Jacob Lucas’ latest carving could cause anyone who has considered chain-saw art to be in the same category with velvet paintings to rethink that stance.
The 37-year-old Bonney Lake sculptor has transformed the remains of what was once a 160-foot-tall redwood into a finely detailed dragon carving complete with reptilian scales and menacing eyes.
For Lucas, who has made chain-saw sculpture his full-time profession, the dragon on the shores of Lake Tapps is his largest project yet at 18 feet tall and some 5 feet in diameter at the base.
The sculpture on the southern end of Interlake Island is on the lakeside of Don and Wendy Swanson’s home. The totem-size sculpture is visible from both their deck and the water.
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The dragon on the shores of Lake Tapps is 18 feet tall and some 5 feet in diameter at the base.
The dragon was never something the Swansons had planned to commission, but a windstorm and a lightning strike left the 45-year-old tree severely damaged and dangerous.
The Swansons could have had the tree removed, but they saved the lower portion of the massive tree with the idea of creating a landmark sculpture.
The couple had seen Lucas’ work and were impressed by his skill with the chain saw.
Lucas has created numerous iconic sculptures with his arsenal of specialized saws. He and Sumner master chain-saw carver Bob King represented the United States last year in a worldwide competition in Germany, taking home the second-place trophy.
Wendy Swanson said she and her husband agreed that the remains of the tree should be carved into a dragon. They debated however, about whether the dragon sculpture should be a Chinese-style dragon or a Viking-style beast. The couple had lived in Hong Kong for four years, so there was reason to create an Asian dragon. Bob Swanson’s family background was Northern European, thus the reasoning to carve a Norse-style beast.
Wendy Swanson won that argument. The tree would be transformed into a Chinese dragon, but Bob Swanson’s ancestors also were commemorated in the sculpture. A carved shield at the base of the tree has a distinctive Nordic feel.
Lucas said the redwood was a perfect beginning for the dragon sculpture.
“The tree was solid. It was in good shape,” he said. And redwood’s natural properties give it an uncommon resistance to rot and deterioration.
The project took Lucas about 10 days to complete with time out for bad weather. He worked from a scaffold he erected around the tree, at first removing larger chunks of the trunk and then gradually working in finer detail with his five saws. The final small details were refined with a small rotary grinder and sander.
I’ve learned to ‘read’ a tree well so that I can see how it will evolve.
Jacob Lucas, sculptor
The finished project conformed closely to the drawing that Lucas made before he began sawing. The tree contained no voids or rot that caused him to restyle his sculpture.
“I’ve learned to ‘read’ a tree well so that I can see how it will evolve,” he said.
“I researched Chinese dragons at some depth,” said Lucas. His final design included elements from several classic Chinese dragon depictions including 3-foot-long twisted whiskers sprouted from the dragon’s snout.
Wendy Swanson said she and her husband at first feared Lucas had made mistakes in his initial cuts, but as the dragon emerged from the wood, they were pleased with Lucas’ vision.
“We think it may become a kind of landmark here on Lake Tapps,” Wendy Swanson said.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663