EDMONTON -- An Edmonton man is carving out a hobby for himself by turning second-hand silverware into sculptures.

David McAuley is no stranger to thrift stores, especially recently.

"When I first started... I would go fill the back of my truck in an afternoon."

On one trip, which CTV News Edmonton tagged along on, McAuley didn't need a truckful -- just a measly 400 forks. The utensils were the last pieces to his most ambitious project yet.

David McAuley, bear fork sculpture

"I've been all over Alberta getting forks for it," McAuley said. 

Of course, he leaves with other items, too, but mostly, store employees have come to know him as the "cutlery guy." 

The work started early 2019 when McAuley began building smaller figures -- an owl, then a giraffe, and then later, flowers and birds and a motorycle -- and experimenting with the material.

David McAuley, bear fork sculpture

"You learn so much working with it. How you can bend it, how you can twist it... without using any heat." 

But the first projects didn't cut it. 

"It's cool, but it's not doing it," he said of his first designs. 

Then, one day, he says "something lit up in my head."

A polar bear. 

David McAuley, bear fork sculpture

He started last spring, using a stainless steel cup for the animal's nose.

But then, tragedy struck: McAuley's home south of Edmonton burned to the ground.

"Since the house fire, I just kicked it to the side," said McAuley.

The bear skeleton sat, as did the excess silverware, until McAuley had a renewed vision -- not for the project, but for his own goals.

"I've had numerous business ventures over the years and it just felt like it was time for a change. The chaos and the rat race of everyday life..." he said. 

In his workshop, he says he never gets caught caught up in the hustle and bustle. 

"I come out here and I'm just happy," said McAuley. "Six weeks ago I just looked at it and I'm like, 'It's time.'"

David McAuley, bear fork sculpture

In total, he estimates more than 600 hours, or 25 full days, has gone into the sculpture.

"It's turned out to be quite the full-time process," he joked. One day, he started at 7 a.m. and didn't quit until 2 a.m. when he ran out of forks. 

Each fork is spot-welded to its neighbour. But aside from tools to attach and cut the silverware, the work is done completely by hand. 

David McAuley, bear fork sculpture

And the 600 hours doesn't include the time looking for supplies. McAuley says he's lost count of how many forks he's used.

If, by his measure, 70 forks weighs one pound.... 

"I don't know exactly, but 15,400 (forks)," said McAuley. 

"I was as guilty as anybody else in this world of being wasteful. The abundance to cutlery speaks to what we discard in life." 

David McAuley, bear fork sculpture

One man, after hearing about McAuley's project, donated about seven gallons, or 137 pounds, of forks. 

Just as he found a use for thousands of unwanted forks, the artist hopes the bear finds a home and owners who enjoy the piece as much as he did building it.

“People are in awe – I’m not sure why. I really don’t know. But I’ve learned to believe in myself over it – how’s that? – in what I’m doing. It’s totally changing my perspective on what I want to do going forward in life.” 

David McAuley, bear fork sculpture

Since McAuley spoke with CTV News, he has completed the bear, but he's not done with her yet.

"It's a her so... the cub is next to do," said McAuley.

He'll just need about 4,000 more forks.  

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Dan Grummett