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Chainsaw sculpture in DL

Chainsaw artist Troy Conlon carves away at an oak stump in Joe Solmon's backyard. Conlon was hired to carve a six-foot bald eagle sanding on rocks with a Harley-Davidson logo beneath.1 / 2
Applying sealant to preserve the sculpture, artist Troy Conlon says it will last indefinitely as long as it is cared for properly.2 / 2

Detroit Lakes resident and self-described Harley-Davidson nut Joe Solmon wanted something to "class up" his backyard.

The seven-foot-tall, three-foot-wide oak stump there wasn't doing the job.

So he had it carved up -- into a six-foot-tall bald eagle sitting atop a Harley-Davidson logo.

He cut down the dead oak tree three years ago, and started planning on having it carved into something.

"I've always loved those chainsaw carvings," Solmon said.

Solmon let the stump dry out for three years, so the wood wouldn't split, then called Floodwood chainsaw artist Troy Conlon and inquired about his eagle idea.

Conlon sent a drawing of his idea to Solmon, who was very impressed.

"After seeing the picture, I told him to get on down here and do it," Solmon said.

Conlon spent all of last Saturday creating his drawing in Solmon's oak with little more than four chainsaws.

"I can't believe there's no pattern or anything. He just started carving," Solmon said of Conlon's technique.

Conlon said he carved two smaller eagles to practice for Solmon's -- the largest carving he's ever done. His smaller carvings are easier to sell, therefore he rarely carves anything over three feet.

"Not many people want a six-foot eagle," Conlon said.

He learned to chainsaw carve from his step-father, who is an expert bear carver, and started carving on his own six years ago.

Conlon knew he would have to learn to become an expert in an animal of his own so he wouldn't compete with his step-father.

"He makes a pretty good bear," Conlon said.

He is generally booked most summer weekends at art shows and street fairs, which is why it's hard for him to keep any inventory.

"It takes me all day to make a carving," he said. "I'm going to run out of inventory before the summer is over."

Conlon and his step-father formed a company, Rusted Bear Den, and also create custom cedar signs. Carving, however, is just his summer job -- selling his carvings in the summer lets him play hockey in the winter. He is a forward for the Dubuque Thunderbirds of the Central States Hockey League.

"Carving is fun and definitely doesn't get old," Conlon said. "It's nice to see something you've accomplished at the end of the day. It beats sitting at a desk."

As for the finished product, Solmon said the $1,000 he paid for the carving was well worth the money -- and in fact very "reasonable."

After a several-year regimen of painting on sealer, Conlon said the eagle should last forever -- forever looking over Solmon's backyard and classing it up.