Tiki carver Tim Richards stands in front of Ann and Bruce Knight’s palm tree, showing the original design sketch. SDG&E requried the Knights to cut the tree earlier this month because of its dangerous proximity to power lines. Photo by Shelli DeRobertis

Tree makes transformation from palm into tiki

ENCINITAS — A tall “welcome tiki” now lends a piece of art to the beach neighborhood on Edgeburt Street after the tree-that-used-to-be was carved last week by professional woodcarver Tim Richards.When homeowner Ann Knight was notified that her aged palm tree had to come down because it was too close to electrical wires, she said her husband Bruce suggested they hire a woodcarver to create a tiki statue from the tree stump.“It was an excellent alternative, because we really didn’t have any choice in cutting down the tree,” she said.
Knight sought someone with woodcarving experience, and hoped to find the man who carved the Swami’s Easter Island Head, which is a 12-foot Torrey Pine stump that greets people at the entrance to the popular surf spot.
Richards, who is an award-winning member of the International Wildfowl Carving Association, and Pacific Southwest Wildlife Arts, divides his time between his homes in Encinitas and Utah.

It was nearly one year ago that Richards carved the Easter Island Head at Swami’s, and he agreed to carve the Knight’s 10-foot stump, which is his ninth tiki project.

He also specializes in carving wildlife figures.

At age 55 Richards retired in 2006 from a local business and said he wanted to start carving wood after being inspired by decoys he had collected since the 1980s.

“I started with a log on my patio, here in Encinitas,” he said.

For the Knights’ tree, he suggested something different than the Easter Island Moai Head, which he said all have the same look.

He sketched his work on grid paper first, and said he thought the Hawaiian welcome tiki would be a good fit for their front yard.

It took about 30 hours of carving the stringy wood between rainstorms, as the power tools just turned it into what looked like shredded wheat, he said.

So he hand-carved with chisels and gouges to create the Hawaiian welcome tiki.

The hollowed-out tree was rooted inside of a brick planter box, which he said took a little more time to maneuver around, and that a typical 6-f00t stump takes him about 10 to12 hours to carve.

“He’s welcoming,” he said. “He’s got the smile and the pineapple on his head.”

Both Ann and Bruce like their new welcome tiki, and Ann said she has a friend who wants to dress up the tiki during holidays.

Richards said the tiki should last for many years, and the only care it requires is an annual rubdown with Linseed oil.

Richards charges an average of $300 to carve a 6-foot stump.