Making something out of nothing

Wood carver stumps nature
By Beth A. Birmingham | Apr 14, 2014
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Attention to detail is key to Dan Burns' chainsaw carving as the finished product is permanent. Here he works on one of four carvings in Warren April 2.

Warren — When Doug Barnes had four large trees cut down in his yard, he was looking for something unique to do with the 6-foot stumps that remained.

A regular ride to Togus Veterans' Hospital in Augusta gave him an idea — chainsaw carved animals.

A stop into MacKenzie Power Equipment on Route 17 introduced Barnes to chainsaw carving artist Dan Burns.

"I saw some of his work on display out in front of the shop and thought how cool it would be," said Barnes. Within a couple days Burns made the trip to Warren to begin the project of carving three eagles and a bear at Barnes' Medomak Valley Court residence.

Burns has been chainsaw carving for three years, after a long stint of waiting tables and running restaurants.

"I love doing this," said Burns during his work on the project April 2. "I am an artist in Maine and making money at it," he joked, "that's never heard of."

Burns attended the University of Southern Maine and received a degree in fine arts, and is one of only 20 chainsaw carving artists in the state that compete in competitions.

Carving animals from eagles to bears to wolves, Burns said the most difficult thing to carve is a person's actual pet. "They can show me pictures and talk to me about their pets, but the result is my interpretation of what they tell me," said Burns.

"It is so special to see my work in different places," he said, adding "it's permanent so you can't mess up."

The process is simple for Burns — he envisions a piece and goes to work. First carving the outline, then shaping it to size, then adding detail with back and forth chainsaw movement.

When the piece is ready, he then uses a blow torch to seal in the sap and add further detail, then, if needed, it is painted. Each piece is unique. Just what Barnes was looking for.

Burns donates the wood chips he accumulates from his carving to local farms, and sells his scrap wood for kindling. "Nothing goes to waste," he said.

Through his online company, he has also started up a school fundraiser with Scholastic Books.

Kids can send him an essay on why their school needs books, he picks a winner and chooses a piece of his artwork to auction online. The winning bidder sends Burns a check made out to the winning student's teacher, and the teacher can go through Scholastic Books for supplies.

"Reading is so important," said Burns, who has a 4-year-old daughter Kadie Louise and a 9-year-old step-son Sam.

To learn more about Burns' chainsaw carving, visit his website or Facebook page.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via  email at

A chip here and there with a chainsaw brings this eagle to life April 2 as artist Dan Burns works his magic in Warren. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Down to the last detail, chainsaw artist Dan Burns works on one of four pieces for Doug Barnes in Warren April 2. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Using a blowtorch, chainsaw carver Dan Burns brings out the detail of his artistry and seals in the wood's sap. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Adding color to the eagle's head. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
A final coat of black paint is applied by chainsaw carver Dan Burns of Augusta, who was commissioned by Warren resident Doug Barnes to make four large tree stumps come to life. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Chainsaw carver Dan Burns begins a third piece of art April 2. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Doug Barnes of Warren enjoys the view of one of four chainsaw carvings he had completed on his property April 2. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
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