Butler County expects up to 30K people at its first chansaw-carving competition

| Sunday, May 5, 2013, 11:50 a.m.

Ken Tynan of Butler used to paint billboards, an occupation in which opportunity became limited with the development of digital billboards.

He now carves, but most of the time not with his hands. Tynan is a practitioner of the increasingly popular art of chainsaw carving.

“I wanted to carve as big as I painted,” said Tynan, whose carvings include superheroes, such as the Incredible Hulk, that stand 8 feet tall.

Next weekend, Tynan, 53, will be one of about 30 artists participating in the Butler County Chainsaw Carving Invitational at the Butler Farm Show Grounds.

It's the first such competition ever held in Butler.

“This could turn into a major event that we'll do annually. We are expecting 20,000 to 30,000 people to attend,” said Jack Cohen, president of the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau, which is promoting the event.

“It's the top 25 to 30 carvers in the country. It is not local people, for the most part,” he said.

Carving is an ancient art. Yet chainsaw carving can be traced only back to the 1950s, when lumberjacks invented it.

Its appeal has grown with TV shows featuring chainsaw carving, such as “Saw Dogs,” said Tynan, who is self-taught. Competitions and shows have spread from North America to Europe and even Japan.

Tynan first saw chainsaw carving at the Iowa State Fair in the 1980s. Since then, he has produced thousands of carvings, most of them large.

“I'm kind of known for human carvings. I especially like carving superheroes,” he said.

He's also working on a long-term project for the town of Mason, Mich., large carvings of a soldier from each of eight major American wars. He's finished six of the carvings, which will be displayed in a public building there.

Tynan puts final detail to his carvings with sanders and chisels. “But the chainsaw is the primary tool,” Tynan said.

Chainsaws make carving much faster than it would otherwise be. With sawdust flying and lots of noise, they also make it more dramatic.

Yet a chainsaw is an unwieldy and perhaps dangerous machine.

“You just develop the muscles to handle it. You are able to anticipate what a saw does. There are certain angles. Chainsaws are much lighter than they used to be, but holding a 7-pound chainsaw all day gets tiring,” he said.

The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 10 to 12. At the end of the weekend, there will be an auction of some of the carvings.

Admission is $5. Children 12 and under are free.

For more information, call 1-866-856-8444 or visit www.VisitButlerCounty.com.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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