Chainsaw carving is steadily gaining popularity as a hobby and as a career. Do you want to learn how to carve with a chainsaw? Take a look at our chainsaw carving tips!
Chainsaw carving emerged as a novel way of making wooden art in the 1950s. Carved art is the creation of intricate objects and art pieces through the process of cutting and shaping wood. Chainsaw art is exactly the same – it just uses chainsaws instead of hand tools. Don’t be fooled into thinking there’s nothing refined about it though - the best chainsaw carvers can transform an entire tree trunk into a breathtaking work of art. The method is simple enough, so you might find that even if you start off just carving a simple star, before too long you are adding the final flourish to an imposing dragon, or creating unique fine furniture. With chainsaw carving the creative possibilities are limitless.
If you’re already an experienced chainsaw user, you should pick up carving quite quickly. Even beginners can learn the basic principles of chainsaw carving by tackling straightforward projects.
Before you start carving you need to be able to handle a chainsaw safely and properly. Don’t despair if you haven’t worked with a chainsaw before as the basic techniques are not difficult to learn. All carvers were beginners once!
Start by getting the right equipment and looking for an interesting carving project suitable for a beginner.
When working with a chainsaw, even as a hobbyist, you still need to wear protective clothing. This includes cut protection trousers, cut protection boots, ear protection, safety glasses, a face shield and gloves made from robust material. You should also wear a helmet if you are working in an area where there is a risk of falling objects. All details can be found in the instruction manual for your chainsaw.
As a chainsaw carving beginner, you should look for an easy project to get you going. Geometric shapes and simple objects are ideal practice subjects and will give you a feel for working with the chainsaw.
To inspire you, we’ve put together step-by-step instructions for a number of carving projects.
Chainsaw carving is all about making precise cuts, as well as delicate patterns and flourishes. This type of work requires a carving guide bar and saw chain.
Carving guide bars have extremely low kickback due to their narrow bar nose; this feature also means you can cut very tight details with them. The special carving saw chains have a shortened cutter top plate which means minimum vibration, making a real difference when creating finer features on a wooden sculpture, such as an animal’s coat, beak and face.
Carving saws are supplied already equipped with the right cutting attachment, but you can buy carving bars and saw chains and fit them to certain STIHL chainsaws if you already have one. Just speak to your STIHL Approved Dealer to find out which bar and chain you need for your chainsaw.
There are a few things to consider when choosing wood, as it makes a major contribution to the aesthetics of your chainsaw carved sculpture. Remember, as wood is a natural material, its look will change over time. If your artwork is for outdoors, we recommend you choose weather-resistant wood types that don’t need special protection and treatment. This will help preserve the structure and colour of your wood sculpture even when exposed to the elements.
A range of wood types and their properties can be found in the following list:
Lime wood is an ideal carving material for wooden objects that will be displayed indoors, and is the ideal wood for chainsaw carving beginners to practice with. Lime is a softwood, which makes sculpting it easier.
Chainsaw carving can be picked up easily with practice. Equip yourself with the right knowledge and a bit of patience, and you’ll reap the rewards in no time.
We’ve put together general instructions for carving with a chainsaw – individual steps may vary in different projects, but the overall approach is usually largely similar.
For practice, seek out a simple shape and start to plan by drawing it. Geometric objects or simple lines are perfect for beginners.
Make sure you have PPE and a suitable chainsaw with a sharp chain.
Consider where your artwork will be displayed and the size of the object. Find an appropriate piece of wood.
Removing the branches and bark from your piece of wood will extend the lifespan of your finished sculpture.
Before starting, mark your planned shape on the wood using chalk or a crayon. Prepare a card template if necessary.
Carve out the outline of the object with your chainsaw. Work cautiously; it is better to take off too little than too much. You can always make improvements later.
Add the final touches to your artwork by rounding off the edges and working on contours. Don’t worry too much, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Uneven spots can be smoothed with sandpaper later.
Sand the object to remove any roughness and splintering; keep going until you have a smooth, even surface.
That’s it! Depending on the wood, you may also want to seal or treat it to avoid rotting and discolouration.