02/24/1997 at 01:00 AM EST
IN MEDIEVAL TIMES, SCHOLARS PONDERED how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Michael Drummond wouldn't presume to know about angels, but as a miniaturist he understands thinking small. He has done so, in fact, since that day in 1984 when, as a weekend painter and carver from Cocoa, Fla., he presented his mother-in-law, Pauline McCurry, with a 2-inch cedar cowboy. "My father-in-law was sitting there at the table holding a toothpick," says Drummond, 44. "He said, 'Next you'll be carving out of one of these.' "
He was right. Today, with acrylic paints, a No. 11 X-Acto blade and rock-steady hands, Drummond, a Kennedy Space Center scaffolding rigger, fashions common dinner-table toothpicks into Roman gladiators, Southern belles and deft likenesses of celebs, including boxer George Foreman and Fred Astaire (complete with top hat and tails). "It just came natural to me," says Drummond, whose $250 creations are sold in museums and in a Manhattan gallery. Adds his wife, Debbie, mother of their three children, ages 12 to 23: "We'll be sitting at the dinner table talking and we won't notice he's gotten quiet. Then he'll just come up with a dinosaur or a butterfly made out of tinfoil or a napkin. It's really amazing."