Chainsaw sculpture

David Hillesland sculpting grizzly bear with a chainsaw

David Hillesland sculpts a grizzly bear from the stump of a 40-year-old sequoia; photo by Jan Jackson.

SALEM, Ore. – David Pike had no choice but to remove the beautiful 40-plus-year-old giant sequoia in his yard, the aggressive roots were damaging his house and could ignore them no longer. David did have a choice about what to do with the massive stump however, and it now supports a nearly life-size likeness of a grizzly bear with a salmon in its jaws.

Working through the tree removal service, David commissioned Oregon-born chainsaw artist David Hillesland to come to the rescue. Before they left the project, the tree removal folks prepared the stump to Hillesland’s specifications. In a few short days, the 11-foot diameter stump became a work of art.

Though chainsaws have been around for a long time (Andreas Stihl patented the first gasoline-powered one in 1929), David Hillesland didn’t start using one until 2009, when he spent 90-days apprenticing with a chain saw artist.

David Pike with grizzle bear sculpture

David Pike stands by the grizzly bear sculpted from the trunk of his 40-plus-year-old sequoia; photo by David Hillesland.

“I always appreciated art but never thought I could do it myself,” Hillesland said. “I spent my idle hours mastering origami but became discouraged when I had mastered all of the designs and couldn’t find any new ones. Seeing my frustration, my dad bought me a set of wood chisels and soon after that, a set of exacto knives. I spent two months making small woodcarvings and when the chain saw artist saw my work, he offered to mentor me.”

Hillesland, whose favorite project is always whatever new he is working on, started his business in his West Salem garage, but after one year moved to the country.

“It was pretty hard on the neighbors who had to listen to that chain saw all day, so my wife and I bought a 55-acre piece of ground on the Santiam River just outside of Lyons,” Hillesland said. “I started out working by appointment only so it only makes sense that I had somewhere to store the my logs and other miscellaneous wood pieces and my dump truck and other equipment I need to haul them. Today I have my own art gallery at 11227 Grove St Mehama, OR 20 mi East of Salem on hwy 22. I also attend trade shows in a 100-mile radius of Portland and do about 100 commissions a year.”

Though the chain saw is the first tool Hillesland uses in every project, his goal is to reduce within a couple of millimeters of his design before bringing out the chisels and smoothing finishing tools.

David Hillesland, chainsaw sculptor

Chainsaw artist/sculptor David Hillesland, breathes life in to wood one piece at a time; photo by Jan Jackson.

“Right now I’m working on an 8-foot wall hanging depicting the mythical firebird phoenix, four stump carvings, a small tiger, a 12-foot blue heron and a garden bench with a scene that shows a cabin on a lake, a canoe and deer. The heron is a hard one because I have to engineer a design that I can build strength and beauty at the same time. I also love making totems, because they are always custom and therefore each one is different,” Hillesland said.

When asked where he plans on taking his business, Hillesland says, right to the top.

“I was in the top 10percent in school, the 10 percent during my six-year banking career and that’s where I’m taking Oregon Chainsaw Sculptures, LLC., Hillesland said. “My wife and I stepped out on faith when we started this business and we haven’t looked back. I never thought I would be so blessed to have an occupation I truly love.”

To find out more about David Hillesland, call 503-910-5192 or visit

– Jan Jackson©2011 – See Jan Jackson’s Bio


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