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 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.
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.