How to Chainsaw Carve a Bear: A Guide

how to chainsaw carve a bear

Chainsaw carving involves using a chainsaw to carve shapes and designs out of wood. It’s an exciting art form that allows carvers to take a simple log and transform it into beautiful animals, characters, and more. Chainsaw carved bears have become especially popular for decorating homes and yards. Carving a bear is also a great beginner project for those new to chainsaw carving, as the rounded shapes of a bear’s head, body, and limbs are fairly straightforward to achieve.

In this guide, I’ll take you through a step-by-step process for chainsaw carving your very own bear. You’ll learn everything from choosing the right wood, essential safety tips, basic chainsaw cutting techniques, and sculpting the shape. I’ll also provide tips to add realistic fur texture and facial details to bring your carving to life. Whether you’re hoping to create a black bear, grizzly, or even a caricature bear, this guide will set you up for chainsaw carving success. So let’s get started on how to transform an ordinary piece of wood into an extraordinary wooden bear using a chainsaw!

How to Chainsaw Carve a Bear

Chainsaw carving a bear involves selecting a suitable log, sketching the design, blocking out the basic shape, refining the bear’s shape, and adding details and texture before finishing the carving. This unique art form requires practice, safety precautions, and the right equipment to create a stunning wooden bear sculpture.

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Step 1: Choosing the Right Log

The starting point for any chainsaw carving project is selecting a suitable log. For a bear carving of average size (around 3 feet tall), look for a log about 3 to 3.5 feet in height and at least 18-24 inches in diameter. Hardwoods like maple, oak, walnut, or ash work well for carving. The log should be free of major knots, splits, or cracks. Take the time to visualize the bear shape within the log and how you’ll position the head, body, and legs to make the best use of the wood grain and contours. This planning will provide a solid foundation for your carving.

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Step 2: Safety and Equipment

Chainsaw carving involves dangerous tools and requires careful safety precautions. Be sure to use chainsaw-resistant trousers, boots, gloves, and a helmet specifically designed for carving. Work slowly and calmly, never over-extend your body, and keep proper footing when making cuts. Also make sure your chainsaw is sharp, well-maintained, and has a correctly tensioned chain. Never carve alone or when fatigued. The right safety gear and equipment is crucial for an injury-free carving experience.

Step 3: Sketching and Planning

Now it’s time to plan the design. Start by sketching the bear shape and features on paper, considering details like the head angle, body position, proportions, and facial expression. Then lightly draw the major shape lines and features right on your log using chalk or pencil. Don’t etch the lines too deep since they will be carved over. These guide lines serve as a rough map for the chainsaw carving process. Take time to plan the overall composition, thinking about how to best fit the bear’s shape to the log.

Step 4: Blocking Out the Bear

With your guide lines mapped out, you can start removing wood using the chainsaw. Begin blocking out the rough form, starting with the bear’s head and overall body. Make gradual, sweeping cuts to establish the basic shapes, working slowly and safely. Follow the contours of the log to envision the body and head shape emerging. Remove wood from the sides and back to taper and round out the form. Take special care when establishing the neckline and head tilt. Repeat this process for each limb, carving down from the body to create the arms and legs. Remove wood strategically, always keeping the final form in mind.

Step 5: Refining the Bear’s Shape

As the broad outline of the bear takes shape, the refinement process begins. Re-establish the key lines and anatomical reference points that may have become obscured during the rough blocking cuts. Then make more precise cuts to define the proportions and curves, including the head, snout, brow, ears, limbs, and torso. Work methodically from the top down, removing additional wood in smooth motions. Crisp yet controlled chainsaw movements help create flowing, realistic contours. Frequently step back to review your progress. Maintaining proper anatomical bear proportions is key during this refinement stage.

Step 6: Carving Details and Texture

Here is where your bear sculpture really comes to life. Use smaller chainsaw tips and specialty carving tools to add fine details to the face, fur, paws, and claws. Carefully define the eyes, nose, and mouth to capture an expressive face. For a naturalistic look, use sweeping, curved chainsaw cuts to create the illusion of fur. Add claw marks and folds to convey skin and texture. Apply cuts with precision to bring out realistic-looking fur. Consider incorporating woodburning tools to enhance details and add shading effects. Take time on these final touches to breathe personality into your bear.

