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Carving Out His Niche
Written by Kelly Chandler Staff Reporter

Rick Petschelt of Boyertown has been creating pieces of art using only a chainsaw for the past 15 years. Petschelt, a carpenter by trade has crafted a variety of wooden figures including wildlife like owls, sea turtles, a nittany lion, Native American figures and bears of all shapes and sizes.

        Motorists on Route 100 in Bechtelsville are familiar with his unique work and so are people across the state.

        Rick Petschelt of Boyertown has been creating pieces of art using only a chainsaw for the past 15 years.  Not only does he sell his artwork at a space adjacent to Liv'n Green Landscaping Supply on Route 100, it also adorns the Ramada Inn at Penn State University, hundreds of private properties and soon the Boyertown Fire Company's facilities.

        Petschelt said he took up the hobby after his good friend died suddenly in a car accident.  A carpenter by trade, he said he wanted to give his friend's father something meaningful in his memory.  So his first piece was born, a bear holding a plaque marking the man's life and their friendship.

                Since then, the artist has kept his hands busy crafting a variety of wooden figures including wildlife like owls, eagles, sea turtles, a nittany lion, a robin and bears of all shapes and sizes, but also Native American figures, a soldier carrying a wounded comrade, two pigs dancing and a 7-ft.-tall gnome, which he recently completed in Pottstown.

        "I just look at a log, see an animal in there and get it done," Petschelt said. "It's just a hobby but it keeps me busy." 

        As he runs his own home improvement business, Petschelt said he can often be found outdoors, even on frigid winter days, spending his free time carving.  And while he jokes that his neighbors are probably wondering why he didn't choose a quieter hobby, it is truly something that brings him happiness.

        "I wouldn't want to do it every day," he noted.  "I just do it for fun.  It's relaxing."

        Decked out in protective gear including glasses and chaps, he sets up a pine log.  He picks up one of a number of gas-powered chainsaws lined up in his outdoor workspace and goes to work.  The type of wood doesn't matter, Petschelt said, although softer types like catalpa wood, pines and cedar work well, a harder wood like oak also does the job though.

        He is lucky enough to get his medium, free of charge, from a friend who does logging.

        After roughing in a round figure, he uses a carving bar for his chainsaw, a specialized tool which can cut down to the size of a quarter for the finer lines and details.  It takes a significant amount of muscle control and precision.  

        Before you know it, in seemingly no time flat, a great-horned owl emerges complete with rounded eyes, perky ears and layers of feathers.

        Petschelt never uses any other type of tool like a sander or a drill, instead choosing to stay more of a purist.

        "Some people are more sculptors but I stay with all chainsaw," he said with a chuckle.  "I know one guy [another chainsaw artist] who says if you use other things it wouldn't be chainsaw art, right?"   

        Petschelt said some pieces get spray-painted for color, but many are left to reflect the natural tones of the wood.

        "I get it done so fast and people seem to like seeing my stuff," he said. 

        People seem to enjoy watching him work too.  For months he carved at a spot at Jake's Flea Market, in neighboring Barto, before he was told the owners had too many noise complaints, and he has also done live carvings at Skippack Days and private parties. 

        He said he can carve a bear in 30 minutes, and has completed even his most challenging sculptures, larger than himself, in 10 hours.

        People also seem to appreciate Petschelt's altruistic spirit.  Of the hundreds he has made to date, he has donated a large portion of them.  He has given many sculptures to individuals or their families raising money for life-threatening or debilitating diseases.  He also donates to groups like KickStart Motorcycles who raise money for Norristown-based Mission Kids with their annual Hogs and Honeys Dance in Valley Forge. 

        All in all, he said he's just happy to help. 

        "You meet so many people.  I'm happy to do what I can."

        For more information on Petschelt and his work, call (610)574-2480.






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