Ken Gruenes, Maple Valley resident, carves one of the large stumps in front of his property on SE 216th Street. Submitted photo from Jan Johnson-Schelvis

Ken Gruenes, Maple Valley resident, carves one of the large stumps in front of his property on SE 216th Street. Submitted photo from Jan Johnson-Schelvis

Maple Valley wood carver creates chainsaw art

Ken Gruenes spends his retired days creating art out of tree stumps with his chainsaw.

Ken Gruenes spends his retired days creating art out of tree stumps with his chainsaw.

Gruenes said he started chainsaw art after he retired in 2007 from the Burlington Northern Railroad.

He recalled the first time he witnessed a chainsaw carving was when he was just a little kid.

“My dad had a chainsaw shop in California. (There) was a lot of wood logging and stuff down there when I was a kid. I remember a guy and he would come into the saw shop — he was a logger — and he had bought a business. I think it was a restaurant, bar type deal, and he carved a big redwood, probably 20 feet tall maybe. And he carved a great big giant logger. I mean it was huge,” Gruenes explained.

One of the first chainsaw art projects Gruenes said he worked on was a bench for the Hobart Cemetery. He also donated another bench to the Maple Valley Cemetery.

Gruenes wouldn’t say he’s perfected the art of carving wood just yet.

“I don’t know if I’ve mastered it,” he said with a chuckle.

One of the whole reasons he got into carving was because he wanted to buy a piece of art from a chainsaw artist, but couldn’t afford it.

“I thought, ‘well I’ll carve my own,’ and I started messing around that way and that just turned into what it is now,” Gruenes said.

He said he gets some sculpture ideas from watching carving competitions in Ocean Shores.

“I love watching them and I pick up stuff. I watch them and I get a lot of my ideas from that,” he said.

According to Gruenes, a couple of years ago, he got a call from contractors for Puget Sound Energy asking if they could cut down the trees in front of his property because they were in the way of a power line.

His response: “Go ahead and leave some stumps for me.”

It took him a while, but Gruenes has finally gotten around to doing what he wanted to do in the first place — carve the stumps.

Each stump is different in its own way and include carvings of eagles and bears. These carved stumps sit in front of a property that once belonged to Gruenes’ grandparents, he said.

Gruenes said when he got out of the service, he moved from California to Maple Valley to live with his parents and his grandmother in 1971. He said he’s stuck around for so long because he has family over here and he met his wife here as well.

Gruenes said he doesn’t think he’ll ever compete in a carving competition because “it’s a young man’s game.”

Finished pieces of carved artwork by Maple Valley resident Ken Gruenes. Submitted photo from Jan Johnson-Schelvis

Finished pieces of carved artwork by Maple Valley resident Ken Gruenes. Submitted photo from Jan Johnson-Schelvis

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Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in a neighborhood near you. You can read more of her writing on her website livingwithgleigh.com. To see her columns come to life, follow her on Facebook at Living with Gleigh by Gretchen Leigh.
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