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Carving a path to success: Justin Dagley finds unique talent sculpting wood with saws

Justin Dagley sizes up the wing on a cardinal he started carving at the Berwick Winter Carnival Feb. 10.
Justin Dagley sizes up the wing on a cardinal he started carving at the Berwick Winter Carnival Feb. 10. - Sara Ericsson

KENTVILLE – Justin Dagley found out he could carve wooden sculptures using a saw by accident.

One day, he was on a worksite and came across a piece of wood, and was struck with an idea.

Looking at it, he wondered if he could carve the piece of wood into an eagle. Sure enough, he did just that. Years later, a woman who’d ordered an osprey carving arrived to pick it up and saw the eagle. It now sits proudly inside the Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre.

The first sculpture Dagley ever carved was an eagle, which is now on display at the Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre.
The first sculpture Dagley ever carved was an eagle, which is now on display at the Halifax World Trade and Convention Centre.

“It made me feel really proud. She wasn’t leaving until she got that eagle, too,” laughed Dagley.

Bringing the birds to Berwick

Dagley set up a live showcasing of him creating carvings as part of the Berwick Winter Carnival.

While the event welcomed rain instead of snow this year, Dagley had several bystanders throughout the day as he carved wooden sculptures, creating several birds throughout the course of the day.

He said he does showcases just a few times per year, across the province.

His shop is currently set up in Conquerall Mills, near Bridgewater, where he also works in silviculture.

His carvings vary in size and style, ranging from models of birds to bears, fishermen, landscapes and even people.

The long hours can be hard on the saws used by Dagley, who works in silviculture, but he says it's nothing when compared to the wear and tear on his day job.
The long hours can be hard on the saws used by Dagley, who works in silviculture, but he says it's nothing when compared to the wear and tear on his day job.

Dagley said each of his showcases work differently. His big event is the Bridgewater Exhibition, where fishermen and fish sculptures sell like crazy, while in Berwick, birds tend to capture the eye.

His approach at a showcase is pretty much the same – outside, in the open. The rain didn’t affect his carving too much, apart from the finishing process on his last cardinal.

“Today has turned out pretty well, and the rain hasn’t really been too much trouble. I always carve outside,” he said.

A clear love of nature

Dagley’s carvings are both originals and based on orders sent in by customers.

As someone who loves being outside among the trees, Dagley’s art reflects his love for nature and the outdoors.

Cardinals, finches and chickadees were just some of the birds Dagley carved at the event.
Cardinals, finches and chickadees were just some of the birds Dagley carved at the event.

Several bystanders remarked on just that as they were taking in the showcase.

“It’s really interesting how he’s able to see the bird from just looking at the piece of wood,” said Joe MacDonald, of South Alton.

Dagley’s biggest challenge while he carves is the wear and tear on his saws, which is said is nothing compared to the wear on his saws after a day out working in the woods.

“The only problem today is the rain – it makes loading up on fuel basically a no-go,” he said.

Website: http://justinswoodart.yolasite.com/

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