Juggling a Chainsaw

 

DISCLAIMER: DO NOT ATTEMPT!

I juggled a live, running, sharp chainsaw for the very first time last week in North Carolina. I guess I was tired of being a juggler for 15 years and having people ask me, “Soooo, can you juggle a chainsaw?” I would always have to say, “No, but I’d like to try someday.” Now I can say, “Yeah” and then casually move on to some other subject in the conversation.

I was at the International Jugglers’ Festival in Lexington, KY chilling with my friend and mentor David Cain. Somehow chainsaws came up in our conversation (juggler’s talk about the weirdest things) and Dave told me that there was a new battery-powered chainsaw on the market. That caught my interest because that means no gas sloshing around while you juggle the beastly thing. When I got home, I looked up “battery powered chainsaw” on the internet and sure enough, Home Depot has a special right now at $59.

Then, while on a juggling trip in High Point, NC, I visited the local Home Depot. There it was – the 18-Volt Ryobi 10-inch Chainsaw – for $59. I scoped it out for weight, rotation, shape, ability to be fitted with a juggler’s handle, and so forth. I picked it up in the aisle at Home Depot and swung it back and forth in my hand a bit (not flipping it). I tried to lessen my swing when other people were in the aisle. How would you like to see a juggler testing a chainsaw for juggling in your Home Depot? I didn’t think so.

I went to Lowe’s to compare my options. Lowe’s had a similar chainsaw made by Black and Decker. It was $99. But it came with a battery and charger. The Ryobi did not. When you price up the Ryobi with the charger and battery, it came out to $130. The Black and Decker was a shorter blade (8 inches) and it had a better shape for flipping. So I went with the B & D. Then I bought some accessories to fix it up for juggling – mainly the oak dowel.

I told my host pastor what I was up to and he got really excited. “Will you practice it and be able to perform it this week at our church?” he asked. I said, “Sure, I could.” He then offered to raise the money to pay for the cost of the chainsaw – so that his church could participate in this ministry I do. I said he didn’t have to but he insisted. I had already bought the chainsaw. So that night, he showed the congregation the chainsaw and told them that he wanted to raise money to cover the cost of it. They all pitched in and within a short while, all the money for the chainsaw came in. Thank you Community Bible Church of High Point, North Carolina!

I spent an entire work day fixing up the chainsaw for juggling. That means I attached the oak dowel to the chainsaw without drilling anything into the chainsaw. Without boring you with the details, I finished the day with a solid handle on the chainsaw and then I started to practice.

Practicing juggling a chainsaw for the first time is not for the faint of heart. I gathered some staff at the church and had them watch. I stood in the grass out back and (with the chainsaw off) tried my first flip. It worked. I did not kill myself. I flipped it again, and again. No drops.

So I then figured I would try with the chain running. I might be a good juggler, but I hate running chainsaws. Maybe the chainsaw and I have a love-hate relationship. It’s the audience that loves the chainsaw – not the juggler. I zip-tied the trigger so it was always on. Then I popped in the battery to start it up. With blade running, I flipped it – and caught it. I tried again and again. Then, I dropped it.

Not on myself, but on the grass. I stepped out of the way, knowing to respect the chainsaw. I picked it up and tried again. I dropped a few more times, once or twice watching as the saw blade chopped it’s way through the dirt and grass. It is a somber feeling to imagine my hand being the recipient of such a chopping. On that note, don’t go shopping for chainsaws to juggle while wearing sandals. It makes your feet feel very naked and vulnerable.

I practiced enough to get a good clean run of a juggle (with one chainsaw and two juggling clubs – nine total catches). That was it for the day. I went to the hotel, showered up, and came back for the evening program.

I was a little nervous throughout the evening before my chainsaw bit. I had families tell me they were praying for my safety ever since they heard I was going to juggle a chainsaw for the first time. Then, a little 3-year old looked at me before my program and said, “Yu gonna juggle chinsaw, and yu gonna die.” And he said it with a large grin on his face.

I finally got to the end of my 45-minute program and it was time for the chainsaw. We all went outside on the grass (in case I, you know…) After a few attempts at chainsaw jokes, I went ahead and did the real thing – juggling a live, running, sharp chainsaw. I did my nine catches and stopped. Everybody cheered. I became a chainsaw juggler. What a life.

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Jesse

Jesse Joyner travels nationwide performing a comedy juggling act for family and kids events. He is also working towards his PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). He enjoys playing the piano, bird watching, and old houses. He lives in Richmond, VA with his wife, Sarah, and their daughter, Kezzie.

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