When his career in the aviation sector was thrown into doubt, Bob King made the bold choice to channel his energies into his hobby of chainsaw carving – and he hasn’t looked back.

BOB King, based in Summer, Washington, USA, is widely recognised around the world as a chainsaw sculptor of high repute and much skill. He carves for clients both private and corporate, and attends competitions in the US and Europe, allowing a larger audience to witness his talents close up. He has in the past described is work as ‘poetic pandemonium’, meaning there is lots going on all at one time and deafening noise, but the key for him is to keep focussed on his work, blocking out everything around.

Born and raised in the timber town of Reedsport, Oregon, Bob had an immediate connection with trees. As a kid, using a chainsaw was the norm, helping his dad cut firewood for the home. Yet Bob did not end up going into the forestry sector when the time came to make his career choices.

“Once out of high school I worked small jobs here and there, as a grocery store employee, fuel station attendant, restaurant employee, and ship yard labourer,” he said. “From there I enlisted in the United States Air Force for eight years as a non-destructive inspection specialist, then worked for five years in the civilian aircraft industry. My task was to identify any potential defects in aircraft systems and equipment, in effect carrying out preventative maintenance to make sure everything worked safely.”

Forestry Journal: A partially carved bald eagle from a western red cedar stump. This is located in Amboy, Washington, at their fairgrounds. It was carved in 2022.A partially carved bald eagle from a western red cedar stump. This is located in Amboy, Washington, at their fairgrounds. It was carved in 2022. (Image: FJ/BK)

Bob worked for a number of companies including Boeing until it had large-scale lay-offs in 2000. By this time, Bob had begun carving as a hobby, having witnessed the work of a chainsaw artist a couple of years before at a local fair.

“I mentioned to my wife Cindy that I would like to buy a carving,” he said. “Her reply was that we really could not afford one, but I should try to make one myself. All I had at the time was a big Husqvarna saw I used to cut firewood. I spread the word where I was working that I wanted some cedar, the preferred wood for carving in my area.

My first bear was rustic, but I took it to work to show the guys. I was surprised to have a couple of offers to buy it. With the money I received from my first carvings, I bought better saws.”

The Boeing cutbacks prompted Bob to turn his hobby into more of a career. In the early days, he found the internet was a great way of getting his name out there. He also found that attending shows helped to get exposure and build a customer base.

“If someone is just getting started I recommend buying a lot of business cards and giving them out every chance they get,” he said. “Post your work on social media platforms as often as possible. Make yourself easy to find by having a website. Nearly all of the work I do comes from commissions and word-of-mouth advertising. Sometimes I am surprised by the people that contact me.


Forestry Journal:  A sculpture of a navy seaman with his young daughter ready for the customer. A sculpture of a navy seaman with his young daughter ready for the customer. (Image: FJ/BK)

“I’ve had the pleasure of working for many large companies such as Disney, Burton Snowboards, Lucas Films and CC Filson outfitters. I sculpted a wolf along with a bald eagle sculpture as commission pieces for CC Filson. I was unaware it would be placed in its satellite store at Seattle International Airport. It is a wonderful surprise when folks contact me and let me know they saw my work at the airport.

“I have enjoyed sculpting for the Seattle Kraken, a professional ice-hockey team.

They play their home games at Climate Pledge Arena. One of the sculptures was of a tentacle, which is part of the Kraken logo, which was carved live at one of their games in the foyer in 2022. Another sculpture depicting the mascot Buoy was also done during a Kraken home game in 2023. The head was finished, cut from the body and a spring was adapted to create a bobblehead. So much fun to do.”

Forestry Journal: Eworks produced for the Burton Star Wars Experience Park at the Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort.Eworks produced for the Burton Star Wars Experience Park at the Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort. (Image: FJ/BK)

Now based in Edgewood, Washington, Bob still attends shows, covering several each year. One particular favourite is Mulda at Blockhausen in Germany, a sprawling wooded estate maintaining hundreds of sculptures from artists all over the world.

For these shows, Bob tries to ensure he has some stock to sell. Each year he also attends four or five carving competitions, mostly in California, Oregon and Washington. Despite carving at events for 30 years, Bob still gets a buzz from attending and competing at them.

“I learned early on that I am quite fast at the process of chainsaw sculpture and I’ve been given the gift of being able to closely replicate my subject,” he said. “For me there is an excitement that goes along with carving a large, detailed piece that can tell a story and perhaps make viewers feel something. The icing on the cake is that if you place well in the competition there is a monetary reward as well as the accomplishment of besting your competitors.

“The more successful you are, the more sought after you become at the many festivals, competitions and shows around the world. As for favourites I would say that each I attend has its own appeal and we look forward to being there to communicate, learn, and carve with fellow artists.

