CALEDONIA — Wood shavings get caught in the hairs on Dave Harbach’s bare arms and chest as he makes minuscule indents with a chainsaw in what had once been a nondescript tree trunk. Now, it’s a proud eagle standing tall, wings folded atop its perch.
Chainsaw carving was a hobby that became a business for Harbach, 63.
In 1990, Harbach witnessed others trying their hand at chainsaw carving. He had one of those “hey, I can do that” moments.
“I had been carving small things before,” he said. “Then I got involved with chainsaw carving.”
He’s a handy guy in general. Before retiring a few years ago, he’d been employed for 35 years by a pipe threading company in Milwaukee. Now he spends his days turning blocks of wood into life-size wildlife statues, many of them being sold to locals, neighbors and friends. It’s something he is able to do fairly quickly.
Slices of tree trunks — some only a couple feet long, others taller than Harbach — lie piled up on a patch of gravel next to a farm field alongside Highway 38 near its intersection with Highway K, an outdoor workshop of sorts. Someday, those slices could become a roaring bear, an eagle mid-takeoff or a fish frozen as it leaps into the air.
Harbach works with hearing protection and glasses underneath a temporary tent, protecting the Caledonia resident from 90-degree afternoon heat.
He also spends time in the northern half of Wisconsin, still carving away. He said he gets his wood up there — red and white pine are the best, Harbach said.
On Tuesday, a woman approached Harbach while he was putting the finishing touches on the eagle. She wanted to hire him for a project.
He gave her a business card and said he’d like to help out, but didn’t say much more than that. Harbach is as soft-spoken as his chainsaws are loud; he’s not one to waste words with jibber-jabber.
Marketing doesn’t seem to be much of a concern for him: He has an email address,DHarbachCarving@gmail.com, but no website. Sales are made by word of mouth or by impressing people with his craftsmanship. It’s business done the old fashioned way.
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