In court Wednesday, Carl Muggli, 51, pleaded guilty to killing 61-year-old Linda Muggli in November 2010 at the couple's home near International Falls, Minn., the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
The husband had tried to convince police the 700-pound pole accidentally fell out of a cradle and onto his wife.
Muggli pleaded guilty to second-degree unintentional murder after being charged with first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree intentional murder. His trial was to have begun Monday.
"This whole thing is a tragic occurrence," said Muggli's attorney, Charles Hawkins, explaining that his client opted to plead guilty because "he did not want to put the family, his family or himself through any more misery."
Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 4.
Carl Muggli was accused of using a 17-foot log pole to kill his wife, Linda, who died of severe head trauma when the log the couple had been carving for a totem pole landed on her.
The Mugglis were internationally recognized for their totem pole work.
The Koochiching County Sheriff's Office began investigating Linda Muggli's death the day she died and arrested the husband six months later in Texas where the couple lived during winter months.
Charges were brought against Muggli after investigators learned of an Alabama woman who allegedly had intimate and romantic conversations with him.