The fantastic creations of chainsaw carver Anthony Robinson easily catch the eye of passersby as they spy his Native Beach Art just off State Route 109 at Copalis Crossing.

Tony carves everything imaginable, from the customary bears, eagles, Sasquatches and horses to forest and sea creatures and mythical beings. His 15-foot Poseidon statue can be admired at the Seabreeze Gallery at Hogan’s Corner.

Raised on a farm in Ohio, Tony built luxury homes for a living. However, when his marriage failed in 2011, he ended up in Westport, depressed and penniless. He began fashioning jewelry from beachcombed stones and sea glass.

Photo by Marguerite Garth

One day, when he came across a large piece of driftwood, he felt the urge to carve it into a wolf. “I bought a chainsaw and made a mess of it,” he remembers. Having found his vocation, he has been chainsaw carving prolifically ever since, with growing skill and infectious enthusiasm. In 2015, Tony opened his current shop in Copalis Crossing, where he has access to low-cost logs; something that is important, considering his penchant for large pieces.

One of his recent projects is a gigantic bar waterfall, carved from a hollow cedar “gun barrel” log. Loggers cannot use hollow trees but Tony’s ever-inventive mind has found a purpose for them. He has carved  the outside, inserted water hoses all the way to the top to create a waterfall and drilled holes into natural shelves to hold water plants. “The sound of the water falling in the cedar hollow is beautiful,” he says.

In spite of Covid-19, Tony’s Native Beach Art is doing well, with orders backed up, including a 13-foot Bigfoot waterfall. Not only does Tony enjoy creating art himself, he plans to give back to the art community by providing rent-free spaces on his property. He’s already constructed one 8-foot-by-12-foot prototype cabin to house an artist.

Grays Harbor has rich carver history

Chainsaw carving art has a rich history in Grays Harbor.  In fact, inside the Sooz Rusty Nail antique store in Ocean City is the home of the Judy McVay Museum of Chainsaw Carving.

Sooz Rusty Nail owners Sue Darcy and McNall Mason, tell the surprising story of a pioneering woman chainsaw artist, Judy McVay.  McVay is the nearly forgotten creator of familiar North Beach landmarks such as the “Welcome to Ocean Shores” sign and the iconic Lake Quinault Lodge rain gauge. In addition, she collaborated with her brother Mike McVay on the Humptulips Cemetery sign. The small museum opened this year.

Anthony Robinson is planning to house artists on his property in cabins like this prototype. (Photo by Marguerite Garth)

Chainsaw artist Judy McVay work hanging at Kalaloch Lodge (Photo by Amy Ostwalt)

It was while “picking” antiques for the store a while back that  Sue and McNall came across a beautiful discarded Copalis Beach Automotive sign,  bearing the carver’s signature, Judy McVay.

“We discovered that Judy’s amazing carvings were everywhere, but that nobody remembered her,” says Sue. Judy is a great-grandmother today and is retired outside of Grays Harbor.

So, Sue and McNall have made it their mission to restore the memory of this amazing chainsaw carving pioneer. Sooz Rusty Nail displays two large murals carved by Judy. More items are to follow. The last surviving totem pole carved by the artist is soon to be installed in the store. 

In addition, the two folk historians have created a beautiful brochure with a self-guided tour of Judy’s work, and a kiosk in a corner of the store. Their eloquently written and well-researched history of Judy McVay and her chainsaw-carving clan is a labor of love, published on two websites: and

In 1969, Judy McVay and her itinerant logger husband Dick Backus divorced, leaving her stranded in Humptulips with three young children, Steve, Lynn and Boaz. In 1970, Judy’s chainsaw-artist brother Mike taught her how to carve with the heavy gas-powered saws of the time. Judy soon was able to support her family by carving signs.

She created thousands of beautiful folk art signs, many of which can still be found on the coast today. Sooz Rusty Nail houses a magnificent, 19-foot mural from the former Neil’s Clover Patch restaurant in Langley, depicting foods set out on a long table.

”Judy was a painter before she began carving,” explains Sue of the unique carving style. “She was also fascinated with stained glass. In this mural, she has recreated the look of stained glass.”

In addition to supporting her family with her art, Judy McVay made history as the first female chainsaw carver in Washington State. She baffled her male fellow carvers by routinely placing ahead of them in competitions.

“The guys at the Puyallup Fair used to dread her arrival, hoping she would not come,” says Sue. “She used to show up in her truck at the last minute.”

Judy’s daughter, Lynn, continued the tradition of female chainsaw artists and later even helped teach Tony Robinson to carve. And Judy’s sons, Steve and Boaz Backus, also followed the family tradition.

A ‘family’ of carvers

Recently Tony Robinson was among the area chainsaw carvers to attend a fundraiser for Judy’s son, Boaz Backus, a carver who was recovering from a heart attack.

Hosted by Ivan and Maria Haas, owners of the Ocean City Market Place, many carvers came to the aid of their fellow artist.

Among the roar of five or six running saws and a fragrant cloud of sawdust, Steve Backus could be seen using a propane burner to add black accents to the surface of an eagle sculpture. He created the eagle especially for the auction to benefit his brother. His display also includes older pieces, such as an animated elephant relief. A small sailboat on a curly sea, beautiful in its simplicity, shows that Steve, like his mother, has taken chainsaw carving from craft to the

level of art.

At the fundraiser for his brother, Steve Backus shared some of his encyclopedic knowledge of chainsaw art history. He talked about the arrival of the commercial chainsaw in the 1950s and about his uncle Mike McVay carving an Easter Island head at Eel Lake, Oregon, in 1956, which may have been the very first chainsaw carving.

The art of chainsaw carving may actually have been born right here in the Pacific Northwest. In his research, Steve has not been able to find any early chainsaw artists on the East Coast. The McVay-Backus family has certainly played a major role in the practice and promotion of the art of chainsaw carving.

Recuperating after his heart attack, Boaz’s greatest worry is that he might not be able to carve anymore.

His brother Steve explains. “Carving is only part of the job. It’s like a construction job, moving heavy pieces and loading them onto trucks.”

Thankfully, Boaz is also a gifted auctioneer. ”He is the benchmark auctioneers measure themselves against,” says Steve. “Boaz has raised about $650,000 (over the years). He has helped so many others, now we are helping him.”

The elephant is one of Steve Backus’ favorite pieces. (Photo by Christine Vincent)

There are two great opportunities to view and shop for chainsaw art this summer. The Ocean Shores Sand and Sawdust Festival takes place June 25 to 27. There, 30 carvers will be creating a hundred sculptures. For more information, go to Tokeland Wood & Arts Fest is scheduled for August 14 and 15 at the Tokeland Hotel. There will be chainsaw carving, wood artists, food vendors, and live music. For more information go to