Chainsaw Woodcarving For Beginners: Tips & Tricks

Introduction

chainsaw-woodcarving-for-begginersThroughout human history, sculptures have been created using several methods; wood carving being the most prominent among them. Wood carving is the oldest and most continuous type of sculpture. It has been around about as long as man has been upon the earth.

Over the centuries, wood carving has undergone may changes but has never died. Wood carving has come a long way, and this is certainly true due to the various carving tools available today. The most popular wood carving tools are: carving knife which the most basic wood carving tool, a Gouge that can scoop out large or small areas of wood, Chisel which is used with mallets for wood chipping techniques and almost all sharp objects ever made by man!

Chainsaws, no doubt, are one of the sharpest tools in the world, which makes them efficient to be used as a carving utensil.

Chainsaw Carving is considered as one of the most incredible art forms of the modern era. Nowadays, the number of interested individuals increases each day as more people experiment with this form of art.

Today, numerous chainsaw carvers from all over the world have produced some of the most outstanding wood sculptures using chainsaw; from single furniture, ornaments, to various art pieces all can be found on the museums and internet.

This article is a basic guide to help a beginner who’s interested in chainsaw woodcarving learn what they need to get started.

Chainsaw Woodcarving Tools and Materials

Chainsaw

Yes, you’ve read it right! it’s exactly what it sounds like! Similar to the typical wood carving with knives, but on a larger scale. The principle is very simple, using a chainsaw and wood to carve a sculpture.

Protective Gears

gearThe chainsaw cuts through any material very quickly, and if it accidentally hits you, it can cause serious injury. So it’s important to wear the right safety gear when operating a chainsaw. You have to use personal protective equipment like chainsaw chaps to protect your legs. It is also important, to consider other safety equipment, such as, protective googles, ear protection, steel toe shoes, thick gloves, and even a helmet.

Timber / Wood

You can’t carve wood without woods! Wood used is primarily of two kinds; softwood and hardwood. Both have distinct features which are advantageous and disadvantageous for carving. Make sure you have the proper one to fit the design you want to carve.

Wood Coating

background-brown-circle-cut-40973Due to wood being a material that will not withstand the test of time, wood carvings must be protected. While detailing your carving, you can smooth it with sand paper. Finally, after detailing, apply coating, treatment, sealant, linseed or any other oil to the carving. Applying treatment or any other finishing materials to the finished work depends on its final location as well as personal taste. If the sculpture is intended to place outdoor, you need to protect it with finishing materials more frequently. There are numerous proprietary wood finishes available in the market which vary in cost, effectiveness against environmental damage.

Sketching and Pattern Tools

notebook-pencil-notes-sketchBeginning carvers and novices can use sketches and patterns to get started with the correct proportions.

Avoid rushing your carvings. Any mistake you make is potentially permanent. You’ll have to change up your plan to integrate the mistake you’ve done, and in worst case scenario, you’ll need to throw your wood and start carving from the start.

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 chalk or pencil. Draw out 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

So, what is the best saw?

woman-hand-desk-office-1Chainsaw wood carvings can be made using almost all chainsaw types and 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 chainsaw are used to create carvings but most carvers prefer fuel powered models.

However, preferences still depend on the carver.

The best chainsaw for carving is one that feels good using it. Having a chainsaw that’s too big or too heavy for you to handle, then you should look for another chainsaw, as using such a chainsaw is excessively tiring and very 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.

Use chainsaws with pointed tips, and are correctly tensioned for carving with fully functional anti-kickback facility. These are most suitable for beginners. However, it’s not necessarily crucial for good carvings. In any case, the important thing is to have a chainsaw with a sharp chain that fits you right.

The Different Types Of Wood For Carving

woodsOnce you’ve prepared your chainsaw and safety gears, it’s time to select the type of wood you want to work with.

