River Red Gum stump’s transformation

Carver Justin McClelland and Albert Manning, from Tumut Lions Club.

A giant River Red Gum stump outside the Tumut Racecourse is in the process of being transformed into an equine sculpture by Tumbarumba chainsaw carver Justin McClelland.

An initiative of the Tumut Lions Club and backed by the Racecourse Trust, the project was the brainchild of Lions stalwart Albert Manning.

“I’ve been looking at that stump for a while thinking we should do something with it,” Mr Manning said. “Given its location, a horse-sculpture seemed the appropriate thing to do.”

Mr Manning secured approval from the council, brought the racecourse trust on board and then contacted Mr McClelland after seeing a photo online of a log that had been carved into the shape of a crocodile near Gregadoo.

“There was a phone number next to the photo,” Mr Manning said. “I rang, Justin said he’d give it a go and we went from there.”

Mr McClelland operates Timba Tumba Carving, taking logs and blocks of wood and turning them into all manner of creations.

He’s transformed fallen logs on farms and wows patrons at shows like Gundagai, Goulburn and the Henty Field Days with his live demonstrations.

But the giant stump near the Tumut River, the remnants of a tree more than a century old, is the biggest project he’s so far taken on in the six or so years he’s been carving.

“This is the first time I’ve had to use scaffolding,” he said. “It creates its own challenges.

“As you go along, once you move the scaffolding, you don’t really want to have to move it back up to fix something you don’t like.

“It’s a big job. Every other job I’ve had, I’ve had two feet on the ground.”

He started the project Tuesday and has a picture he’s working towards. With four Husqvarna chainsaws of varying sizes at his disposal, he’s expecting the project might take the best part of a week to finish.

The River Red Gum isn’t the easiest wood to use when it comes to carving – “it’s dry and old”, Mr McClelland said – while the stump also has plenty of rot, preventing him from using parts of it.

By Wednesday morning he’d carved out the beginnings of the head, and said blending in the body and getting the proportions right will be the toughest part of the job as he goes forward.

“Once you’ve cut off something, you can’t stick it back on,” he said. “I need to measure everything up before I start up the chainsaw.”

The carver is already attracting plenty of attention from the steady stream of morning walkers along the river, and the interest will only intensify as the sculpture begins to take shape over the course of a week.

One of Justin’s completed works.