For the second year in a row, Hackensack chain saw sculptor Chris Kuehn was among the best of the best at the US Open Chainsaw Sculpture Championships Aug. 1-4 in Eau Claire, Wis.
Kuehn, owner of Detour North, was there to defend his title from his win at the Lake Superior Championships held last August in Superior, Wis.
This year’s championship had the usual favorites, notably Takao Hyashi and Hikaru Kodama, both of Japan, and Steve Higgins of Missouri.
Others joining Kuehn and the favorites in the master class carving lineup were
Chris Woods - Wales, England
Raimondas Uzdravis - Lithuania
Brandon Kroon - Australia
John Hayes - Ireland
Jorge Bassler - Germany
Dave Marshalek - Tennessee
Corey Worden - Alabama
Kuehn says he got the inspiration for this year’s carving on the way home from last year’s win. Twelve years ago, he did a painting called “Walleyes for Breakfast,” of a bear looking hungrily into an empty canoe that had a stringer of fresh walleyes hanging in the water. He knew he wanted to capture that scene in 3-D, so after a year of designing and redesigning, he was ready to carve.
The competition started dramatically Thursday morning when Australia’s Brandon Kroon began suffering sharp pains in his side. Just hours into the competition, Kroon found himelf in surgery to remove his appendix. Since Kroon had to drop out of the competition, this mean he had no chance to bring home any prize money.
Exemplifying the camaraderie that exists in the chainsaw carving community, the 10 carvers each donated a carving to the auction with Kroon to receive 100 percent of auction proceeds to help cover his expenses.
“Many carvers don’t believe you can carve to win and also have a high auction price,” Kuehn commented. Most competitions conclude with an auction where the carver receives a percent of the total. Kuehn says he strives to do both while producing a piece that reflects his own artistic angle.
On the final day of competition, after 26 hours working on his masterpiece, Kuehn was awarded third place, with the top three finishers all being Americans:
1st — Steve Higgins
2nd — Corey Worden
3rd — Chris Kuehn
4th — Chris Wood.
Kuehn also had the high auction price; his masterpiece sold for $6,000, more than double what the next piece went for.
Also notable was that for the first time ever in this event, Takao Hayashi of Japan did not finish in the top four.
Kuehn has already accepted an invitation to the Lake Superior Sculpture Championships in Superior, Wis., in 2020. The US Open and the Lake Superior are bi-annual “sister” events held in alternating years.
And yes, Kuehn is already planning what he is going to carve next year.