Chainsaw Carving

Artwork Emerges in Redwood Stump Carving at the Civic Center

Menlo Park

Originally posted here on June 13, 2015 at 11:16 pm by Clay Curtin

A large coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) tree in front of the Civic Center on Laurel Street was recently removed. The tree had a common disorder known as redwood canker, caused by the Botryospaeria pathogen. The coastal fog belt, which the coast redwood is endemic to, is an environment characterized by moderate summer temperatures and reliable fog, ample rainfall and well drained soils. Menlo Park is on the outside edge of the coastal fog belt where summer temperatures are high and soils tend to be predominantly poorly drained. The severity of the drought and growing outside the fog belt can lead to a higher occurrence of redwood canker in the city’s canopy. The tree at the Civic Center was replaced by three drought tolerant specimens. Instead of removing the stump, it was transformed into a piece of artwork by chain saw artist John Mahoney, who carved the city logo into it. Mr. Mahoney’s work can also be seen in a popular carving created last fall in Fremont Park. A time-lapse video of the redwood carving can be viewed here:

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City of Menlo Park – Chainsaw Carving Complete

City of Menlo Park

Chainsaw Carving Completed in Fremont Park

Original article by Clay Curtin – posted here – 

JOhn Mahoney Carving

Last month the Italian stone pine in Fremont Park was removed because it posed an imminent hazard due to root failure and a severe lean that gave the tree much of its unique character. Recently, the stump and two large pieces of the tree were repurposed by chainsaw artist, John Mahoney and the City’s tree crew leader, Juan Perez. Check out the time-lapse video below!

Over the next two weeks, the wood will be treated and sealed to reduce cracking as the wood dries out. Three new deodar cedar trees will be planted along the fence, to the east of the artwork. City staff is also working with the Menlo Park Historical Association to mark the rings on a cross section of the trunk to signify interesting dates in the City’s past.

Bear sculpture taking shape at O’side park

By Edward Sifuentes –  Originally posted here. on APRIL 9, 2014

Union Tribune


John Bear Mahoney

Edward Sifuentes

A dying tree is roaring back to life as a bear sculpture at Buddy Todd Park in Oceanside this week.

The 50-foot pine tree was infested with bark beetle and was in an awkward spot. It required frequent pruning so its branches didn’t interfere with San Diego Gas & Electric power lines near the park’s entrance on Mesa Drive.

Joel Menard, the city’s parks supervisor, said he approached John Mahoney — a chainsaw artist whose family owns West Coast Arborists — about doing something with the tree.

“I thought it’s a good, fat tree, might as well make into a bear,” Menard said Wednesday morning.

Mahoney began working on the sculpture last week, removing branches and trimming away growth to leave a towering stump.

On Wednesday morning, he filled about four different chainsaws with gas before climbing on a cherry picker to continue shaping the bear.

Mahoney — a 6-foot, 4-inch, 300-pound man with a long beard — jokingly called the half-finished sculpture a “self portrait” and said he was happy that he was asked to do it.

“It’s awesome, I’m stoked and honored,” Mahoney said. “It’s the biggest one yet for me.”

The sculpture stands about 15 feet tall and depicts a bear standing on his hind legs looking up at the sky.

West Coast Arborists contracts with the city for tree maintenance and its workers were trimming palm trees at the park this week.

Menard said the company is environmentally conscious and tries to reuse wood and trees that are cut down. The sculpture was part of its service and won’t cost the city any extra money.

He said the inspiration for the bear came from a previous sculpture that was at the park. A city employee carved that bear out of a dead tree years ago.

The bear was popular with the public, especially children, Menard said. But it had to be removed about five years ago to make way for a parking lot.

Arbor Day Celebration in Oceanside, CA

Union Tribune


Originally posted here in U-T San Diego 01:18p.m. Sep 20, 2013
Oceanside — The A’s had it in Oceanside last week.First there was Arbor Day, where students from a local high school and college planted trees in Buddy Todd Park, and then there was the Airport, where 150-some land vehicles shared the tarmac with planes of all kinds at the annual Summer Fly-In/Car show.The city sponsored the Arbor Day ceremony and environmental resource fair Thursday at the 19-acre park, Oceanside’s oldest.For the resource-fair part of the activities, those setting up information booths included the MiraCosta College Horticulture Department, West Coast Arborists, Davey Resource Group, Western Environmental Consultants (working for San Diego Gas & Electric), Cal Fire, San Diego Regional Urban Forests Council and Agri Services.Many of them had free stuff to give away — such as toothpick holders, magnets, mulch or little containers of plastic bags to pick up dog doo.“Whoever knew there could be so many kinds of mulch?” commented one visitor as he surveyed a display by Agri Service, which runs an operation on city El Corazon land turning green waste into compost.

