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25 years, counting for local woodcarver

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WOODS BAY – Todd Coats has been carving images with a chainsaw for 25 years.

It all started in 1992 when he was asked to carve a 9-foot bear for a customer.

Coats, who was working at his parents’ wood products shop in Kalispell, embarked on the task and never looked back.

“I taught myself,” he said of his trade. “I did it so slow with no comfort zone. It took a month.”

Today, Coats, 57, can do the same bear in three days.

He estimates that he’s done some 12,000 carvings since then – mainly consisting of animals. Bears and mountain goats are the most popular, but he’s done other animals too. He recently made “Charlie the Tuna,” a caricature from StarKist Tuna TV commercials.

A number of famous folks have employed Coats as well, including actor John Lithgow, for whom Coats carved a bear on Lithgow’s Rollins property.

Coats estimates that he’s carved some 50 works at customers’ properties over the years, about two per year. The rest he does at his outdoor workshop, located on the east side of Montana 35 in Woods Bay about a quarter-mile north of Woods Bay Grill.

Coats’ largest bear was 18 feet tall and part of a larger 43-foot-tall display that included a logger and cub in a live tree.

He typically uses ponderosa pine trees for his creations and stains them.

Coats began developing his art skills in sixth grade with pencil drawings. A high school teacher in Denver gave Coats his own “room” within an art room, he said.

Coats moved to the Bigfork area with his mom and stepdad – Patricia and Bob Myers – prior to his senior year and graduated from Bigfork High School in 1978. He later left to work in Texas for 12 years before returning to Montana.

Coats works long days in the summer months and three or so hours a day in the winter.

He can be reached at 406-270-3406 or on Facebook by searching for “Todd’s Chainsaw Art.”

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