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How to carve wood with a chainsaw

Chainsaw carving is amongst the oldest of DIY crafts in the world. Chainsaws are, without doubt, one of the sharpest tools around, which makes them ideally suited to carving sculptures. It may seem difficult at first, but everyone has to start somewhere and with perseverance you can soon create masterpieces that can decorate both indoors and outdoors.

You don’t need to be Michelangelo to get cracking. Thankfully, there is a lot of information and designs to help you get started. Here are our beginner tips on carving wood with chainsaws.


Before you get cracking you need to make sure that you are fully prepared for the task you are about to undertake. Chainsaws are very dangerous tools if they are not given the appropriate respect. As a result, it is very important to minimise all risk as much as possible before you get going.

  • Clothing
  • Before you get to work with your chainsaw, no matter what the task, you need to make sure you have all the personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes jacket, trousers, boots, gloves, helmet (ideally with a visor) and ear defenders. They are all designed to provide the maximum protection possible; the jacket and trousers will jam the chainsaw straight away, which should minimise damage.

  • Deciding on pattern before starting
  • Much of the success when it comes to carving the wood is in the planning beforehand different options available to you This is why it is so important to be clear on the design before you start. There are a seemingly infinite number of so you can download or purchase the perfect designs based on the dimensions of the log you are going to carve.

  • Pick the right chainsaw
  • Strictly speaking, woodcarving can be done with almost all chainsaw types. The right chainsaw is the one that feels natural to hold and work with. Chainsaws vary in size and weight, so you want one that isn’t too cumbersome when you work or is excessively tiring. You need to focus on the carving and not the saw when you work.

    When selecting your chainsaw, you need to make sure you have set up the chainsaw chain correctly and it has been tensioned properly. If you are able to, be sure to choose a chainsaw with significant anti-kickback features in order to minimise as much risk as possible.

  • Maintenance of chainsaws
  • Before you start, it is imperative that the chainsaw chain has been maintained correctly. A poorly maintained machine will only be more unpredictable and more dangerous. Given how dangerous chainsaws can be, you must make sure you put the appropriate work in before you start carving.

    You should make sure that the chainsaw is sharp, so carving is easy. If the cutting teeth are dull it can increase the chances of kickback and, therefore, more dangerous. You can either sharpen the chain by yourself or take it to a professional.

  • Additional safety
  • One thing you should always be aware of when using a chainsaw is that kickback, which is an instant jolt in an upward direction, is a very dangerous thing if you are not prepared. There is very little you can do when this happens, so you should always be aware of how it occurs.

    To help with safety, most modern chainsaws have a chain brake. This is arguably the most important part of the entire chainsaw due to the risks involved. It is designed to apply a steel brake to stop the chain, which comes in handy when you are changing position, as you don’t need to turn off the machine. It also can activate when kickback occurs.

Carving tips and tricks

  • Different sized chainsaws
  • Depending on the design you are aiming for, you may need a variety of different chainsaws. You should ideally have a bigger chainsaw to cut the larger chunks before switching to a smaller saw for the finer cuts. The less intricate sculptures may not require additional work, so you should be clear about what would be needed before you get cracking. Typically the size of the chainsaw bar would depend on the strength of the operator and the dimensions of the wood anyway.

  • Use sandbags to hold wood secure as you carve
  • The last thing you want is the log that you are cutting through to move suddenly. Not only can this be dangerous but it will also ruin the work that you have already put in. Sandbags can be a very handy addition to your carving setup, as it will keep the log securely in place as you work.

  • Practice on smaller pieces of wood first
  • If you are a complete novice at carving, you may find it beneficial to practice on smaller logs before you tackle a much larger affair. Try carving a log that is roughly 15 inches in diameter or less, just so you get used to the process. Once you have mastered the smaller logs you are ready to upgrade.

  • Finish properly
  • When you have made the main cuts on the wood, you may decide to finish the smallest details with a knife. This will allow you to make the really fine details that can elevate your carving. You then can smooth out the carving with sand paper.

    After you have done all of your intricate detailing, to finish off your work, you will need to treat the wood. Wood, typically, isn’t a material that stands the test of time so you will need to protect your new sculpture. It is therefore worth applying a coating of linseed oil or varnish to the carving. Whichever treatment you want to use will depend on the final location that you will display the sculpture. If it will live outside, you will need to protect it more frequently.

    Above all you must not get disheartened if it doesn’t go perfectly first time around. The more you practice, the better you will get. If you start simple, you can build up your confidence and from there. Once you have mastered the principles, the only thing that will hold you back will be your own imagination.

CS 50S
Cylinder displacement 50.2 cm³
Bar length (inch) 18 in
Weight (excl. cutting equipment) 5.9 kg