when you realize that the entire world and even universe is no larger than the spirit and mind of a single human being. Hand Carved was for me the occasion of such a time. The film’s spirit is about a single human whom, it seems to me, not even the galaxy could humble if it fell on him in one great heap….Chester Cornett is a hero, a gentle survivor of hard times, bad luck, lost love and a kitchen that must be the most colossal mess of any place outside the Federal budget office.” –Karl Hess, philosopher, craftsman, and author of Community Technology

“In the age of computers and nuclear power, Hand Carved will build an awareness and appreciation of the craftsmanship that reflects another time. The fact that Cornett hopes this film will interest the young in apprenticing for the trade will act as an interesting springboard for discussion.” –Voice of Youth Advocates