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Woodcrafter takes carving to next level

Staff writer

Working with wood and cabinets was an area of expertise for remodeler Richard Sardou, but by the dawn of the new millennium, he’d found a new form of expression.

Sardou and his wife Linda first got into carving in 2001 when they met an expert wood carver and now-retired Dremel product instructor in Pennsylvania.

“We got excited about it,” he said. “We came back and started building gun cabinets, coffee tables, and end tables.”

Later that year, he met chainsaw carver A.J. Luter at the Kansas State Fair, who convinced Sardou to go for the more powerful carving method.

“It became a hobby that ran amok,” he said. “I was always looking for trees and chainsaws, it just grew from there.”

The integration process was easier because the Sardous had 30 years previous experience remodeling. The couple also had flexibility with how much time they invested since they ran the Outside Inn Bed and Breakfast at Marion County Lake.

“When I started building cabinets everything had to be perfect,” he said. “When we started building the rustic stuff, we didn’t want to leave a smooth spot anywhere. You had to build it smooth and then rough it up.”

Sardou took a break from carving in the fall of 2017 to care for his wife, but recently started taking requests again after her death in March.

He gravitates toward chainsaw work because he can do large pieces quickly.

“They’re fun to do,” he said. “The hardest part is finding wood.”

In nearly 20 years since he started, Sardou received several accolades, including an award for the best 10-foot-by-10-foot booth at the 2004 state fair.

Even though there is efficiency to his work, it requires finesse and planning like any artistic medium, Sardou said.

“If you’re carving a log, you have to see it in dimension, you have to see it in full size,” he said. “Just because you can do it fast doesn’t mean it’s easy.”

Understanding which tools to use, and how to handle them, develops over time, Sardou said. In the carving collection, he keeps smaller tools for detail work, including smaller chainsaws, Dremel tools, and dye-grinders.

“One of the ideas I stole from A.J. was how to make an eyeball,” he said. “You fit in the dye-grinder and just hold it in the eye, it burns it black. If you make different sizes, you can put little white pupils in the eyes.”

Many of Sardou’s requests and ideas come from clients who request his previous work but with a twist, or he draws inspiration from carving magazines like Chip Chats.

“You might use their idea,” he said. “You really can’t copy something with a chainsaw. I can’t even do the exact same carving twice.”

Sardou’s most frequent carvings are bears and eagles, to the point where he can make them without a reference. He started using those two animals because Luter told him they were popular choices, and they would provide frequent practice.

Last modified Dec. 21, 2018

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