Artist Tim Crager said Wednesday that he got the inspiration to become a chainsaw carver while lying in bed one night.
“I woke up in the middle of the night, about 1:30 in the morning, and had a thought — carve a bear,” Crager said. “The next day I went out, got me a log and started carving into it, and seven hours later, out came a bear.”
Crager said he enjoyed the process so much that he called his boss and put in his two weeks notice.
“They thought I was insane,” Crager said. “…There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than this. I had no art ability and limited chainsaw ability before this. So, the two main components were against me, but my mom and dad always told me and my brother, ‘Son, you can do anything you want to do as long as you put your mind to it,’ so basically fake it til you make it.”
Five years later, Crager travels from his home near Pikeville, Kentucky, and performs at festivals and fairs like the Delaware County Fair from April to December, doing carving demonstrations and selling his work, which ranges from small wooden pumpkins to benches and archways. Crager said he spends the other four months of the year relaxing, but said he can never stay away from carving for too long. Crager said small projects can be done in under an hour, but some projects like an archway he made took 33 to 35 hours.
“It’s an addiction,” he said. “Once you get the dust in your veins, it’s all over. If I go on vacation, I’m packing a saw with me.”
Crager said one of his favorite parts of coming to fairs like the Delaware County Fair is seeing the 4-H kids and seeing kids get out and interact with the real world.
“Kids should be outside seeing what the world has to offer, and 4-H is a big step in that,” Crager said. “I’m pleased to be able to come and do the farm animals for them. They get all excited when you carve a pig or a horse just for them and their horse or animal. I love meeting new people in new places.”
As Crager revs the engine on his chainsaw, Brick, his English bulldog, snoozes in the warm sun Wednesday afternoon.
“He’s my mascot,” Crager said with a laugh. “He draws as much attention as my carvings. Sometimes people come visit me from previous years just to look for Brick.”
Crager added he’s got no plans of slowing down or stopping.
“Each week I can see improvement in what I’m doing,” Crager said. “When I was starting, guys who had been carving for 20-30 years thought I’d been carving for 10 years. I’m not letting that go to my head. I’m always trying to improve.”
Crager will be carving from 1 to 7 p.m. today and Saturday near the antique tractors at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. More information about his work can be found on the Facebook page “Chainsaw Carvings by tim crager.”
“I love being able to perform and show people how these things are created,” Crager said. “People say I make it look easy, but it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.