Step-by-Step Instructions for Chainsaw Carving

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Your lawn will never be the same.
Your lawn will never be the same. (Image: tree trunk carving image by Warren Millar from Fotolia.com)

From doll making to needlework, American folk art has a rich and eclectic history, and one of the most creative forms today is chainsaw sculpture. We have all admired the roadside chainsaw sculpture stands and have maybe even been lucky enough to see a demonstration. If you are interested in learning to carve, make sure you are fully versed in the technical and safety practices of using a chainsaw before embarking on a project. Fully review your saw’s manual and have an expert give you a lesson if you have never used a chainsaw.

Things You'll Need

  • Log or section of wood beam
  • Cutting stump
  • Work gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Ear plugs
  • Chainsaw
  • Bark spud or pry bar
  • Drill
  • Four screws
  • Lumber crayon marker
  • Wood carving tools
  • Grinder with sanding disc
  • Wood stain (optional)
  • Paintbrush
  • Wood sealer

Find a fallen log or obtain a full log from a firewood supplier. You can also check with a nearby sawmill or lumberyard for scrap sections of beam. Beams should be at least 6 inches square. Do not cut down a living tree for your sculpture.

Place the log on your cutting stump. A cutting stump is a large, flat-top stump planted on the ground and used as a surface for chopping or sawing wood.

Put on safety glasses and work gloves. Put in ear plugs. Cut off the top and bottom of the log so they are flat and level.

Remove the bark from the log. Try to find a place along the top or bottom edge where the bark is already coming loose. Insert the blade of a bark spud or a pry bar under and pry off the bark from the log.

Set the log upright and drill four angled pilot holes, evenly spaced around the bottom edge. Screw through the pilot holes to secure the log to the cutting stump.

Draw a horizontal line around the entire log a few inches above the screw heads with a lumber crayon marker. You will not cut below this line. The part of the log below these screws will serve as the base of the sculpture.

Draw the outline of your sculpture onto the wood. Write the word “cut” on all of the sections that need to be removed.

Begin working your way around the log while making the vertical, horizontal and diagonal cuts necessary to remove chunks of wood from the outlined areas. Start from the top and work your way down, making general, blocky cuts. Maintain a steady stance and solid grip while making cuts.

Develop the sculpture further once you have the basic form down. Go back to the top and start making more refined cuts to start to round out the blocky form. Make plunge cuts to make narrow grooves, like the space between legs, for example. Stop and make further outlines with your lumber marker if necessary.

Add the details last. Use the end of the chain saw to shave wood and refine things like ears or the jaw and neck area.

Unscrew the sculpture from the cutting stump and finish minor details like eyes and fingers with hand-held wood carving tools.

Sand any rough areas that you want smoothed down using an angle grinder with a sanding disc.

Add color to your sculpture, if you want it, using wood stain.

Protect and add a finish to your sculpture by painting it with wood sealer.

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