We all know chainsaws are hugely effective as tree felling devices – but what about artistic tools? Well, as it turns out chainsaw sculpture is a hugely popular pastime, and one that is growing every year.
Many owners report there is something thrilling and deeply satisfying about chainsaw carving. The power of the tool combined with the delicacy of the artistry creates a feeling like no other. Without doubt, the chainsaw has a reputation as a destructive tool – so it’s nice to see it used to create something!
So, how do you start out with chainsaw carving? In this article, we’ll explore the basics.
Choosing The Right Chainsaw
When it comes to chainsaws, you’ve really got two main options. Professional chainsaws tend to be gas powered, larger machines designed for felling trees. Professional chainsaw sculptors love them for their power and light weight. However, for the amateur, they can be a handful, and most importantly, extremely noisy for other members of your family or neighbors.
As a result of the noise, we actually highly recommend you use a good quality electric chainsaw to start your carving experience. Not only are these machines much quieter, they are cleaner, and much more lightweight. They also tend to be smaller, which can help with your first sculptures – which are also likely to be small!
We highly recommend corded machines for this job – after all, you’re going to be working near your home, so power is not a problem. Most battery powered saws won’t have enough run time for a long carving session. You don’t want to lose your groove with a flat battery!
Chainsaws obviously have a reputation for being dangerous, and quite rightly so. These machines can cause serious injury, and can jump out at awkward angles if they kick back at you. You need to make sure you are properly protected before you try carving with one.
Firstly, you need to have a proper chainsaw mask, ideally with ear defenders too. This should completely cover your face, and preferably your head too. Next, you need to have a strong pair of chainsaw gloves, and a pair of chainsaw chaps. Chainsaw chaps help to stop the saw from cutting you, and can prevent some nasty accidents.
Finally, we highly recommend overalls, as you do end up covered in wood chips. A solid pair of work boots, ideally with steel toecaps, are also a must.
When you are learning, you can really start sawing any wood. Firewood logs, two by four – really whatever you have around. However, it is helpful to have larger pieces to start with, as doing detail is not easy when you are a beginner.
If you can’t get access to free wood easily, one the best places to look is Craigslist. Many homeowners have excess firewood they don’t need, and it is easy to gather up a few logs for your new project.
A Word About Work Spaces
It goes without say, you need to have quite a bit of space in order to carve with your chainsaw. Make sure there is plenty of room around you and the work piece, and remember that sawdust will go everywhere. If your partner has a “thing” about a clean driveway – best not to do it there.
Another consideration is flying debris and noise. If you want to continue carving past your first project – it’s best to not annoy your family and neighbors with rogue woodchips.
The best spot will be within easy reach of your power source via an extension cable, but not so close it’s annoying. Around the back of your shed is the best spot if you’re asking me!
Preparing Your Wood
The first thing to do is to strip off any bark and dirt. Not only does this make it easier to see what you’re doing, it also helps you check if there are any nails, metal or rocks anywhere on the wood. All of these things can be a real problem for a chainsaw, so check and check again for nails and metal. Remove anything you find.
Next up, you need to secure your wood for carving. This is best done by using a proper sawhorse, but that option is not always available to everyone. If you don’t have one handy, the next best thing is to screw your wood to a board, and then clamp the board to a pair of workhorses or trestles.
What you are looking for is to have the workpiece secured around wait height, so you can reach it easily with the saw. It needs to be held rock steady, because the saw can easily cause it to jump around which can be dangerous.
Picking A Project
Now you’re ready to go! So, how do you choose what to create? Well, there are all sorts of fantastic tutorials across the internet, and we strong recommend Youtube. You’ll be able to find lots of helpful videos there, and get some ideas for what to carve first.
Enjoy it & be safe!