Chainsaw carver showcases artwork at state fair

HARRINGTON, Del. (AP) — It’s obvious that Josh Miller has become a master at his craft when the lead singer of one of the headlining bands at the Delaware State Fair made a point of going out of his way to see one of his chainsaw carvings.

Such was the case at the fair last month when Billy Gibbons, lead singer and guitarist for ZZ Top, stopped to pay Mr. Miller a visit before he and his band wowed the crowd at the M&T Bank Grandstand.

“That was pretty cool," said Mr. Miller, who grew up in Kent County, Maryland, but moved to Felton six years ago. “We kind of had a hint that they were going to try to (come by), but you never know with those guys. They’ve got long nights and a lot of stuff to do, and we didn’t know, but yeah, that was a cool surprise.”

Mr. Miller said Mr. Gibbons seemed to be quite impressed with his chainsaw carving of him playing his guitar, which he signed before leaving.

“He came around the corner on a golf cart and all of a sudden I saw his hands go up with a camera in his hand taking a bunch of pictures of it,” said Mr. Miller. “He didn’t say a whole lot, but he definitely thought it was pretty cool.”

Mr. Miller has been woodcarving for about seven years.

“I needed to cut a tree down in my yard and I just decided to play around with it,” he said. “Eventually, I turned the tree into a Minion (from the movie “Despicable Me”).”

However, it took the coronavirus pandemic to push him into starting his own carving business.

“I was actually just working a regular job and then when the pandemic started, I got furloughed,” said Mr. Miller. “There was another guy in Delaware who got furloughed at the same time and I think we both kind of decided we weren’t going back at the same time.

“He started his own business, and I started my own business.”

Mr. Miller’s business is Artnsaw Chainsaw Carving.

On the grounds of the state fair, just across from the DNREC Building, his woodcarvings were on display featuring Mr. Gibbons, a motorcycle and lots of birds, including eagles, owls and herons,

Mary Beth Ridley, from Fayetteville, Arkansas, toured his woodwork with her eyes wide open in amazement.

“It’s gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous,” she said. “I really like the motorcycle (carving). I’d have to say that took at least six weeks to carve. I like the eagle, too, with its winds spread.”

Ms. Ridley might be surprised to know that it only took Mr. Miller a week and a half to carve out the motorcycle and just two-and-a-half days to create his chainsaw wood sculpture of Mr. Gibbons.

Mr. Miller was sad to see the state fair go after the lights went out for the final time. This was the first time he has displayed and sold his chainsaw carvings at the Delaware State Fair.

“This is my first year doing the state fair,” he said. “Southern States, which is where I get all my equipment from and get all my chains and all that stuff from, asked me to come out here and set up with them and I’m very, very grateful for that.

“It’s awesome out here. I get a lot of positive feedback on what people like and everything and it’s fun. People watching is fun.”

He laughed and said he did make one valuable investment during his inaugural appearance at the fair — an industrial-strength fan.

“This is a pretty cool first (Delaware State) Fair for me,” he said. “It’s definitely been warm. This is my second of four fairs that I do. I do a couple of other fall events and then in the springtime, there’s a lot of chainsaw carving events that I go to — probably a half-dozen or so.

“I take custom orders. Right now, I’ve got a backlog, so I’ve got a lot of on-sites to go to where I carve something at people’s houses … a stump in their yard or something.”

Not only is Mr. Miller now a Delaware State Fair veteran, but he is also a world-record holder.

“I just finished up down in Chesapeake, Virginia, with a world-record largest eagle ever carved,” he said. “It had a 20-foot wingspan.”

It probably still wasn’t as cool as having Mr. Gibbons stopping by to sign one of his creations.

That experience is going to be awfully hard to ZZ Top.