A Guide to Basic Tools and Materials for Chainsaw Carving

Image source: Wilker Do’s

The sculpture is one of the most enduring forms of art, and artists throughout the ages and in all lands have created an unimaginable number of sculptures using many methods. Chief among those methods is wood carving. Wood carving is arguably the oldest form of sculpture that is still utilised today. The method has been around as long as human beings have been on this planet.Over the centuries, the art of wood carving has undergone many changes and improvements but the practice has never faltered. Artists have had thousands of years to fine-tune the art of wood carving, and this can be seen in the many carving tools are in use today. Simple hand tools are still the most popular tools for wood carving. The most basic tool for wood carving is the carving knife, which come in a variety of sizes to accommodate the artist’s needs. The wood carving gouge, which is used to scoop out small to large areas of wood, is also a popular tool. The mallet and chisel are also used in tandem to chip away at the wood block.

With progress and modernity, new tools have emerged that have the potential to revolutionise the field. One of those new tools is the mighty chainsaw. The chainsaw is one of the sharpest tools in the world today, and many artists have utilised the chainsaw to create beautiful wood sculptures.

Chainsaw carving, as the practice is known, has revolutionised the art of wood carving. Many consider it as one of the most astonishing art forms of the digital era. Today, more and more aspiring artists are now experimenting with chainsaw carving as a form of art.

With the ubiquity of chainsaws — there are lots of chainsaws for sale online and at brick-and-mortar stores — creative chainsaw carvers all over the world have produced amazing and breathtaking wood sculptures from statues and furniture to mobiles and reliefs.

I wrote this guide for anyone who wants to take up chainsaw carving as an art. Let’s get you started.


Chainsaw — Obviously, you are going to need a chainsaw if you want to experiment with chainsaw carving. It’s just like normal wood carving, except the tool is vastly more powerful than your run-of-the-mill knife and chisel. There are many kinds of chainsaws available, and you may have to use multiple chainsaws depending on the difficulty and intricacy of your project.

The best chainsaw is up to you to decide. As a rule of thumb, choose one that feels good to use. A chainsaw that is too big or too heavy will tire you out quickly, and can become dangerous fast. You need a chainsaw that disappears into the background so you can focus on the carving and not on the tool.

Personal protective gear — I am not going to sugarcoat it: The chainsaw is one of the most dangerous handheld tools. That is why it is extremely important that you wear personal protective gear when using a chainsaw. The bar can cut through any material like butter, and one wrong move can lead to disastrous consequences.

Basic safety gear include: a safety helmet, protective goggles, earmuffs, chainsaw chaps, work gloves and steel-toed boots. This is not a suggestion, you must wear these items before chainsaw carving.

Wood — What is chainsaw carving without wood? Your choice of wood can greatly affect the quality of your work. There are two primary kinds of wood: Softwood and hardwood. Each type of wood has their own advantages and disadvantages, so you may have to read up on what type is perfect for your project. Remember: The wrong kind of wood can ruin your work.

Wood finishing — Wood is not as durable and resilient a material as stone. For that reason, your wood sculpture will have to be treated to stand the test of time. Smooth the surface with sandpaper while you are detailing the carving. Afterwards, apply a layer of coating, treatment or sealant like linseed oil to the sculpture.

The type of finishing material you are going to use depends on where you are going to display the sculpture as well as your personal taste. For instance, if the sculpture is intended for outdoor display, you will have to apply protective coating more frequently. There are a wide variety of wood finishes available, and the cost and effectiveness varies.

Pattern and sketching tools — Unless you are confident with your skills, you will have sketch and make patterns before starting chainsaw carving. Do not rush to carve right away. You cannot erase or paint over any mistake you make since you are working with wood. You will have to change your design, integrate the mistake into your plan, or worse, throw the wood out and start over again. Remember: Any mistake is permanent.

Take some time to make sketches and follow your patterns. Some artists use a chalk or pencil to sketch out the cuts and carvings directly on the wood. This method will help you to be more precise in your cuts, and to avoid permanent mistakes.

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