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Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Locally-carved eagle to fly to Pentagon site

By Margie Wuebker

New Bremen-area resident Tim Kuenning stands beside a 7-foot American bald eagle. . .

NEW BREMEN - An eagle in flight, carved from a tree cut down near St. Marys, is heading to the Pentagon this month.
Master chainsaw carver Tim Kuenning of New Bremen completed the 7-foot American eagle over four years. The bird, with wings outstretched, firmly clutches an American flag in its talons. It's new home will be the National Guard Readiness Center.
"I promised people I would give them an opportunity to see the finished work before it leaves Auglaize County," Kuenning said. "Not everyone can make a trip to the nation's capitol."
The eagle will be on display at the New Bremen American Legion Hall along state Route 66 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, noon to 8:30 p.m. Thursday and 5 to 8:30 p.m. Friday.
National Guard officials are looking into transportation of the carving as early as next week. A commanding general has suggested using a helicopter to fly it to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton and then loading it aboard a transport plane to Washington.
Kuenning, a full-time lineman with the village of Minster, works part time as a chainsaw artist traveling once a month with Walmart's FLW Series for professional bass fishermen, where he carves the championship trophy.
A man approached him years ago at one of the tournaments after he saw an eagle trophy taking shape.
"The guy was commanding general of the National Guard Readiness Center and he wanted to commission a much larger eagle for display at the Pentagon," Kuenning said. "I put him in touch with the right people, and the rest is history."
The National Guard is a major sponsor of the fishing tournament named in honor of Forrest L. Wood, legendary founder of Ranger Boats, so the arrangements fell into place rather easily.
"It took me a year to find the right log," Kuenning said. "I talked to a log buyer and told him what I was looking for - a nice hardwood that needed to come down. There was no need to cut a perfectly healthy tree and hurt our ecology in the process."
The white oak, estimated at about 200 years old, showed signs of dying when it was felled north of St. Marys. The log, standing just over 8 feet tall with a 5-foot diameter, was donated when the owner learned its intended purpose.
"The first cut took me 5 1/2 hours and then I called it a day," he said. "The first cuts are the most crucial because you run the risk of taking away too much."
Kuenning likens the process to visualizing a design in the wood and then meticulously cutting away all extraneous material. The eagle holding an American flag is a design he created after Sept. 11.
"I carve things in all shapes and sizes," he said. "But people are happiest when my work involves an eagle. It is the national symbol of America and everything she stands for."
Each of the layered feathers created with the tip of the chainsaw were painstakingly "burned" using a propane torch to bring out the desired coloration, Kuenning said. Staining the flag's stars and stripes was an even greater investment in time.
People often refer to Kuenning, who has been carving for 30 years, as a chainsaw artist. However, he prefers the title wood carving specialist.
Kuenning said he takes great satisfaction in knowing the eagle he completed two weeks ago was made by an Auglaize County man from wood grown in Auglaize County.
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