Tiki Dan: Creation with a Chainsaw


Published Sept. 27, 2013 by Imperial Beach Patch.

Kelly Tracy, former head of the now inactive IB Art Guild, recently got a warning from code compliance officer Tommy Simmons after a neighbor claimed that a tree in his yard may contain rats or vermon.

So instead of a typical tree trimming, Tracy last week had Dan Bialk, better known as “Tiki Dan,” use chainsaws and other tools to carve an eight-foot tiki statue into the base of the 40-foot Mexican Fan Palm Tree.

“Tiki Dan” has carved works of art into trees for more than 20 years. Tiki Dan first started carving with surplus wood he got from tree trimming and landscaping jobs.

“And the first one looked awful. It didn’t even look like a tiki,” Bialk said. “But it just takes a lot of practice.”

The Hawaiian tiki in Tracy’s yard is Lono, the god of fertility and peace.

Lono fits in well in the yard that includes another tiki, a wall of surfboards and a garden inside a canoe.

Tracy also created that sat in front of his home for a period of time.

After trimming the trees, Bialk sculpted Lono with a chainsaw, then used a blow torch and spray paint to give the statue more definition.

Finally, a sander is used to make the face smooth and wood finish is added to protect Lono from the elements. A stain can be used, but “Tiki Dan” said it’s often best to apply a transparent coat of finish.

“Mostly I like to use clear and just let the wood come out cause after time the color of the wood will show and it will just get better with age. That’s so cool about palms,” he said. “It just gets more rustic and gains character over time.”

Clarification: The original version of this story stated that Kelly Tracy restored Dinosaurus, when in fact the sea creature-dinosaur was an original work of art inspired by the work of Bonita artist Jerry Gauss.

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