Topsham artist carves out his living — with a chain saw

Posted Jan. 22, 2013, at 6:26 a.m.
Josh Turner uses the tip of his chain saw to add detail to a bear sculpted from a pine log Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, in Topsham.
Robert F. Bukaty
Josh Turner uses the tip of his chain saw to add detail to a bear sculpted from a pine log Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, in Topsham.
Chain saw artist Josh Turner sketches a bear after squaring a pine log at his work location in Topsham on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. "€œSometimes I use a pencil to give myself markings to go by, but mostly I go in and start cutting. It almost always seems to come together in the end, and I'm like, 'Wow, how did I do that?'"
Robert F. Bukaty
Chain saw artist Josh Turner sketches a bear after squaring a pine log at his work location in Topsham on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. "€œSometimes I use a pencil to give myself markings to go by, but mostly I go in and start cutting. It almost always seems to come together in the end, and I'm like, 'Wow, how did I do that?'"
Thirty minutes after he started, a bear emerges from a cloud of sawdust from Josh Turner's chain saw on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, in Topsham.
Robert F. Bukaty
Thirty minutes after he started, a bear emerges from a cloud of sawdust from Josh Turner's chain saw on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, in Topsham.
Chain saw artist Josh Turner steps back to examine his work while sculpting a bear on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. Turner creates his art in a lot at the intersection of Route 201 and Bradley Pond Road in Topsham.
Robert F. Bukaty
Chain saw artist Josh Turner steps back to examine his work while sculpting a bear on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. Turner creates his art in a lot at the intersection of Route 201 and Bradley Pond Road in Topsham.
Josh Turner blows sawdust from a bear he sculpted with a chain saw on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, in Topsham.
Robert F. Bukaty
Josh Turner blows sawdust from a bear he sculpted with a chain saw on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, in Topsham.
Turner examines his chain on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, in Topsham. An artist to the core, Turner sports a &quotfeather-hawk" haircut. A young visitor once thought he had a lizard on his head.
Robert F. Bukaty
Turner examines his chain on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, in Topsham. An artist to the core, Turner sports a "feather-hawk" haircut. A young visitor once thought he had a lizard on his head.
Turner uses three regular chain saws to create his art. The only modification is a handle he added to the bar of the saw he uses for detail work.
Robert F. Bukaty
Turner uses three regular chain saws to create his art. The only modification is a handle he added to the bar of the saw he uses for detail work.
Josh Turner examines a miniature deer head he carved, on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, in Topsham. It is the smallest carving he's made in his four-year career as a professional chain saw artist.
Robert F. Bukaty
Josh Turner examines a miniature deer head he carved, on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, in Topsham. It is the smallest carving he's made in his four-year career as a professional chain saw artist.
A driver once followed Turner for 25 miles, waiting for him to pull over just so he could photograph a carving he was carrying on the roof of his jeep.
Robert F. Bukaty
A driver once followed Turner for 25 miles, waiting for him to pull over just so he could photograph a carving he was carrying on the roof of his jeep.
A 5-foot-tall bear was carved to hold anything from a rifle to a business sign — whatever the customer wants.
Robert F. Bukaty
A 5-foot-tall bear was carved to hold anything from a rifle to a business sign — whatever the customer wants.
A slab of wood was transformed into a river scene showing a brook trout fleeing a bear.
Robert F. Bukaty
A slab of wood was transformed into a river scene showing a brook trout fleeing a bear.
A 30-inch-tall carving depicts a bear performing a trick on a snowboard. &quotSomeone said he's got his feet on the board wrong, but I just said I guess bears ride snowboards different than we do," said Josh Turner.
Robert F. Bukaty
A 30-inch-tall carving depicts a bear performing a trick on a snowboard. "Someone said he's got his feet on the board wrong, but I just said I guess bears ride snowboards different than we do," said Josh Turner.
Turner took an old log and cut away until he had a piece titled &quotBald Eagle Lunch." The work is for sale on Route 201 in Topsham.
Robert F. Bukaty
Turner took an old log and cut away until he had a piece titled "Bald Eagle Lunch." The work is for sale on Route 201 in Topsham.
TOPSHAM, Maine — Josh Turner was still in elementary school when he first created art from a log.
“For a sixth grade school project, I had my dad run the saw down a pine log and I turned it into a canoe.  That was my first carving,” said Turner, 31, of Woolwich.
In his 20s, Turner got a job doing tree work with a power company in Florida.  During down time on the job, “I found myself sitting there with the saw, so I started thinking, ‘Hey, what can we make?’” he said.
What he made were whimsical pieces like alligators with fishing poles catching fishermen.  When people started buying them, he decided to make it his full-time profession.
After moving to Maine with his wife and son two years ago, he taught himself how to carve bears, moose and even lobsters.  Now he’s occasionally hired by homeowners who want him to create art out of an old tree that needs to be cut down in a front yard.
Turner says his work tend to be more cartoonish than realistic.  A recent piece depicts a bear doing a flip on a snowboard.
Last year while delivering “Bagged a Big’un,” a large carving of a rifle-toting moose standing over a hunter wearing only boxer shorts, he noticed he was being followed.  He decided to pull over.  When he did, the driver behind also stopped and got out with his camera.
“I’ve been following you for 25 miles” the guy said. “I just had to get a picture!”

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