How To Carve A Totem Pole With A Chainsaw; A Comprehensive Guide 2023
Chainsaw carving is an amazing and unique art form that attracts and fascinates everyone equally, regardless of whether you are a wood carver or a viewer. It seems like you also want an astonishing art form in your backyard but don’t know how to carve a totem pole with a chainsaw; if that is the case, congratulations, you have the solution to your problem.
When you carve the totem pole with a chainsaw, take care of yourself and always wear PPE. After that, debark the tree trunk, secure the wood and create or draw the design you want to carve and start carving. Once you have done with carving, add the finishing details and paint the totem pole.
Whether you create totem poles to impress your neighbors or pass them to the next generations as your memory, making them will be fun. So, to fulfill your desire, I will provide instructions on how to carve a totem pole with a chainsaw, which an absolute beginner can also follow.
How To Carve A Totem Pole With A Chainsaw
Carving is an incredibly fun activity. If you own a chainsaw but don’t know how to carve a totem pole with a chainsaw, there is no need to get worried about that. Below is the step-by-step guide to carving the totem poles. So, let’s get into it without wasting a second:
Step 1: Debark The Tree Trunk
The most important step is preparing the wood you will use for your carving. If you want the sculpture more durable and weather-resistant, then it is recommended to remove the bark and sapwood from the trunk using a chainsaw, as the heartwood is the densest component of a tree.
When you are going to carve, it would be better to check the wood that would be the best for carving, as black Walnut, oak, and basswood are considered the best options for carving.
Step 2: Secure The Wood And Draw The Design You Need To Carve
Once the wood is prepared, firmly screw the trunk or use a ratchet strap to hold it. It would be best to ensure that wood won’t move or roll away when you crave the totem pole with your chainsaw. It may be challenging to get wood carving ideas for beginners, but you can check the chainsaw carving ideas online and start with the easiest one.
You can use a pencil or a piece of chalk to make a rough outline on a debarked timber trunk. Your outlines should show distinct cutting lines so you can use a chainsaw to carve out shapes later. They should also help you identify which huge sections may be blocked out first.
Step 3: Start Carving
When you finish the sketch, it’s time to start using the chainsaw to carve the wood. Always start your work from top to bottom: outlines you have prepared already will help you to crave the wood into your desired design or totem pole.
When you are carving, always carves the lines or design gently. It will give your design a natural and beautiful look once it finishes. over, work with a sharp chainsaw at all times. You can harm the wood you are carving if the blades are dull, and it takes more energy to use that unsharpened chainsaw.
Step 4: Add The Finishing Details and paint The Totem Pole
The finer details of the wooden object will be carved out using a chisel or the chainsaw tip in the last phase. Small elements are delicate and give a realistic look to the totem pole. Additionally, if the object is any bird, you may use carving to create the appearance of feathers on the wings, tail, and body. After carving your object, sand it down for a smooth finish.
Lastly, you can apply a layer of wood waxing over the totem pole. It will prevent the carved wood from cracks. After that, paint the totem pole; let it dry before you place it in your garden or anywhere else.
Check my other post if you don’t know how to start a chainsaw.
Which Wood Is The Best For Carving?
There are many types of wood, and it’s essential to understand what makes each one unique. Remember that each type of wood has a specific texture and set of properties that determine how it will react to carving. Therefore, you should carefully check the wood when you are going to choose the one for carving.
Wood carving is a very satisfying hobby where you can create artistically beautiful crafts. To help chainsaw carvers in the selection of the best wood for carving, here is the list of options you have in this regard:
The most preferred wood for beginners is basswood. Whitewood can be found in Europe and America and has been used for ages in woodworking. Basswood is perfect for beginning woodworkers as it is incredibly soft and has nearly little grain on it.
Additionally, it is often used in musical instruments, including the bodies of various woodwind instruments, electric basses, and guitars that are usually. Because it is affordable and malleable wood, it is perfect for learning to carve.
Another excellent choice of wood for beginners to carve is butternut because it is considerably softer and has a lovely texture. The wood has nice grain and is browner than basswood. Although it is similar to walnuts, butternut wood is lighter in color and simpler to carve. Similar to black Walnut, butternut polishes well and is an excellent choice for furniture.
over, when working with butternut, get yourself ready for wormholes.
