Mark Tyoe is a talented chainsaw artist and the co-owner of Wintergreen Knoll Chainsaw sculptures in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. He runs the business along with his wife Linda; together, they sell Mark’s unique chainsaw carvings that he’s been making since the 1990’s. Mark is really good at transforming a solid block of wood into a beautiful sculpture, using nothing but a chainsaw.
“Everything I do on my carvings is with a chainsaw,” he said. “I’m kind of a purist about using one tool.” A chainsaw is hardly the ideal tool for artists, so it’s really a wonder that Mark manages to use one to create such delicate details. He doesn’t grind or sand, and he doesn’t use screws, nails or paint.
“What we use for the detail is a dime tip carving bar,” he explained. “That’s what the chain rolls on, and the tip of it without the chain on it is the size of a dime. So, that allows us to make eyes, ears and a nose. I try to be realistic, a lot of details, correct proportion, anatomy, bone structure, posture.”
Mark can carve all sorts of Northeast wildlife like soaring eagles, grizzled mountain men and wolves from white pine wood. But he specializes in making bears and bear-scenes – his latest sculpture is of a mama bear reaching for a honeycomb in a tree trunk with her cubs at her feet. Every detail is perfectly in place, down to the mama bear’s fur.
“Bears always fascinate people,” he explained. “I mean, if I could have a real bear for a pet, even for a model, for inspiration, I would. But it wouldn’t be the right thing to do, for the bear.”
There’s a reason he uses white pine as well – once known as the King’s Wood, it is soft and large in diameter when left to grow. “The main thing with white pine is that it makes a quality product,” said Mark. He tries to avoid cracking by getting rid of the heart of the wood (where cracking is more likely). To protect the finished product, he also adds protective finishes.
Mark has been artistic since childhood, but he turned to wood carving as a profession only after he got laid off from GE. It actually caught his fancy 10 years ago, when he met another carver during a vacation at Lake George. So when he lost his job in his 30s, he decided to give it a try. Today, he’s able to use his craft to fulfill his artistic passion and also provide well for his family.
At his first show, Mark managed to make $1,000. Since then, there’s been no looking back for the exceptionally talented artist. He has won several awards in regional chainsaw carving competitions, and he does custom orders as well. He can churn out hundreds of bear sculptures a year, and each one is sold for over $200. The mama bear scene will be priced at at least $3,500.
Mark said that he doesn’t even put in a lot of thought or planning into his sculptures. “I just use my imagination. No sketching. Stand up a piece of wood and visualize what I want and start on the tip of the nose.” In the 1990’s, he won the Northeast Chainsaw Carving Championship five times in a row. He was the Mid-Atlantic Champion in carving in the year 2000, the Extreme Power Champion in 2003 and the International Extreme Power Carving Champion in 2005. The pieces that he makes for these events are auctioned off to help fund the next year’s event.
Chainsaw art is apparently a real thing; it is slowly gaining popularity, with over 100 artists across the United States doing it full time. But Mark is different from other chainsaw artists. According to Milton Lowden who runs the website chainsawsculptors.com, Mark is one of the rare ones who use no other tools apart from the chainsaw. “He and a few others are purists that way, and that’s what sets them aside,” said Lowden.
Apart from bears and other animals, Mark also transforms wood into benches, umbrella stands, lamps, clocks, wall hangings and more. His carving style is quite reminiscent of the ‘Black Forest’ style of the late 1800’s.