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A Redmond artist is leaving his mark on a piece of Oregon history.

Vance Fortenberry, who owns the Whittle Shop on Highway 97 at O’Neil Junction, is making five circular works out of 22-inch-wide cuts of the 2018 Capitol Christmas tree. The 82-foot-tall noble fir came from the Willamette National Forest, near Sweet Home. It was transported by Redmond-based Central Oregon Truck to the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C., where it stood during the holiday season.

Each work has the U.S. Forest Service emblem on one side, with a scene featuring the lighted tree in a mountainous setting on the other. Encircling the tree are the words “U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree 2018 — Willamette National Forest, Oregon.”

Fortenberry and his son, Douglas, were asked to make the pieces by Rick Williams, CEO and founder of Central Oregon Truck.

“He just came in and said, ‘Can you do this,?’ ” Vance recalled.

The artwork is based on challenge coins the forest service made to celebrate the Christmas tree, Williams said.

“Challenge coins are a big deal in the military and law enforcement arena, so for each tree they create a challenge coin,” Williams said of the forest service.

While the Fortenberrys used small power tools to make the pieces, Vance’s sister, Debby Frame, spent hours painting them, Vance said.

Williams said he plans to present the works to officials with the Willamette National Forest and, possibly, with the forest service headquarters in Washington.

The Whittle Shop makes everything from soup spoons to totem poles, but specializes in works like mantles and stump carvings of items like cavemen, eagles and fish.

“We can pretty much make whatever people can imagine,” Doug Fortenberry said.

Contrary to the business name, the Fortenberrys don’t whittle much.

“We start with the chainsaw and work our way down with smaller power tools,” Doug said.

They store wood in some of the buildings on their property and also sell raw wood like juniper, maple and redwood for others to carve. Their main building is filled with examples of their work.

Vance Fortenberry came from Reedsport, which has been dubbed the “chainsaw carving capital of Oregon,” and has been in the business for 28 years, nearly 19 at their location just north of Redmond, he said.

The Fortenberrys’ work can be seen in prominent places around Central Oregon, most notably the western juniper tree column that stands in the lobby at Redmond Municipal Airport. The tree is believed to be 500 years old, according to the airport’s website.

“We love working with local woods, and juniper is one of the better ones,” Doug said.

They’ve also made work for St. Charles Hospital in Prineville and local Black Bear Diner locations.

The Fortenberrys make artwork for people all over the world and have regular customers as far away as Pennsylvania, Vance said.

Williams had a simple reason for choosing Vance Fortenberry to make the Christmas tree works.

“I drive by everyday going to work, and thought it would be a cool project for him,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186,