Chainsaw Woodcarving For Beginners: Tips & Tricks

chainsaw wood carving

Throughout human history, sculptures have been created using several mediums; Due to the abundance of wood and its desirable qualities of both hardness and durability, it has continued to flourish. Over the centuries, wood carving has undergone many changes but has never died. A range of techniques and various types of carving tools are now available and are being implemented.

When wood sculptures are properly taken care of they can last literally forever. Several examples of ancient wooden sculptures still exist. However wood that isn’t cared for properly is susceptible to rot and decay. These days there are more ways, both natural and synthetic, to care for and protect wooden sculptures.

This article is a basic guide to help beginners who are interested in chainsaw wood carving. It will go over important aspects like tools, types of wood, and techniques.

Chainsaw Woodcarving Tools and Materials

The most popular wood carving tools are as follows: carving knife, gouge, and chisel. However there are several more involved in the wood working process.

Chainsaw

Chainsaws, no doubt, are one of the most efficient cutting tools. A sharp cutting chain allows you to cut away at large portions of wood with ease. They come in a range of sizes and models however their application is really based on user preference. For instance most of the base work is usually done with the chainsaw. Where-as fine details are done with a grinder and dremel.

Personal Protective Gear (PPE)

It’s important to always wear the right safety gear when operating a chainsaw. You should always use personal protective equipment like chainsaw chaps to protect your legs. It is also important to consider other safety equipment, such as protective goggles, ear protection, steel toe boots, woodworking gloves, and even a helmet.

Timber / Wood

You can’t carve wood without timber! There are two main types of wood; softwood and hardwood. Both have distinct features that make them both good and bad for wood carving. Make sure you have the proper type based on the design you’re after.

Wood Coating

As we noted, wood can truly last a lifetime, but this is large in part because of finishing material that can be applied to your sculpture. After detailing you should apply coating, treatment, sealant, linseed, stain, or another type of oil to the carving. Applying treatment and other finishing materials to the final product depends on its final location as well as personal preference.

If the sculpture is intended to be placed outdoors, you need to pick your stain accordingly. There are numerous proprietary wood finishes available that can range in cost as well as effectiveness against environmental factors.

Sketching and Pattern Tools

Beginner carvers and novices can use sketches and patterns to get started with the correct proportions.

Avoid rushing as any mistake you make is potentially permanent. However, like Bob Ross said, “Happy Accidents.” You’ll have to change your plan in order to integrate the mistake. Worst case scenario, you’ll need to throw out your wood and start over.

To avoid this, make plans and follow your sketches. It will also help to lightly sketch out your cuts and carvings into the wood with a permanent marker. Draw out the lines to cut along, and shapes to carve out. It will help you be more precise, and prevent permanent mistakes. An alternative to this is to make a rough design on the outermost surface of the timber itself with the tip of the chainsaw.

Picking The Right Chainsaw For Carving

Chainsaw wood carvings can be made using almost all types of chainsaw models. A big saw is essential to chop away the large pieces of wood but a smaller saw and grinder are important during the detailing process. Both electric and gas chainsaws are used to create carvings but most carvers prefer gasoline powered models.

The best chainsaw for carving is one that you are comfortable and confident using. Having a chainsaw that’s too big or too heavy for you to handle is a bad idea. You’ll be using your saw excessively and it’s tiring and potentially dangerous. You need a saw you can hold easily so you can focus on the progress of the carving and not on the saw itself.

Consider chainsaws with triangular guide bars as they allow for more awkward cuts to be made more precisely. Ensure your chain is correctly tensioned for carving with fully functional with anti-kickback faculties. These are most suitable for beginners. In any case, the important thing is to have a chainsaw with a sharp chain that fits you.

The Different Types of Wood For Carving

timber for carving

Once you’ve prepared the necessary equipment, it’s time to decide on the type of wood to use. Wood comes in different types of species and it’s crucial to understand their individual characteristics. Wood has unique texture and features that dictate how the wood will respond to your chainsaw and carving techniques.

Nearly every wood on earth can be used for carving, which gives you an unlimited number of options to choose from. Whatever type of wood you choose, it is essential that you purchase the wood from a wood supplier. Avoid using wood from your lumber pile or garage, particularly if you aren’t familiar with species of wood yet.

