A Cut Above—Wood Carving Competition Show

June 23, 2023
A quick sketch of carving artist Chris Wood. Brush pen, in a Hahnemühle Travel Journal.

Spoiler alert, I’m going to write about who won “A Cut Above” season one. Don’t read if you want to watch a chainsaw-woodcarving composition and be surprised.



First I just have to say I love Adam Beach. He’s a great actor and now we know he’s a great TV show host too—who absolutely loves playing with the air horn.

His charm, enthusiasm, interest, and empathy make watching “A Cut Above” a fun experience.

And the carvers who were on this first season also showed up to work hard and stretch themselves and their creativity.

But I have a problem with the judges.

Ryan Cook and Katharine Dowson asked the 3 finalists each to create a finale piece that was complex, engaging, and boundary pushing. And then when one of the contestants did just that and created an incredible piece with tons of negative space and fantastic details, which also told a story of a hero’s journey—which was the brief. His carving had scope, and maturity, and demonstrated an understanding of visual narration. And he did that all with just one large log, well I was very disappointed that Chris Wood, a Welsh carver with 20 years of experience did not win.

A young Scottish carver named Sam Bowsher won with an out of proportion carving of a Viking. It didn’t tell a story, and it didn’t have the interesting shapes and details we could see on Wood’s carving.

I think Sam Bowsher is an incredibly talented carver, and he did pieces throughout the competition that were stunningly wonderful, but his last piece was weak. It was up to the judges to make me see what about it was worthy.

Chris Wood’s piece had an amazing narrative flow, and the way it was shot it was stunning. If there were proportion issues in his piece, as one of the judges claimed, they were minor compared to the small head error Bowsher made in his final carving.

Wood also created other stunning pieces throughout the competition. His carousel hare was so stunning I am still pointing to a place in the living room and saying to Dick, “It would go right there,” and he knows exactly what I’m talking about.

If the judges were looking at cumulative pieces I still think Wood’s work stood out. And I also think they then should have made it clear they were looking at the whole season’s work.

I know we can’t see all that the judges see. So it is important for them to clearly let us know what it is that they are seeing so that we aren’t left feeling sad and frustrated about the outcome.

I wish all the carvers the very best of luck in their careers.

My problem isn’t with Beech (who was perfection), or the carvers (who were talented), but the judges made the show a disappointment. If judging criteria aren’t clearly defined and uniformly exercised it frustrates the audience, and not in a “yell at the screen” type of way, but in a “why did I bother watching” way.

I rarely blog about competition shows and give “spoilers,” but this one left me feeling far from satisfied or good about the outcome.

I hope, if they do another season, the judges think more clearly about their judging criteria, and apply it consistently, not penalizing those who are pushing hard.

If you don’t get invested in competitors in competition shows you may well enjoy this show. It’s incredibly fun to watch people “whittle” a log down into a sculpture in 6 to 7 hours with a chainsaw. It’s more than fun it’s amazing.  

    • June Daltry
    • July 7, 2023

    I was so glad to read your opinion on Cut Above final as I too was horribly disappointed that Chris didn’t win. His carve was by far the best. The other two didn’t compare with it at all. The judges’ decision was inexplicably and strange.

    1. Reply

      June, I guess all we can say is “It happens.” I just believe the judges need to really make it clear to the audience (and the contestants) what criteria they are looking to see met. It wasn’t the only challenge where they seemed capricious.

    • D.K.
    • August 8, 2023

    YES! My husband and I are so mad. We refuse to watch the next season. They 100% made the wrong choice. Reading this helped me see we are not alone on being upset.

    1. Reply

      D.K. if they do another season I’ll have to watch again because I love seeing Adam Beach. But I will be grumbly about the competition and maybe mute the judges!

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