Carve Wars unchains chainsaw artists. Wood sculpting event making its Fair & Rodeo debut |

Carve Wars unchains chainsaw artists. Wood sculpting event making its Fair & Rodeo debut

Eagle County native Joe Srholez is one of the Carve Wars contestants at the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo. Carve Wars is a three-day sculpting competition. It's similar to ice sculpting, only with wood and in 90-degree heat.
Randy Wyrick|

If You Go ...

What: Carve Wars action and auction.

When: Auction starts at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 28. Carving continues to the last second.

Where: Eagle County Fair & Rodeo, at the east end of the grandstand, in Eagle.

Cost: It’s free to attend the auction.

More information: Carve Wars is making its Fair & Rodeo debut. Part of the money from the auction will go to local nonprofits, such as YouthPower365.

EAGLE — Chainsaw artists follow the same principal as Michelangelo when the Renaissance artist sculpted “David.” Get rid of everything that doesn’t look like your vision, and you’re there.

Only with Carve Wars, the artistic process involves the internal combustion engine, petroleum products and noise. Creativity never sounded so good.

Carve Wars is a three-day chainsaw sculpting competition, making its debut at the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo. Artists start with a huge log, an idea and lots of different chainsaws.

Dave Hagan owns and runs Carve Wars. This week they have artists in town from New Jersey, Utah and all around Colorado.

Alpine Bank is the local sponsor.

“They’re a great American company. There should be more like them,” Hagan said.

Local carving king

Joe Srholez (pronounced Sirholtz), lives here in the Sweetwater area, which would explain the Sweetwater Trading Post sign on the side of his truck.

He spent two decades building log houses. While he was cutting logs exactly the way they needed to be cut, he’d occasionally shape a log into something artistic, and then, he’d do it again.

He took some of those carvings to the Minturn farmers market and other regional venues, where people liked them and bought them.

So, about a year ago, Srholez wandered away from the log home business and is now carving full time.

“I jumped into it with both feet,” he said.

Lots of people can sketch things on paper. Srholez sees things in 3D, a skill he acquired building homes all those years, he said.

Instead of palettes and color wheels, they use Stihl and Husqvarna chainsaws.

“It’s sucks gas and hauls a–.” Srholez said, laughing.

Like brushes and chisels used by the more effete types, they have different chainsaw bars and chains for different phases of the sculpture. There’s even a power gouge for … whatever artistic endeavor you’d use a regular gouge for, but with a chainsaw engine.

Payday Saturday

Like all artists, payday is a little more abstract than with industrialists.

For example, the auction is 5 p.m. Saturday, July 28, where the artists will sell their creations. Some of the money goes to local nonprofits, including YouthPower365.

Srholez is creating a massive eagle during this three-day competition. If he placed it in a local gallery, then it could fetch $3,000. An auction is different.

“Sometimes it’s higher, and sometimes it’s a great deal for the buyer,” Srholez said.

Next to Srholez, Skip Valentine is carving an eagle taking a bead on a massive trout. The Eagle County fair is Valentine’s third Carve Wars competition. The Salt Lake City resident started sculpting while cutting firewood for camping trips.

“My parents say my first sculpture was throwing whipped cream on the wall when I was 3 years old,” Valentine said, smiling.


Carving competitions break down into a few categories, mainly the masters competition and the quick carve competitions.

For the masters competition, the artists carve something huge and complex. For example, Srholez is carving the aforementioned massive eagle.

In the quick carve competition, artists have an hour to do something awesome. In Thursday’s quick carve session, Srholez created a boot with “Howdy,” on one side, and “Go Away” on the other.

“It all depends on how you feel,” Srholez said.

Outside Srholez’ carving station, the boot says “Howdy!” and always will.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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