A new welcome sign recently appeared on Route 1 in Wiscasset, in the form of a tree carving at Cromwell Coastal Properties. The tree, carved by national chainsaw carving champion Josh Landry, features a variety of domestic animals.
Over a period of a couple years, browntail moth caterpillars ravaged the oak tree. Cromwell Coastal Properties owner Julie Cromwell had the tree fertilized and then sprayed in an attempt to save it, but her efforts were unsuccessful.
“The oak tree was just beautiful,” Cromwell said.
Landry transformed a sad situation for Cromwell into something that not only brightened her day, but the days of everyone driving north on Route 1 entering Wiscasset.
Heather Lutes, who works for Cromwell, came up with the idea to have the old tree carved. The two researched carvers and settled on Landry, because Cromwell liked a carving he did in front of Stephen and Tabitha King’s house in Bangor.
Cromwell loves animals and came up with the theme of domestic animals. Her business is a satellite site for Midcoast Humane. She has fostered rabbits and dogs, and raises chickens.
Carved into the tree are a rooster, a hen sitting on eggs, and a squirrel, partridge, cat, kitten, chick, rabbit, and dog. Landry carved paw prints on the back of the tree.
Landry started carving July 20 and finished July 24. Cromwell estimated that Landry used 10 different chainsaws while working on the tree. He started by stripping the tree of ivy and bark on Monday, then set to work sculpting, making the tree a thing of beauty once again.
Landry, with his wife and 2-year-old, camped out on-site while working on the project.
“He came up with the welcome blocks,” Cromwell said of Landry. “I wanted to do something to welcome people to Wiscasset.”
After the carving, Landry finished the tree sculpture with a preserving stain.
Landry carves mantels, signs, pet memorials, home and garden decor, beams and posts in camps, wild animals, and eagles. He also performs chainsaw-carving shows.
Cromwell urges people who want to photograph the tree to park in the business’s paved lot. “Drive safely. Please do not park on the road,” she said of busy Route 1.
Landry said he completed the carving in four days. “I was going pretty hard at it,” he said, working in 90-degree heat.
“It was a harder tree (oak) and had dried some. I do a lot of pine trees, so I had to adjust my saw and chains as the chain bites in more on hardwood,” Landry said.
Of the design, Landry said he talked to Cromwell to get a feel for what she wanted. “I came up with it in my head. She suggested a dog, so I incorporated it into the base looking up at a rabbit,” Landry said.
“It is really cool. I was so excited when she contacted me. This was different from what I usually do. It is the biggest welcome sign I’ve done,” Landry said. He estimates that the carving is just under 19 feet tall.
Landry has been carving with a chainsaw for 20 years. The largest tree sculpture he has done was at the King house.
Landry does a lot of custom pieces with a personal touch for both businesses and homes. He does a lot of pet carvings as memorials. He also carves smaller, personalized items. “They make cool gifts for people that are hard to buy for. They give a personal touch,” he said.
“I come up with a design by talking to my customers. They give me free artistic range. I enjoy doing it and take a great deal of pride in it,” Landry said.
He works with help from his wife, who “hands stuff up to me and gases up the saws, so I don’t have to go up and down,” he said.
Landry uses larger chainsaws to block out his design, then switches to smaller ones for detail work. He also uses a Dremel and sander to make his carvings look “really realistic.”
The carving at Cromwell’s “was 90% chainsaw. I sanded a little bit,” he said.
Landry uses stain to darken and highlight areas of his sculptures and then coats them with Duckback to preserve them.
He will put one more coat of Duckback on the welcome sign before winter. “The more you do, the nicer it will look and last,” he said.
He recently gave one of his sculptures in Winthrop an overhaul because it had lightened up after many years. “I can come back and fix it and give it an overhaul and it looks just like new. My carvings represent me, so I want them to look nice. I want my customers to get the most out of them,” he said.