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  Art of Chainsaw Carving

By Jessie Groechen

Reviewed by Mike Bloomquist


Matt is really making me stretch my writing skills here.  First a review of a book on whittling (see my other book review in the previous issue) and now chainsaw carving.  OK, so this wouldn't be the first time someone did a book review about something they knew very little about. On the other hand this is the perfect book for someone that might not have been exposed to chainsaw carving very much.  Besides, I think I know good carvings no matter what the scale, and there seem to be plenty of them here to tell you about. So here goes nothing. . . . .

The Highlights:

There's a pet theory I have about chainsaw carvers, and it is that they are just as tired of carving bears as I am of seeing them.  For that reason, the first highlight listed here will be the joyous fact that there are only five or six bears in this book and most of them are above average in style and execution.  Even better, they are a VERY small percentage of the whole.  We won't beat this to death though, because it's also a bread-n-butter project, which is mandatory if you are trying to make a buck in the business.  Next there is only one step-by-step, but it's very unique... sort of a cross between a kubbestol (a Scandinavian chair carved from a log) and a North West Native American style totem pole.  Finally, there are two fantastic galleries of work, one documenting the past of chainsaw art and the other show casing contemporary chainsaw carvers.  Eighteen artists total.  My favorite carvings?  There are actually more than I have space to tell you about.  Check out Jessie's relief carved rendition of VanGogh's "Starry Night" and her "Tree of Life".  Then there was any of Lois Hollingsworth's abstracts (and her smile deserves to be a woodspirit), "Equine Thunder" by J. Chester Armstrong, a series of carvings depicting Native American mythologies by R. L. Blair, "Year of the Dragon" by Glenn Geensides, Steve Blanchard's "Christ's Promised Return",  any of Dennis Roghair's figures, and "Dragonfly" by Brian J. Ruth.

A Brief Tour:

About the Author

A Note from the Author


The History and Evolution of Chainsaw Carving

Part One: The Early Artists

Part Two: Contemporary Artists

Part Three: Chainsaw Power Carving a Chair Step-by-Step

Part Four: Chainsaw Carving Events, Yesterday and Today



Nit Picks:

You KNOW these are coming.  Ok, we'll only do a couple.  First off, there are no chainsaw carvers from Upstate New York or the Adirondacks and we have plenty of good ones.  We'll let it go because Brian J. Ruth is from neighboring Pennsylvania and there was a picture of him at the New York State Fair.  Yes, that fact kinda bites me in the butt, because if the New York State Fair doesn't feature a NYS chainsaw carver, why should this author.  Good point, glad you're paying attention.  The other nitpick is the lack of a discussion of tools, especially before the step-by-step.  After that awesome gallery of works, the first thing you want to know before the instructional section is what equipment it's going to require for a whack at this art form.  What is a dime tip chainsaw?  Why two chainsaws? What's the differences between them?  Where do I get soundproof fencing for my backyard so my neighbors don't lynch me? 


OK, so we wrap this up with a confession and a rating.  I'm not real fond of chainsaw carving.  It's noisy, it's dangerous, and the chainsaw is a tool representative of an industry that almost clear cut the Adirondacks before it moved on to more productive regions.  On the up side, it accomplishes the art of woodcarving on a grander scale than you might attempt solely with a mallet and gouge.  Also, having read Jessie's description of these artists you doubt that the majority of them participated or contributed to poor logging practices.  As a gallery of the art of chainsaw carving and its artists this is a four thumber.  If, however, you're thinking of trying the art yourself, I would supplement this with something else which discusses tools and techniques in depth.

OK Gang, 'till next time, keep them edges keen, the chips piled high, and all the bones attached and in one piece.

Keep on Carvin'
-Mike Bloomquist->

Mike Bloomquist is a carver and carving teacher, and a regular contributor to WOM.

You may visit Mike's web site, Wooden Dreams Woodcarving HERE or email him at m.bloomquistATverizonDOTnet.