Chainsaw Carving Guide

This guide is dedicated to novice, budding and experienced chainsaw carvers.

Until fairly recently chainsaw carving has been a truly dark art. Sculptors and hobbyists alike have been experimenting with various tools to achieve different effects and efficiencies. These days a well established carver uses many tools, not just the chainsaw. Finally chainsaw sculpting has come far enough to see solid patterns between different carvers and the tools they use. Here I will show you some of what I have learned in an effort to give back and contribute to the ever growing art of chainsaw carving. For those that would like to contribute to, or correct any of the content within, please feel free to contact me.

The Chainsaws

An established chainsaw sculptor has a number of saws at their disposal which relate to the various stages of a piece. They are as follows.

  • Blocking out saw
  • Shaping saw
  • Detailing saw

Blocking out Saw

Used to "block out" the sculpture. A standard bar is often used on a fairly powerful saw (45cc and up) and a carver may have a number of blocking out saws to tackle different sized pieces of wood. The bigger the log the bigger the bar that is required to get through it in one cut, and the bigger the bar the bigger the saw needs to be to get through it if you haven't got all day ;)

This is the first stage and is vital in mapping out the proportions and thus laying down good foundations.

Shaping Saw

Now its time to round off all those hard edges. For the proficient much of this can still be done with a blocking saw, but for many a shaping saw is just the trick.

Kited out with a narrow tipped bar (carving bar) curved cuts are much easier to execute. The only thing that is unique about these saws is the bar that is used. Carving bars usually come in two flavors - dime tip and quarter tip. To find out more about them Ed Robinson who I get all my carving bars from has a great information page.

Detailing Saw

Finally its time to put the details in. Detailing saws are typically light weight and therefore fairly gutless affairs that are kited out with a short carving bar. The low weight and low bar flex gives you a lot of control allowing you to put in those final touches such as texture, eyes, tight curves and so on.

For you information the saws I use are a follows

  • Blocking saws - Stihl MS361, Husqvarna 346XP
  • Shaping saws - Stihl MS200 + 12" bar, Stihl M200 + 16" bar
  • Detailing saw - Stihl MS192C + 8" bar

The Stihl MS200 has been replaced with the MS201 and the MS192C by the MS150

I'm unsure of the others. Please note that chainsaws are now subject to emmissions criteria and new saws are commonly choked which leads to restricted performance. This problem can be remedied and there are many muffler mod guides out there that do the trick.


If you'd just like to get started and only have the cash for one saw, or would just like to see how you get on then I would recommend getting either a Stihl MS150 or a Stihl MS201 and kit them out with a quarter tip 12" bar and 1/4 pitch sprocket. You get much more wear out of a quarter tip carving bar and the pay off with regards to detail is minimal. This of course is personal preference but If I had my time again I would have started with an equivalent of this setup.


Coming soon!