A poster proclaimed “San Diego County has 6,687 farms — more than any other county in the United States.”

Eileen Turk, parks and recreation division manager for the city, noted that the public voted to name two trees — the coastal oak and the golden medallion — official trees of the city.

Lynette Short from Cal Fire presented Oceanside with a Tree City USA award for the sixth consecutive year and told how Julius Sterling Morton started Arbor Day in the Nebraska Territory in 1872. Officially, the date falls in April, but it can be celebrated any time there are trees for planting.

Mayor Jim Wood told the students that later on, when they lie under a tree at the park, they can remember that they planted it.

Also at the event, John Mahoney demonstrated chain-saw wood carving with an array of sculptures ranging from fishes and owls to totems. He noted they were being saved from the landfill.

After instructions from city parks workers, students from Ocean Shores High School and MiraCosta College planted 11 trees — crepe myrtle and redbud.

The fly-in, car show at the airport replaced an annual barbecue that didn’t bring out a lot of people, according to Gordon Nesbitt, president of the sponsoring Oceanside Airport Association, a booster group.

Saturday, it was a different story.

“Actually we had 147 registered show cars (and perhaps a dozen that slipped in without registering/paying),” Nesbitt said. “We estimated attendance at around 1,400 visitors.

“All proceeds are going toward the Jack Cassan Memorial Flight Scholarship for local high school students,” Nesbitt said.

Every type of vehicle was displayed.

Hot rods and vintage cars vied for attention with flatbed trucks and fancy Ferraris. One license plate declared a 1932 Ford roadster “Fun 4 Pop.”

Some had rumble seats, and many sported neon colors such as “furious fuchsia.”

A Ford De Tomaso Pantera displayed a sign declaring it had “the body of a sexy Italian exotic with the heart of an American muscle car.”

One car towed a teardrop camping trailer, a vintage vehicle in itself.

REACH, the new medical helicopter service contracting with the city, was on display, and all the while, a calliope aboard an old carpenter’s tow truck played, Tsunami Skydivers demonstrated their skills, biplanes and sleek one-seaters took off from the runway, and radio-controlled jets zoomed overhead.

“It’s one of the nicer shows because of the aerial (component),” said Julie Walker as her husband, Jeff, watched the model planes, and she stayed with their 1968 Plymouth GTX classic muscle car on display.

The air show — and the prizes — set this event apart, Walker said, noting that plaques for winning vehicles in various categories carried aeronautical names such as “Most likely to plow an airfield” and had the likes of spark plugs or airplane instruments attached.

Lola Sherman is a freelance writer. Contact her at lola@

Transforming Trees to Treasures in Laguna Niguel




Mark Ranauro planted five sequoia tree saplings in his narrow Laguna Niguel backyard in 1987. It was the year he moved into the house and the same year his son Kyle was born.
Decades later, they’ve grown from just above eye level to more than 50 feet tall, massive shade-providers that loom over his two-story suburban home just off Niguel Road. Ranauro’s backyard feels more Pacific Northwest than Orange County. One sequoia tops out at 65 feet, he said.

“They are like our kids,” Ranauro said of the trees. “It really hurt when we had to cut the first one down.”
When he called an arborist to have a second tree removed earlier this summer – a few dead branches threatened his neighbor’s property – he had a decision to make: He could have the arborist haul it away, or he could keep it. Build something with it.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this is an amazing tree,’” Ranauro said. “Wouldn’t it be cool to make it into a piece of furniture?”’
He held onto the most valuable part – a 10-foot, 1,500-pound trunk section now cut up into a stack of 45 boards drying in his garage. He has plans to build a dining room table.
With his project, Ranauro joined a growing push to recycle downed urban trees in Orange County – diverting wood waste from the mulcher or landfill.
Several businesses and organizations including Anaheim-based West Coast Arborists, Woodhill Firewood in Irvine and the Orange County Woodworkers Association have latched onto the trend.
“I’d like to promote it,” Ranauro said. “There’s not as many as up in NorCal, but you’ve still got a lot of great trees down here.”


