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Where logs become art

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With their chains sharpened and saws tuned up, chainsaw carvers from around the country, as well as Canada and the U.K., enthusiastically participated in the Chainsaw Carver’s Rendezvous held April 27-30 at the Ridgway Mills Campground in Ridgway, Pa.

“This year we had around 75 carvers. We scaled it back in 2017 because at that point we had 237 carvers attend and it was a party out of control,” says organizer Liz Boni.

Liz and her husband Rick Boni are co-owners of the Appalachian Arts Studio in Ridgeway, which officially hosts the annual event. The idea formed in 1999 when Rick and his twin brother Randy Boni, two avid chainsaw carvers, decided to organize a ‘small’ gathering with family and friends carving figures into wood with chainsaws.

“The internet took it international with a carver from England and a carver from Germany, and we ended up with 33 carvers and we thought that was an awful lot of carvers,” says Liz, adding she and Rick took over event management at that point as Randy just wanted to carve.

The second year attracted around 50 carvers and the event continued to grow in size and duration. Participants now include novice, amateur, and professional chainsaw carvers.

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“It just turned into something absolutely phenomenal. It opened the world up to chainsaw art. It brought carvers together and it sparked other events throughout the world,” says Liz.

She says regular events typically feature each carver starting with an 8’ log, usually pine, but other species are used. Attendees are invited to watch the carving while enjoying vendors and live musical entertainment, and pieces are available for sale and through an auction. She emphasizes that this is not a competition.

“It’s a gathering for sharing, learning, camaraderie, and it’s a place where other people scout out other carvers for competitions and other events. The best keep getting better, and they spur each other into new and different applications.”

Though not a carver herself, Liz has observed many changes over the years in techniques and participant demographics.

“It’s taken a few years for more to come on board, but we now see carpenters, tree trimmers, loggers, artists, and a lot more women doing this. And with the technology in the industry, they’re making lighter saws, they’re adapting the bars and the chains … there’s as much to learn about the saw as there is about the artform itself.”

While there are ‘chainsaw purists’ at the events, she adds that participants may also use grinders, drills, sanders and other tools. Many use burning techniques as part of their finishing process.

“It’s been an adventure and a joy. Our community loves it, and it brings commerce. People actually come back several times a year to enjoy what we have here,” adds Liz.

For more, visit chainsawrendezvous.org.

This article was originally published in the August 2022 issue.

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