Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Care and Feeding of Outdoor Wooden “Chain Saw” Bears and Other Critters by Stan Ames

For those of us that enjoy these whimsical sculptures, there are some definite guidelines for their care and preservation.

When you buy your critter ask the sculptor what brand and color of spray paint was used to add the contrasting colors to it. Buy the same paint for your own application in current or future maintenance to your new or existing critters.

Where do you buy these sculptures? You can “Google” for them using “wooden chainsaw garden animals” as your search request, or there are several vendors just outside of Manitou Springs or in Nederland.

When you bring home your “pet” from the local game preserve the very first and critical step is to closely inspect the critter for cracks! Cracks, regardless of size, let moisture inside and allow for premature rotting and access for insects. This is important even if you plan to display the statue on a porch or in a covered area.

Sometimes they break the rules!

These cracks should be filled with an adhesive sealant or caulk before placing the creature in your garden. I personally prefer “Liquid Nails” as it usually dries to a color that will, at least, blend with the natural color of the wood.

Fill these cracks as completely as possible using a smaller opening in the nozzle of your adhesive than normal. Larger cracks may make it necessary to press the sealant down into the crack using a tool made from, perhaps, a popsicle stick or similar device.
Once the crack is filled, clean the excess Liquid Nails from the surface of your critter using mineral spirits and several clean cloths. This may take several applications, but the result will be a more invisible repair.

After the sealant cures, 24 hours to several days depending on the size and depth of the crack, use the same paint color the sculptor used to cover the repair. Next apply two coats of your favorite transparent wood treatment to the entire critter. If you have a wooden deck consider using the same treatment as you apply to the deck, just make sure it is transparent so you can show off the grain and contrasts in your statue.

Another major cause of terminal disease for wooden critters is absorption of moisture through the bottom or base of the statue through capillary action. The moisture will eventually give your critter an incurable case of fungus, mold and even insect pests. Therefore it is critical to place the critter on a surface that allows for rapid drainage of rain or lawn sprinkler system water.

NEVER place your critter on bare soil! The best option is to dig a shallow (six inches deep at least) hole approximately half again as large in diameter of the critter and fill it with large and medium size river rock and place your critter on the rock. The idea is to provide rapid drainage of water and not to allow water to accumulate and stand around the bottom of the critter.

In winter you should allow your critter to “hibernate” in a dry cool place like your basement or garage. Snow melt will find its way into the smallest of cracks and the rapid temperature shifts during a typical Colorado winter will cause more cracks to develop and existing cracks to expand.