Wood comes in many variety of types and it is crucial to understand each woods’ individual characteristics since each 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 the art a huge option to choose from, and at times that can be overwhelming. Whatever type of wood you choose, it is essential that you purchase the wood from an art and crafts store or wood supplier. Avoid using piece of wood from your lumber pile or garage, particularly if you aren’t familiar with the different kinds of woods yet.

The type and design of carving you do will influence the type of wood which is best to use. So you should choose accordingly. Below are some of the types of woods you can use with chainsaws:

Basswood

basswoodBasswood is probably the wood of choice for most woodcarvers. Although it is classified as a hardwood it is relatively soft, and can be easily carve with chainsaws.

This is good for the beginner to try since it is one of the very best woods for accepting and holding detail, but the wood is more expensive to purchase. Still, Basswood blanks can be found easily, most carving suppliers offer it and it is always available at carving shows. Overall, this is great wood to start learning to carve on. It is the best wood to begin with while learning new techniques and carving styles.

Walnut

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

Mahogany

mahiganyMahogany, in general, is any of many similar reddish colored woods and has a distinctive grain pattern. Mahogany carving wood 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 worked with chainsaws. However, mahogany can be a bit difficult to carve as it often has inconsistent grain.

Oak

wood-tree-bark-english-oakOak is probably one of the most popular woods for carving, with a range of qualities that make it almost ideal. Oak is a heavy, strong, light colored hardwood. The grain of oak is considered very beautiful, and it is one of the recommended woods used for making furniture and carvings.

Cottonwood

cottonwoodCottonwood claims 25 species around the world and has a distinctive white color which looks very attractive even when unpainted. It is a soft wood type that is easy to carve. More often sold as carving blocks than lumber, cottonwood costs less than basswood.

Butternut

butternutAlso referred to as Juglans Cinerea, Butternut is also efficient wood for beginner wood carving. 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 light weight, 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. Wood carvers use butternut because it shows beautiful color and grain pattern when it is carved. 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

  • Make yourself familiar with maintenance requirements and operating fundamentals of chainsaws.
  • Chainsaws can be dangerous and appropriate safety equipment is required when carving with a chainsaw.
  • Always ensure that your chainsaw is sharp, not dull, to make carving easier. Keep in mind that a dull chainsaw is more dangerous than a sharp one. You can sharpen it by yourself or take it to the local saw shop.
  • Prepare a variety of saws. You’ll probably need a bigger saw in the beginning to cut away the chunks. Then, change to a smaller saw to do the detailing.
  • It is essential to get comfortable with a heavy, loud and noisy chainsaw, along with other tools used in sculpting.
  • Your dominant hand should always be the hand you hold the saw with or better use your both hands. Also find out what the best positions are to carve to minimize bad habits.
  • General books on woodcarving are very helpful. There are several links on the web to other chainsaw carving sites.
  • If you can’t design your own, you can buy carving plans and patterns easily available in any bookstore or crafts store, or on the Internet.
  • You could improve your carving by years by attending to any a local carving events. Nothing quite like seeing it live. You could learn so much quickly there instead of learning slowly by trial and error yourself. Gain experience and always ask questions, you will have a better idea of what to buy and how to use it after attending such events.
  • Starting with soft wood that is not fragile is ideal for beginners.
  • Before starting chainsaw carving, practice on smaller pieces of wood. As a beginner, you should practice with smaller logs, 15-inches diameter or less.
  • If you intend to do detailed carvings like the pros, you will need a 1/4-inches pitch carving chain on a dime or quarter tip carving bar.
  • The size of chainsaw and bar used depend on the strength of the carver and the size of the wood being undertaken.
  • Use sandbags on your carving wood to hold it in place as you carve.
  • You can also use knifes and other carving tools to create tiny details.
  • Basswood complements those who don’t completely know what they’re doing. Since it is a softwood, meaning it is very easy to cut.

Final Thoughts

sri-lanka-buddha-sri-lankaGenerally, 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 enjoying hobby, and it eventually 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 with chainsaw wood carving, but it is 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 in your house or yard, or sell it afterwards.

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 nowadays started as a beginners and progressed through constant practice.

 

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