Chainsaw Artistry

By BEN KLEIN

bklein@timesobserver.com

A chainsaw, like most things, can last a long time with a little care and attention.

Elmer Hickey of Joliet, Ill., should know. The 75-year-old retired pipe fitter has been carving at the Scandia Chainsaw Carve at Red Oak Campground since it started 10 years ago.

“I come here every year,” he said. “It’s kind of a vacation spot for me.”

“Sometimes you look at the log and think ‘Where am I going to make that first cut? What am I going to do?'” he said. “Then you just kind of make a cut and ‘Oh, okay,’ maybe I’ll go this direction and get something that’s just one little shape.”

It was nearly 80 degrees on Friday afternoon and Hickey was wearing protective pants and headphones, and his white beard was littered with saw dust from carving a fish leaping out of the water.

He’s not the best at carving faces, he admitted, but will do just about anything.

“What do I work with? Grinders, sanding disc, flapper wheels, Sand-0-Flex, burrs, this here’s got sand paper on it, this here, that’s got a burr…I use them sometimes just if it calls like inside the ears on a bear or something. I’ll kind of hollow it out. This here is just kind of a rough type thing that cuts real nice,” Hickey said standing inside his trailer he drove about 500 miles with his wife to Scandia. “Here’s a little sanding mop, that kind of smoothes pretty nice.”

A torch attached to a propane tank sits off to the side; Hickey uses it to burn the fuzz and particles off of the carving.

“And then get it like that and brush it a little bit with that Sand-o-Flex, brush it and then paint,” he said.

Removing the negative space from a block of pine with a chainsaw looks incredibly difficult, but Hickey and about 30 other carvers make the fish, bears, benches, signs and just about anything else you can think of look easy.

For Dean Telle of Strasburg, Ohio, chainsaw carving isn’t work. It’s playing.

Telle’s friend, Bob Edwards of Minera, Ohio, who was working beside him on Friday, talked him into it five years ago, he said.

“How do you start out? You have an idea, lay it out in your mind and start carving,” he said. “I don’t draw anything out…some guys do, some don’t, everybody has a different style on how they approach it. I’m still learning, everybody’s still learning.”

Right now it’s just a hobby, but Telle would like to get to a point where he’s better and can supplement his income after retirement with carving.

Between the auction on Friday and sales, “if we pay for our trip we’re happy,” he said, “because we get to meet these other carvers and exchange ideas. All of them are terrific people we’ve seen here before and became friends. I didn’t know anybody the first year…it’s fun.”

The Scandia Chainsaw Carve will continue Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a carve auction at 2 p.m.

There also will be two quick carves on Saturday one at 10 a.m. and the other at 1 p.m. In between the two quick carves, there will be a hot saw demonstration done by local loggers. To end the event on Saturday, the 2 p.m. auction will be led by local auctioneer Jamie Sitler. People may register for the auction anytime Saturday, and items can be purchased with credit card or cash.

Carvers also will have carvings available for purchase throughout the event Saturday. There will be crafters/vendors, pull tabs and a bake sale and Chinese auction. Food will also be available both days. There will also be food at the campground store and also hot dogs, chips and pop at the Scandia tent. On Saturday beginning at 11 a.m., Russell Volunteer Fire Department will have a chicken barbecue.

Scandia Chainsaw Carve coordinator Stephanie Ferrie said carvers started arriving on Wednesday from Pennsylvania, New York and as far away as Illinois and Oklahoma.

“It’s been a little busier than past years,” she said, adding the food and weather helped. “It snowed last year.”

The event is enjoyable for the entire family, Ferrie said. For more information, call Ferrie at 757-8134 or visit the www.scandiavfd.org website.