The design you do will influence the type of wood to use. So you should choose accordingly. Below are some of the more common options:

Basswood

Basswood is the wood of choice for most woodworkers. Although it is classified as a hardwood it is relatively soft and can be easily carved with a chainsaw.

It is a solid option for beginners because it excels at accepting and holding detail. Basswood blanks can be found easily, most carving suppliers offer them. However it is still one of the more expensive types of wood.

Overall, basswood is a great choice to start learning to carve on.

Walnut

Walnut is a popular choice. However, it is more expensive than basswood. It has rich color and grain which makes walnut desirable for furniture, especially when finished with a clear sealer or coating. It is a hardwood but not too hard to carve. Additionally, Walnut grows everywhere so it will be easier to purchase it.

Mahogany

Mahogany, in general, is a reddish colored kind of wood with a distinctive grain pattern. It is popular in the Caribbean where it is grown on farms and cut for export. It is a strong lightweight wood with a relatively straight grain.

Overall, Mahogany, like walnut is not cheap and can easily be worked with chainsaws. However, mahogany can be a bit difficult to carve as it often features an inconsistent grain.

Oak

Oak is one of the most popular woods for carving, with a range of qualities that make it ideal. It’s a heavy, strong, light colored hardwood. The grain of oak is considered very beautiful, and is recommended for making furniture and carvings.

Cottonwood

Cottonwood claims 25 species around the world and has a distinctive white color that looks very attractive even when unpainted. It is a soft wood that is easy to carve. It is more commonly sold as a carving block than lumber. Cottonwood also costs less than basswood.

Butternut

Also referred to as Juglans Cinerea, Butternut is also ideal for beginner wood carvers. It is taken from the butternut tree, which reaches a height of 100 feet and a diameter of 3 feet.

Butternut has many notable qualities for being such a soft wood. It is relatively lightweight, which makes it easy to work with. Butternut is related to walnut yet is lighter in color and more easily carved. It is browner than basswood and has a nice grain.

Woodcarvers use butternut because when it’s carved it features a beautiful color and grain pattern. Its straight grain and softness translate into easy carving. Overall, butternut lumber is affordable, beautiful and enjoyable to work with.

Chainsaw Wood Carving Tips & Tricks

Become familiar with the maintenance requirements and operating fundamentals of your chainsaw. The owner’s manual is a great start.

Chainsaws can be dangerous and the appropriate safety equipment is required when working with a chainsaw.

Always ensure that your chainsaw is sharp. Keep in mind that a dull chainsaw is more dangerous than a sharp one. You can sharpen it by yourself or have it done by a professional.

Prepare a variety of saws. You’ll probably need a bigger saw, in the beginning, to cut away larger chunks of wood. Then, change to a smaller saw or grinder for detailing.

General books on woodcarving are surprisingly helpful.

If you can’t design your own, you can buy carving plans and patterns on the web.

Consider attending a local carving event or working with a mentor to improve your carving. Gain experience and always ask questions, you will have a better idea of what to buy and how to use them.
Starting with one of the woods above is ideal for beginners.

Practice on smaller pieces of wood. As a beginner, you should practice with smaller logs, 15-inches in diameter or less.

Consider using a 1/4-inches pitch carving chain on a dime or quarter tip carving bar.

Final Thoughts

Wood carving is one of the oldest crafts in the world and is both functional and artistically beautiful. Chainsaw Wood carving on the other hand, can be an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable hobby. It can even become a career since many people make a living out of it.

Although chainsaw carving may seem hard and nearly impossible at first, anyone can start. It’s important to always remember that a chainsaw is potentially an extremely dangerous tool that must be handled with care.

Many individuals have been injured due to chainsaw accidents. However, with patience and a little practice, you can make wonderful chainsaw carvings out of wood to decorate your house or yard with. Maybe even made to sell if you get good enough.

It is important to keep in mind that the more you practice your carving skills, the better you will be. Even the best chainsaw carvers started as a beginners and progressed through constant practice.

1 comment

  1. Dave Sarvent
    September 12, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    Very informative ,good tips for anyone venturing into the Art ,like myself .As you note ,plan ahead ,research, simple designs to start with ,my first was a hachet in base of wood that was carved out of 9″x 15″ log 1st attempt yeh not too bad 😊 very satisfying to see it evolved into a shape .Dont be put off ,try another simple design ,learn by mistakes only way to gain experience

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