How To Carve Wood With A Chainsaw [Step By Step Guide]

For centuries, sculptures have been made in many ways, but wood carving has probably been the most common. Carving wood is one of the oldest ways of creating sculptures and, while there have been changes over the years in the way it is done, it has never gone out of style.

Today, there are many different tools which are used for carving wood including carving knives, gouges and chisels, however the most powerful tool available is the chainsaw.

Chainsaws are one of the world’s sharpest tools and this makes them the perfect carving utensil. Anyone who has ever seen a chainsaw wood carving is sure to be amazed by this incredible art form which is capable of creating amazing sculptures.

Chainsaw carvers worldwide have made some outstanding pieces using their chainsaws, from ornaments and art pieces to furniture items.

If you’re wondering how to carve wood with a chainsaw to try for yourself, this basic guide will help you to get started.

How to carve wood with a chainsaw


Essential Materials And Tools

You’ll need the following items to get started with wood carving with a chainsaw:

Chainsaw – any type can be used but we reviewed some top choices that are some of the best chainsaws for wood carving you can read more about by clicking that link. You need to be able to easily wield your chainsaw for your own safety and also so you can achieve the effects that you’re hoping to achieve.

Protective Gear – as chainsaws cut rapidly through materials if you are accidentally hit by the chainsaw you could be seriously injured. Wearing appropriate safety gear is therefore essential. You will require chainsaw chaps to keep your legs protected, ear protectors, safety goggles, steel toed boots, a helmet and thick gloves to make sure that you stay safe while you work.,

Wood – There are two types of wood which can be used for chainsaw carving – hardwood and softwood. Both have their own unique features so you need to select the right one to meet your needs when you are carving.

Wood Coating – wood cannot last forever so if you want your wood carving to survive as a piece of art you need to protect it. While carrying out detailing on your wood carving, use sandpaper to smooth it and then apply a coating such as a sealant, treatment or linseed oil so that the work will be protected. If you are keeping your sculpture outdoors you will have to regularly repeat the finishing coat however if you are keeping it indoors a single coating should be sufficient.

Sketching & Pattern Tools – if you’re looking for inspiration to get you started with your first carving you can use a pattern or a sketch to get going using the right proportions.

Make sure that you don’t rush to complete your carving as all mistakes are there forever. If you make an error, you will need to change the plan so your mistake can be integrated into the design, and in the worst possible scenario, you will be unable to save your piece and you will have to begin all over again.

Making a plan and following a sketch as you work will help to avoid any mistakes from occurring. Lightly sketch the carvings and cuts onto your piece of wood using a pencil or chalk, with lines that you intend to cut along as well as the shapes you want to carve out. This will enable you to cut more accurately and avoid making a permanent mistake.

Stihl chainsaw cutting a tree

Choosing Your Chainsaw

The good news is that you can use almost any kind of chainsaw to carry out wood carving. A larger saw will be needed to cut big pieces of wood, however you’ll also need a small saw as well as a grinder when carrying out detailing. You can use either a gas or an electric chainsaw to make your carving, however fuel powered models are favored by most carvers.

At the end of the day, the right chainsaw for you is one which you feel comfortable with using. If you have a chainsaw which is too heavy or large to handle comfortably, you won’t do your best work. Chainsaw use is tiring and dangerous, so finding one which you’re able to easily hold will help you to focus on your carving rather than on controlling the saw.

Use a chainsaw that has a pointed tip and which has been properly tensioned for carving. You will also require an anti-kickback function which is working properly.

Types Of Carving Wood

After preparing the chainsaw and putting on your safety gear, you need to choose the kind of wood to work with. There are numerous kinds of wood, each with its own features and textures which respond in different ways to a chainsaw and your carving techniques. Almost all types of wood are suitable for carving, and this gives you plenty of choice, however when buying wood, avoid using pieces from your garage or lumber pile. The design and types of carving you choose to do influences the kind of wood which you should use. Here is a guide to some of the best types.


This is one of the most popular choices of wood for carvers. While it is technically a hardwood, it is fairly soft and so easy to carve with a chainsaw. It is a good choice for beginners since it accepts and holds details well, although it is a little more costly. Most suppliers of carving equipment offer basswood and it is the best wood to begin learning about carving on. It is also a good choice to use when learning a new carving style or technique.


Walnut is another popular wood for carvers, although more costly than basswood. Its rich grain and color makes it a good option for carving furniture especially if finished with clear sealant. Although it’s a hardwood, it is relatively easy to carve and it is widely available.


