Best Wood For Chainsaw Carving

If you purchase a product through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Details

Chainsaw carvings are a great form of art that everyone appreciates. As a woodworker, if you have some experience and talent in wood carving, you could give chainsaw carving a shot. The chainsaw carver uses modified chainsaws for carving and whittling down a tree trunk or stump into shapes of animals and other objects. The results of a chainsaw sculpture can be genuinely remarkable.

However, you need to be sure to use the right type of wood to complete a successful chainsaw carving. You can ruin your project if you use unsuitable tools or the wrong kind of wood. There are factors like the hardness of the wood, the moisture content, and grain orientation, among others, that contribute to your project’s success.

In this post, we consider the different types of wood that you can use and those best for chainsaw carving. So, let’s get right into the matter, shall we?

Hardwood Vs Softwood Carving

We can divide the wood used for chainsaw carving into two broad categories – hardwood and softwood. Although most chainsaw carvers prefer softwood, some of them are quite adept at working on hardwoods like walnut and oak. However, it is easier to cut softwood, and there is less likelihood of wood chipping and cracking. There are different hardness standards, which we measure using specific instruments.

The experienced woodcarver will determine the best type of wood suitable for them without even having to make detailed measurements. Another factor of using softer woods for chainsaw carving is that they will not generate “kickbacks” quickly. It makes the process more comfortable and safer for the woodcarver, and they can unleash their creative skills.

Best Types of Wood for Chainsaw Carving

Chainsaw Carving: The Art and Craft, 2nd Edition Revised and Expanded (Fox Chapel Publishing) Find Inspiration to Create Your Own Chainsaw Art; Gallery of 23 Chainsaw Carving Artists & Chainsaw Basics
Chainsaw Carving: The Art and Craft (Image: Amazon)

Here are the most common varieties of wood that carvers use for chainsaw carving:


This type of wood is a favorite with most woodworkers. Despite being a hardwood, it is softer than most, and it is easy to use a carve it with a chainsaw. Further, basswood is an ideal choice for beginners because it quickly brings out and holds detail. The downside is that it is costly, but it is still prevalent among beginners.


Walnut is even more expensive than basswood. But due to the rich, dark brown color and unique grain pattern, it is popular for making both furniture and carving. Walnut is a commonly-available wood, so it is easy to procure.


The reddish-brown color of mahogany makes it popular in not only furniture but also for wood carving. It is particularly common in the Caribbean, where it grows on farms, and cultivators export it. Mahogany is lightweight but strong with a relatively straight grain. Mahogany is also not a cheap wood, difficult for conventional carving due to its inconsistent grain, but easier to carve with a chainsaw.


Oak is another wood that woodcarvers go for because of specific favorable properties. This hardwood is heavy, strong, and light-colored. The intricate grain patterns of oak make it a popular choice among woodcarvers and furniture makers alike, and it makes good chainsaw carvings.


There are up to 25 species of cottonwood in the world. It has a characteristic white color, which gives it an attractive appearance even if left as it is. The wood is soft and comfortable to carve, cheaper than basswood and popularly used in carving.


Also called “Juglans Cinerea, it is suitable for novice woodcarvers. Butternut wood is lightweight and soft, which allows woodworkers to carve it with ease. It is lighter than walnut but darker than basswood and has a pleasant-looking grain pattern. The combination of the color and grain pattern gives the finished carvings a pleasant appearance. Due to its softness, butternut wood brings out details well in chainsaw carvings.

Best Practices of Chainsaw Carving

Art of Chainsaw Carving, Second Edition: An Insider's Look at 22 Artists Working Against the Grain (Fox Chapel Publishing)
Art of Chainsaw Carving (Image: Amazon)

You can take care of a  few things while you engage in chainsaw carving. If you follow these simple but essential procedures, you can get the best results while being safe while working:

Familiarize Yourself with Your Machine

It’s a good idea to know your chainsaw’s various features and know how it works. Read the owner’s manual carefully

Safety Gear

Wear appropriate safety gear while handling a chainsaw to do chainsaw carving to prevent an accident.

Sharp Blades

Ensure to maintain a sharp chainsaw blade. Blunt blades will not work as efficiently and can be dangerous as well.

Different Sized Chainsaws

As you progress in your project, you will find that chainsaws of different sizes can be useful. Hence, keep them ready for when you need them.

Read up on Reference Material

It is a good idea to read a few books about chainsaw carving if you are a beginner. You can also get a lot of information on the internet.

Attend Chainsaw Woodcarving Events

If a chainsaw woodworking event is being organized near to where you live, attend it. You will learn a lot by seeing carving being done by experienced sculptors. You can also mingle with the chainsaw carving community to get hints and tips.

Start Small

Start with smaller bits of wood like about 15” in diameter or less. Use some of the softer woods we have mentioned above. Once you gain confidence and become better at it, you can start carving larger bits with more complicated patterns.

Don’t Aim at Perfection

The roughly-hewn patterns of chainsaw carving are the beauty of the art. Hence, do not try to carve too intricately. Once you start getting feedback for your carvings and selling some perhaps, you will gain more confidence in your work.

Avoid Brittle Wood

Some of the more brittle types of wood can result in chipping and may cause damage to your workpiece. Western red cedar and redwood are both excellent for chainsaw carving.

Working on the Surfaces

You can use a propane torch to impart a burnished look to the surface of the wood. Or, use a wire brush to create a feathering effect. Linseed oil serves as an excellent finish to your chainsaw carvings.

Practice Makes Perfect

As you continue to create more chainsaw carving masterpieces, you will bet better at it. You will start to be known for your creations, and you may even become a renowned chainsaw woodcarver.


Wood carving has a long history, which is one of the oldest forms of art. Chainsaw wood carving is almost as ancient as chainsaws, which pretty much goes back to at least 100 years. This art form can be an advantageous hobby. If you are good at it, you can even earn some money by selling your creations.

Initially, you may be overwhelmed with the prospect of doing chainsaw carving. However, almost everyone can be a chainsaw carver. It is important that you take the first step. Follow the tips we have provided here, select a piece of wood from the types of wood in our list, and get started. Once you get involved in this activity, there’ll be no looking back. You can become an accomplished chainsaw sculptor if you put in enough practice.

Happy woodworking