new look at old stuff...

new look at old stuff...

Joined: June 21st, 2003, 7:42 pm

December 17th, 2017, 7:28 pm #1

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April 24 2016 at 9:00 PM
Steve Backus (Login flashbackus)
How the hell did we get here!?

This is kinda "Windy" but I write better for an audience it seems, be careful asking me a question, I might reply.

Get a cup of coffee Bubba, maybe two.

Good morning Friends and neighbors how is every little thing on this fine day above ground, well, Nanette, Boone and I are getting ready for our adventure overseas and have been stashing granola bars for the airplane ride.

As it is my place it seems to contribute some of the knowledge of the chainsaw carving history that is lodged in my skull it really boils down to who, what, where and WHY!

The "Who, where and whens are easy, the whys and whats are a little more flexible in the telling, like all tales passed down for the ages I suppose.

It has been my experience in this life to have folks enter this chainsaw carving life and bring all the Hopes,Dreams,Talent{optional} balanced out of course with Prejudices,Vanity and Ego.

This is an attempt at a timeline of things I can recall, feel free to correct me wherever it is needed for factual Dates, Carvers and Places.

I am primarily recalling the chainsaw carving history from the "Pacific Northwests perspective for the simple reason that it is where I am from, its also where my family reaches back a few generations in this game.

Relationships are the backbone of the timeline of history, all history it seems not just ours, the never ending tug of war that is human nature, the act of observing some deed or action and thinking "shit man I can do that! maybe even better?

And on and on it goes, I also speak from the point of view of those that showed up at shows, contests and gatherings, nothing against those that did not show up life is all choices, but the world is ran by those that showed up.

Mike McVay started carving in the late 1950s in the Reedsport Oregon area, where his dad had a underwater log salvage contract and sawmill on eel lake, where the state park is today. Mike went on to have a full on chainsaw carving business in the early 1960s in Salem Oregon, he represented the state of Oregon in the 1964 worlds fair in New York with a fifty foot chainsaw carved mural, he also taught a young lady in collage the fundamentals of chainsaw carving, her name was "Susan miller, and on and on it goes.

A fire ravaged his shop in Salem, Dallas to be more precise, it bummed him out so he took advantage of an offer from his dad to work as a diver, he did that and more, traveled around Europe even worked as a translator for french/English in Paris, he speaks German as well he should be going with us!

Easy to get sidetracked, at any rate mike went to Saudi Arabia to work for his dad, Dee McVay, here is a couple items on Dee ... 5680&hl=en ... arabia.htm ,

A hard act to follow in a family of adventurers, when mike came back from his overseas travels he taught his sister, Judy McVay to carve,this would have been 1972.

In the 1970s there were few carvers, Don Colp, {Marks dad} was heard of all along the west coast, because he traveled extensively he was sponsored by poulon at the tim ... tion=story

There were others as well, Ray kowalsk ... 8843&hl=en , Ray was one of the first carvers to have a big shop along the west coast, his son Carl is still running things as far as I know, "Brian McEneny who has been a judge at the "Reedsport show many times started out working with, or at ray's shop then they had a change in their relationship and Brian opened his own shop down the road, and on and on it goes.

By the 1980s as chainsaws became lighter and more powerful with all the lightweight technology trickling down from the space age, plastics, aluminum and whathave you, combined with the saw company's targeting the consumer market, more folks started giving it a go.

In 1981 at the Puallup fair in washington state, Mike McVay helped the fair have the first organized chainsaw carving contest {world championship}, 17 carvers were in attendance from as far as Montana and Oregon. I cant recall all of them at the moment. a fellow who was president of the Quilceda carvers club, was a judge at the puallup contest, he was from the fair in Monroe Washington, his name was "Walt Crane.

Our chainsaw carving group was growing, "Walt Crane went back to Monroe and started the Monroe totem pole carving contest so in 1982 we had two contests to go to and the groups ranks swelled.