Another white wood that is very well-liked by woodworkers is aspen. It is still pretty soft but is stronger than basswood, making it easier to carve than basswood. Aspen is affordable and widely accessible wood.
Another common wood for carving is oak, which has several characteristics that almost make it perfect. It is a hard, solid wood. Oak has a clearly defined grain and is one of the popular woods for furniture building.
The ideal sort of wood depends on the carving you conduct. Power carvers frequently utilize wood which is different from hand carvers. A hardwood may be carved easily and with finer detail when using power, yet a hand carver would find the same hardwood. So, choose your wood carefully!
v. Black Walnut
Black Walnut is a well-liked option. It costs more than aspen, basswood, and butternut. It should be carved using a mallet and sharp tools for optimal effects. Due to their good color and texture, Walnut is well-liked for various goods, including furniture and gunstocks.
Chainsaw Carving: Tips And Tricks
Undoubtedly, chainsaws are sharp and robust tools, making them best for carving chainsaw sculptures. Carving the totem poles may seem a bit challenging to you at first, but once you have learned and understood the right procedure, everything can become easier.
Below are a few tips and tricks from the experts who would help you in carving with a chainsaw:
i. Using The Chainsaws Of Different Sizes
Depending on the design you crave, you may require a range of different size chainsaws. To cut the larger pieces, you should ideally use a larger chainsaw before moving to a smaller chainsaw for the finer cuts. It might not be necessary to do further work for the simpler sculptures, so you should be clear about the requirements before starting the work.
over, the operator’s strength and the size of the wood would determine the chainsaw bar’s size.
ii. Get Yourself Comfortable With Smaller Pieces Of Wood
Before starting a much larger project, it may be helpful to practice on smaller logs. For a beginner, it is best to practice wood carving on a log with a diameter of no more than 15 inches. You are prepared to advance once you have mastered the smaller logs.
iii. Use the Sandbags To Secure The Wood When Carving
You don’t want the log you are carving to move suddenly. It is potentially harmful and will undo the hard work you’ve already done. Sandbags are very useful for your carving setup since they hold the log firmly while you carve.
iv. Finish Correctly
You can use a knife to complete the tiny details after making the major cuts in the wood. You’ll be able to create intricate details that will enhance your carving. After that, use sandpaper to smooth out the carving.
You must treat the wood once you have completed the exquisite detailing. You will need to save your new sculpture because wood often doesn’t hold up over time. Therefore, it is worthwhile to varnish or cover the carving with linseed oil.
Whatever method you choose will depend on where you intend to show the sculpture. But you may need to handle it more regularly if you want to keep chainsaw-carved totem poles outside.
Best Chainsaws For Carving 2023
Chainsaw carving is one of the best jobs a chainsaw can do. To get excellent results, you must have the best chainsaw. It is because, with the help of chainsaws, you can easily add details to your designs. But, if you pick the wrong chainsaw, the job will become difficult.
So, to ease your pain, I have selected two of the best carving chainsaws. Let’s learn about these two chainsaws in detail and find out how these two are the best for you:
The Makita-UC4051A Chainsaw comes with a 16-inch guide bar, weighs 1 kg, and produces 1570 watts of horsepower, which makes this chainsaw an incredible choice for all carving jobs. The electric (corded) chainsaw has an automatic oiler and features the toolless blade and chain adjustment, making this amazing tool easier to operate and maintain.
The chainsaw has rubberized grip handles which makes this tool more comfortable to operate. If you are a beginner and face difficulty while starting the chainsaw, then the large trigger switch that helps start the chainsaw softly and smoothly can ease your pain.
The built-in limiter is one of the most impressive features of the chainsaw. The limiter will protect the motor from burnouts by reducing the power supply when the chainsaw heats up. Furthermore, the large oil reservoir comes with a view window allowing the operator to check the amount of the bar oil easily.
How to Chainsaw Carve a Bear in 13 Easy Steps? Complete Guide
Many people admire art and want to do it on their own. Carving a bear out of a log is among one such art. Because it not only gives you aesthetic pleasure but also other people feel proud of you as everyone cannot do that.
Also, you can use this unique talent to earn some money. Keep in mind that art and skill are the things that can always pay you. The paying doesn’t only include money but there is admiration, appreciation, and reverence as well.
