A Second Chance for Trees


A Second Chance for Trees

Eight intrepid carvers give new life to damaged trees worldwide

By Kelly Umenhofer

Every tree experiences its own cycle of birth, growth and decline. Once a tree dies, it is often cut down and carted off to the wood chipper. Sometimes, though, nearby woodcarvers will come along and use their chainsaws and grinders to preserve trees and what they represented in people’s lives. These eight carvers are among those heroes who have transformed beloved trees into masterpieces. 

Josh Landry North Anson, Maine

Josh Landry has always enjoyed the challenge of turning blank tree trunks and stumps into long-lasting statues. So, when Stephen and Tabitha King—the king and queen of horror writing—called upon him to turn their ash tree into a one-of-a-kind design, Josh eagerly fired up his chainsaw. In a month’s time, Josh carved a 15-foot statue featuring an assortment of books, owls, cats, ravens, and dragons—all centered on an elaborate bookcase with human legs. “The art of chainsaw carving is truly my calling,” he said. “I get better with each carving and faster the more time I spend behind the saw.” See more of Josh’s work on Instagram @josh.landry or visit joshlandry.com.


Alasdair Craig Sussex, England

When John Troake discovered his beloved 100-year-old copper beech tree had to be cut down due to a bacterial infection, he knew he wanted to do something special with the trunk. That’s when he brought in Alasdair Craig of Sussex Chainsaw to transform it into a work of art. “When you are carving trees, you never know what you might find inside—whether it’s rotten parts, or something unexpected that has grown in the trunk,” he said. Once he opened up the tree, Alasdair worked with John to design a traditional green man with an owl perched at the top to match the nature-themed sculptures that appear all over Sussex. The green man faces the street, so the rest of the community can enjoy his presence, too. See more of Alasdair’s tree carvings @sussexchainsaw on Instagram or visit sussexchainsaw.com. 


Vicki Nicholson Perth, Australia

Whether they’re suffering from storm damage or invasive insects, Vicki Nicholson has made it her mission to rescue trees in distress. Once she was contacted by the owners of a Marri tree damaged by black ants, Vicki decided to carve a wood spirit into the trunk with her Arbortech® grinder. Vicki slowly carved away the damaged wood, taking care not to go too deep into the tree. This allowed the tree, which she affectionately named Magnus, to continue to live and grow after the carving was done. “A live tree should be treated with love and care,” she said. “I believe he guided me along and I even talked to him while I was carving.” After 40 hours, Vicki detailed the piece with chisels, and then sealed him with a natural oil to prevent further damage from ants. Since then, Magnus has only prospered with the growth of new branches and luscious green leaves. See more of Vicki’s work on Facebook at Vicki Nicholson.


Chaz Chiafos Monticello, Ind.

Chaz Chiafos has always believed that storm-damaged trees can have a second life through carving. So, when his brother lost a cedar tree that to lightning, Chaz had the idea to turn it into a mailbox. “I decided to carve bears holding a honey pot because of the way the branches twisted after I cut off the damaged top of the tree,” he said. After nine hours, Chaz added the finishing touches to the carving with his chainsaw and Dremel®. Ever since, his brother’s grizzly mailbox has become an attraction in the neighborhood. To see more of Chaz’s chainsaw carvings, visit Indiana Carvings on Facebook.


Clint Henrik Mount Vernon, Iowa

Two years ago, Clint Henrik, owner of Carve R Way, was called upon by a local Iowa family to turn a dying tree into a wooden masterpiece. Clint designed a rough drawing of a floral collage based on the family’s interest in flowers and started up his chainsaw. Clint made sure not to rush his work, as this decorative piece will stand for years to come. “My tree carvings can take anywhere from an hour to days to complete depending on the size and shape of the tree,” he said. After carving the flower details, Clint sealed the entire carving with Cabot Australian Timber Oil® to protect it from the elements. See more of Clint’s work at carverway.com.

Simon O’Rourke Wrexham, Wales

Simon O’Rourke wanted to reach for the sky with his giant hand sculpture, entitled Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, carved out of what was formerly the tallest tree in Wales. After the tree suffered storm damage, Natural Resources Wales hired Simon to create the elaborate carving rather than have the tree chopped down. Over a six-day period, Simon used Stihl chainsaws and various grinders to shape and build the godlike hand. He also crafted additional pieces for the thumb and pinkie finger, as the tree wasn’t wide enough for the whole hand, and then sealed it with tung oil. Simon enjoyed using the tree’s natural shape and woodgrain to dictate the hand’s design, shape, and texture. “The wood will always be influenced by weather, which I consider to be part of the artwork,” he said. To see more of Simon’s work, visit @simonorourke on Instagram or treecarving.co.uk.


Fritz Hand Omaha, Neb. 

Fritz Hand is known around the Dundee area as the creator of the wood spirit in Ellyn Grant’s yard. The 100-year-old tree had become overgrown and potentially dangerous, so Fritz was enlisted to turn the remains into a work of art. Fritz had creative freedom over the design and decided to carve something that would highlight the tree’s history and personality—a wood spirit. “I like to visualize the tree’s trunk as a tapestry for my artwork before I actually begin carving,” he said. Fritz, with help from his father, carved the wood spirit at an angle to minimize weathering by rain. He also positioned it to catch the sunlight that floods into Ellyn’s yard. To see more of Fritz’s tree sculptures, visit Hand Drawn Art by Fritz on Facebook. 

Jennifer Ruse Madison, Wis. 

Jennifer Ruse often carves eagles and bears into trees but created something new for a client of hers: a fairy garden. From the trunk of a dead silver maple, Jennifer designed and carved an array of mushrooms and blooming flowers, and even a fairy house toward the bottom—all with a chainsaw. “I can always see something in the wood before I turn on my chainsaw,” she said. To be able to carve the details at the top of the tree trunk, Jennifer had to stand on a scaffold. She also constructed the garden to direct rainwater into a birdbath located next to the fairy house. See more of Jennifer’s tree sculptures on Facebook at Roadside Saw Works.


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