Jim Niedemayer – Focus on Local Artists – Issue #12

April 2013

Jim Niedermayer - Chainsaw Carver

Jim Niedermayer – Chainsaw Carver

Jim Niedemayer, from the Powerview area, loves to create art from logs. He took up chainsaw carving in 2009, after the Pine Falls paper mill shut down. When he won first place in a 2013 winter competition in The Pas, the Opasquia Times interviewed him. He noted, “I had the opportunity to buy all the big wood that was available. Instead of having that wood destined to make paper, I decided to try and make something out of it.”

Niedermayer learned how to carve on his own and still has his first bear to remind himself of progress. His father, a knifemaker and woodcarver, had given him a book on the subject so he worked at it for about six months. But Niedermayer already knew how to handle a chainsaw. He harvests wild rice from remote lakes. Any lumber he needs to build or repair at his camp has to be made on the spot so he learned how to rip logs into boards freehand. In 2010, Niedermayer travelled to a Pennslyvania rendezvous. Despite his apprehensions about not being “good enough,”the other participants were surprised he had just started.

Niedermayer explains that his carvings look like caricatures. Although he works hard to get them to look more realistic and evens studies anatomy, chainsaws tear into wood quickly, requiring great control to avoid slip-ups. Before he starts, he traces a rough design on the block of wood with chalk or felt marker. In competitions, carvers work non-stop.As Niedermayer said in his Pas interview, manipulating a chainsaw for four hours “is not an easy thing to do.” He uses full safety gear – pants, glasses, ear protection, steel toe boots, gloves, and respirator mask.

All wood is salvaged and he lprefers birch, highland spruce, cottonwood, and pine. He especially likes pine that has been submerged in water and he often drags big logs out of lakes. He uses three saws, ranging in size from 24″ bar to 16″ bar for fine details and paints his carvings with Sikens Oil to protect them. He creates bears, eagles, herons, otters, and other wild animals but also gets many requests for tiki bar creatures. Although he sells his carving mostly through word of mouth, he has a website: chainsawsculpture.ca where customers can view his work.