Carving a wooden bear with a chainsaw is a unique talent that only a few people have. There are other arts but they are common while this one is unique. Therefore, it can pay you better and you will be admired as well.
So, if you are also interested in this art and have the courage to do so but don’t know how to do it? Here is a complete guide regarding how to chainsaw carve a bear.
Step By Step Guide on How to Chainsaw Carve a Bear?
Before I start telling you the chainsaw carving patterns for the beginner, let me tell you that you need to be careful during the whole process. The first step is to check for your carving chainsaw if it is working properly or not.
The checking of the chainsaw includes; checking its sharpness, check if the chainsaw needs to be oiled, and check if the chainsaw chain is properly tight or not. If any mentioned aspect or other needs to be fixed, first do it.
After that, grab your safety equipment that includes; hearing protection, helmet, gloves, and boots. Done? That’s good!
Now, let’s start with the procedure of carving.
Take a log of about 3 to 3.5 feet in height, it will be large enough to carve a bigger normal size bear.
Place the log on a wood piece and attach the log to the wooden stage with the help of screws.
Mark on the log at the bottom side, leaving 4 to 5-inch space. Your bear carving should be above that mark. This 4 to 5-inch space will serve as the standing of the bear.
Use the widest part of the log for the head. Start cutting the log in a sort of a triangle shape. Use the two wide sides of the triangle for making ears and from the narrow part use it for facial features.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to cut a proper triangle. It is just for making a rough sketch and mind map for your carving.
Also, be careful while making ears. First, there should be an equal gap between the ears. And remember ears are located on the slight backside of the head. Ears are not in parallel with the nose or cheeks, they are behind.
Grab your chainsaw. Make it work and start carving.
Start cutting from the back of the ears. Cut till the hump of the shoulder. And then move ahead till the standing of the bear.
Get a marker and draw rough-cutting lines for mind mapping. Draw the shape of the mouth, head and leaving behind the space for the ears of the bear. Also draw the cheeks, and paws of the bear so that you don’t feel difficulty while moving the chainsaw.
Start notching the ears. Just make a rough structure of the bear initially.
Make cuts for facial expressions such as nose, mouth, and cheeks from the pointed side of the triangle.
Cut down deep into the neck and making the cuts of legs. Also, make cuts for visible features of arms. After marking arm features it will be easy for you to have the look of the bear. Of course, not a complete one but at least every feature is distinguished and recognizable.
Then, make shoulder cuts and separate all the body parts. You will be done with the structure of the bear in perfection.
The next step is furring. It is the most significant step. Here you will make smaller cuts of the whole body. It will make the hairy body of the bear. And it is also a final touching action.
Cut the swap wood at the bottom that we left initially to make the standing of the bear. Make it fair and give the final touch by carving with the chainsaw. This is actually the base of the bear where it stands.
After that, give a final touch to sharpening the facial expressions of the bear. Attach the pair of eyes and also make designing cuts (furring) on the base.
This step is additional and it is for the beauty of the bear. You can paint the bear or you can give it a fiery touch. It will result in creating light and dark patches on the skin.
Paint does not give that real feel as a fiery touch does. And now you are done with bear carving.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How do you cut a bear for beginners?
Start mind mapping, cut the log into a triangle-like shape, but now a proper triangle. For making back and ears use a wide part while for facial expressions use the narrow part. Mark lines for cutting a bear by some rough estimates.
Then, cut the shape of the bear and give it a final shape by furring or painting. And you’re just finished with carving a bear.
What kind of wood is best for chainsaw carving?
Softwood such as cottonwood and ponderosa is best for the bear carving with a chainsaw. The soft is good because it is easy to cut and there will be less cracks in it.
How do you carve a chainsaw step by step?
There are multiple steps that you need to follow or carving a bear. Read the article, all the steps are mentioned. Even if you are a beginner, this is going to help you just give it a read.
How do you carve a bear with a stump?
Carving a bear out of a stump is one of the professional arts. In this article, there is complete guidance regarding the craving of the bear with a stump. You can have a look at it and you will get to know about the answer.
Final Takeaways: How to Chainsaw Carve a Bear?
