With chainsaw buzzing, artist Pat McVay cut into the giant, centuries-old Garry oak tree last Thursday to begin work on what will be an acorn sculpture.
The Oak Harbor Arts Commission picked McVay in December to create an acorn from the wood of a 330-year-old Garry oak tree that used to stand in front of the post office.
The oak was cut down on a Sunday morning in 2014 much to the dismay of the public, and city officials have talked about the potential uses for the tree ever since.
The arts commission researched several ideas for what to do with the remains of the tree in August 2015. The report suggested several projects besides the acorn, such as a tree-ring timeline to denote important local and worldwide events and a live edge table.
The tree was massive. McVay estimated one piece of the trunk alone to weigh 6,000-7,000 pounds and a single slice to weigh between 1,200-1,400 pounds. It was about 6 feet in diameter.
Surrounded by city staff, arts commission members and the president of the Oak Harbor Garry Oak Society, McVay cut a slab from one of the pieces of the trunk. City Administrator Blaine Oborn said it will be made into a timeline.
At first, McVay cautioned that there may be too much rot or softwood to be able to make a big acorn, but eventually he found there was enough good material to make a magnificent nut.
“It looks like we can make a big fat acorn out of it so that’s good news,” McVay said in an email.
He estimates it will be about 4 or 5 feet across and 6 feet tall including the base.
McVay designed a large acorn resting on top of Garry oak leaves in his proposal. He suggested that it be placed indoors to protect it from the elements and for ease of maintenance. The city has identified a spot outside of the post office as its preferred location.
Thursday’s session yielded another discovery: A bullet. It was lodged in the wood around 40-50 years ago.
Arts Commissioner Therese Kingsbury used a metal detector (which was for some reason readily available) and a city staff member carved the brittle piece out of the trunk.