“I really love the instant gratification that chainsaw sculpture gives. In just 30 minutes, one can create something tangible and wonderful. It is reductive in nature, so there is an element of fear that keeps you on your toes because you cannot put it back. A mistake made with a chainsaw is typically a big one. It is a physically demanding process. It can wear on your arms and hands over time, your back as well if you choose to be a human forklift instead of getting help to move your materials.”

Bob attended Carve Carrbridge in 2009 and 2010, winning the event in his first year with a magnificent carving of a standing cougar. I know from covering the event each year for Forestry Journal that, more than a decade on, that carving is still talked about. 

“Carrbridge is basically a four-hour speed carve,” said Bob. “That is all you get, four hours. After travelling from Seattle to Scotland, I am still amazed I could pull that piece out in such a short amount of time. No time to think, you just carve with all of your instincts and some luck mixed in, I believe.”

With the help of Patricia Dwelley, Bob was instrumental in setting up the Oregon Divisional Chainsaw Sculpture Championship in his home town of Reedsport. 2000 was the first running of this annual event, which is held on Father’s Day weekend, and attracts carvers from around the world.


He said: “Back in 2014 at Reedsport, I carved a sculpture of the Archangel Michael slaying the devil. I sustained a back injury early in the process, losing most of a day.

"My awesome wife carried on and worked as best as she could within the helper’s guidelines to continue some progress. We finished it and placed first. Unbelievable. Thanks Cindy!”

While Bob has attended many carving competitions across the USA and around the world, he well remembers what it was like in the early days of his career.

“A time that stands out in my mind was at my first big competition,” he said. “I went by myself, with my wife joining me after the kids got out of school. She looked at my carving and said, ‘I didn’t know you could do that’. I replied honestly, ‘I didn’t know I could either’. I was surprised at the things I could do with the chainsaw and was addicted to pushing myself a bit more each time I was competing.”  

I put Bob on the spot for this feature by asking him to select five of his most favourite sculptures.

“Well, yes, that is difficult,” he said. “But here goes. ‘The Grim Reaper (Angel of Death)’ was carved at Blockhausen, Germany, taking first place. The skull deep within the Grim Reaper’s hood swings in the breeze, nodding. My ‘Eagle Dancer (Native American)’, also located at Blockhausen, was carved in 2022, placing second, while ‘King Otto on horseback’ is another larger-than-life piece, a team effort with me and two other US artists. I also carved pair of soccer players as a commission for Microsoft which is now located at the Portland Timbers Providence Park stadium.

Forestry Journal: The Eagle Dancer carving is now located in the Shaman Circle at Blockhausen in Germany.The Eagle Dancer carving is now located in the Shaman Circle at Blockhausen in Germany. (Image: FJ/BK)

“My final choice would be the ‘Warrior Viking’ I carved in Horsens, Denmark. I placed first with it and what an amazing task too. I was last to pick my log out of a group of international artists. All of the best were spoken for, so I was relegated to dig through a scrap pile of wood to find anything I could work with. The log I chose was crooked and odd, but it had some character. After staring at it a bit I had a vision, made a cut, stood it up on that cut and there he was. I really did not have to remove much material. Incidentally, the severed head has my likeness and is pinned in the Viking’s hand so that it swings in the breeze.”

Equipment and tools are an important part of a chainsaw carver’s armoury. Bob is sponsored by Makita USA and so primarily uses its products. On the saw side, it is actually Sachs Dolmar saws that he uses. Makita bought the business a few years back but continues to manufacture them in Germany. While he operates with a range of these saws, he has no specific models he favours. For him, the best saw is “the one that’s sharp, fuelled up and in my hands”.

On the tool side, Bob is a supporter of South Korean Manpa tools. He has two power gouges that he uses all of the time, one a Harrycane and the other made by Eder.

Both for Bob are “game changers for speed”. Canon Bar Works, from Canada, makes his reliable carving bars, while for detailed carving work, Bob loves Japanese Tsumura bars, which he describes as being “super thin”. For the finishing work on the sculptures, Bob believes that there is no better rotary bit than the USA Sarburtooth.

Forestry Journal:  Cindy and Bob working together at Reedsport, Oregon in 2022. Cindy and Bob working together at Reedsport, Oregon in 2022. (Image: FJ/BK)

Bob is now in the position to be selective about the work he takes on, and with an eye on retirement he sees this as being a wonderful situation to be in. Looking to the future, as long as his body allows it, he plans to continue scuttling here and there, doing what he enjoys and has built a highly successful second career in.

He has enjoyed his time carving but is quick to point out that it was not always plain sailing to get to where he is today.

“When I first started, I had no idea where it would take me, the friends I would make or the places I would go,” he said. “It was not easy. I remember early months when I needed to make money to make the mortgage payment, so instead of carving I had my Bobcat out shovelling up horse manure. Sometimes to live the dream, you have to do things that are not part of the big picture. Those tough times taught me to always live below my means and put any extra in a savings account knowing my paychecks were no longer guaranteed. And looking back at my career, there is not much that I would change.”