Arts & Culture

Five Minutes With: Todd Lynd, chainsaw artist

A chainsaw can be more than a blunt instrument. It can create art. Todd Lynd has done it. He has the carvings (and scars) to prove it.

The St. Helena Island artist works in wood, creating fish, birds and other wildlife. The main difference between him and others in his medium is that he uses a chainsaw to carve the entire piece.

Lynd describes how chainsaw art can take nicks out of more than just wood if you're not careful.

Question. How long have you been doing chainsaw carving?

Answer. I've been doing it for about 20 years. I'm originally from Montana. I picked up my skills building log cabins up there. I basically started using the chopped off ends of the logs, and I started using those to make sculpture. It's basically taking a chainsaw to its extreme limits.

Q. What type of chainsaw do you use?

A. Over the years I've gone lighter and lighter. Weight is an issue. I've got a Stihl. They're a pretty lightweight chainsaw. It's basically what someone would use around the house to cut wood.

Q. Do you do it all with the chainsaw or do you use other tools for the details?

A. That's kind of what I'm known for. I don't use any other tools except a chainsaw. All my smoothing cuts or when I have to put scales on a fish or something like that, it's just nicks of the chainsaw. You have it down on full speed and you just touch that piece of wood. I hold it down with my foot. All the little stuff, I hold with my foot while I cut.

Q. Was it difficult to make the transition into chainsaw art?

A. At first it was difficult ... because it works completely different than sculpture. Visualizing the shape was similar, but with wood you're basically taking away material for a shape and with clay you're building a shape. One's positive, one's negative.

Q. Do you have many accidents?

A. I'm missing part of my leg and one big toe.

Q. What happened?

A. The one on my leg, I was using a chainsaw flat and laterally. Basically, your leg is always at the end of one of your cuts to hold the wood. So if you pop out of your cut or your saw bounces, your leg is at the end of it. The toe was similar.

Q. So, kids shouldn't try this at home.

A. Between that and kick backs. ... You get kick backs if you hit the wood wrong. Sometimes it jumps. You just have to keep that in mind that something like that can happen.