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Chainsaw carvers demonstrate work in Natural Bridge

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NATURAL BRIDGE — It’s a case of like father, like daughter.

Sarah J. Wilson, Canastota, is following in the footsteps of her father, Mark S. Wilson, to learn the art of chainsaw carving. The pair recently held a demonstration of their skills at Adirondack Artworks, 43956 State Route 3.

Mr. Wilson began hand-carving as a young teen, learning from his father, who also had a cabinetry shop. His parents sold carvings at flea markets and later at craft shows and he sold pieces through his parents’ efforts.

“We did the Clayton decoy show for a while,” said Mr. Wilson, a renowned songbird and wildlife carver.

About 30 years ago, he taught himself to carve using a chain saw after seeing it done in New England.

“I began playing around with [chainsaw carving], not many were into it then. It was mostly trial and error,” Mr. Wilson said of his early attempts.

After he married, he and his wife, Cindy, started an old-fashioned country store, Yankee Doodles, Canastota, which features Mr. Wilson’s carvings, gifts, handicrafts and old-fashioned treats such as candy, jelly and teas.

While carving at his shop one day using an electric chainsaw, Mr. Wilson was discovered by a representative of Steven Willand Inc., a distributor of Jonsered chainsaws. The representative offered to sponsor Mr. Wilson and supply him with the chainsaws to do demonstrations at trade shows.

Years later, he has the techniques down and his middle daughter has taken an interest in the art.

Using wood — mostly pine — harvested from their land, the father-daughter team creates mushrooms, trees, bears, wolves, eagles, gnomes and even fish.

Mr. Wilson said he usually has an idea of what he will carve, noting “some pieces [of wood] lend themselves to a carving.”

Miss Wilson has started out with basic designs of mushrooms and pumpkins but has moved up to create bears and turtles.

While performing their recent demonstration at Adirondack Artworks, Mr. Wilson teasingly reminded his daughter she is not quite as quick or skilled as he is. However, Miss Wilson said her father hopes to have her take over the family art when he is ready to retire.

During the demonstration, Mr. Wilson skillfully blocks out a three-foot tall log which was about a foot in diameter. Within 20 minutes, a howling wolf appears, as Mr. Wilson reshapes the log using various-sized saws. Miss Wilson is permitted to trim off some of the tree bark from around the base of the wooden statue before her father finishes the detail work. All of the carving is done with the chainsaws except the eyes, which are chiseled out.

The Wilsons’ work is sold at the Natural Bridge shop and they will appear at the New York State Woodsmen’s Field Days in Boonville Friday, Aug. 15, through Sunday, Aug. 17, and at Empire Farm Days in Waterloo Tuesday. Aug. 5, through Thursday, Aug. 7.

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