This article is all about how to chainsaw carve a bear. In this article, patterns, tricks, and steps, everything is mentioned. I hope this is going to be helpful to you. For beginners, it is motivating and helpful.
Richard lives out in the wild with his other half, Diana Richard. He tests chainsaws based on his personal experience and loves to share their nitty gritty details with his audience. Although Richard does FOCUS on other home improvement tools, his FOCUS remains on cutting fallen trees or maintaining his backyard via chainsaw tools. He pledges to come up with new knowledge about chainsaws every once in a while.
How To Learn Chainsaw Carving – Preparation and First Time Guide
Getting into chainsaw carving is not very easy if you don’t know anyone around that can show you how things work. In this article, we will cover how you can try chainsaw carving for the very first time. Remember that In chainsaw carving, it’s important to be knowledgeable of the dangers and always being conscious of your actions.
Before turning on the chainsaw and cutting through some wood, you should try consuming as much knowledge as possible. This will make you more familiar with unexpected situations that may arise, and help you deal better to both prevent them and deal with them.
Now we can get into the 4 steps you need to take before finally trying chainsaw carving for the first time.
Safety in Chainsaw Carving
When working with chainsaws you must be very familiar with safety measurements that are best employed at all times.
As you may have noticed above, we have an article about the different dangers that may arise with chainsaw carving that are important to know about in order to prevent them from being dangerous. You can read about the 5 Dangers of Chainsaw Carving by clicking the blue text or read our less detailed, but also very useful summary below.
First of all, before you decide to skip some chainsaw safety equipment imagine a chainsaw wound and hopefully change your mind. You don’t want to try to buy protective equipment cheap as the consequences will not be worth it.
- Eye protection
- Chainsaw chaps (Better than kevlar pants, read the original article for an explanation)
- Tied hair, no scarf, tight clothing
For additional protection, you can also wear a faceguard. Although most chainsaw carvers don’t like it as it blurs their vision a little, it can be pretty helpful during a kickback (kickbacks happen when the tip of your chainsaw gets in contact with something denser, making the chainsaw to kick back towards your face or shoulder).
Wearing good safety equipment will already reduce the risk of injury by a significant amount. However, there are more precautionary measurements you should take before starting to carve.
The most important thing you should do before starting any carving is to check your wood for nails. You really, really don’t want your chainsaw to touch a nail, so inspect the wood very thoroughly for any potential threats such as nails. This is especially important if you are are getting scrap wood/ wood leftovers from something like a construction site.
Lastly, as obvious as it may sound you must always keep your concentration. You can’t be carving and thinking of what you’re going to have for dinner simultaneously. All of your attention must be on holding the chainsaw firmly and carving the wood attentively.
Using The Right Chainsaw
Electric chainsaws are new to the game, and while they have a hundred advantages such as being lighter and requiring almost no maintenance many carvers simply refuse to like them.
Getting an electric chainsaw is probably a great idea if you never had to maintain a chainsaw before or if you are a newbie in carving as it mostly makes your life easier. You just need a socket somewhere nearby, so carving in the middle of the forest may be a struggle.
On the other hand, there is the gasoline chainsaw which most carvers still love to this day. Gas chainsaws are more powerful than electric ones, and they make the famous “rumm rumm” sound when you turn them on.
Gas chainsaws are what we would recommend to everyone as the better type of chainsaws. However, if you are new to chainsaw carving and you don’t yet see the beauty of a gasoline chainsaw just yet, there is nothing wrong with using an electric chainsaw and exploiting all the advantages it brings with it.
Stabilizing The Wood
Now that we have all the equipment for carving and we know most of the theory behind what to do and what not to do to be safe, let’s get into the one final step before carving, setting up the wood to be steady.
There are two ways you can go about stabilizing wood in chainsaw carving.
The first way is a little pricy, what you see above is a Rockwell Sawhorse it is perfect for chainsaw carving but requires an investment that only committed chainsaw carvers are willing to make.
- Using screws, attach a plywood board to the bottom of your log (Make sure the plywood is larger than the base of the log)
- Place the log on a larger sturdy surface, for example, a flat tree stump
- Using screws, attach the outside area of the plywood to the sturdy base
This is all you need to maintain your log in a steady position. Instead of a tree stump, you can use anything that firmly stays on the ground and elevates your log enough to make it comfortable for you to cut with the chainsaw.