Some of the prettiest wood found in Orange County comes from trees like American elm, magnolia, red gum eucalyptus and black walnut, said John Dominguez, who heads up a year-old partnership between Woodhill Firewood and West Coast Arborists.
Dominguez is happy to do smaller jobs, like cutting Ranauro’s sequoia trunk into boards, but the focus of his Irvine operation is decidedly large scale.
West Coast Arborists contracts with 250 cities, including several Orange County municipalities. Some 600 tons of wood waste is processed daily at Woodhill Firewood off Bake Parkway.
Some branches are mulched; some turned into firewood. There’s even a resident chainsaw artist, John Mahoney, who operates on one corner of the Woodhill lot.
But often the more desirable pieces – the thick tree trunks like Ranauro’s – are placed in a wood kiln for drying, and later built into items like picnic benches, Dominguez said. Sometimes they’re even sold back to cities where the trees originally came from.


The idea to turn downed urban trees into lumber or artwork isn’t new.
“Woodworkers have always used scrap. They’ve always used what they can for free,” said James Santhon, president of the 230-member Orange County Woodworkers Association.
Dominguez said for a time the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection even had a program where it lent sawmills and wood kilns to anyone who wanted to try milling.
“They wanted municipalities and companies to draw up proposals to divert wood waste from landfills,” he said.
Only more recently, however, has the urban wood recycling program taken off. Woodhill Firewood’s kiln and woodshop are humming – Dominguez recently sold eight picnic tables to the city of Santa Monica, and several outdoor benches made of recycled wood are soon headed to Petaluma, in Northern California.


Plenty of furniture makers and hobbyists call up Dominguez to have a log cut or buy wood for a project, and he hopes to make connections with more. But he warns the tree-to-table type projects aren’t for everyone.
“It’s not just cut down a tree, cut it up and make something,” he said.
Ranauro realized the challenges immediately: It cost $2,000 to have the sequoia carefully cut down, piece by piece, and another $150 for Dominguez to mill it.
Moving the trunk out of his backyard took an afternoon and a small army. They had to roll, pry and jack it up and around his deck, then his gate, and into the front where it could be loaded into a truck and shipped off to the sawmill.
Now, he’ll have to wait more than a year to start construction on the table while the boards dry out in his garage. The moisture content of a fresh log can be as much as 85 percent, Dominguez said, but for woodworking, it needs to be less than 10 percent.
Ranauro has little woodworking experience, outside of a high school woodshop class. But growing up in Lewiston, Maine, a paper mill town, he remembers watching his grandfather collect log remnants from the mill in his truck, and bring them home to his downstairs workshop.
“Everything in the house he made,” Ranauro said. “So I had a fascination with it, even though I never learned how to do it.”


The lengthy process doesn’t scare off some of the avid craftsmen of the Orange County Woodworkers Association, said Larry Marley, the club’s public affairs director. The roar of a chainsaw is enough to get them excited. It’s a sound that club members have dubbed the “call of the wild.”
“They jump in their truck, and go see if they’re cutting down something good,” Marley said.
Other times, residents reach out to the club, Marley said, to see if members want the wood from a tree they’re taking down.
Club members sometimes haul it away for free, before making bowls, toys or furniture with it. Last week, Marley sent out an email informing members of some choice-looking logs sitting in front of a San Clemente house.
Orange County’s “huge variety of trees,” many of them imported from all over the country, make it a special place for woodworkers who are passionate about recycling urban wood, Marley said.
For Ranauro, there is plenty of time to research construction techniques and think about what to do with the numerous sequoia slabs piled in his garage. He left the bark on some edges, for the rustic-looking dining room table he plans to build. His son says he will weld together some metal legs for it.
His friends, co-workers and neighbors have offered ideas for other projects. Apparently there’s something romantic about the closed-loop recycling of a sequoia tree.
“The gal across the street says, ‘Hey, I’d love a cutting board,’” Ranauro said. “Everybody wants a piece of it.”
Contact the writer: 949-492-0401 or


1. Select and cut

Utilizing recycled wood is increasingly popular, and craftsmen and hobbyists in the Orange County Woodworkers Association are always on the hunt for unique tree species.

