Chainsaw carving an owl: a 6-step guide

Our step-by-step instructions explain how to carve an owl from wood using your chainsaw. Why not give it a try?

A carved wooden owl standing on a post.

Chainsaw carving an owl: what you’ll need

  • Log (around 20 cm diameter)
  • Chainsaw with a carving bar and saw chain
  • Ratchet strap
  • Chalk/pencil for marking
  • Chisel
  • Hammer
  • Protective clothing

Instructions: Chainsaw carving an owl from wood

Once you have all your materials prepared and your personal protective equipment in place, you can get to work on creating an elegant owl sculpture to practice carving with your chainsaw.

A debarked log on a base, with a STIHL chainsaw on the ground next to it.

Step 1: debark the trunk

The first step is to prepare the piece of wood you are using for your chainsaw carved owl. Not sure what type of wood is best for chainsaw carving? Find out more about the fundamentals of chainsaw carving.

Use your chainsaw to remove the bark and sapwood from your trunk; this ensures that your finished owl sculpture will be weather-resistant and robust, as the heartwood is the densest part of a tree.

An owl is drawn onto a debarked wooden trunk with chalk

Step 2: secure your wood and mark out the face

Secure the trunk onto a sturdy subsurface using a ratchet strap, or by firmly screwing it in place. You need to be certain it will not roll away or move as you use your chainsaw to carve it.

Use a pencil or a piece of chalk to draw the rough form of an owl onto the trunk. This is when you need to decide which direction your owl will be facing. Your markings should indicate clear cutting lines to carve with the chainsaw. The lines will show which large areas can be quickly removed out first.

A woman wearing protective equipment uses a STIHL chainsaw to roughly carve a piece of wood with an owl drawn on it.

Step 3: blocking out

Now it’s time to start carving with your chainsaw. Work from top to bottom: start by carving out a head and form it into a rounded shape.

Next, carve out the body of the owl until the contours are clearly recognisable. Use light movements to guide your chainsaw along the marked lines and carve away all the corners and edges – this will give the carving a natural shape.

Always work with a sharp chainsaw chain! Not only will a dull saw chain damage the wood you are carving, but your chainsaw will also be less efficient. To make your chainsaw cut smoothly, contact your STIHL dealer to have your chain sharpened or do it yourself. There are step-by-step instructions on how to sharpen your chainsaw here!

Step 4: work out the fine structure

Now it’s time to add detail to your chainsaw owl wood carving, using the chainsaw to carve wings, a face and feathers.

A roughly carved wooden owl has details added to its face by a woman using a STIHL chainsaw.


With a carving chainsaw you can really bring out the specific features of an owl’s face. First use chalk to draw a vertical line marking the centre of your owl’s face, and remove wood in a V shape on both sides of the line. Next, use careful movements to add contours that bring out the eyes and beak.

A wooden owl sculpture in progress: the wings are defined using a STIHL chainsaw with carving set.


Here’s a tip for when you’re preparing to carve out the wings: the owl’s two wings together form a heart shape. Stand behind the owl and draw a heart onto the wood; make sure that both halves are at the same height, and draw a vertical line to split the shape in two. Now the wings are ready for carving out.

A wooden owl sculpture in progress: flight feathers are added using a STIHL chainsaw with carving set.


Use your chainsaw to add feathers to the owl’s wings and tail. The lower flight feathers need to be really straight and neatly overlapping. This is best achieved by starting from the middle of the heart (or back of the owl) and working outward.

A wooden owl sculpture in progress: close-up of the base, with talons marked out.


Mark the owl’s talons. When owls are perching you can see two or three at the front of each foot; they have four talons in total, of which one is at the back and one can swivel from front to back. Try to carve all of them to the same depth, and keep natural proportions in mind. Leave enough wood around each talon so that afterwards you can use the tip of the chainsaw guide bar to round them off.

A wooden owl sculpture in progress: a STIHL chainsaw with carving set is used to carve out the wooden owl’s talons.

Work slowly and stand back to check your carving work at regular intervals – it’s easier to judge proportions from further away. Don’t cut too deep, just create small accents using the tip of your chainsaw. Less is more at this stage!

STIHL pro tip:
Stop frequently to remove the wood chips you create. This makes it easier to identify even very small errors.

A wooden owl sculpture in progress: fine details are added to the face using a chisel.

Step 5: add finishing touches

The final step is carving out the finer features of your wooden owl using the chainsaw tip or a chisel. This work makes small details such as the talons and individual feathers look particularly delicate and realistic. For a smooth finish, sand down your owl when you’ve finished the carving work.

Step 6: treat the wood

Your chainsaw owl is ready to admire! To make sure it stays looking its best, you may need to protect your carving project against fungi and rot depending on the type of wood you have used.

Summary: chainsaw carving an owl

  • Always wear personal protective equipment when working with a chainsaw!
  • Go slowly and stand back frequently as you work to look at the figure from a distance.
  • Be cautious when carving: it’s best to make small cuts with your chainsaw. This will help avoid mistakes that can't be rectified.
  • Always prevent your chainsaw from making contact with the ground, so your tool doesn’t wear too quickly.
  • To protect against discolouration and fungal attack, give your wooden owl a coat of wood-sealing wax.