Massive eagle sculpture stopping traffic in Hampton
Fred Nulph was not ready to part with a tree on his property that Duquesne Light Co. employees partially cut down in order to gain better access to power lines.
His solution is literally stopping traffic in his Hampton neighborhood, he said.
In early October, Nulph, 65, commissioned chainsaw carver Ken Tynan to fashion the remaining oak trunk into an eagle sculpture with a more than 5-foot diameter and more than 6-foot length from the bird's beak to tail.
“I have a statue of an eagle in the basement, and we just figured it would look nice out there,” Nulph said of the design. “If there is any kind of significance it would be a Harley-Davidson significance: I have a tattoo on my arm with an eagle and a bar and shield.”
A retired nuclear power plant maintenance technician, Nulph learned about Tynan's carvings through a friend who had hired the artist to create a bear sculpture.
Tynan, 58, started hand carving wood at 40, mostly using chisels. After taking one course, he beat his instructor in a competition.
The former billboard painter switched to chainsaw carving, which allowed him to remove larger portions of wood at a time.
“I quickly learned that you can go a long way with a chainsaw. You can get almost down to the final detail and then I use the chisels at the end at the eyes for the important parts that people see, just to bring stuff to life.”
Tynan, of Butler, has continued to place in international carving competitions and appeared on the Canadian Discovery Channel series “Saw Dogs.”
He said his shop contains “tens of thousands of dollars' worth of tools,” including chainsaws, grinders, finger sanders, rotors, rotor bits, sandpaper and modified tools to construct his subjects' teeth, eyes, fur and claws.
Common sculpture requests include eagles, wolves, dogs and people.
Tynan recalled a bear in a tree for placement at a gravesite, a raised middle finger pointing at a neighbor's house and “The Incredible Hulk” as more unusual orders. Mother Theresa and Roberto Clemente carvings, the latter of which appears at Cranberry's Graham Park, are among his favorites.
With commissioned work, Tynan said he gets a design vision and selects a log — usually white pine — from his shop, unless he is working from wood someone supplies.
Then, he might search for online images as inspiration. If he gets stuck, he will sketch on the wood, first. When he's ready to start cutting, he whittles from the top down.
“You can only sketch so much, but then you got to put that saw into wood and just go.”
Tynan's sculptures cost between hundreds to thousands of dollars. He said Nulph's was more than a thousand dollars. “It was a big tree. That tree beat up my saws. That wood was so hard. That's why I thought it would take a day and a half and it took a week.”
Business isn't slowing down for Tynan.
“Every time I finish one, I have another order or two or three waiting.”
Nulph is getting accustomed to his sculpture's reaction.
“People drive by here and take pictures and people yell out, ‘Nice eagle.' It causes traffic jams.”
He doesn't seem to mind the attention, though.
“I kind of figured that this thing was going to be kind of awesome with people gawking at it.”
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.