Artist carves realistic animals from a chunk of bass wood

Dave Koster liked to draw as a kid, but had never attempted any three-dimensional art until a friend introduced him to skilled wood-carver Dick Pilmore. The three became friends and spent happy hours carving together in Pilmore’s basement. Koster became an eager student of the art.

That was more than 20 years ago. For the last three years Koster has entered his precise, realistic carved animals in the Larimer County Fair and for the last two years his worked has earned grand champion honors over all wood carvings at the fair.

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A postal worker in Durango for many years, Koster and his wife, Linn, moved to Fort Collins 25 years ago. Five years ago they built their dream home in Glacier View Meadows. Today Koster works two jobs, all around office assistant and shuttle driver at Dellenbach Motors and gate attendant at the solid waste transfer station in Red Feather Lakes.

He carves on weekends and in the evening. “I’d love to spend all my time creating wood sculptures,” Koster said. He does some work on commission but finds little time to actively market his work. He gives many of his pieces away as gifts. He does have a trout sculpture on display at Western Ridge Restaurant near his home in Glacier View. Linn finally spoke up and laid claim to a special two-trout sculpture insisting that it was her turn to own one.

Koster has created owls, buffalo, several different species of trout, an eagle and a shark. His next challenge is a golden retriever.

He can’t say exactly how much time he spends working on a single piece. He points to the tiny black dots on his sculpture of two rainbow trout and explains that just applying the spots took a total of eight hours. Photos serve as a guide for his work.

Koster uses bass wood for his sculptures and mounts them on cedar bases. He often uses branches from an old dead cedar in his yard to provide delicate and interesting stands to display his work. “I don’t like to waste anything,” he said.

With two jobs and an engrossing hobby, Koster has little free time but when he can, he enjoys maintenance work around his house. Not surprisingly, he’s handy with a hammer and saw and did most of the interior work on his log home himself.

Despite a 38-mile trip to town for work, Koster wouldn’t trade living in the hills. “I love the place,” he said. He looks forward to a day when he can spend most of his time at home bringing pieces of wood to vibrant life.