How to Carve with a Chainsaw

Chainsaw carving can be a rewarding hobby for those with the experience and the know how. Chainsaws are typically tools used for destruction and so special care is needed when using chainsaws to carve wood. Chainsaw accidents are more likely, than not, potentially fatal. Only those with adequate experience in carving and the operation of large tools should attempt to carve with chainsaws.

Required Materials and tools

  • Wood oil
  • Block of wood or lumber
  • Chainsaw
  • Safety helmet
  • Safety goggles or face shielding
  • Protective gloves and clothing (i.e. Chaps)
  • Steel toed boots
  • Chalk or pen markers
  • Ground stakes or sandbags
  • Wood grade sandpaper

Basic instructions for chainsaw carving

  1. Secure the wood or lumber piece. Most wood pieces used in chainsaw carving are still stumps rooted to the ground. For unbound logs, wedge it firmly using ground stakes or sandbags.
  2. Examine the natural grain of the wood and decide on a design that will flow accordingly.
  3. Mark the wood with your design.
  4. Carve out the rough shape of the design first, but not too deeply. Work successively in sections.
  5. While carving, ensure you are in a stable stance.
  6. Pare down the shape as you work to achieve a cut close to your desired design.
  7. Observe the wood for cracking and splitting and try to avoid further damaging those areas.
  8. To add detail to your work, use woodcarving knives and chisels.
  9. Remedy cracks by wedging and gluing wood silvers into them, then sand them down (commercial wood fillers may also be used).
  10. Sand down completed carving and apply a wood oil finish. You may also apply a layer or two of sanding sealer and optionally a coat of clear urethane finish.

Tips and Warnings

  • Before engaging in any actual chainsaw carving, acquire adequate training and proficiency in handling a chainsaw. There are woodwork guilds in many locations that conduct hands-on learning in the art and craft of chainsaw carving.
  • Beginners should never take on a chainsaw carving project unaccompanied. Companions should not distract the beginning artisan while they’re working with a chainsaw.
  • Choose a chainsaw you can handle comfortably. Get one specifically designed for carving if available. These usually have guide bars with narrower tips than standard chainsaw blades. The chainsaw should not be too heavy or too lightweight.
  • Draw your design on paper for reference. With more experience, you will be able to visualise the design without a reference aid.
  • Start with simple shapes and designs first. With consistent practise, you will become familiar with your equipment and the characteristics of different wood. In the future, you will be able to tackle more complex designs with better success.
  • Visit for tips on where to buy chainsaws, types of chainsaws to use and other important chainsaw carving information.