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Northern Ont. chainsaw sculptor wins first place in international competition

Jake Rhodes is an artist – but he doesn’t use a canvas and watercolours. Instead, all he needs is just a piece of wood and a chainsaw.

Rhodes is from Burk's Falls, where he owns Northern Rhodes Artistry in Wood Carving.


Rhodes recently returned from the 2023 U.S. Open Chainsaw Sculpture Championship in Eau Claire, Wisconsin where he competed and finished in first place.

"It was definitely a surprise," he said.

"I went there just happy to carve."

He had 28 hours to cut, glue, chisel, burn and paint an eight-foot long white pine log. Out of 12 sculptors competing, Rhodes was the only Canadian carver.

"This year, they had a couple of competitors from Japan, Ireland, Wales, Australia and the rest of the them were from the United States," he said.

Wanting to create something that represents Canada, Rhodes carved a moose bust with a loon at its feet and a grey owl on its back. He called the sculpture 'Moosin Around'.

Jake Rhodes standing with his 'Moosin Around' sculpture carved during the 2023 U.S. Open Chainsaw Sculpture Championship. (Photo courtesy of Northern Rhodes Artistry in Wood Carving)"The moose are definitely one of the harder things to carve with the antlers being so big," he said.

"I was a little worried about time but I got it done about an hour early."

Rhodes' wife Emily Puhalski and his two young sons took the trip to the competition where they were cheering him on.

"When he won, they were calling everyone else names and we didn't hear his and then we heard ‘Jake Rhodes’ and we were screaming so loud," said Puhalski.

"This is pretty much our life. Jake's out here pretty much seven days a week. I can't get him inside. He's always in the shop working away."

Not only was he judged on making the best sculpture, he also received the most votes for the ‘Carver's Choice Award’ and his piece raked in the highest amount of money bid in a post-competition auction.

'Moosin Around' sculpture carved by Jake Rhodes during the 2023 U.S. Open Chainsaw Sculpture Championship. (Photo courtesy of Northern Rhodes Artistry in Wood Carving)"It's really tough to get into that competition," said Rhodes.

"There are some of the best of the world there."


Having perfected his craft for seven years, Rhodes told CTV News he knows about needing to perfect details in his work.

“At first, I'll use my biggest saws and I'll make what's called a block-out and make a basic shape," he said, explaining the process.

"Then I'll go in with my smaller detail saw. I try and do about 98% of it with a chainsaw."

Jake Rhodes using a smaller detail saw after carving a block-out at his shop in Burk's Falls. (Eric Taschner/CTV News Northern Ontario)From there, he swaps out the chainsaw for a dremel and chisel. He will then burn his sculpture, then sand and paint it.

"On average, it takes anywhere from one day to three days," he said.

As the title holder, Rhodes will automatically qualify for next summer's competition.

"It was such an honour for him to be carving alongside so many talented artists," he said in a recent social media post.

"The event was such a blast and we’re thankful to have been invited this year."

Rhodes said he's already thinking about a new design to ‘cut away the competition’ next year.

To see more of his work, visit Northern Rhodes Artistry in Wood Carving's social media page. Top Stories

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