Guide To Chainsaw Carving For The First Time
Finally, we can get started cutting! A few things to keep in mind for your first time chainsaw carving
First of all, don’t bother planning out and sketching on your log of what you will try to carve, this is not a good idea for your first lesson. What you are aiming for your first few attempts is not getting better at cutting shapes, but instead getting comfortable with using a working chainsaw.
As you move forward to your 3rd-4th try, planning out the carving is a great way to progress. Before then, it will only distract you and take away the concentration that you so much need to just be confident with the chainsaw and avoid any mistakes.
Instead have a rough picture in your head of what you want to do, and slowly, without rushing, turn on the chainsaw and proceed to your first cut. As you carve more and more of the log you will notice that you become more confident making each cut a little easier and less stressful.
Always stay concentrated and don’t let anything distract you, if you have someone watching over you don’t look at them and make cool gestures of how much fun you are having, do that only after you turned the chainsaw off.
Timewise, your first chainsaw carving “lesson” should not be long as you will get tired and probably need until the next morning for your brain to fully apprehend the process. Next time will be easier and the time after that you will get the hang of it very quickly, but don’t rush the time and take chainsaw carving one step at a time.
This was our guide for the very first time you should chainsaw carve! We hope you have fun trying it out for yourself.
Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.
Epoxy resin counters and table tops are all the hype these days. People create so many intricate designs using an epoxy pour over. People have made it a form of art, they create beautiful countertops.
Real wood can be hard to source and at times too expensive for certain projects. At times like these particle board is one of the cheapest options to opt for. Some people avoid using pressed wooden.
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The Awesome World of Chainsaw Carving
A blending of the new and the old, chainsaw carvings mix an archaic art form with modern technology. The elaborate wood outcomes are feats that seem unachievable considering the chainsaw’s weight and power.
If an arborist is a tree surgeon, than that must make me the butcher, having only one experience with a chainsaw where I spent close to an hour cutting through a 10″in thick branch, all the while seriously questioning the kickback and brake safety features. Probably something that comes from watching too much Tobe Hooper. The point is, they are not simple things to control.
This is also probably the reason I’m so enthralled by chainsaw art. The skill of the artists to handle such a powerful hand tool for the most fastidious tasks separates chainsaw carving from any other art form. This unique art style has the power to transform massive tree stumps to anthropomorphic wood features that carry as much detail as Japanese chisel sculptures.
Chainsaw Sculpting In History
Chainsaw art was given a thrust into the spotlight in the early 1960’s when an artist by the name of Ken Kaiser created a series of tree carvings for an American roadside museum. These carvings were huge and incredibly detailed, inspiring others to try their own hand at chainsaw sculpting. Among these others were pop culture figures like Runaways vocalist Cherie Currie, who’s status only propelled the growing art.
40 Chainsaw Carved bear tutorial
Chainsaw carving continued to build momentum into the early 90’s where it had been growing with exhibitions at the Lumberjack World Championships as well as forming it’s own dedicated Chainsaw Carving World Championship. The art form which had previously been recognised as performance art was becoming more refined and classical as the sculpture quality increased.
Professional chainsaw wood carving reached Australia sometime in the 90’s with the official Australian National Chainsaw Championships. Although a seemingly masculine art form, chainsaw art was immediately adopted by female artists. Female carvers quickly established their own competitions and an international female chainsaw team was formed, titled the ‘Chainsaw Chix’. Australia’s own Angela Polglaze was a pioneer in this female driven art movement. Aside from carving professionally for Australia since 2004, Angela’s career spreads over two decades of chainsaw carving. In these 20 years, she’s noticed some big changes in the scene,
“When I first started I thought I was the only one doing it, but the Internet made the world a smaller place. Things that were being done in days twenty years ago are now being done in one hour carving competitions … There has been progress in the tools but I also think there is a different ilk of crafters coming through. There are carvers with fine art backgrounds now” Angela Polglaze
The tact of the craft has aged like fine wine. Compact chainsaws are now helping artists achieve more delicate and complex wood sculptures. There are also special guide blades that have been developed specifically for chainsaw carvings and constant innovations to the tools have allowed for incremental refinement within the art.
