Foothills artist thinks big in woodcarving

Some folks look at a log and see a log.

Tony Sigala sees what it could be: a bear, an eagle, a dolphin, even a giant pair of sunglasses.

The 59-year-old Twain Harte resident has sculpted in various media over the years and now works primarily in wood, with a chain saw as his carving tool.

At his Jamestown shop, Just Recycled Art, Sigala said he’s always up for a challenge.

“If somebody wants a truck, I’ll do a truck.” Not full-scale, of course, though he’s carved many a larger-than-life piece, from a giant rattlesnake to those 8-foot-long sunglasses he sold to a Redwood City store called Brick Monkey.

Bears are popular sculptures, and Sigala has done totem poles, birdhouses, tables, chairs, a 9-foot-long bench with eagle-head armrests and more. “I’m doing a lot of benches and signs,” he said.

Last week, he was working on what’s called a live-edge tabletop for a new eatery in Sonora. Live-edge tables incorporate the natural edge of the wood into the design of the piece. The tabletop is for Kimo’s Hawaiian restaurant and is engraved with the business’s name, along with images of blossoms and tikis.

Sigala said he’s also fond of carving “crazy stuff,” such as fire hydrants and oversize motorcycle racing boots.

Though he said he’s still learning and improving as a chain-saw carver, the Bay Area-born-and-raised Sigala long has been an artist.

“About 20 years ago, a girlfriend of mine was an artist,” he said. “I was doing clay, like pots, bowls and dishes, and after about a year of that wanted to try something different. She said, ‘Try stone,’ and she brought me a piece of alabaster.”

He got into that, he said, and sculpted salmon, cowboys, Indians, “stuff like that,” but then stopped and did no artwork for a long time.

A carpenter by trade, Sigala found himself out of work about four years ago. He recalled seeing at a county fair a chain-saw carver do “some amazing stuff.” So when he came upon “tons of firewood” for sale while walking his dog in the woods in Portola Valley, he decided he’d try to carve a bear.

Sigala, who moved to Twain Harte from Half Moon Bay, bought a chain saw in a Sonora pawn shop. He bought a carving bar for the saw, which came with a DVD on how to carve.

“That was the beginning, and I wasn’t very good,” Sigala said. “On YouTube, I saw guys carving things in 12 minutes, eight minutes, four minutes. My first ones, I couldn’t give them away.”

Now, he said, he can do bears in nine minutes. That’s just the chain-saw part of it, he noted, saying that adding details by grinding, and then sanding, burning to add color and applying a sealant all take longer.

With the chain saw, there’s pride to be had in being fast, but “my priorities are that the piece looks right,” Sigala said. “If it takes another half-hour or hour, I’ll take it.”

Sigala said he works at his store, 18570 Highway 108, from sunup till sundown seven days a week. The exception is when he goes to church Sunday mornings at Jamestown Christian Fellowship.

He enjoys doing demonstrations for visitors and quickly carving little things such as butterflies for children, he said. He’s thinking of offering classes in carving, but in the meantime, “I give free lessons if somebody wants to come up here.”

Tony Sigala can be reached at 209-213-9604 and

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327

Meet your makers

The Modesto Bee has begun an ongoing series of occasional video reports and stories on “makers” in the community. We intend to cover a broad range of creative types, from visual artists to performing artists to artisans to culinary composers whose palettes are our palates. If you’d like to be profiled, please tell us a bit about what you do, including a link to a website if you have one. Feel free to attach images. Please email both Andy Alfaro at and Deke Farrow at