Hidden Wooden Castles Carved Into Tree Trunks

Hidden Wooden Castles Carved Into Tree Trunks


This isn’t computer animation or a trick of the light. A wood-carved city
actually just popped out of that chunk of a tree, and it can pop right back in! So what’s going on? Artist Uli Kirchler works
with a totally unexpected form of art that requires
a tough-to-navigate canvas. He uses burls, these bulbous
and kind of gross growths found on the side of trees. Look inside them and you’ll
see amazing swirling patterns. But when Uli looks inside, he sees an opportunity
to create a pop-up city that could take him hours
to meticulously carve but that he can play with for a lifetime. Uli’s pieces appear right before your eyes but also disappear in an instant. That’s because the carvings work like an extendable telescope. So, how exactly does he carve such intricate castles into a tree trunk? And how exactly do they work? He chooses to use burls because each of them have a
natural edge that’s unique, making each piece he makes one of a kind. Uli carves into those natural edges using different types of saws. He does most of his
cutting with a scroll saw. The trick to getting his pieces just right is to cut into the wood at a slight angle. This way, the pieces
are able to move around without flying right out. This also means each level of the castle will fit inside the one underneath it, creating a telescopic effect. The castles will be able to expand out and collapse back into each other. Uli Kirchler: I have to be very careful, especially if it’s a bigger piece. And, often, I stand at my scroll saw, I feel my heart pounding,
knowing I cannot mess up; otherwise, I’m risking to lose the piece. Narrator: He maps out where he’ll place all the hidden doors and windows
before he starts cutting. Then, he takes each individual
level of the castle out and drills holes where
all the details will go. This way, he can place them
directly under the scroll saw in order to make perfect cuts. Uli: Since I’m a designer as well, there has to be a certain distance between the different sections. So, I intuitively have
to guess that angle. Narrator: The hardest part
of Uli’s process, though? Getting the angles just right. Because the density of the
raw wood he uses differs, he has to approach each piece differently. Getting those angles right every time has taken him years of practice. Uli: Two decades and more of scroll-sawing allowed me to refine a
technique and push it further. It totally changed my life. Narrator: After everything is cut, he adds the final finishing
touches and sands the piece. Then, it’s completed with finishing oil. For the past couple of years, Uli has been selling his castles at the Portland Saturday
Market every weekend. His favorite part? Watching people react to his work. (snaps) (laughing)
Shopper: Whoa! That is cool! Shopper: OK, can you
do that one more time? (laughing)

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