1982 was the year that Duke Moore was a judge at the puallup show and he went back to his place in ashford Washington and in 1983 he had had a contest, Duke had been carving a while and his kids were good friends and went high school with a young "Rod Blair" who was influenced by Duke Moore, and on and on it goe ... uke-moore/

By the mid 1980s we as a group that attended the fairs were trying to change the rules to more benefit us carvers and it was 1987 when we formed the cascade chainsaw sculptures guild so as to have a voice, Pat McVay and I had attended Barre pinskies contest in hill city Minnesota memorial weekend 1986 and were inspired by the obnoxious barre pinskies style of self promotion, and the grit he showed by doing it himself, it was also the first east-west contact in a meaningful way, it was also the first Quick carve, Barre, myself, and a fellow by the name of Ray Murphy did a thirty minute Quick carve, no auction, the Auctions were still a few years in the future.

Ray Murphy was from rapid city South Dakota at the time, he moved east late It seems to me that Ray Murphy and Hal Macintosh and a coupla others had a contest in Colorado in 1982? anyone know about that I swear I saw a picture once but it evades me!?

By the late 1980s the fairs were done with the contests and just sold vendor space, we were a lot of headaches for them with all the squabbling and debating about how to run contests and in 1990 we stumbled by accident into a small coastal town in Washington state, this fellow in town asked us to do a chainsaw contest and we had some wood and time so we said yes, this town had never had an event because it was a fishing town with no need to do stuff like that.

It was great they didn't know what we were doing and we were glad to have a chance to run a show without interference, the only problem was money, there wasn't much, then Pat McVay heard about a contest in Tupper lake in upstste New York where Hal Macintosh had an auction with the quick carve and the highest bid won!

I don't think Hal started that Tupper lake contest but he ran it for a few years, Tupper lake is the longest continuously running chainsaw carving contest in the world to date, Wayne Demoranville has ran it for the last few years and Jon Vicent is the current coordinator,its chainsaw only which is really cool, and longest running.

Now we had a way of self financing and a great way of getting lots of folks to be suspicious and petty about money, the auctions were, and are a never ending source of agony and ecstasy,depending on who you talk to.

By 1993 inspired by the fabulous wealth produced by the westport contest both Charley Hubbard and Dan Whited had contests, Dan had one in Ellensburg Washington and Charlie had one in Shelton Washington {both events had three year lifecycles} Shelton is Close to Allyn Washington and charley hubbered worked with a shopkeeper there who went on to have chainsaw carving contests to this day, his name is George Kenny.

We also met "Feather" for the first time in Shelton at Charley's show.

As this contest in the small town of Westport gained traction we learned and grew, 1992 we had the first auction based contest on the westcoast, 1992 1993 we split the bulk of the money between the carvers, on hindsight it was a good way, 1994 we had prize money from auction money, a guy from California showed up and swept the field he won the contest and he won every Quick carve! he was sponsored by ECHO chainsaws and was doing a show in Utah the following weekend for the "masters of the chainsaw" we had our first "Contest Hero" and the bootlickers were in awe, it was just when Pat McVay and Jesse Groshen were doing the cascade guilds newsletters so the word got out to our community in a way never before done!

seems quaint now huh.

His name was Jerry Muir and he carved with Don Colp when he started out, and on and on it goes.

1995 at westport also saw a fellow by the name of "rocky MacArthur" Rocky went back home and he had a show, it was a great show and still is, its in the wonderful town of Sedro-Wooley Washington

This is taking me all day! I hope you folks appreciate it, at any rate where was I?

This westport contest was in reality a melting pot of methods and ideas that came together under my dysfunctional leadership, the true brains behind most everything concerning judging criteria and the details of most of the logistics were folks like Susan miller and pat mcvay and Jesse Groshen and many others who did so much, I took the heat when it went south is all.

By 1996 we were attracting a higher level of artist and the judging was beginning to take shape, despite the fact that some carvers wailed at a higher decimal, it was pretty consistent,Roy Colbert who wrote for chip chats warned us of getting to many rules or the art would get bogged down in realistic detail and the technicians with fancy tools would do well, but the Art would lose the wow!

1996 was also the year i met our first eastern European carver this fellow was in this country a mere three weeks when I met him he had never even held a chainsaw before and I talked him into carving at a little gig the next day and he did fine he went to the westport contest and changed things with his style, his name was Alexander Safonov

Carvers are starting to show up at these events, meet each other build relationships speculate on how they would do things go out into the world and spread the word, chance encounters could change many things.

In 1998 Vince brown stopped by Nyal Thomas's carving shop in "point arena California, he told Nyal about the big show up in westport and Nyal went to the 1998 contest, he was so taken with the show that he went home and put together a contest in October of that year, he had forty carvers show up, one was a "California new guy to contests this fellow couldn't believe how fast the quick carve was! he was apprehensive about that part, you wouldn't know it now, his name was Mark Colp.

