SIDNEY – Tim Crager didn’t consider himself artistic and had limited experience using a chainsaw when he quit his job six years ago to become a full-time chainsaw wood carver.
In the years since he’s traveled across the Eastern and Midwestern United States selling his creations. He’s approaching 30,000 pieces completed and has sold more than $1 million in carvings.
“That’s basically how I’ve approached everything in life – fake it until you make it,” Crager said Tuesday at the Shelby County Fair where he was carving and selling his products. “And it’s worked out well.”
Crager, who hails from the small town of Garrett in eastern Kentucky, had seen a chainsaw wood carver when he was a child but hadn’t seen anyone do it for years until one day he got the urge to try it himself.
“I woke up in the middle of the night one night, on Mother’s Day, and had a thought … carve a bear,” he said. “Well, the next day, it was Mother’s Day, I get out, I start cutting down a log. Well, instead of spending it with my mom or my kids’ mom, I ended up carving all day. Well, that was the gift to one of them then the next day was the gift to the other.”
He immediately knew he had found what he was meant to do with his life and before he had ever sold a piece quit his job and started pursing his newfound passion.
“The good Lord gave me the ability to do it, and the good Lord has been taking care of me with it, too,” Crager said.
Crager’s job takes him from Florida to New York, Illinois to Texas, and everywhere in between. He’s on the road from the first week of April until Christmas, generally enjoying his nomadic lifestyle.
“I’ve got that gypsy heart, that gypsy soul,” he said. “One part that I don’t like is I’m away from my little girls.
“It makes it rough sometimes, but it’s all right, though. We make it work in the end.”
Crager has three daughters, ages 7, 8 and 14. He tries to make it home between shows to visit his girls or have someone bring them to the festivals and fairs he’s working so they can see each other.
His daughters have artistic talent, he said, and sometimes they’ll help him paint and stain his pieces. They’ve also started following in their father’s footsteps to create their own carvings.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen girls’ artwork with a chainsaw, but it’s just so uniquely different that you know a girl’s done it,” Crager said. “They’ve got a different process and a different flair about them, and I like it.”
To make his carvings, Crager mainly uses a Stihl MS 193 T chainsaw.
He’ll use any type of wood but prefers white pine. It’s lighter and easier to move plus it doesn’t crack as badly as some other types of wood.
Additionally, white pine tends to be readily available from the tree trimming companies he gets his materials from as most people want other types of wood for their non-carving needs.
When he carves, Crager lets the saw and the grain of the wood guide him. About half of the time he knows what he wants to make when he begins a project, but sometimes plans change in the middle of a project.
“Sometimes I don’t know until I lay that saw into it,” he said. “Sometimes, yeah, I know what I’m supposed to be carving beforehand, but the log speaks to you. It will tell you what it wants to become.”
Some pieces can be completed in just a few minutes though most take about an hour on average. His prices range from $25 to $4,700.
“In the heart of coal country, where we live, the coal’s gone and the money’s gone,” he said. “But I still price things accordingly to what I would be able to sell them at at home.”
The most expensive carving Crager ever created is a crucifix that took more than a week to complete. It’s something he wanted to make for more than three years, and he finally got a chance to do it.
Crager’s favorite pieces are the ones he’s never attempted, such as the crucifix or a dragon he recently finished. His customers, meanwhile, tend to like bears.
“I don’t care where you go, you will sell a bear – everywhere,” Crager said. “You’ll usually sell about five bears to one other and that means owls, eagles, horses, pigs, Brutus (Buckeye).”
Crager does take requests and even makes pieces modeled after real animals.
“Sometimes it’s the grand champion winners, too, and it’s like heck, yeah,” he said, adding he enjoys making people happy.
More information about Crager and his carvings can be found on his Facebook page, Chainsaw Carvings by Tim Crager. He also can be reached by phone at 606-497-0395.
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