By BRAD HAIRE
Farm Press Editorial Staff
At the age of 30, Chad Gainey discovered he could do things with a chainsaw few other people could do. He demonstrated his new skill at the Sunbelt Ag Expo one year — and his career and life were changed.
Gainey can look at a log or hunk of wood, and from it carve almost any image or scene he wants, or his client wants, using only a
chainsaw, a tool many see as an intimidating, high-powered, roaring
danger. But in his hands, a chainsaw is a precision instrument, which
he deftly weilds to bring to life the subtle flow of a bird’s plumage or
the delicate features of a person’s face.
For most of his life, he didn’t know he was an artist. He found out
in a pretty practical way.
“My wife was making and selling candles at the farmers market.
So, I thought we needed something to add to our booth, and that
I’d try doing little tiki sculptures with a chainsaw. Tiki sculptures are
cut rough, and are supposed to be sort of ugly, so I figured I’d start
His tikis turned out to be pretty good, and sold at the market.
“Cool,” he thought, “this is something neat to do on weekends at the
farmers market with the family.” But more and more, as he held the
chainsaw in a new way, he realized tikis weren’t all he could form out
of wood. There had emerged a skill, a natural-born talent, he didn’t
know he had.
“I never really imagined I’d be able to do some of the stuff I’m
now doing,” he says. “The tikis started driving demand for other
things, and I started getting requests for fish and pelicans, then garden gnomes, and it just started expanding from there.” That was in
2011, and he was an agriculture teacher in Holmes County, Fla.
He continued honing his chainsaw skills and getting some local
attention, and a year later took his ag students on a field trip to the
Sunbelt Ag Expo. While there, he struck up a conversation with the
crew at the Husqvarna chainsaw section who were demonstrating
‘LE T’S SEE WHAT YOU CAN DO’
At first, he and the Husqvarna crew mostly talked about the com-
pany’s line of tools. Then he mentioned that he did a little chainsaw
sculpting on the side. OK, they said, let’s see what you can do. So,
Gainey took a chainsaw and did just that. They were impressed and
told him to keep in touch and “see what happens.”
He did stay in touch, but he didn’t instantly go from being an ag
teacher to being a fulltime chainsaw sculptor. There were some shifts
in Husqvarna’s upper management, and his primary contact with the
company left. It was two years before his relationship with the com-
pany was reestablished.
Then, things did work out, and now Gainey is not an ag teacher
anymore — even though he liked the job. Since 2014, he has been
a full-time, traveling chainsaw sculptor who contracts to perform
about two dozen shows and dealer events for Husqvarna each year.
His calendar for non-company sculpting work is also full.
His work has taken him around the country. He is one of only four
chainsaw sculptors in the U.S. who contract with a major company.
The other three sculptors form the Echo chainsaw carving team.
Gainey has carved sculptures depicting a wide-range of scenes
and images — from dolphins playing in waves, to life-sized Bigfoots,
pirates scowling, Labrador pups humbly retrieving ducks, an old
man’s weathered face with his whiskers flowing in the breeze, giant
Bald Eagles proudly perched or landing, and much more.
Gainey’s wife is Mandy, and they have three children: Lily, 6,
Emma, 4, and Tanner, 6 months. The family is now based in Washington County, Fla, but they travel with him and the school age kids are
“They get to see quite a lot when we go places,” Gainey says. “We
try to incorporate things they do and say in a field trip sort of way,
and we take days to see and learn about an area.”
‘IT’S LIKE A BIG PUZZLE’
The simple way to explain how he goes about his craft is to say he
looks at a piece of wood, gets the image he wants in his head, and
then cuts and trims away all the wood not needed to make the image or scene.
“But it’s more complicated than that,” he says. “It’s like a big puz-
zle, but instead of piecing something together, you’re taking pieces
away. You have to do it by establishing certain points from which to
work. For example, pinpointing where an arm will go in relation to
the shoulder, neck, or head of a sculpture, or where a bird’s eye will
be in relation to its beak.”
Some things, like owl sculptures, he has done many times and
can complete one from start to finish in less than an hour. The largest
piece — and longest time he ever spent on a sculpture — was for a
private client and the work took 10 days to complete. He’ll have to
describe that work:
“It was a big oak tree right in front of somebody’s house. They
actually built the house around it. The tree died, and they had to take
it down but they left it at 25 feet tall. It kind of forked off, and one of
the forks forked again. It has a flying pelican at the top and another
perched on a limb, and that section comes down the tree trunk.
“Then there is like a big wave that separates the water portion,
where there is a marlin swimming down through a school of fish,
and the fish are schooling back up the branch that goes to the left.
Then there are two dolphins jumping on that branch, which sort of
hangs over the house. On the back, there is another school of fish
and another dolphin going up that same branch.”
will amaze with demos
at Husqvarna exhibit
Chad Gainey will demonstrate his chainsaw at the Husqvarna exhibit at this
year’s Sunbelt Expo.