There is a growing group of competitive carvers emerging in this game at this time and we as a group {cascade guild} were trying to form a points system, create a circuit of west coast contests with expectations of a national circuit down the road.

westport was the blueprint for nearly every event that was held, there were variations for sure but the auction and the judging were always involved somehow, sponsors were very thrifty and hard to squeeze so the auction money continued to supply much.

1998 was also a year when I met a couple of new carvers that were to influence many things down the road but one never knows when it begins until reflection after the fact, I invited these guys to the 1999 westport and the one fellow had a sawmill, he was just starting out as a carver and came to the contest to mostly run the woodmizer sawmill, we had never had a sawmill at a contest before so we just slabbed up a pile of nice slabs and let them have at it!

The sawmill changed things more then any single thing! Rob Macelfresh had showed us what could happen when everyone had slabs and could make bench's and bench's and bench's! it doubled the auction and gave us the ability to achieve much more!

Sawmills are as important as sawgas to a good event.

At this point we had been trying to establish contests and guidelines for 18 years it seemed we were getting closer.

The other guy I met that year was so taken with the westport contest and was so inspired that he went back to his hometown and started a contest in 1999, he always told me reedsport would be westports little brother, glad he did because I love going to the Reedsport contest and this guys name was Bob King.

1999 was also host to a one time contest put on by mark Colp and Nyal Thomas in Anderson California, this was bobs first real contest and it was also one that A.J. Lutter attended as he was checking out how he would do one in Minnesota {hackensack} also the reemergence of the carver known as Feather was there to research contests and he went on to put a few on in Reno and elsewhere, and on and on it goes

so as we head into the early 2000s there are contests up and down the westcoast, all motivated by enthusiastic dreamers and fairly inept administrators, me included.

2002 saw the Japanese come to westport, it was so cool, we met folks like Keiji kodokoro and they all went to ridgway the next year, the game is starting to expand faster

Meanwhile at the same time as Ridgway was getting its legs under it and their learning curve was beginning, they thought we knew what we were doing, and we assumed the same.

Then Joe King started the carving post!

This very Forum combined with the fact that western Europeans were beginning to awaken to chainsaw carving and could hook up and come to ridgway, these forces of instant communication and reasonable travel rates combined to swell the ranks of carvers at ridgway and give the overseas carvers a place to land and learn, which is why at this time you see all the chainsaw contests and events start up in England and Germany for a starters, plus others that evade me at this time.

2003 was when Jerry Muir passed his Echo torch to Mark Colp and got me sponsorship for the beautiful frankenstein known as westport, we had great programs and prize money, but alas it was not without its pound of flesh

The "Campbell river British Columbia chamber of commerce came to westport at this time to learn, the Milton-freewater chamber of commerce came to westport as well and I talked to a gal in Chetwynd British Columbia named Helen who was looking to put on a show up there, I referred her to Nyal Thomas and he helped them get that show going and he attended for a number of years

The Echocup rose from the darkness and By 2005 westport was ending its Lifecycle , had spawned out up the river leaving a magnificent corpse for the future to feed on, invitationals became the new black, and gladhanding your way into an event became an artform in and of itself.

Meanwhile over in Germany Andreas was starting up the huskycup and sandringham was rocking out,the Europeans took to this chainsaw carving like a french guy takes to a wineglass, and the Japanese were forming a chainsaw carving circuit that was fantastic.

Now look at it, shows and contests all over the world, auctions seem to play as important a role as ever, cant see folks getting off that heroin drip anytime soon, except in cases where its a gated event with a fee plus you sell the hot dogs and beer.

In the background to all of this is the people who networked and showed up and had ambition and were smart {mostly} the free spirit that is in our past is having a hard marriage to corporate world of the bigger picture, I cant say where its headed but I sure am glad to be in on the ride!

Nanette wont proofread this for me because its to long and she thinks everyone will think I am crazy, I thanked her for her honest opinion and posted it myself.

and remember carve or starve...


Joined: July 2nd, 2017, 4:24 pm

December 20th, 2017, 7:31 pm #2

Yes, you are crazy, in a good way. Thanks for the Chainsaw Carving History. See you at Reedsport.