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Art in Public Places

The Behemoth Juniper

Tom Benedict
Mountain Wildwoods Exhibit, Gardens on Spring Creek


The Behemoth Juniper is the largest and craziest juniper tree that I have ever found. I was very lucky in that it was relatively close to a road. Still, I found it over six years ago and it took that long to finally have all the wheels in motion to get it out. 

Once I get a piece back to my shop, the first step is to pressure wash it. This removes the majority of dirt, grime, and bark remnants. I love pressure washing juniper. It’s like painting away all the weathering and instantly revealing what's underneath. Because the wood is so dense and bone dry internally, it doesn't take long to dry out. 

After that, I go to work with a chainsaw. Usually first, I try to get a sculpture leveled at the base so it stands how I want it. Then I’ll start  to follow the already existing lines of the piece, deepening them. Every now and then I stop and use a sharpie to mark areas for removal. It always feels like I'm just destroying an already beautiful piece in the beginning. Eventually, a layout begins to take shape. And usually only after some hours carving with hand chisels. 

People always ask me what kind of sanders I use. And the answer is: every kind known to man. My main sanders are a flap wheel style, which I build. They allow me to sand any shape and even clear out some of the deepest grooves. That being said, sanding is still no easy task, and short of more specific response, takes forever. It is a satisfying relief to finish the sanding on a piece like the Behemoth Juniper - time to crack the champagne. That only step left is torching, easy by comparison with a torch in one hand and a wet rag in the other. I wet down around a burned area to prevent overburn. 

Hopefully this sheds some light on how these sculptures were created. And thank you for listening.