SMALL TOWNS: Stangelville man uses chainsaw to help others

A Kewaunee County man is using a talent he discovered, somewhat by chance, to benefit others.
Published: Sep. 28, 2023 at 6:30 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2023 at 6:35 PM CDT
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STANGELVILLE, Wis. (WBAY) - A Kewaunee County man is using a talent he discovered, somewhat by chance, to benefit others.

Over the years, his donated chainsaw carvings have raised more than $100,000 at various fundraising auctions and benefits.

This week in Small Towns, we check out some of his amazing carvings.

Jim Kudick’s latest creation is close to completion.

“How long has it taken you so far to get to this point?” I ask.

“I think I worked on it two days,” says Jim.

With a few more hours of work to go, Jim fires up his chainsaw and is back transforming a log into a bear.

It’s a gift he first discovered back in 2000.

“Dug a pond behind by house, the next year some of the trees died, so I cut them off and started pecking away,” Jim recalls.

“He comes in and asks for a picture of a bear, so I looked for a picture and I had this book of ‘The Three Bears,’ so I brought him that and that’s what it looked like, a little bear,” explains Darlene Kudick, Jim’s wife.

After that first carving, Jim was hooked.

And suddenly, both the front yard and back yard started filling up with Jim’s chainsaw artwork.

Word also began to spread of what Jim was doing, and St. Paul Lutheran School came calling for a donation for its auction.

“The one person that was on the committee asked me if I would chainsaw a bear for it, and I said nobody is going to bid on that. So we didn’t go because I didn’t want to be embarrassed, but it went for like 500 bucks, and then the next year it went for $500, and well then I said, ‘Boy, maybe I should try to get a little better at it,’ so anyway from there it just kept on getting bigger,” says Jim.

Over the last 20 years, Jim’s carvings have brought in more than $50,000 for the school, and that’s just the beginning of his generosity.

Up until he retired five years ago, after a 40-year career installing milking equipment, Jim donated around 15 carvings a year to various organizations, including Special Olympics, and benefits for people in need to auction off.

“Was just a weekend thing until I retired, and it’s got a little bigger,” says Jim.

Now, he’s donating dozens every year and has his chainsaw in his hands practically every day.

“Keeps me away from the refrigerator,” says Jim with a chuckle, before adding, “I start around nine, it takes until about 12:30 or 1 before the sun gets to where I carve, so if it gets too hot, but I usually go in like 2 or 3 o’clock, nothing too crazy.”

If you’re wondering about any prior artistic talent, Jim didn’t realize he had any.

“No, I drew something once in third grade, but that’s about it,” says Jim, laughing.

He’s also very humble about his chain-sawing ability.

“Just keep at it until you get a little better. I wasn’t smart enough to quit, I guess. I just kept pecking away,” explains Jim.

“Sometimes he asks me what I think, and I’ll tell him we have to make a few changes, but most of the time it’s, yeah, he knows what he’s doing, he does a good job,” his wife, Darlene, adds.

Once Jim is done with his chainsaw, he gives his piece a burnt finish.

If any painting is required, that’s where Darlene steps in.

Jim’s preferred wood is white pine, and generally all his carvings are animals and birds of all kinds.

Only once did he ever carve the likeness of a person.

“It was alright. That’s what somebody wanted. They were going through a divorce or something, and they thought this would get them back together, I guess. Don’t know if it worked or not,” says Jim, breaking out in laughter again.

Over the years, Jim has sold a few of his carvings, but his passion has never been about making money.

Instead, it’s been about helping others raise money thanks to his carvings -- and he’s hoping to do a whole lot more.

“As long as I can. I don’t know, until the wife or kids take the chainsaw away, I suppose,” says Jim with a smile.