Chainsaw carving is the art of using a chainsaw to carve people, animals, and other designs into wood. It began as a backwoods novelty, something lumberjacks did to impress and amuse each other. Today, successful chainsaw carvers can be found in suburbs and cities as well as the forest. That's because wood sculptors have discovered that using a chainsaw — especially for initial cuts on a large piece of wood — can carve hours and even days off a major project.
Old school chainsaw carvers, like Ken Kaiser and Ray Murphy, believe that it isn't a true chainsaw carving unless every detail was carved out by a saw. The more modern approach is to add detail to the saw cuts by using chisels, small saws, or other more traditional hand tools.
As chainsaw carving has developed as an art form, specially designed guide bars, tips and chains have come onto the market to aid in adding detail and minimize the "kickback" that sometimes comes with chainsaw operation. The first thing any chainsaw carver needs is a healthy respect for the saw.
According to one insurance agency that specializes in insuring lumberjacks, the average chainsaw cut requires 100 stitches. It is recommended, then, that a full array of protective gear be donned before any chainsaw carving is attempted. This includes a helmet, goggles, steel-toed boots, and thick pants.
Beyond that, carving is carving. Many chainsaw carvers use two saws: a heavy-duty model for the initial cuts, and a smaller saw for the second level of detail. Another consideration is the hardness of the wood that is being used. Pine, cedar, and fir are often recommended as good wood choices for carving. In addition, the log should be free of major defects, including cracks that could cause problems on the finished piece.
Chainsaw carving often involves large, spectacular pieces, so the best carvers often get thousands of dollars for a commissioned work. Many sculptors use their skill at this art form to amaze onlookers at public performances. There are several professional carvers guilds, and many artists offer their carvings online.