When you stumble upon something you're absolutely passionate about in life, there is little that can prevent you from accomplishing your goals. Not even the oppressively sweltering Ohio heat.
In an exclusive interview with SF Globe, Chris, from the YouTube channel Chop With Chris, spoke about how a recent Saturday morning flea market excursion took an unexpected twist when he came across a downed maple tree about a mile from his house. According to Chris, the heat index would ultimately reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit that day, but this maple tree was an opportunity to fuel a passion that he couldn't pass up.
His drive for creating masterful wood creations without the use of electrical power tools was well documented in SF Globe's recent feature on the handmade dining room table that he built for his wife Mary for their 20th wedding anniversary.
As with every tree he comes across, there would be no tree-cutting chain saws to save time and effort in this endeavor. Chris explains that a "tree service was going to haul the rest to the dump the next day," so the clock was really ticking. Armed with an ax, a video camera and some wedges, Chris went to work on freeing a slab of maple for a project he had in mind that would combine his love for electric-power-free woodworking with yet another passion of his: the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The video below, which Chris posted to his YouTube channel on Oct. 7, demonstrates how Chris' method of creating art is a harmonious blend of brute force and finesse. He mixes one part busting apart the already felled maple and one part using wood-carving tools to meticulously chisel that famous Fighting Irish Leprechaun with the words "Chop like a champion today." That, Chris explains, is a play off the Notre Dame football saying "Play like a champion today."
When asked why he chose to make such a stunning plaque to pay homage to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Chris' answer was simple. "I grew up in a large Catholic family in small-town Iowa," he explains, "so when we were not cheering for the Iowa Hawkeyes, we were cheering for the Irish." He certainly was never cheering for the University of Southern California (USC).
The University of Notre Dame and USC football programs have a long-standing, bitter rivalry. In light of that, Chris chose to express his love for the Fighting Irish by making a proposition to Hollywood superstar and noted USC superfan Will Ferrell. Chris' wager involves that he make a plaque similar to the Notre Dame plaque but for USC, should Notre Dame lose an upcoming game. If Notre Dame wins, however, Ferrell would have to partake in a duet with Chris, chanting the Notre Dame fight song.
Chris tells SF Globe that the project took 20 hours to complete, and the video editing took 12 more. "I enjoy the process of being inspired, solving problems and doing woodworking," says Chris, "Finishing is not really the point, I enjoy the process itself more than anything."
It should be noted that the act of cutting down trees is of no interest to Chris. In his "How to Find and Maintain Great Wood" YouTube video, he explains that he waits for trees to fall, or for others to cut trees down, and then he asks permission to take some of the wood himself (and in this case, permission to also film on the property). In fact, he tells SF Globe that he planned on taking a bigger piece of wood from this maple tree, but when he split that piece apart, he found a huge metal spike that had grown into the tree over 150 years or so. "I think Daniel Boone pounded it into the tree to tie up his horse," suspects Chris.
Chris from Chop With Chris
So Chris just happened upon this tree and just happened to have an ax handy? Correct. In fact, Chris claims to have 20 handled and 20 unhandled axes at his disposal, and he keeps some in his car because he says, "You never know when you're going to come across a downed tree that you can harvest wood from."
When people show interest in creating wood projects without electric power tools like Chris, he tells them, "Woodworking, like any hobby, is a job, not a sprint. Take your time, make mistakes, learn and succeed." This mentality has proven successful for Chris, as is evident by his thousands of YouTube subscribers and his countless creations. Here is his favorite:
Chris from Chop With Chris
Chris would certainly be handy to have around the neighborhood as an alternative to costly traditional tree-removal services. It's wonderful to see that a tree that has lost its life can be reborn in such a beautiful way. We guess Chris would prefer the weather be a bit more cooperative next time, though, as he thinks he "sweated out 10 pounds during the ordeal."
The end result is a truly remarkable work of art, and who knows, if Will Ferrell sees Chris' proposition, it might lead to a memory he'll never forget.