Chainsaw carving

These instructions are based on the advice of Nansi Hemming, the Welsh woodcarver. She has been carving professionally and semi-professionally for over twenty years having been taught by her father, Alan Hemming. Initially a love- spoon carver, Nansi began to experiment with larger work and discovered that by using her chainsaw she could take weeks off the carving of a large figure.  In our travels over the last few years we have met other chainsaw carvers and exchanged ideas. Please send us any information to improve the usefulness of this page.

       Before any chainsaw carving attempted it is essential that a basic chainsaw proficiency course is undertaken and a complete set of protective clothes purchased. More people are injured by chainsaws than by any other powered hand tool. All the usual safety rules should be observed with particular attention being taken to prevent the carver being approached and distracted while at work. If carving at a public event a fence and assistant are vital to prevent members of the public tapping the carver on the shoulder to ask a question. Only chainsaws with a correctly tensioned chain and a fully operational anti-kickback and two chain catching facility should be used. All chainsaw users should be aware of the upper nose area of the chain bar where kickback is likely to occur
        The size of chainsaw and bar used depend on the strength of the carver and the size of the carving being undertaken. Nansi uses a lightweight "Stihl" with a carver's bar and a larger "Jonsered" for big pieces.
      General books on woodcarving are very helpful. There are several links on the web to other chainsaw carving sites. 
      Any timber can be used, each variety having it's own advantages and disadvantages. We tend to use what is to hand, various types of green-pine, oak, alder, ash and sycamore. It is easiest to work timber in the round and any later radial splitting that occurs is accepted as the nature of wood.

First Steps:
      Start with a big log and an idea. Unless the log is massive it must be secured against movement. Smaller carvings in the round can be left on the nansi end of a log and only separated when near completion. Sandbags can be very useful when constantly moving a log about to get at it from different angles, when working outside stakes knocked into the ground can be very adaptable. Smaller logs can be held in various clamping devices at a comfortable height, making sure that the chainsaw does not come too close to any metal parts.
      A rough design can often be marked straight onto the bark with the tip of the saw though beginners may prefer to use chalk or felt tip pen.

      Woodcarving books are an excellent resource, particularly thosethree featuring whittling. This technique uses large, bold cuts directly transferable from knife to chainsaw with an appropriate increase of scale.
       African carvings often use a minimum of straight cuts and are fashioned directly from round timber or twigs. The smallest designs, such as earrings, often being the simplest to translate into much larger chainsaw sculpture.
Native American carvings are another very useful source, once again using round timber.

      Many chainsaw carvers are happy to leave a "chainsawn" finish to their work and with practice and a steady hand a surprisingly smooth finish is possible. Some carvers keep a special blunted chain for smoothing. Other power solutions include the "Arbortech", angle grinders with coarse sanding pads and various sanding machines. Hand finishing can be speeded with "Surforms", "Microplanes" and similar devices.
      Nansi often prefers to work over parts of her sculptures with a hand gouge to give further detail, paying particular attention to eyes, hands etc.
      The treatment of the finished work depends on its final location as well as personal taste. Our outside works are treated twice yearly with teak oil and inside pieces are usually finished with Danish oil or beeswax. There are innumerable proprietary wood finishes available which vary in cost, effectiveness and potential for environmental damage.



Click on one of these two photos to see more  pictures of the carving process




Click here to E-mail Nansi Hemming

Click here to visit to Nansi's page.

Click here to visit the "Hardcore Carvers" page
and find out more about our group.

Click here to visit the "Arbortech" site
for interesting articles on woodcarving

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