Beginner Chainsaw Carving Tips
The chainsaw craft, like anything that involves chainsaws, is not something you’re going to want to jump blindly into. There are important safety precautions to be considered when approaching wood sculpting, mostly concerning you keeping your own limbs, but there are also tips for looking after your general well-being. One of Angela’s top tips for beginners was to respect the tool;
“People get complacent and they hurt themselves, you have to have a healthy respectful fear of the tool. Don’t carve if you’ve had a beer, don’t carve if you’re tired … Carvers make it look easy, but it’s physical labour.”
Chainsaw carving instructions may also seem pointless to those who think the art form relies entirely on steady hands and intricate cuts. But the craft is more interpretive than you may initially think. Anyone with a chainsaw and a stump can create a wood carving, and just as Mark Rothco sold an untitled painting of two brick-red rectangles for 28 million in 1961, there’s value in your art’s simplicity.
Before starting you should consider purchasing a pair of chainsaw chaps. If you’re going to take chainsaw crafting even relatively seriously, these blade proof pants will form a protective layer that a chainsaw blade just can’t penetrate. Due to the high volume of wood chips being displaced, it would also be a bright idea to invest in some eye goggles. Ear plugs will help too. You’ll probably want a chainsaw as well, they can help. If you haven’t already got one there are hundreds available at Machines4u—the more compact the better but any chainsaw will do for beginners.
Now with the safety considerations out of the way, you can get to cutting. It’s important that you don’t expect too much from your first project. Take your time when carving and if you can, go into the carving process with a drawn plan of what your project will look like. The type of wood you use will also have an impact on the quality of your sculpture. So look for soft woods that won’t crack when being carved. Often sculptures will be made from White Pine, Cedar, Redwood or Silver Maple tree butts. These are the best woods for chainsaw carving and will make your first project a hell of a lot easier to get into.
Australian wood is a different story however, having a completely different native fauna than America and Europe. Angela Polglaze recommends Macrocarpa for carving bigger pieces;
“It’s all a matter of taste, people get hooked on the sentimentality of it all. Native woods are often hard and beat my body up a lot. I personally like Macrocarpa because it doesn’t crack, there’s a lot of big stuff, it is solid all the way through, it also doesn’t bleed sap, it takes finish really well, and its not too heavy or too soft … It’s non-native but it’s all over the coastal areas of Victoria.”
Lessons will help and if you’re living in a city in Australia, they shouldn’t be too hard to locate. If you are determined to go at it alone, try an easy shape first. Something that will help you practice straight carves as well as curved surfaces will be best. A mushroom or a cube can be good beginner projects. And the shape can be further decorated by marking the carving with notches and patterns.
When you are finishing your project you can touch up rough surfaces with a grinder. You may also want to burn darker shades into your piece with a propane torch. Just don’t forget to apply an oil or lacquer to give your project a sweet gloss finish. Or if it’s the kind of project that warrants it, a couple coats of paint.
Chainsaw Carving Techniques
When you’re feeling like you’ve figured out the basics of carving shapes, you might start looking for some insight on how the professionals make their projects look so damn good. Thankfully some of these techniques have been shared. So when you’re done with mushrooms and squares, you can try an intermediate project like a human head. (Remember, if it ends up looking horrible just tell people it’s post-modern abstract).
- When shaping a head keep scale in mind. A carving of a head will usually be longer than it is wide, with the hairline covering what should be the top tenth;
- From the beginning of the hairline, position the nose around two thirds towards the chin;
- At the bridge of the nose position two eyes on either side, about one eye-length apart;
- Align the corners of the lips with the pupils of the eyes;
- The nose should branch out to become around one eye wide at the nostrils;
- Place the ears so they start parallel to the lips and finish at eye brow height.
Here is a Squirrel I carved! Let me know what you think #wood #diy #woodcarving #art
These instructions are all scale related and better-detailed instructions can be found at Chainsawsculptors.com. Or if you’re a visual learner, take some time with the video below. Just keep in mind, it probably won’t take six minutes for you, at least on your first try.
Other Ways To Get Involved
If you are like me and love the art but just can’t seem to get a grip it, there are plenty of other ways to appreciate the craft. Chainsaw carving competitions and exhibitions regularly take place around Australia. Events like the STIHL Australian Chainsaw Carving Competition has just completed it’s fourth year. Visit the Machines4u events page to find out if there are any shows coming soon to an area near you.
