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Chain saw artist carves out niche

 Dwayne Hodges uses a chain saw to create works of art from wood. In this piece, the figure looks like it has hair.
Stephanie Klein-Davis/The Roanoke Times
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Date published: 12/31/2012


The Roanoke Times


--Dwayne Hodges winced.

Carla Archer, for the second time in less than an hour, had referred to Hodges as a "master carver."

He sighed.

"I'm not a master carver," he told her. "You've got to quit telling people that."

Archer held her ground.

"Dwayne's amazing," she said. "He's definitely a master of his art."

That would be chain saw art. Hodges will readily tell you he's no Michelangelo, carving David out of marble with mallets, chisels and rasps. But he does consider himself an artist.

"Uh, yes, I do," Hodges said. "I can grab a log and make you whatever you want. If you want an Indian, I can get you one. If you want a Tweety bird, I can do that, too. I don't think that it's just a craft."

He prefers Stihl and Husqvarna brand chain saws.

"They just hold up better and they have more rpms," Hodges said.

For detail work he uses dime carving bars and chains. Sanders and grinders play a role, too.

Hodges, 36, is a Franklin County native who began working with wood when he was 14 years old. He apprenticed with Greg Desaulniers of The Yankee Whittler shop. Desaulniers now owns, operates and cuts hair at the Scruggs Road Barber Shop, but still does some carving.

Fletcher Boone, who teaches building trades at Franklin County High School, introduced Hodges and Desaulniers. Boone said it was clear early on that Hodges had artistic ability.

"He had the eye for it," Boone said.

Now, more than two decades later, Hodges' business, Woodchuck Woodcarving, centers around a 12- by 24-foot shed on a parcel he leases off U.S. 220 in the heart of Boones Mill. The mingled aromas of sawdust, wood smoke and chain saw exhaust waft around the place.

He has an apprentice, David James, 47, a recent transplant from California.

"I'm pretty much learning this from the ground up," James said.

James uttered the "m'' word but Hodges didn't hear him.

"He's a master," James said. "And he's patient. He doesn't get too worked up if you mess something up. He'll say, 'It's just a log.'"

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