Subscribe for 17¢ / day

SWEET HOME — Some interesting items have been sold at the annual Boys and Girls Club auction over the years: picnic tables large enough to hold Paul Bunyan, refrigerators decorated in sports-team colors, and truckloads of firewood logs.

But this year’s auction, scheduled for Saturday, features a 1,000 pound, 16-foot-tall wooden statue depicting loggers using a “misery whip” two-man saw to cut down a tree.

The project has taken several months to complete and was the brainchild of Robin Miller and Mike Melcher, who then recruited chainsaw artist Jessee Strack of Whidbey Island, Washington, to make it all possible.

“It all started when I was cleaning up some ugly trees on my place,” Miller said. “I saw this schoolmarm (a tree that branches out) and took it down.”

The tree had three tops on it, but when turned upside down, they created legs to balance the statue perfectly.

Miller said once the tree was on the ground, the idea of turning it into a statue popped up. He and Melcher have worked together on several projects, so he shared the idea with him.

“I watched the chainsaw carver at Sportsman’s Holiday and talked to him after the show but he didn’t seem interested in something like this,” Miller said. “We went down to Reedsport and watched 40 carvers. Jessee did a great job and when we talked to him, he seemed very interested.”

Strack has been creating chainsaw art for the last 18 years and started off crafting small wooden bear heads.

The log was taken to Melcher’s logging company shop in Sweet Home as a design was worked out.

Strack crafted two 5-foot wooden loggers at his home shop and brought them to Sweet Home recently for a final fitting on the log.

“It was pretty tricky to get everything lined up just right to make it look as real as possible,” he said. “It a big project and has been a real challenge, but I’ve done big projects before.”

Miller crafted wooden spring boards — long, wooden planks for loggers to stand on while sawing — and placed them into slots in the log. The wooden loggers hold a real metal saw.

“There are so many angles and dynamics involved,” Strack said. “We had to think about the placement of the springboards, the angle of the loggers’ hands and getting the saw level.”

Strack studied photos of old-time loggers and said it took about a month to create the pair.

“Getting the hands and feet right was the hardest part,” he said.

The hard work might come as the auction nears. The statue will have to be carefully taken apart, moved to the Boys and Girls Club on 18th Avenue, and reassembled for the auction. The process will then be repeated at its new home.

“We hope it brings a lot of money,” Miller said. “It’s for a good cause.”

According to Kris Latimer, executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Greater Santiam, 27 percent of children in east Linn County live in poverty.

Some 220 children in Sweet Home participate in club programs and services daily with 1,100 total enrolled.

The two clubs served more than 85,000 free meals last year.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.