Knobbits is the registered trademark for dwarf-like figures created by Bob Evans, a self-taught woodcarver from Pembroke, Virginia who has been selling his “Knobbits” for over 30 years all over the United States, as well as in countries like Israel, South Africa, Germany and England.
Called “The Knobbit Man,” Bob enjoys carving his bearded creations from a cypress knee (a knob of wood), exploiting the pointed top of the tree’s bark-covered knee as a hat for his Knobbits.
Evans has been whittling since the age of 10. He gave up a career in counseling for a life on the road as a gypsy woodcarver.
Bob regularly travels to festivals like the Kutztown Folk Festival in Pennsylvania, the Mossy Creek Festival in Georgia or the Yankee Peddler Festival in Ohio where his whimsical “tree spirits” are a favorite attraction. His tent draws a steady crowd of onlookers who gaze in amazement as Bob whittles out his fanciful bearded dwarfs in less that an hour.
“The world was a better place where there were more carvers and less chiselers” — Sign on Bob Evans booth
The idea for the Knobbits came about years ago when a woman with a German accent noticed Bob Evans carving a head into a piece of unfinished wood. Suddenly, she uttered “Wurtzelgraber” and then explained the word meant “root digger.”
Apparently, in German folklore, dwarf-like creatures called “Wurtzlegrabers” come out at night digging up roots and carving faces resembling their own into the root-stock and then leaving the carvings on people’s doorsteps as a gift.
Intrigued with the story, and inspired by Tolkien’s Hobbits, Bob trademarked the name “Knobbits” in 1982 as his company’s signature product line.
According to Bob Evans, the Knobbits, bring happiness and good fortune to their owners. They are the “perfect gift for the person who has everything and the person who has nothing.”
Bob imagined his dwarfish creations as the American descendants of the German Wurtzlegrabers who settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and later moved further west to the Alleghany Mountains to become known as Knobbits. Although there are other carvers who cut faces in Cypress knees, only Bob can make a Knobbit.
The rustic carved Knobbits come in many forms, free-standing heads, planters, hanging ornaments, wall pieces, and even walking canes. The canes come with tags inscribed with phrases meant to reflect something of the character of the Knobbit, like “We always stick together.”
To gather the wood required for his carving projects, Evans travel to swamps to collect cypress tree knees which have to dry naturally for up to six months before being used.
Although Bob Evans carves the Knobbits, his business is a family affair. Bob’s wife, Lil paints the Knobbits. Evans’ brother-in-law, Mike French prepares the wood for the canes. French’s wife, Mary runs sales. The Frenches’ grandson, Jonathan also helps out.
Bob also carves a line of Santa Claus Knobbits which are very popular at Christmas.
Through the years, the most common question asked of Bill is “How long will you create these?” With a smile, his response is always the same: “Until the forest says no.”
Robert E. Evans
P.O. BOX 87
Pembroke, VA 24136