With its distinctive red color and grain pattern, this type of wood is extremely popular in Caribbean countries as it is grown there. This lightweight and strong wood often features an inconsistent grain which can make it a little tricky to work using a chainsaw.


Oak is a very popular choice when it comes to chainsaw carving as it has many properties and features than make it perfect for furniture and sculptures. Strong, heavy and light colored, it has a beautiful grain and is highly recommended by professional carvers.


There are 25 different species of cottonwood tree worldwide, and its white distinctive coloring is especially attractive if you wish to leave your piece unpainted. As a soft wood, it is simple to carve and is relatively affordable and widely available.


Sometimes called the Juglans Cinerea, butternut wood is a good choice for beginners to wood carving. Coming from the butternut tree that can reach a 3 foot diameter and 100 foot height, it is a soft wood with a number of notable qualities. Fairly lightweight and light in color, it is quite easy to carve and has a lovely grain which allows an excellent pattern to be shown when carved. Affordable, attractive and a joy to work with, butternut is very popular.

Chainsaw wood carving

How To Carve Wood With a Chainsaw

If you’re ready to start carving your piece of wood, here are some tips for you to follow to help you get started.

Take Some Lessons

You should always take a course so you learn how to use the chainsaw properly. A chainsaw is difficult to use and is dangerous, and lessons will ensure you know about safety procedures.

Use Protective Equipment

Before you start work, always put on your protective gear and goggles to make sure that you won’t accidentally be injured.


Before you begin on your first proper carving, practice using your chainsaw on small pieces of wood. Practice making sharp, jagged and straight cuts and soft angles.

Buy Wood

Once you’re happy that you can use your chainsaw safely, buy your chosen lumber for your project.

Use Sandbags

You should put some sandbags onto your wood to keep it firmly in place when you’re carving.

Make A Sketch

Design the pattern that you want to carve and then draw it onto the timber using a marker or chalk.

Carve The Wood

Follow the shape you have drawn onto the timber using your chainsaw. Don’t make big cuts to start with as otherwise you could end up slicing the wood entirely. Make small cuts until you’ve achieved the look you’re going for.


If you want, you can switch to a blunted chain to finish your sculpture and define the angles using knives or small blades.

Apply Sealant

Put a coat of beeswax or teak oil onto your sculpture. If you’re painting your carving, let it dry overnight then put a sealant coating over it.

Wood Carving Tricks

Here are some tips to help your wood carving to go more smoothly:

  • Familiarize yourself with how to operate and maintain your chainsaw.
  • Keep your chainsaw sharp for easier carving and better safety.
  • Have several saws. A large one is best when beginning your project with a smaller one being ideal for detailing.
  • Use your dominant hand to hold your saw or use both hands. Determine which positions are best for you to carve in so you minimize any bad habits.
  • Read books about wood carving to help you to get ideas.
  • If you are unable to design plans for yourself, you’re able to buy patterns and carving plans in crafts stores, book stores and online.
  • Attend local wood carving events to get inspiration and to ask advice from professionals. You’ll also be able to get more information about what equipment to buy and the best ways to use it.
  • Begin by carving soft woods which aren’t fragile as they are simpler to carve.
  • Before you start carving using a chainsaw, always practice on small lumber pieces first. Beginners should practice on logs with a diameter of 15″ or less.
  • Carving details will require a 1/4″ pitch carving chain with a quart or dime tip carving bar. However, the size of bar and chainsaw will depend on your own strength as well as the wood size which you are carving.
  • If you have no sandbags, you could use smaller logs on top of your wood to keep it firmly in place as you carve.
  • Use a knife to create small details while finishing your piece.
  • If you aren’t sure which wood to use when you begin carving, try basswood. It is a soft wood and easy to carve.

Wood carving using a chainsaw may not be easy, but it can produce spectacular results. Chainsaw wood art is artistically beautiful and can also be very functional, and carving is a fun and rewarding hobby. While it will be difficult at first, anybody can carve wood with a chainsaw as long as they take the time to learn properly and to ensure proper safety measures are taken to protect themselves while they work.

Chainsaws are one of the most dangerous tools out there, and are responsible for many serious chainsaw accidents, so taking your lessons seriously and avoiding any undue risks is paramount. With enough practice and patience, you’re sure to be able to make lovely chainsaw carvings from wood to adorn your yard or home, or even for sale.

Remember, the more practice you get at chainsaw carving, the more proficient you will become. Even the most skilled and talented wood carvers began from scratch and only managed to progress in their art by continuously practices their craft. Start slowly and work up to more complex pieces, and you’ll find that you soon have the techniques that you need to excel.

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