Angela Polglaze herself will be carving with 10 of the world’s best carvers this weekend at the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo in Victoria.
“It’s not going to be a competitive environment so we can just hang out at the event, there will be a lot of camaraderie and less stress than in competition … I’m just gonna carve whatever comes to mind, I saw something on the computer that interested me earlier this week, but it’s all experimentation to me. I’m one of the quirkier carvers ” Angela said about the upcoming event.
If you can’t find anything on near you, there are still hundreds of amazing chainsaw carving videos uploaded to YouTube that showcase the work of some of the best chainsaw artists, and make you feel just that little bit worse about your own ability.
Chainsaw carving is completely unique within sculptor art forms. The finely detailed sculptures are testimony to the skills of chainsaw craftsmen, handling the heavy power tools with absolute finesse.
The History and Evolution of Chainsaw Carving
This redwood mural by Ken Kaiser-one of the earliest recognized pioneers-still stands at the Trees of Mystery in Northern California.
Chainsaw carving is an exciting development in the ancient tradition of woodcarving, an art form almost as old as man himself. Woodcarving began out of necessity, as early man fashioned primitive tools by shaping wood with sharp rocks and bones. As man’s technology improved and new carving tools developed, woodcarving for function and art began to appear.
Objects carved from wood were frequently used for religious purposes, especially by the Egyptians. Early statues of their gods and goddesses were carved in wood. However, woodcarving did not receive its real development until over 2,000 years ago, when tools and methods for carving became more refined.
Because of the perishable character of wood, it is easy to understand why only a small number of the woodcarvings from antiquity still exist today.
Throughout the ages, woodcarving continued to develop, as did its tools—saws, axes, knives, mallets, and awls. But a real advancement, as far as chainsaw carving goes, did not occur until 1830. At that time, a new type of instrument hit the scene, although it was originally intended for quite a different purpose.
The osteotome was an orthopedic surgical tool invented in 1830 by the German prosthetics maker, Bernard Heine. It was developed as an easier means of cutting through bone—an alternative to using a hammer or a chisel or a reciprocating saw. Turning the handle of a sprocket wheel moved a chain around a guiding blade, thus creating the first chain saw. The links of the chain carried small, angled cutting teeth.
For woodcutting purposes, it is purported that a California inventor named R.L. Muir may have been the first to put blades on a chain. However, this machine weighed hundreds of pounds and was never a commercial success.
Other early chainsaw-type tools included the Hamilton saw of 1861 that was hand-cranked and looked like a spinning wheel, and the American Riding Machine, which appeared in the 1880s and looked like a rowing machine with blades on it.
Timberman Magazine reports that the first experiment with a gasoline chainsaw may have been during the summer of 1905 in Eureka, California. Powered by a two-cylinder, water-cooled motor set at 90 degrees from its normal position, it sawed through a ten-foot log in 4.5 minutes.
The first modern chainsaw
The accomplishments of the early chainsaw inventors paved the way for a German mechanical engineer named Andreas STIHL, who is believed to be the inventor of the modern chainsaw. In 1926, he designed the first bucking chainsaw with an electric motor. This was publicly accepted as the first “real” chainsaw. It was also the first mobile chainsaw. In 1929, he also patented the first petrol-driven chainsaw, which was operated by two men and known as “the tree-felling machine.” These patents were the first successful ones for hand-held mobile chainsaws designed for cutting wood.
Vintage chainsaws can be appreciated as art themselves. In 1938, STIHL designed a two-man, petrol-driven chainsaw. This was followed in 1950 by what is claimed by the company to be the world’s first petrol-driven chainsaw for a single operator. Weighing just over 35 pounds, it was equipped with a manually adjusted swivel carburetor that allowed the saw to be used not only for bucking, but also for felling.
McCulloch, Pioneer, and other companies soon followed suit, and the race was on for lighter, faster, and more powerful chainsaws. With those early, relatively lightweight chainsaws came increased maneuverability—enough so that some people began to experiment and discover other creative uses for the chainsaw.
In autumn of 1946, logger/inventor Joseph Buford Cox was chopping firewood when he noticed a timber beetle larva, about the size of a nickel, easily chomping its way through the wood, going both across and with the grain.
