Carver Kings Review Part II


A.J. Kilpatrick

 Today’s chainsaw blog post is another review of HGTV’s Carver Kings.  This post reviews episodes 2,3, and 4.

Carver Kings Review

Dean Ross and Ken Sheen from Carver Kings’ “Tree of Life” episode.  Here we see dean pulling a salmon from the log under Ken’s guidance.

Pain of Thrones

In this episode we see Paul Frenette and Ryan Cook teaming up to create a massive dining room table for a U.S. senator.  The massive table is a thanksgiving rush job and has to be able to seat twenty.  Because Paul is a dreamer, he also adds two massive thrones into the mix to comply with the clients’ wishes for a “King Arthur” feel.  Poor Ryan is once again thrust into the role of the talented rookie as he is shut out of the design process when Paul arrives to their morning meeting with the design already completed.  Apparently, Paul couldn’t sleep until he had finalized the design.

This episode contains the same memes and reality TV machinations detailed in the previous review.  We don’t need to keep going over this as it is pretty much the nature of the beast.  Let’s just accept it and focus on what this, and future episodes, have to offer.  This episode does not have a secondary sub plot like other episodes as the scale of the project more than fills the brief twenty two minutes available.  The sheer massive scale of this table is mind boggling for us mere regular Joes in TV land.  My university summer job as a mover many years ago has me wondering how many homes would even accommodate these massive thrones and table through their humble entrance ways.

This time around, we see Paul making the “big” mistake as he, in his haste to speed up the carving, cuts off a sword pommel that is integral to his throne design.  Back to the wood shop for another throne.  In addition to Paul’s costly mistake, we also get a bit of dramatic friction as Paul allows Ryan to carve the dragons on one throne with the stern direction not to make them too “cartoony”.  Ryan digs in with zeal and carves two impressive dragons only to be told by Paul that his dragoons are now too “angry” and will be too aggressive for a family centered dining room.  Sometimes you just can’t win, Ryan, (and for the record, I kinda preferred your original dragoons over the softened final version.)  Ryan dutifully re-carves the scales and makes the dragons more suitable for Paul’s design.

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Review of HGTV’s Carver Kings

Finally, after one of the hardest winters in memory, one that brought us the most snowfall since we began keeping records, I find my mind turning to this year’s projects and adventurous forays into the world of chainsawing.  One aspect of playing with chainsaws that I am most anxious to try my hand at is carving.  Is there anything more exciting than taking a hunk of wood and using the manliest of power tools to transform it into a piece of art?

Just as my mind turns to such dreams and visions, HGTV, in a move that is serendipity itself, launches a new show devoted to, you guessed it, chainsaw carving.  This spin off from HGTV’s hit show Timber Kings doesn’t follow just any carvers, it follows some of the best carvers working in Canada.

Carver Kings Pete Ryan, Paul Frenette, and Ryan Cook illustration

Carver King’s Pete Ryan has a new power gouge and it’s no HarryCarry, and that has Paul and Ryan spitting chips!


Carver Kings is more of a promo show created to showcase finished pioneer home after people have moved in, and Pioneer’s log homes are incredible enough to warrant a little more showing off.  Although not a “How To” show, it does give us some insight into the various tools and techniques that are used to create some incredible carvings.  These carvings are as ostentatious and “bigger than life” as the log homes in which they will be showcased, but then, that is part of the show’s appeal.

Carver Kings is an entertaining half-hour docu-drama, and its reality show roots drive some recurring contrivances.  There is a sense of manufactured drama in that every job is a last minute order that has a ludicrously tight deadline (who orders a twenty foot long, carved table one week before Thanksgiving from a company several hundred miles away?).  The show also makes use of the rookie versus crusty old mentor meme almost every episode.  The part of the rookie and the part of the mentor may change, but the end is always the same: the rookie will overcome an early mistake to prove his ability and win the begrudging respect of the veteran.  It’s a bit obvious and contrived,  but the personalities of the carving team are so amicable, and their banter is so genuinely entertaining,  that it easy for the viewer to overlook the machinations necessary to create drama in order to drive a storyline.

