Telling Stories Through Wood

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Sawdust flies from the Stihl blade, like glitter dispersing into the air. The chainsaw carefully crafts the wood, shaping the trunk into a wooden masterpiece.

This fall, Nate Hall of 3 Timber Studio out of Lincoln, NE created custom chainsaw sculptures for several homeowners along Lakeshore Drive in Okoboji. Each tree trunk varied but was generally left at 10 feet and was ready for a one-of-a-kind chainsaw design. One particular trunk became a bird looking out at West Lake Okoboji, while another sculpture featured a bluegill, perch and walleye riding the blue waves.

Nate and his wife Maggie specialize in creative, custom woodworking, often designing wooden sculptures for people throughout the Midwest. They compete in carving events year-round and have a list of carving projects two years out.

“One of my favorite things about carving is the people I get to meet and talk to. I love setting my own schedule and being able to create unique masterpieces for people,” Nate said.

Growing up on a farm until moving to Carroll, IA at age 9, Nate was surrounded by artistic expression, with his mother being the high school art teacher.

“She taught me so much about general art. I don’t think they thought I’d eventually become a chainsaw artist, but it’s definitely another form of art,” he said with a smile.

As a child, Nate also spent his summer vacations at a family cabin in northern Minnesota. The north woods created quite an impression on his young heart, from both an aesthetic and lifestyle standpoint. After college, Nate worked in the advertising and design field for over twenty years, holding positions with advertising agencies, design companies and tech firms as an award-winning creative director, art director, photographer, illustrator, animator, video producer and digital artist.

Designing custom woodworking and hardwood furniture was a side hobby, until the requests for projects became so large Nate began to look for help. His wife Maggie was a teacher and decided to pick up the chainsaw.

“I was so busy and looking for help. I got Maggie a little battery-powered saw and she picked up chainsaw woodworking faster than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Nate said.

The couple decided to leave their initial careers and jump headfirst into their business, 3 Timber Studio, initially forged years ago by Nate’s summers visiting the north woods.

Custom Woodworking

Nate and Maggie pride themselves on producing work that tells a story. They strive for accuracy in subject anatomy, turning wooden pieces into nature scenes, animals, patriotic themes, scenic depictions, themed carvings and sculptural modern art designs.

“The details matter with any project,” he said. “Most importantly, our desire is to achieve these goals on your budget.”

The tree’s shape can play a role in the final design. Odd branches on the side or an interesting trunk can lend to a specific theme, but Nate said it’s often based on the interest of the homeowner.

“This is the first place I start – what does the homeowner like or have an interest in,” he explained. “For the fish, I looked at the height and dimensions of the trunk and then figured out how they could face out to the water.”

The time it takes to carve a project depends on the depth and complexity. It can take an hour or two to three carving days. A big project could take a week.

Once the design has been carved Nate will apply a protective varnish based on the type of wood. He will also add some air brushing at the seams to create depth and creativity, and at times, color may be added. Most of all, he wants the sculpture to look natural and fit within its environment.

Besides traveling the Midwest to complete projects, Nate and Maggie will compete in carving competitions around the country, including numerous masterpiece carving contests and quick carving challenges. The masterpiece competition often has a theme, and they have several days to complete, while the quick carve must be done within an hour.

At their shop in Lincoln, the couple also create hardwood furniture such as live edge tables and benches, trestle tables, unique themed furniture and more.

“We like to use mortise and tenon joinery whenever possible but are experienced with combining modern metal elements with hardwoods as well,” he added.

Additionally, 3 Timber designs home décor and artwork examples that include stained glass windows and glass art, long-grain cutting boards, live edge cutting boards and serving trays, multi-colored epoxy elements, fireplace mantels and custom carve designs into wooden signage, mantel faces, benches and doors.

Most of all, each sculpture created allows Nate to live out a passion for wood that began as a child.

For those interested in a potential project or would simply like to talk shop, Nate loves any opportunity to connect with someone new. Maggie and he can be reached at 3timber.com, nate@3timber.com or (402) 560-2485.