How to Do Chainsaw Carvings

Use two types of chain saws to guarantee a smooth, even cut.
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Chain saw carving transforms a simple log into a rustic work of art. Whether you are trying to carve a woodland creature, a patriotic figure or a human face, chain saw carving requires care and precision to achieve the result you want. Once you have obtained a visual reference or sculpture pattern for your chain saw carving, you can begin to carve out the negative spaces and create the details that will make your carving come to life.

Slice off a small portion straight across the diameter of the log. Let the segment dry in the sun for a few hours and examine the interior of the wood. Match the log segment with the log in the place where you cut it off. Observe any cracks that formed while it dried and where the corresponding cracks are on the log. Try to avoid these cracks while carving to prevent splitting your work.

Use your large chain saw to gently take off the larger chunks of the log to form the basic shape of your sculpture. Start at the top and make your way down the log, consulting your pattern or visual reference. For instance, if you are carving a raccoon, use the large chain saw to outline the head, ears, neck and shoulders, then cut away at the excess wood as you form the body. The large chain saw will allow you to create the basic shape. Do not worry about the details, as these will be filled in later.

Draw in the details on the basic shape you've carved, using a pencil and your pattern or visual reference. These marks will act as guidelines for the more detailed carving portion of your sculpture.

Apply the tip of the small saw gently to the guidelines to score them. Trace all the detail lines with the small saw before proceeding with more cutting. This will prevent chipping when you begin carving in the details.

Cut the negative spaces from your pattern or visual reference using the small chain saw. This saw will allow you to have greater control over what you cut. Create more defined shapes by removing excess knots or leftover wood from your preliminary cut. Remove as much excess wood as possible before proceeding to the next step.

Place the 80-grit sandpaper disc on your angle grinder. Use the angle grinder with the 80-grit sandpaper to create the more minute details of your carving. For instance, if you are carving a raccoon, the angle grinder can be used to create fur details on the head and body. Always use light, even pressure when applying passes to the wood, and use the angle grinder in the direction of the wood grain.

Apply the edge of the angle grinder to the side of the wood to add notches for detail, if your pattern or visual reference requires it.

Insert the 120-grit sandpaper disc into the angle grinder. Use light, even pressure and sand the entire sculpture in the direction of the wood grain to create a smooth finish.

Paint the chain saw carving using oil-based paints or leave the wood natural. Allow the paint to dry. Apply one layer of a penetrating oil-based finish. Allow this to dry, then apply another coat to seal and protect your sculpture.

Things You'll Need

  • Sculpture pattern or visual reference
  • 1 large gas or electric chain saw
  • 1 small gas or electric chain saw
  • Dry cedar log at least 48 inches long and 15 inches in diameter
  • Angle grinder
  • 80-grit sandpaper disc
  • 120-grit sandpaper disc
  • Oil-based finish
  • Paintbrushes


  • Always wear safety gear when operating a chain saw or angle grinder