First Cut

In addition to displaying amazing carvings and the incredible homes that will showcase them, Carver Kings is blessed with a great cast of talented carvers.  The first episode features Ryan Cook pairing up with master speed carver Mark Colp.  Ryan’s good looks, carving talent, and experience as an actor make him a valuable asset to the show.  A newcomer to carving, Ryan has amassed an impressive carving C.V. in a short time which allows him to fill the role of young hotshot/rookie trying to prove himself.  Both Mark and Ryan are affiliated with Echo chainsaws, and this episode gives us a good look at several models in action.

The debut episode is aptly titled First Cuts as it presents us with Ryan’s first task on this project, namely making the first cut in a seven foot tall soaring eagle carving which will be the crowning focal point of this episode’s commission- a thirteen foot tall modern totem pole:.  The long, curved cut is a difficult one, and this episode amps the drama on whether Ryan can handle such a crucial cut.  But, not surprisingly, the rookie who has been to the World Carving Championships manages to impress Mark with his cutting abilities.  Although a little heavy on the mock drama, the two carvers’ charisma and banter more than make up for the production shenanigans (which, to be fair, are very mild compared to most “Reality” programming).  Mark is a carving wizard and both his, and Ryan’s formidable skills are well displayed.

During the episode, Ryan mistakenly cuts off the eagle’s tail, but is able to save the piece.  This first episode also lifts the veil in that it does provide some insight into some of the different tools and techniques that go into making these impressive carvings.  The show also gives the viewer some information on which size bars and tips are used.  If you are looking for a how to guide, Carver Kings will disappoint, but it does offer a glimpse into the technical aspects of carving.

The debut episode also introduces us to master animal carver Pete Ryan and junior carver Dean Ross.  Pete is quite good at providing some comic relief with his quirky sense of humour, (but his carving skills are no joke).  Dean Ross is touted as a junior carver, but his skill and ability to bring his Native inspired flair to life leave little doubt that he is a rising talent in the carving world.  Dean also brings his own brand of good natured humour to the show.  In addition to Pete and Dean, this sub-plot also introduces us to “Cento” (Ceintario Beaulieu) and “Little Man” (Bryan Reid III).  The inclusion of the youngest Bryan Reid helps to set up a recurring theme on the show: the father-son dynamic.  A son struggling to prove himself to his father is a common experience that many viewers will be able to relate to.  That family is important to the Reids has been well documented on Timber Kings, and it is an important concept at play on Carver Kings as later episodes will also feature Paul Frenette’s working with his son Jacob.

All things considered, Carver Kings debut episode is a great way to spend a half hour on a Sunday night.  The carvings are phenomenal and the guys behind the saws are entertaining as hell.  There is always one or two quotable moments from one of the guys.  Tonight’s stand out quote: “I learned an important lesson this week, not to touch another man’s wood.”  Words to live by Ryan.

Carver Kings airs Sundays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV.

Check back later for a brief review of later episodes.


Chainsaw Instructional Videos

Turning To YouTube

A.J. Kilpatrick

After deciding to take the plunge and purchase a chainsaw, I realized that when it comes to the safe operation of a chainsaw, I was relatively clueless (of course, the truly clueless are those who do not realize that they are in need of knowledge).  Anyone can cut a tree down with a chainsaw, it’s not rocket science, but felling a tree safely without endangering life, limb, and property is another matter.  In my searching of the interwebs in an effort to acquire clear instruction in how to safely accomplish my mission to fell the trees near my home, I came across many different articles and videos on how to safely operate a chainsaw.  All of the major brands had their own videos, as did countless others.  Some of the videos were by skilled and knowledgeable individuals, and some videos left me cringing as I wondered if I was watching a snuff film.

Chainsaw operation videos reviewed

Finding good, quality chainsaw instruction videos on the interwebs can be hard.

Of all the videos I watched on chainsawing, the video series that I found to be the most well done and informative was offered by Husqvarna.  Although the other major brands also offer informative videos, the following Husqvarna series succeeded on the strengths and abilities of its instructor, who, for me, presented the material in a clear, concise, and professional manner.  I would love to praise this individual by name, but, as of yet, I have not tracked down his identity.

There were three videos in the series that I feel are particularly worthy of your time.  The first video is quite short, clocking in at three minutes and twenty-five seconds, and it explains the proper stance and position for safely operating a chainsaw.  In addition to demonstrating the proper stance, the instructor also presents the various ergonomic design elements that have been incorporated into the modern chainsaw to make felling a tree easier and more intuitive.

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