Albany’s Chainsaw Carver
Nestled just off Mercer Road behind Allambie Park Cemetery lies a hidden grotto of carved wooden creatures and objects, set along a driveway amongst ancient trees. The entrance is marked by a huge Walrus and a large wooden chainsaw in tribute to the tool of choice for Darrel Radcliffe’s amazing creations. Chainsaw carving originated in the USA in the 1950’s but really began to take off in the 1980’s with the growth of the internet. Darrel came across it for the first time about 10 years ago on a trip to the UK, where he saw a statue carved by a chainsaw artist. Darrel says, “I thought that looks really good, I’d like to have a go at that. So I came home and trawled You Tube for videos and began to teach myself how to do it”.
Always artistic, Darrel used to sculpt with metal prior to this, he had to adapt his skills to work with a completely different material. This was made even more difficult as the wood indigenous to this area is mainly Jarrah, Marri and Sheoak. This type of wood is a lot harder than that in the USA or even over in the Eastern States. Still, Darrel was not daunted by the challenge, in fact he tells me he has a simple formula he uses whenever a project is particularly challenging. “Just buy a bigger chainsaw” he says with a grin.
As interest began to grow in his work he decided to create a Sculpture Drive-through that people could pass through to see his carvings. He knew that Sculpture Walkways were popular in the USA, and even over East, but to his knowledge nobody had created a Drive-through. He set about doing this with his usual enthusiasm and vigour and completed the driveway in 2015. He admits that he does not sleep very much and his head is “always buzzing with ideas”. Though his wife Julia does insist that he doesn’t start up his chainsaws until a reasonable hour in the morning.
Local tour buses and holiday parks promote the Sculpture Drive-through and tourists regularly stop to have their photograph taken with Wally the Walrus and to explore Darrel’s unique creations. One of these is a gorgeous honey bucket, which is so opulent and smooth it is hard to believe that it is created from wood with a chainsaw. Darrel’s creative genius is well known in these parts and he continues to add monthly to his amazing collection. Tiny mice peak out of guns, cats arch their backs to hiss at dogs and a full-size grandfather clock appears to have emerged from the woodland itself. The pieces are so expressive they seem to be telling you their story as you meander along. One of his favourite pieces is the Cello which sits proudly at the half way point next to the donations box, which encourages you to put in “Whatever ya think is fair”.
Some pieces are for sale to the public, and he was even asked to ship the grandfather clock (which got over 1 million likes on Facebook) to a buyer in the USA, but some carvings are too special to sell. He admits he once made the mistake of displaying a beautiful sculpture of mushrooms, which he had made specially for his wife’s birthday, in an exhibition. “I put a large price tag on it so that it wouldn’t sell,” he said ruefully, “But someone bought it anyway! My wife wasn’t very pleased”.
Darrel’s love of this unusual craft is evident in every unique piece. He says his greatest motivation is seeing the enjoyment his work gives to people and helping to promote tourism in his home town of Albany.
The Sculpture Drive-through is situated at 333 Mercer Road and is open 7 days a week from 8am – 5pm and entrance is by donation. Visit Darrel’s Facebook page “Darrel Radcliffe – Chainsaw Carver” to view regular new carvings and watch his work.