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Log carvers in Frederick’s Chainsaws and Chuckwagons competition say it’s not just about log selection

Loggers also shared some pro tips

Carver Michael Keoppel carves a log on the first day of Frederick’s Chainsaws and Chuckwagons wood carving contest at Centennial Park on Wednesday. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
Carver Michael Keoppel carves a log on the first day of Frederick’s Chainsaws and Chuckwagons wood carving contest at Centennial Park on Wednesday. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
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The nine log-carving artists competing at Frederick’s Chainsaws and Chuckwagons say it’s not just about careful log selection and have some insider pro tips.

“I chose the log I did because it has everything I need for a couple of ideas I have been tossing about,” Once Upon a Log Owner and logging competitor Justin Driver said.

Carver Justin Driver cuts a piece of the log off the top while working on the first day of Frederick’s Chainsaws and Chuckwagons wood carving contest. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

Driver won first place in last year’s competition with his log artwork titled “Keepin’ It Squatchy,” and was given the opportunity to be the first logger to draw a random number in this year’s log selection. The Farmington, Ky., native was was fourth in log selection this year. This is his fifth year competing at Frederick’s Chainsaw and Chuckwagons chainsaw event.

“It’s art at 100 mph,” Driver said, “There is just something fantastic about the engine revving, sawdust buzzing around and the smell of gas burning when you are creating art and watching it come to life right before your eyes.”

Aside from choosing, or rather a log choosing its artist as Driver described it, he also said, “Each log tells a story — you can walk in thinking ‘I’m gonna make that’ but then you start tearing off bark, sanding it and eventually carving into it and suddenly — the log reveals what it was intended to be carved into.”

Driver wasn’t ready to reveal what his creation would be this year, but said instead, “Come out, have a good time with us and watch it unfold before your eyes, the reveal through the process is the most fun.”

Colorado carver and Sweetwater Trading Post Owner Joe Srholez, who won second place in last year’s competition, said good art comes from great log selection.

Carver Justin Driver pushes a piece of the log cut off the top while working on the first day of Frederick’s Chainsaws and Chuckwagons wood carving contest at Centennial Park. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

“Sometimes the logs sort of just talk to you,” Srholez said. “In a competition like this, you don’t always get the log you had been eye-balling, but happy ‘accidents’ come from the log you are working with — so knowing the type of log it is and where it comes from can help you shape it into a work of art.”

Frederick spokeswoman Jessica Hill said the logs are donated each year by American Arborist Services and unused logs will go to the town’s arbor department for other uses.

“What’s new this year is that artists are allowed to sell their competition pieces, with some stipulations that we’ve laid out for the carvers,” Hill said. “However, the Frederick Art Council can outbid and commission a finished carving by $500 if they chose to do so.”

Log carving began as a hobby for Srholez in 2000 when he was working as a construction worker on log homes. In 2015, Srholez took some of his carvings to a farmers market which helped him grow in popularity and by 2017, log carving had become his full-time passion.

“I joke and say it started out as just being bored and thinking, ‘Hey this might be cool to cut and let me see if I can do it with this new chainsaw I got’,” he said.

Carver Matt Ounsworth makes cuts into a log on the first day of Frederick’s Chainsaws and Chuckwagons wood carving contest at Centennial Park on Wednesday. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

Making his second appearance at the event, Lincoln, Neb., resident and 3 Timber Studio owner Nate Hall said as much as it is about log selection, it’s more about the artistic eye and what it sees can be done with a log.

“I don’t know how, but I got lucky because I got exactly the log I was eyeing, despite being eighth in log selection,” Hall said. “I knew exactly what I wanted to carve coming here today and I saw this log and knew it was the right one for our design.”

Hall wasn’t ready to reveal what creation he was beginning to shape on Wednesday, but said, “The fun part is watching spectators and how they respond to recognizing the shapes coming through.”

Frederick’s Chainsaw and Chuckwagons free event will run through Sunday but artists must be done with their masterpieces by 4 p.m. Saturday. Residents can begin voting starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. Residents can also visit Centennial Park, 630 Eighth St., to watch the loggers work between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day until the deadline.