UPPER MARLBORO – When one thinks of chainsaws, art is not normally the first thing that comes to mind. But artist Heath Bender—who works with chainsaws and other power tools—sees things differently. Bender put his work on display during the Prince George’s County Fair last weekend. The fair lasted from Sept. 4-7, and featured artists, […]
UPPER MARLBORO – When one thinks of chainsaws, art is not normally the first thing that comes to mind. But artist Heath Bender—who works with chainsaws and other power tools—sees things differently.
Bender put his work on display during the Prince George’s County Fair last weekend. The fair lasted from Sept. 4-7, and featured artists, a NASCAR simulator and tons of carnival rides. The fair is the oldest running one in Maryland.
Bender showed off his collection of art, which included three bears, a dog, a bald eagle, two swans and a three-headed wolf piece—all made by using a chainsaw.
“It’s really amazing,” said Lindsay Smith, a spectator. “The amount of detail he puts into the art is really amazing.”
Bender compared his art process to Michelangelo’s from the Renaissance.
“Carving, whether it’s in stone or wood, is finding what’s in it, locking that image in your head and taking away everything that doesn’t belong,” Bender said.
Working with a chainsaw speeds up the creation process, Bender said.
Bender said his passion for art started in high school when he honed his illustration work and hand-eye skills.
“It’s basically the same thing with a chainsaw, except with a different tool,” Bender said. “Instead of a pencil, it’s 100 sharp, moving, little chisels.”
Bender said his motivation for using a chainsaw comes from his dad, who started Christmas Presents, a wood carving company, in 1985.
Bender said he carved his first piece in 1991. He practiced for 12 years and started carving full-time in 2003. His wife, Hillary, carves pieces as well and they live together making a living off of their art.
Bender and his wife travel all around the country to attend competitions and offer to make custom pieces for people with requests on their website.
Bender uses chainsaws, a flamethrower and a drill when creating his pieces. He said he has only ever received a “little nick” when working with chainsaws.
While Bender has been fortunate, he said his luck with the tools comes from his respect for them. “You’ve got to respect the tool, understand how it works and how it’s going to react to the wood before you even put it in the wood,” Bender said. “That only comes with practice, with time behind the saw and feeling how it reacts.”
Specialized carving bars, Bender said, help as well because they reduce the chance of kickback from the chainsaw. However, the threat is not removed completely, though.
“They brought the safety level up quite a bit because there’s less chance of kickback, not to say it doesn’t happen,” Bender said. “But they do make it much, much safer.”
Bender said the carving bar also helps him make his art more detailed.
As for his favorite thing to carve, Bender said he is not sure.
“For four years now it’s all been custom orders,” Bender said. “I specialize in doing custom pieces. Whether it’s the family pet or a certain configuration of animals, I do what people tell me to do.”
Custom requests can be made at www.HBCchainsawsculptures.com.