SKOWHEGAN — Dan Burns donned gloves, ear phones and protective eye glasses, cranked up his chainsaw and commenced carving a block of pine.

Chips and sawdust scattered as he sliced, trimmed, and honed the wood, slowly molding it into the shape of a bear, complete with paws, claws, eyes, nose and ears.

He carefully sawed around the ears and smoothed out the chest, the vertical grain of the wood emerging to lend tone and texture to the little bear. Within 25 minutes, Burns had completed the animal, adding finer touches with use of a blow torch, brushes and spray paint.

Burns placed it with dozens of others creatures he had carved and was selling Saturday at the River Fest celebration downtown. They included bald eagles, owls, dogs, bluebirds, cardinals and moose.

Dan Burns creates a wooden sculpture with his chainsaw Friday during Moonlight Madness in downtown Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“They’re just beautiful and they look affordable, too,” said Joan Brown, as she watched Burns wield the chainsaw. “We want to buy one because they’re adorable.”

Brown, of Skowhegan, was with her granddaughter, Molly Fitzpatrick, 9, who was awed by his work.


“I think it’s just amazing,” Fitzpatrick said. “I can’t do this.”

Above the roar of the chainsaw, visitors were flocking to the fifth day of River Fest festivities, held in the parking lot and green space between downtown buildings and the Kennebec River.

Carroll and Lila Ware, left, were the winners of the Jack and Jill costume contest Friday during Moonlight Madness in downtown Skowhegan. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Vendors were selling goods including French fries, pastries, jewelry, books, hand-painted jugs with tiny lights inside, leather goods, toys, cotton candy and stuffed animals. The Skowhegan Lions Club was conducting free vision tests and parents watched as children descended a climbing wall.

Burns had carved wood figures Friday night also, using locally-sourced pine he gets from various arborists.

“I do these in about 20 minutes,” he said, motioning to his small bears. “I can do an owl or a cardinal in about 10. I use mostly pine. I use cedar and oak and whatnot, but pine is such a valuable resource in Maine.”

A small bear sits on display after chainsaw artist Dan Burns demonstrates his craft to spectators Saturday during River Fest in Skowhegan. (Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel) Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

He has been creating and selling the chainsaw art about 13 years from his hometown of Augusta and has appeared on television shows, including six episodes of Maine Cabin Masters. He ships his works all over the country and Canada and even has sent pieces to Malaysia.


Burns has been working with wood most of his life. He recalled when he was 13 and spending time with his father and uncle as they sawed up camp wood on the tailgate of an old GMC. They wanted him to hold the logs which was fine, he said, but he really wanted to apply the chainsaw.

“Using a chainsaw, for me, is like having a spinning spoon,” he said. “It’s a lot of triangles. All my scrap are wedges.”

Burns, 47, attended parochial schools as a child, graduated from Hall-Dale High School in Farmingdale when he was a junior, and for a year after that, he was a foreign exchange student in Chile where he lived with a graphic artist. He then earned a fine arts degree, with a focus on painting and sculpture, from University of Southern Maine.

His family owned Burnsies Sandwich Shop on the west side of  the Augusta rotary in the 1980s and ’90s and in the early 2000s, he opened a restaurant and deli in the State House. Later, before he started doing chainsaw art, he managed restaurants. People would often turn to him when they had a problem that needed solving.

“Everyone has a talent,” he said. “Some people can roof, some people can write, some people can change brakes. “I was always able to make something out of nothing.”

As he carved with the chainsaw Saturday, people strolled by and stopped to watch. He joked with them and particularly appeared to like talking with children. All his interactions were upbeat.


“I like being around people,” he said. “I like living. We have one chance at this. It’s a one-in-a-trillion chance for us to be here, and alive. That’s nice. That’s beyond. We’re lucky.”

His work may be viewed on Facebook at BurnsBears and he may be reached at

The last day of the six-day River Fest is Sunday when down river races will be held, and from 1-4 p.m. at Coburn Park there will be live music, food trucks, kite creation demonstrations and kite flying, as well as games and horse-drawn wagon rides.


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