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Chainsaw: the other way to carve a jack-o-lantern
SNOQUALMIE - The confusion began around this time last year.
George Kenny's brother Frank sent a press release to the media publicizing Kenny's Northwest Experience and the George Kenny School of Chainsaw Carving. Highlighted was George's ability to carve pumpkins with a chain saw - wooden pumpkins.
This slight difference was left out.
Soon after the release was sent to the media, television station Q-13 called George to request a time to have him carve "in-studio."
Eager to be on television and aware of the promotional value, George agreed.
The way George tells the story, a second conversation revealed something that George had not been expecting: the station was excited about the carving because they were amazed that he could carve a real pumpkin with a chain saw and not smash it to pieces.
This miscommunication - as George had never carved a real pumpkin before - spurred a new challenge that he was eager to meet.
"I jumped right in with no fear," George said.
Buying the largest pumpkins he could find, he practiced using his chain saw to carve faces into pumpkin rinds. The following morning, he carved a pumpkin on television and continued to carve pumpkins at his shop's Snoqualmie location each weekend until Halloween.
"It's actually very easy," he said, adding that there is about an inch of room for error before puncturing the rind skin. "But, you have to have a plan of action to achieve the right results."
A few weekends ago, George started carving pumpkins again. He doesn't sell the pumpkins, but he does give them away.
"It's kind of a novelty," he said, noting that one could also carve gourds, watermelons and ice. "We do it because of the time of the year and because it's an attraction that not too many people have seen before."
He can carve faces on the skins of pumpkins or create jack-o-lanterns. He can even take a tiny pumpkin and carve a person's name.
"It's an art form that's kind of a unique thing," George said.
Though people have been hand carving for centuries, he estimated that the ability to do chain saw carving has only been around for about 25 years. George has been carving for 10 years. He had no interest in the chain sawing prior to starting and he did not consider himself to be artistic, but he fell into the craft.
When he and Frank moved from Michigan 13 years ago to help their parents get settled into retirement and to start their own retail coffee and gift shop in Allyn, fate gifted them with a chain saw carver by the name of Charlie Hubbard who was eager to perform outside their shop.
Before then, the shop was doing OK, George said, but "it wasn't going gangbusters."
One weekend when Hubbard was unable to carve, George took over the craft to keep the audience happy. He purchasing an electric chain saw (he had never used a saw before) and by "messing around," he carved a bear head that sold for $20.
Self-taught, he spent about three years perfecting his technique. In 2002, George won the Oregon State Championship in Chain Saw Carving.
"I never looked back," he said.
With shops in two locations, one in Allyn and the other in Snoqualmie, George opened the chain saw carving school two years ago in Snoqualmie.
Advocating safety and technique, George said that he educates people about the approach, emphasizing that the activity is for anyone (his oldest student turned 80 while taking the course).
"There's a lot of creative people out there looking for an outlet," George said. "We have just scratched the surface."
* George will be giving free pumpkin carving demonstrations each weekend from noon to 4 p.m. until Halloween. For more information, call (888) 275-7414 or visit www.bearinabox.com.