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The Peripatetic Life of a Chainsaw Carver

Dennis Beach has found his life's calling

"The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard

And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood

Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it"-

'Out-Out' -" by Robert Frost

When the chainsaw kicked back several summers ago and struck Dennis Beach in two fingers of his left hand, he knew it was bad. A paramedic nearby ran to try and staunch the flow of blood.

"It cut right into the bone," he recalled. "It was so bad they life-flew me from the fairgrounds. It didn't even resemble a finger. I really tried to get the doctor to cut it off. I'm glad he didn't listen to me."

But unlike the boy in Frost's poem, Beach survived.

He worked the remainder of the summer with just his right hand.

"I had to make enough money for the year," he said. "With the help of family and friends, I made it through."

Although he does own up to being slightly nervous about picking up a chainsaw again right after he was injured, the apprehension is long gone.

"I love to work," he said with a grin, in an interview in his trailer at the Ocean County Fair. "I love to carve in front of a crowd of people. When I stand up there on the stage...I get a shot of adrenaline."

Beach, who lives in Wapwallopen, Pennsylvania when he's not on the road, started carving 27 years ago, about the same time he began work as a tree trimmer.

"I used to haul logs home in my '68 Camaro," he said. "I used to carve in the parking lot of the trailer park. I knew I wanted to do something in the line of art."

He did both jobs for more than a decade, until he was finally able to make enough to support himself by carving. Today he has a house and a barn to work in.

"I taught myself," he said. "It was a slow process. I had never seen anyone else do it."

Beach travels around the eastern half of the United States in July, August, September and early October, working the county fair circuit. When he's not working, he's often competing in chainsaw carving competitions. He has won many, both nationally and around the world.

He uses wood supplied by the county fairs to work his magic - white pine, spruce and occasionally walnut.

"Each fair I go to supplies the wood," he said. "Each fair has their own logging connections."

Beach's spot at the fair this morning was studded with the before and after of his craft - heavy pieces of cut trees ready for the saw and the finished products.

It takes him only half an hour to produce a piece. He likes to focus on animals - howling wolves, bears, herons, and bald eagles.

"I try to do three and a half foot pieces," Beach said. "That's where the money is. They bring in $300 per show."

He does roughly six shows per day at each fair.  He can make $1,200 a day on a good day.

Today was a good day. A massive bench with an eagle perched on one side had already sold for $500 by late morning.

"I put in 10 to 12 hour days at the fairs," he said.

His small stage was littered with chain saws of three different sizes this morning. The crowds especially like it when he uses the bigger saws.

"It cuts fast and has crowd appeal," he said, pushing back his black cap flecked with sawdust. "I'm a big showoff."

Beach's creations will be on sale for the rest of the day and into the night. Anything left on Saturday will be auctioned off, said fair organizer Kitty Meyer.

For more information, contact Beach at 570-379-3965 or 570-204-5824, or at www.cedar-savage.com.

Editor's note: This story first ran last July. Dennis Beach is one of the featured demonstrators at the 2012 Ocean County Fair. Stop by and watch him work his magic from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.

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