2. Transport

Moving massive branches and logs to the sawmill is an arduous process. Renauro’s 10-foot 1,500 pound sequoia log required car jacks and lots of manpower to move.

3. Milling

Woodworkers can have their more pristine tree trunks and wood cut into planks at Woodhill Firewood in Irvine. The operation has a saw and wood kiln — even its own resident chainsaw artist, John Mahoney.

4. Drying

Unless you have a kiln to speed the process, drying out “green” wood can take anywhere from one to three years, depending on moisture content. If utilized too soon, the wood can warp and crack as it continues to dry.

5. Build it

Ranauro plans to build a dining room table, while some OCWA craftsmen often create smaller items like bowls and toys from recycled wood.

The Art of “Tree-Fiti”

By ANNA ILIFF / Originally posted in the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

At the intersection of power tools and passion, an Orange County man found his calling in the hum of a chainsaw.

Meet John Mahoney, who has worked a slew of odd jobs, from women’s shoe salesman to camp counselor before settling into the title of resident chainsaw artist at Woodhill Firewood in Irvine.

John Mahoney of Laguna Beach works on a sequoia tree statue made from Redwood logs he gets from Woodhill Firewood recycling center in Irvine. The wood is recycled logs collected by West Coast Arborists, who clear and trim city trees from three states. “It’s a Carisma Tree until December,” says the 25-year old chainsaw artist. “In December they become Christmas trees'” he adds. Photo – Ken Steinhardt.

Behind the 20-ft tall piles of wood stacked methodically throughout the 15-acre lumber yard located on Bake Parkway, Mahoney creates elaborate sculptures out of recycled wood wielding just a chainsaw, a blow torch and a couple of small power tools.

“I’m just a tree honky bucking trees in the urban forest and creating some tree-fiti,” said Mahoney, a 25-year-old Laguna Beach resident who goes by “Big John” or “Bunyan.” At 6-feet, 4-inches tall and 300 pounds, Mahoney may not be as large as legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan, but what he lacks in stature he makes up in charisma.

Mahoney is the youngest child of Patrick Mahoney, owner of West Coast Arborists, which trims and clears trees for cities in California, Arizona and Nevada. Woodhill is a unit of West Coast.

Although Mahoney says he grew up with an appreciation for trees and the outdoors, his stint as a wood carver didn’t begin until a customer stole a truck-full of lumber from Woodhill and offered his expertise as plea for forgiveness. The thief was a Tiki carver.

Three years later, Mahoney can be found transforming logs into larger-than-life sculptures and beautiful furniture.

“I’m not an insane artist,” said Mahoney. “It was all kind of random. I’ve always thought it was cool, but I had never seen a live chainsaw carver before I did it myself. I’m just a goofball with a chainsaw dancing away.”

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Before each carving, Mahoney draws a pattern with chalk directly onto the log which he edits and adjusts as he goes along. He then uses a chainsaw to create a rough shape of his project before switching to a small carving saw for precision and added detail. For finishing touches, he uses a right-angle grinder and stains each piece to perfection.

Each sculpture varies in the amount of time required to complete. Mahoney said it takes about 30 minutes to carve a small bear and about two days to make a 7-ft tall Tiki. His pieces range in price to $700.

Earlier this year, Mahoney was commissioned by Temple City to carve the city’s seal into a historic tree stump at Temple City Park.

“It’s beautiful,” said Cathy Burroughs, director of Parks and Recreation for Temple City. “We’ve had so many compliments on it. Just about every day you’ll see people standing in front of it taking pictures. It’s wonderful.”

His latest project includes creating wooden eight-panel hats using trompe l’oeil, an art technique that attempts to create an optical illusion to fool the viewer into believing it is the object itself.

“I like to make whimsical stuff,” said Mahoney. “I’m trying not to be a standard chainsaw carver. I want to do funky, freaky Tikis and big furniture pieces. I’m trying to hone my craft so I can be a great tree-fiti artist.”

Mahoney will hold his first art show in conjunction with Raw Artists at the Shark Club in Costa Mesa on August 18.

Contact the writer:


If you go

When:6-10 p.m. August 18

Where:Shark Club, 841 Baker Street, Costa Mesa

Age restriction:21 and up

Cost:$15 pre-sale, $20 at the door