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Step 7: Finishing the Carving

Once satisfied with your carved sculpture, sand down any remaining rough spots and unwanted marks from cutting. Use an angle grinder or sandpaper to smooth the surfaces. Remove any loose debris and carefully hand sand finer details. Depending on your goals, you can now paint your bear or apply stains, wood sealer, or preservatives. Choose weather-resistant finishes for outdoor carvings. Consider options like glazes, oils, acrylics, or water-based sealers for different effects. Proper finishing protects your carving and prevents deterioration. Apply finishes in thin layers, allowing proper drying time between coats. Finally, affix your chainsaw carved bear in its chosen display location to enjoy for years to come!

Tips and Tricks for Chainsaw Carving Bears

Here are tips & tricks for chainsaw carving bears-

Choosing the Right Chainsaw

Selecting an appropriate chainsaw is crucial for carving. Look for a chainsaw designed specifically for carving rather than standard logging. It should have a bar length between 12” and 18” to allow versatility in curved cuts. The chain type matters too. Low profile chains with narrower drive links are ideal for detailed carving. Invest in a quality saw that’s powerful yet easy to control. Proper maintenance and chain sharpening also keeps the saw performing optimally for carving needs. Don’t forget protective chainsaw pants and chaps during use.

Learning from Experts

One of the best ways to improve your chainsaw carving skills is to learn from experienced artists. Seek online video tutorials, carving books and eBooks to understand techniques. Attend a chainsaw carving workshop or class to gain hands-on guidance. Observe demonstrations to master skills like texturing fur, refining shapes, and decorative details. Nothing helps more than learning from a pro directly. Chainsaw carving communities also share invaluable knowledge through social media groups, events, and more. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to improve your bear carving abilities.

Developing Your Own Style

As you gain skills and experience, start incorporating your own creative flare into your carved bears. Experiment with personalized poses, unique textures, and whimsical details that reflect your own vision. Let your distinctive style shine through. Whether you prefer highly realistic or caricature-style bears, put your imaginative stamp on your work. Chainsaw carving provides a wonderful artistic outlet for freeform expression. Don’t be afraid to innovate and push boundaries to develop your own signature chainsaw bear carving style.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What type of wood is best for chainsaw carving?

Hardwoods like maple, oak, walnut, and ash tend to be the best for chainsaw carving bears and other sculptures. They have a dense grain that results in crisp details and texturing. Avoid very soft woods as the carving detail will not come out as cleanly.

How do I maintain my chainsaw for carving?

Regularly sharpen and tension the chain. Lubricate the bar and keep the motor housing free of sawdust buildup. Use the proper fuel and chain oil mixtures. Follow the saw’s maintenance schedule and instructions. A well-tuned saw performs much better for carving.

Can I chainsaw carve other animals besides bears?

Absolutely! Chainsaw carving allows creating almost any animal. Common choices include eagles, wolves, foxes, owls, fish, and more. The techniques are similar regardless of the particular animal. Bears make a great starting point before expanding your carving subjects.

What other tools can I use for detailing my chainsaw carving?

Rotary tools, grinders, woodburners, die grinders, rifflers, and an assortment of sanding tools help refine details. Chisels, gouges, and specialized blade tools also assist with precision work. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your finishing toolkit!

How can I prevent my chainsaw carving from rotting or deteriorating?

Apply protective finishes like sealers, varnish, oils, or epoxy resins to waterproof and preserve the wood. Maintain the finish over time. Store carvings out of direct sun and rain. Choose naturally weather-resistant woods like cedar. Allow proper drying time before finishing to prevent rotting.

How do I price my chainsaw carvings for sale?

Consider your time investment, cost of materials, and competitiveness. Larger and more intricate carvings warrant a higher price. Unique styles or woods also boost value. Compare prices of similar carvings. Don’t undersell yourself, but remain fair. Price within your target customer range.

Are there any chainsaw carving competitions or events I can participate in?

Chainsaw carving contests occur across the world! The STIHL Timbersports Series hosts major events in the U.S. Look for local chainsaw carving contests at county fairs, festivals, and expos too. These events offer opportunities to show off your skills, connect with other carvers, and potentially win prizes.


I hope this guide has equipped you with the key techniques and tips to start chainsaw carving fantastic wooden bears. From choosing the right wood blank to applying finishing details, you now have a solid understanding of the chainsaw bear carving process. With practice and dedication, you can master this satisfying art form. Chainsaw carving allows you to create impressive works from ordinary logs while developing your own artistic style. So grab your saw, head to the workshop, and get carving! Just remember to prioritize safety and take your time. I wish you the best of luck creating your chainsaw carved bears. Let your passion flow as you transform wood into remarkable sculptures. Happy carving!

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