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Man uses chainsaw to create fish art for Great Falls museum

Tom Dean
Posted at 10:58 AM, Mar 30, 2022

GREAT FALLS — Montana fish don’t normally grow to six feet long. The one Tom Dean is creating is the biggest one he’s seen in person. It’s made entirely out of wood and was carved using a chainsaw.

Dean has been woodworking since 2008. His latest project is a brand-new experience for him. If you visited the Home & Garden Show over the weekend, you might have noticed a chainsaw-wielding man cutting wood. That was Tom, being sponsored by North 40, and it was his first time ever working on a piece like that.

His latest project is a six-foot-long trout made entirely by hand. It’s not exactly the hand tool Tom is used to having on him but says he wants to do it again.

“It was challenging. Carving with a chainsaw is completely different than what I use. You have your ear protection on. You kind of focus strictly on the fish and kind of blank out everything else,” Dean said. “What was really enjoyable for me is to see these little kids at the Home and Garden Show and wave at them and they’d smile. So that was a lot of fun.”

Dean said all the wood was donated. It weighed about 300 pounds before it had metal teeth cut it down. He trimmed about 150 pounds off and he’s not done yet. The big fish will be donated to the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art for them to display another local artist’s work in their venue.

SALMON by Tom Dean

The fish is in its final stage of getting ready to be displayed outside the museum. The Square staff are all excited to welcome their fishy friend and get it painted and ready to show the public.

Sarah Justice, director of the museum, said the fish will be outside in their sculpture garden where she thinks many people will enjoy it.

“Tom came in and shared this project. He felt it would be a good piece for the museum. And he knows we have this beautiful lawn and sculpture garden that we’re wanting to expand on,” Justice said. “I think it’ll be a draw to people that come in whether they come from out of state to the museum or it’s just local community members. I think they’ll get a lot out of it.”

Dean expects to complete the project in about two or three months. Click here to visit Dean's website.