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Woodcarving Tips for Beginners

Wooden carvings have adorned households since time immemorial, they can blend well with almost any overarching décor theme and lend it a small amount of personalized, rustic charm. Before the dawn of technology in the previous century, simple mechanical tools such as chisels and wood saws were used to create these sculptures, requiring serious physical effort (besides time and patience). However, now we have more powerful tools that can shape up large blocks of wood without requiring one to have the physique of a lumberjack – the chainsaw being a prime example.

If you’re interested in integrating some wooden sculptures into the interior (or exterior) design of your home and have never held a chainsaw in your hand before, here are some tips to help you transfer your imagination into a solid block of wood.

Know The Basics

Before you even think of buying one, make sure you’re familiar (in theory) with how a chainsaw works. These are powerful tools that need to be given their due respect to get results without putting yourself in harm’s way. Moreover, you need to understand that chainsaws have to be periodically maintained to ensure that they can perform reliably for long.

From a safety perspective, you will need to invest in protective goggles, gloves, earmuffs, a helmet, chainsaw chaps and perhaps even industrial shoes. Of course, a lot of this depends on the type of artwork you want to create with the ‘saw, but in my experience, it is better to be overprotected and safe, than unprotected and in possible danger!

What Kind of Chainsaw Do You Need?

Chainsaws are used for more than just wooden carvings (duh), but that means there is a multitude of these tools out there. Fuel type and blade size are two of the more important considerations, but there are also others like safety features and handle type. You will need to bear all of these in mind while selecting the chainsaw to use for your DIY project; making the right choice will be crucial to the kind of quality you get from the finished sculpture.

As a simple example: there are two primary types of timber that can be used for sculpting – hardwood and softwood. To deal with the former, you may need a saw that can produce powerful blade motion (hint: gasoline). However, if you’re only going to be making smaller decoration pieces from softwood, you could do just fine with an electrical powered ‘saw.

Then there is also the level of detail your sculpture needs – if it needs more finesse than just a few rough cuts (think a swooping owl compared to a simple outdoor stool), you may have to get multiple chainsaws with different blade sizes. You’ll need a primary chainsaw in any case, and this will be the one that you feel most at home within your hands. There is a decent discussion on chainsaws at backyardboss.net if you’re looking for a place to start.

Be Prepared To Make Mistakes (And Know How To Handle Them)

As a beginner, you may make a few mistakes before you get the hang of using a chainsaw to make delicate strokes on the wood. For this reason, it may be a good idea to practice whittling on dummy blocks before starting your actual project. While mistakes will be permanent, they shouldn’t necessarily mean that you have to start all over again – with a bit of clever handling, you could turn that awkward cut into an endearing detail – it is all about creativity.

Newcomers frequently resort to stencils and pencils to sketch out patterns onto the wood that can be easily cut on. As time progresses, you will start to visualize these patterns in your mind directly and rely less on penciled sketches (it is still a good idea to have drawing supplies at hand though in case a pattern becomes too complex to keep track of in your head).

Learn By Observation

No matter how many times you read about something in a book, a visual demonstration of the theory being used in practice is still quite educating. This most definitely applies to wood sculpting – if you’re unsure at the outset, there are plenty of DIY tutorials that can help you get started on YouTube. Better yet, head on down to a local carving event to see other hobbyists in action – you’re bound to pick up tricks of the trade that may not be appropriately highlighted in guidebooks.

This isn’t to say that scrolling through books is entirely useless when it comes to woodcarving: there are several decent resources that you can draw inspiration from when it comes to projects. Often, they contained step by step instructions that you can follow to create articles ranging from tiny garden gnomes to full-on rocking horses!

Once you get the hang of it, woodcarving will become more than just a pastime – it is a legitimate form of art in its own right, and it will enable you to express your creativity through a tangible medium that can be as aesthetically appealing and practical as you want it to be.

Author Bio:
Tim Moore is the lead editor of Backyard Boss and is a lifelong backyard enthusiast. He grew up immersed in the outdoors, camping every weekend and tending to the backyard with his family. Follow Tim and Backyard Boss on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter for everyday inspiration for your backyard.


  1. Mary Ambrosino says

    I love hand carved wood items and these are some good tips.