Xander Waibel takes a cut at the springboard chopping competition.photo by Lynn Woodward
Xander Waibel takes a cut at the springboard chopping competition.photo by Lynn Woodward
A chilly breeze couldn't keep a hardy crowd away from the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce's "From Timber to Turned Wood" event, held Saturday on a lot in Pine Meadow Village.

The bleachers were full for each of three lumberjack shows staged by Stihl Timbersports Series Events.

"This is our first-ever logging competition," Chamber Executive Director Erin Borla said. "We're here celebrating the sesquicentennial (150 years of Oregon statehood), celebrating the history of our state and our

community."

The crowd was thrilled to see lumberjack competitors show off their skills in chopping, ax throwing, pole climbing, logrolling and more.

"I've seen logging competitions on ESPN from Wisconsin, but to see it here, live in Sisters is amazing," said Rick Rollins.

The star attraction was two competitors, Derek Knutson and Xander Waibel, competing in seven logging events for three shows. Stihl Timbersports hails from Hayward, Wisconsin. The performers charmed the crowd with their midwest humor.

Host Dave Weatherhead immediately separated the two competitors into "logging camps." Knutson represented camp number 13 and Waibel camp number 9, with each half of the crowd cheering and booing for their favorite camp.

First up, they competed with crosscut saws to see who could cut through their log first. Camp 13's Knutson won it. Then came three ax throws. Waibel nailed the practice shot with a bullseye, but Knutson won the competition with Waibel missing the target and splitting the backboard. Weatherhead explained that Waibel wasn't used to doing those throws because his mother usually did them for him.

Ironically, competitor and 2009 National Speed Climbing champion Derek Knutson got into the sport because of his mother.

"My mom was a logroller and she got me started as a little kid when I was four. It's my sixth year doing shows," Knutson said. "I have been doing this to be able to travel and see the country."

Competitor Xander Waibel, from Eugene, Oregon, started as a competitor because his dad and grandpa were show competitors.

"When I was a little kid, 5 years old," Waibel said, "my dad put me on a log. Logrolling is still my favorite event. Tree climbing is my next favorite, but for years I didn't want to do it because I saw so many people get hurt."

While the competitors had their own version of chainsaw carving, Sisters' own Skip Armstrong was there to demonstrate how the pros do it. Armstrong carved a group of herons in the morning and a family of otters in the afternoon.

"I've been carving for 35 years," Armstrong said. "I started when I was program director for a kids' camp on Spirit Lake. I thought it would be great to teach to the kids to make totem poles and masks' and since there was no one else around to do it, I learned to carve, taught them, and got hooked."

Vendors inside the big tent demonstrated their own variety of woodworking skills.

Swiss Mountain Log Homes and owners Phil and Kris Rerat, one of the event's main sponsors, brought log samples.

"We buy straight from loggers in the woods, from the logging deck," Phil explained. "I usually buy dead standing lodgepole pine with good humidity.

"Our logs are hand crafted, not milled," Phil said. "They're hand-peeled and hand-scribed. Scribing transfers the contours of the log onto the adjacent log."

"There's a universal appeal to logs," his wife Kris added. "They have a warm and cozy feel."

Larry Thorson, of La Pine, whose wood bowls are displayed at DonTerra Artworks in Sisters, uses blue and buggy pine to make his bowls.

"You can't use the wood for two-by-fours or building, and the beetle holes make it unique," Thorson said.

Dave and Diana Cretsinger, of Crooked River Ranch, former owners of Tumbleweed Country Store in Sisters, use rustic salvaged wood to make furniture and picture frames. Items are embellished with leather from a draft horse harness, and a variety of salvaged rivets and other metal bits.

"As a kid I liked old wood, and as I got bigger decided I wanted to make furniture for a store," Dave said. "I sometimes use steelwork, horse shoes. The details make the piece."

Bill MacDonald was joined by his son Graham, and represented the Sisters High School Luthier Program. MacDonald explained the art of building and repairing stringed instruments

"There are only two high schools in the United States who build guitars. The best part of the program is to see the kids walk out with a guitar in hand. The flex kids with their challenged home life are the best. They build self esteem, so the kids clean up their act because they are proud of what they accomplish," MacDonald said.

Jean Nave, founder of the Sisters Country Historical Society, taught people to carve a sign using

old-fashioned hand tools.

"My folks carved years ago. I wanted to make a sign, bought the tools, drew my sign and started carving it," Nave said. "A friend inherited 150-year-old tools. The steel is better and can't be reproduced today."

Three Sisters Lions Club provided food for the day's festivities. Their Beer Baron Smoked Sausage and chili kept people warm.