Artisan woodcarver Dennis Beach of Wapwallopen surveys what is left of his workshop after Sunday’s fire that destroyed Beach’s barn and most of his carvings.PETE G. WILCOX PHOTOS/THE TIMES LEADER
A woodcarving of a mama bear with her two cubs carved by artisan woodcarver Dennis Beach was mostly spared from Sunday’s fire.
HOLLENBACK TWP. – Dennis Beach lost a lot – from his works of art and antiques collection to tools and two motorcycles – when his beloved barn burned to the ground on Sunday.
But he hasn’t lost his determination to forge ahead and continue pursuing his hobby and livelihood.
“No one’s going to let me give up. I just have to think, ‘What’s the next best move? What type of building? Where exactly? What do I want to build this week?’ ” Beach said while standing out behind his home near the burnt-out rubble that was once his barn.
Among his creative losses were two benches, a set of blue heron, three raccoons, three or four eagles, a red cedar fox and a few other items, not to mention his personal collection of eight huge bears that sat on the ground across the front of the barn.
Internationally renowned for his skills and talent, Beach, 50, has been sculpting wood with chainsaws for 27 years.
He and his assigned partner took first place in the sixth annual Husky Cup chainsaw carving competition in 2009 in Dresden, Germany. He has been in several competitions in Pennsylvania, Washington state, Japan and Europe, and he placed second in two international competitions in England and Japan and first in Washington state and Pennsylvania.
Carving began as a hobby and is now his livelihood. The barn was filled with pieces he was making for customers as well as pieces he intended to take with him to carving conventions in Ohio this weekend and in Hershey next weekend.
Beach couldn’t put a dollar value on the losses to the fire, the cause of which was still under investigation on Monday.
His father, Ronald Beach, was quick to throw out a guess of $200,000, given not only the value of the carvings and the barn itself, but also many of the collectibles inside.
“I lost my antique chainsaw collection, probably a dozen saws in the collection. I had all my collectibles in there – cool, old stuff that really may not be worth much, but it was cool hanging on the wall, kind of like a mini-museum,” Dennis Beach said.
Two-man saws, quite a few logging tools, deer heads, a boar’s head and a cedar canoe in the barn’s attic were among the losses.
“Then I had built a front porch across the whole front of the barn,” Beach said, looking over the burnt and smoldering rubble on Monday afternoon. His personal collection of eight huge wooden bears that he had carved over the years had been set up outside the front of the barn also were casualties.
“This was kind of saved,” Beach said, looking over one of the sculptures – a mama bear with two cubs. But the fire had charred the intricate fur-like detail down to cracked, blackened ridges in the wood.
The barn was not only a workplace, but also a gathering place for family and friends.
“This was like the big hangout. It had nice windows and insulation. When my dad would come up, he wouldn’t knock on the door; he went out to the barn,” Beach said.
Now, instead of thinking about woodworking projects, insurance, cleanup and rebuilding are on his mind.
“I’m just worried about insurance, seeing if I can get a fair shake,” Beach said, lamenting that the approximately 70-year-old edifice was “very weakly” insured.
“I’m thinking a lot of stuff. I’m already planning what we’re going to do for a new big barn. What am I going to do for a temporary place to work?” he said, contemplating a metal shed about the size of a carport.
Beach’s thoughts quickly returned to memories of the time spent working and socializing there.
“It was such a cool, old building. We finally got it to the point where Pop had it all swept out nice and neat. It was like walking into somebody’s living room,” Beach said.
“And now it’s gone, after all that work,” Ronald Beach said.
Dennis Beach has donated numerous wood carvings for raffles and auctions to benefit charities over the years. To help him in his time of need, donations can be mailed to him at 894 Hobbie Road, Wapwallopen, PA 18660.