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Chainsaw carving’s magical maestros

Author:  James Hendrie
Last Updated:  08/12/2023

James Hendrie

The first two Saturdays in September saw some of the best chainsaw carvers come to Scotland to participate in events at Carrbridge in the Highlands and Beith in North Ayrshire.

Both events this year were celebrating landmarks. Carve Carrbridge, which is the Scottish Open Chainsaw competition, was running for its 20th time, while the newer Garnock Valley Carves was celebrating five years.

Chainsaw carving is a relatively new artform but has grown fast and attracts people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some bring forestry skills, some bring art talent, but quite a few come to it having had careers in other areas as diverse as sports, the police and the fire service, while others hold down jobs, including in the arb sector, and still find time to carve. To the public they are all magical maestros who can turn a lump of wood into amazing carvings.

Carve Carrbridge winner Lkhagvadorj Dorjsuren.

Carve Carrbridge winner Lkhagvadorj Dorjsuren.

Garnock Valley Carves winner Sylvia Itzen.

Garnock Valley Carves winner Sylvia Itzen.

Carve Carrbridge started off running alongside the World Porridge Making Championships that the village is famous for and then became a standalone event, which is recognised as being one of the best amongst carvers across the globe. It is solely a chainsaw carving competition: carvers are not allowed to use other tools, powered or otherwise. However, at both events the carvers have to work within a four-hour carving time window, meaning there is a requirement to speed carve! Garnock Valley Carves, in contrast, allows the use of other tools and lets the carvers do preparatory work on their wood prior before the start. It is also not seen as a competitive carving event, although it does offer prizes to the top carvers.

Both events begin with the carvers being piped into the carving arena for a 10am start. They then carve for two hours before breaking for lunch. This Main Carve, as it is known, recommences at 1pm for the final two hours, and during this time the judging is carried out. The Main Carve is then complete and the carvers select logs for the 30-minute Quick Carve at 3.30pm. The day ends with the awards ceremony and an auction of the carvings produced. The proceeds from the Quick Carvings remain with the organisers to be used to support local projects and groups, while those from the Main Carve go to the carvers themselves. The auction itself is quite an experience and carvings can sell for four figure sums.

At Carve Carrbridge, Mongolian carver Lkhagvadorj Dorjsuren achieved the quadruple when he won all of the awards.

He picked up Best New Entrant, Carver’s Choice, People’s Choice and First Prize with his carving called Hairy of a Highland cow and calf. Amazingly, this was his first four-hour carving event; he is more used to ten-day events. Lkhagvadorj decided to carve a Highland cow after carrying out internet research about Scotland. Runner-up was Scottish-based carver Jonny Stableford with his carving Ya Wee Dancer of a man dancing in full Highland dress. Sam Bowsher, again from Scotland, and the previous year’s winner, was third with his carving Live, Giraffe, Love, a carving of a giraffe and her calf. Eighteen carvers took part at Carrbridge, including two international carvers. Sylvia Itzen, from Germany, was the other international competitor.

Sylvia achieved the double at Garnock Valley Carves by winning the event and being selected as the People’s Choice. Her carving Timber Bench was a stunning forester’s bench, featuring chainsaw and axe arms with a crosscut saw back! Welsh carver Ian Williams was runner-up with his Meerkat Manor carving. While Pete Bowsher’s Bear Buddies carving was third. While this was technically Sylvia’s first appearance, she did do an impromptu carving in the town in 2020 after the late cancellation of that year’s event due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Pete, a world renowned and recognised carver, has been a big supporter of both events since they started. He is a past winner, eight times at Carrbridge and once at Garnock Valley. He has also been placed and picked up the People’s Award at both on a number of occasions.

Teams of volunteers, who work tirelessly to make the events successful, are led at Carrbridge by Gavin Gerrard and at Garnock Valley by Norrie and Rose Brown.

Diary dates

Carve Carrbridge, 31st August 2024: www.carvecarrbridge.com

Garnock Valley Carves, 7th September 2024: www.garnockvalleycarves.com/

This article was taken from Issue 203 Winter 2023 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.