Masters of the Saw:

The Art of Woodcarving


Art & Chainsaws

Art and chainsaws may not be two words that one would traditionally consider using in the same sentence. Typically when you hear the word art, hundreds of words come to mind before heavy power-driven saws. You should, however, think again. This weekend Tupper Lake will in fact be filled with lots of beautiful art created by non other than the trusty chainsaw.

Not your traditional art tool! (ROOST/Shaun Ondak)

Tupper Lake Woodsmen's Days

The second weekend in July is a special weekend in Tupper Lake as the Woodsmen's Association hosts the annual Tupper Lake Woodsmen's Days with participants arriving on Friday. Events are scheduled for July 11-12 and include an amazing variety of competitions, exhibits, parades, demonstrations and celebrations based around the town's rich logging heritage. Amidst the activity you will find a great deal of wood products ranging from chairs, tables, shelves and bird houses, to amazing carved wooden masterpieces. It is these masterpieces that draw crowds of spectators as chainsaw carvers from around the Northeast gather to show off their technical skill as they compete for cash prizes and bragging rights.

Masters of the Chainsaw

Chainsaw carving competition - 1988 (Kathleen Bigrow photo)

They call themselves chainsaw carvers, chainsaw artists, sculptors, power carvers, saw masters, etc... but whatever you want to call them, you will surely agree with one thing: they possess talent, strength, and sheer guts. They can take what many consider to be a heavy, bulky, and dangerous tool and use it to transform a rough chunk of log into an intricate work of art. You are probably wondering what would spark someone to consider learning such a trade? Well, one would have to ask each participant individually, as they each hold their own unique story of what intrigued them to start and how they mastered their skill over the years.

Chain Saw Carving "Gone Fishing" - 2014 Competition (ROOST/Shaun Ondak photo)

The Art of Competition

This year's Woodsmen's Days event is scheduled to draw nearly two dozen chainsaw carvers (twice as many as in recent years) to compete in a series of events strung over the three-day period. The event is organized by Jon Vincent Antonuk who owns and operates From the Forest Inc. out of Barneveld, NY. Antonuk is not only a chainsaw carver himself, but also works with approximately 50 other chainsaw artists from throughout the region.

The first competitive action will take place at noon on Saturday, following the gala parade and opening ceremony. This competition is known as the crowd pleasing 60-minute quick carve contest. During the contest carvers will have one hour to carve their design of choice. At the end of the hour they will have a short period of time to stain or paint their item (if desired) to create a finished product from which point it will immediately go up for auction. The winner of the quick carve is then determined by the sculpture that brings in the highest auction price. If you are unable to attend the quick carve competition on Saturday, or simply want to see even more quick carve action, the competition will be held again on Sunday at noon.

Guys are not the only ones who have mastered the skill enough to compete. (ROOST/Shaun Ondak Photo)

In addition to the quick carve, carvers will also be working on larger wooden showpieces throughout the weekend (starting as early as Friday afternoon). The larger pieces are also timed, as competitors have up to 10 hours to work on each creation. This year's theme for the large works of art is "Nature Coming Together." Participants will be creating works of art based around animals and nature - a theme which is sure to inspire some unique sculptures.

A handful of the masterpieces that the 2014 Woodsmen's Carving Competition turned out. (ROOST/Shaun Ondak photo)

For the large pieces, cash prizes are awarded to the winners. Winners are determined by a panel of judges who rank the completed pieces on a point system following different criteria for anatomy, form, mistakes, creativity, risk and more. At the end of the weekend, these pieces, too, will traditionally go up for sale or auction.

Come Catch the Show!

Take a 360-degree virtual tour of the 2014 Tupper Lake Woodsmen's Day carving competion

So, you may have thought art and chainsaws didn't go together... but, believe it or not, we could argue that Tupper Lake Woodsmen's Days is a unique form of both visual and performing arts. In addition to the works of art these carvers create, the competitive performance itself stands as an art form. Get front row seats to the show and book a weekend in Tupper Lake.

DLW Timberworks Show Returns as part of the 2015 Tupper Lake Woodsmen's Days

In addition to the chainsaw carving competition, enjoy a variety of events and activities geared for the entire family. Kick the weekend off with live music at P-2's Irish Pub as Bitter Sweet performs live during the opening dinner and festivities on Friday night. Then enjoy a jam-packed weekend of parades, unique games, heavy equipment demonstrations, monster trucks and lumberjack shows, children's activities and more. Check out the complete schedule of Woodsmen's Days events and then come join in the fun!

This week in related ADK news:

Acting Cool: Practice Makes Perfect

Taking the Artistic Route

Picture This: Where Green Meets Artistry

Sing It, Sew It, Paint It, Picture It

Spirit of Place

Experience Arts from the Center

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