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Man a world-class ice carver

Published: Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 12:30 p.m. CDT
In this Dec. 4, 2012 photo, ice carver Dan Rebholz, of Wheaton, stores 300-pound blocks of ice he has made for carving, and finished pieces, inside of a walk-in freezer at his studio in Villa Park. (AP Photo/Daily Herald, George LeClaire)

WHEATON (AP) — Ice sculptors can be hot and cold.

Dan Rebholz of Wheaton is a room temperature ice carver.

"There are cold weather and warm weather carvers," Rebholz said. "I just learned to carve at room temperature and can carve a lot faster that way. If I need to add extra detail to a sculpture I can suit up and do the work in our freezer."

Rebholz has carved more than 15,000 pieces using 5 million pounds of ice in his 27 years with the art form. The master ice carver makes 300-pound blocks of ice for carving at his World Class Ice Sculpture studio in Villa Park.

"We've been asked to freeze anything from wedding rings to TV sets," Rebholz said of the projects he's made from the crystal clear ice blocks, which take three to four days to make in one of his ice block makers.

Rebholz taught himself to carve ice after enrolling in culinary school and seeing his first carving.

"It's a unique art form that I am passionate about," Rebholz said. "I like being my own boss ... and the camaraderie between sculptors at competitions."

His work is comprised largely of creating pieces for special occasions, stenciling the ideas by hand using an overhead projector, then making a final large stencil to use for carving, which he places directly onto the block of ice.

"After sculptures are complete I spray them with water to smooth out the cuts, then a use a blowtorch to make the pieces glisten and look like glass," Rebholz said.

Rebholz has come a long way since his early days of cutting into the ice blocks with just a few simple tools.

"When I started out I had a chain saw, power hand drill, and an extension cord," said Rebholz, who said his favorite tool is still the chain saw. His carving arsenal now includes sanders, grinders, melting plates, irons, a propane torch and a water sprayer.

Rebholz is also owner and lead instructor of the American Ice Carving Academy which he operates at his studio, teaching others the same craft that has fascinated him for nearly three decades.

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