In our part of the world, no sound signals autumn more than that of the buzzing, cracking and popping that accompanies the cutting, chopping and splitting of wood. The fireplaces and wood stoves have empty bellies and hungry mouths to feed.
Mike Page started his career as a lumber jack right out of high school, and it wasn’t until 11 years ago, after witnessing a demonstration at a county fair, that Mike picked up a chainsaw, aimed it at an old stump, and turned it into art.
The first time we met, Mike said: “I’m not an artisan. That’s too fancy.”
“Ok,” we said. “Craftsman?”
“That will be fine”
Mike crafted a piece for the “Into the Wild” theme of the Mercantile (
click here to see it in the shop)
He recently let us spend the morning with him to watch the creative process, and all that he asked in return was that if you like his work to leave a message on his Facebook page (
please click here to let him know that he really IS an artist!)
When local farmers clear land for their fields, Mike gathers the white pine logs
Tool of the trade
For the small sculpture, the starting stump is about 3.5 feet tall and weighs about 100lbs
Mike first examines the stump for natural knots and burls which he incorporates into the design of each piece. The nature of each stump is what makes each sculpture one-of-a-kind
Nature vs machine
On the cut surface of the stump, Mike also finds the heartwood pith of the tree. As a tree grows, older xylem cells in the center of the tree become inactive and die, forming heartwood. Because it is filled with stored sugar, dyes and oils, the heartwood is usually darker than the sapwood. The main function of the heartwood is to support the tree. The pith of a tree acts as mechanical support for the tree and contains “extractives” (not impurities) that evolve, over eons, to protect the tree from disease, insects, fungi, fire, and other environmental competitors. Mike uses this knowledge to understand what will be the backbone of the sculpture he is creating.
Preparing for the first cut.
With amazing skill, Mike starts shaping the wood.
and then suddenly, almost miraculously (under the gaze of Mike’s dog, Critter)
you see the shape start to take form
Mike can create custom sculptures of almost anything (he’s even done full-sized motorcyles, panthers, and eagles), but his favorite thing to carve is bears
The name of Mike’s company is Bear Den Carvings (beardencarvings.com)
He uses a smaller chainsaw for finer details–like carving the word “welcome” into this piece
A rotating sander and a dremel are used to provide character to the bear’s face
At the end of the project, the sawdust is collected and distributed to local horse farms to provide bedding for the animals
Brent’s favorite part of Beekman 1802 is getting to meet so many amazing, inspiring people
The bear sits to dry out for a couple of days
Mike will then do some hand-sanding and then run a flame across the wood which helps remove any residual moisture
The wood is then sealed and then Mike’s wife takes over the project and paints the bears, bringing them to life. It’s an amazing amount of work and a collaborative process. These small bears shown here (and like the one we have on display in the Mercantile) sell for around $185
Massive, custom pieces have also been created and have shipped as far as Canada and Sweden!