As an experienced operator of the gas-powered saws used in those days, Cox knew what a problem the cutting chain could be, requiring a lot of filing and maintenance. He suspected that if he could just duplicate that larva’s alternating C-shaped jaws in steel, he could make a better chain.
Working in the basement shop of his home in Portland, Oregon, Cox devised a revolutionary new chain. The first Cox Chipper Chain was produced and sold in November 1947. Many chainsaw manufacturers still use a version of that original chain today.
Another revolutionary moment in chainsaw carving history was the invention of the carving bar. Designed specifically for carving, the tiny rip allows a person to bore into the wood with little or no kickback. Noted chainsaw carver Don CoIp claims to have had an idea about a narrower-tipped bar: he passed this information to Windsor Bar, and the quarter-tip carving bar was born. Mike McVay, another early chainsaw carver, claims to have coined the phrase for the different sizes—dime tip and quarter tip—by putting a coin on the end of these new bars, and this terminology is still used today.
Pioneers—the first chainsaw artists
Unlike with the development of the chainsaw itself, there are no records of who actually may have created the very first chainsaw carving—only oral histories of what others may have seen and heard. There is really no way of knowing who in what part of the world might have picked up the chainsaw and carved a piece of art for the very first time.
However, in this book, you will read about the earliest recognized pioneers—chainsaw carvers, such as “Wild Mountain Man” Ray Murphy and Ken Kaiser, whose early chainsaw artwork dates back to the 1950s.
In 1953, a young Ray Murphy used his dad’s chainsaw to spell out his brother’s name in a piece of wood. Later in life, he would travel and demonstrate this same type of work carving names on wooden belt buckles worn by his customers.
In 1961, Ken Kaiser created the Trail of Tall Tales, commissioned by the Trees of Mystery, a tourist attraction in Northern California. He carved 50 monumental pieces, which focused on Paul Bunyan, in gigantic redwood logs and panels.
The formative years
During the 1960s and 1970s, more and more people began to experiment with chainsaw carving. These years saw the work of a number of chainsaw carvers, including Lois Hollingsworth, Mike McVay, Susan Miller, Don Coip, Judy McVay, and Brenda Hubbard. Some had already discovered their artistic talent and viewed the chainsaw as another untapped resource; others picked up the chainsaw and for the first time discovered an artistic talent in themselves that they never knew they had. The cord that bound them all together was a deep love of wood and their ability to master a chainsaw.
By the dawn of the l98Os, the art of chainsaw carving became a bit more established with the book Fun and Profitable Chainsaw Carving by William Westenhaver and Ronald Hovde circulating.
Traveling chainsaw carvers loaded their carvings in the backs of their trucks, which served as traveling galleries. Chainsaw carving shops sprang up on the roadside, catching some of the local traffic. Chainsaw carving as performance art also became popular at county and state fairs and malls across America. And thanks to the competitive forces of chainsaw companies, chainsaw carving contests started cropping up as well.
In the 1990s, chainsaw carving evolved even further and was developed and promoted as an art form, receiving more acceptance and more public recognition. Carving contests became more prevalent across the country with the backing of saw companies, who started to support contests financially around the turn of the 2lst century.
The art form today
Today, chainsaw carving encompasses a wide variety of styles, skill levels, and themes. Some artists are strictly performance artists who draw large audiences and are interested in pieces that can be done quickly. Others work for months on one piece, perfecting the sculpture for display in an art gallery. Themes involve anything imaginable, from wildlife to figures to tree houses. Chainsaw carving shows, too, have increased in number to reflect the growing art form. And there are numerous classes available to teach the techniques of carving with a chainsaw.
Included in this book are some early and contemporary chainsaw artists from many of the different carving styles. There are also profiles of some of the top shows as well as the people responsible for bringing them to life. The power of a master woodcarver lies in the skills and techniques he or she has acquired—filing, sharpening, and understanding his or her tools and timber. The power of a good artist is in his or her imagination. As Einstein said, “Imagination is greater than knowledge.” A successful chain- saw carver must have them both.
This article is excerpted from Art Of Chainsaw Carving by Jessie Groeschen. ©2005 by Fox Chapel Publishing Company Incorporated.