After finally getting around to putting a dedicated carving bar onto a Stihl MS 193 C, it was time to try a little chainsaw carving. Since the Christmas season was fast approaching, I decided to try my hand at carving some small trees. Trees seem to be pretty simple to carve and would be a good starting point for a beginning carver, and, with the silly season almost upon us, a carved tree would add to the festive decor (and maybe make a gift idea or two).
The first challenge for carving was securing the wood to keep it safely immobile during carving. A few screws into an old wooden sawhorse did the trick, and it was off to the races. Using a 50 cc Stihl MS 271 to block in the rough shape, it wasn’t long before I was putting the new carving bar through its paces. The new carving set up worked quite well.
For my first carving, I decided to try a scalloping approach that is less common and more intricate, but produces an effective stylized tree. Although I subsequently used different approaches that were faster and less involved which also produced good results (in my humble opinion).
Overall, my first journey into the world of chainsaw carving was a success. Granted, I started off slow with an achievable test in a fairly simple subject matter. After carving, the sanding and torching stages also went quite well, although I did have to up-grade my torch as the small pencil torch I had just did not have the fire-power to do the job efficiently.
The carving stage was quite straight forward, but the finishing stage led to some bitter disappointment. Because I was only a couple of weeks out from Christmas, I brought the carvings inside and immediately covered them with a deck stain. Unfortunately, the carvings should have been given a few weeks in my unheated garage in order to acclimatise/slowly dry out before being brought inside. Sadly, my first carvings were a bit rushed due to a lack of planning on my part, and because it was too cold in the garage to apply any finish.
Once inside, the carved trees began to slowly crack as they rapidly dried inside. Once the cracking process had begun, I decided to do nothing to see just how far the damage would go, and to see if the three different types of wood that I used would resist cracking any more than another. The results: cedar, spruce, and poplar all seemed to suffer the same fate- developing at least one major crack starting at the base. Some even cracked audibly.
I am now waiting to see if the carvings have stabilized, and in a few weeks I will experiment with repairing the carvings. I also hope to carve a couple of new trees to see if allowing them to chill in an unheated garage until spring greatly reduces cracking. I will also try a couple of new carving styles to see which cuts/styles help control this scourge of working with wood. I know you will be dying in expectation.