Frequently Asked Chainsaw Carving Questions
Post your question here for an expert to answer, Your question will be posted here with the answer for a new FAQ Data Base we are starting. If you wish to answer a question or add to one, Cut and Paste the question here and your answer below it and we’ll list it among the other answers. We would like to hear from everyone that has a different method. Ask a personal question to any of us to answer as experienced carvers and see how we do it. We all are some different in our ways of carving as in life. These we are listing are only a few ways of doing chainsaw carving
Experienced chainsaw carvers to Answer your questions
- Barre Pinske
- Bob King
- Cheryl Campbell
- Dick Tilley
- Doug Ricks
- Jim Rourke
- Joe Rego
- Milton Lowden
Ask a question personal to us or in general we’ll answer it our way of doing it. Others may answer their way too and I will post their answer. Open a New Topic for Questions or ask any question.
Question: I want to start out using a Makita high speed electric saw, what will be the limitations for me.
Milton: You will be limited to smaller hardwood or medium softwood carvings in size. It is possible to carve bigger carvings with an electric saw but not feasible as it would take so long. If it’s all you can use then that’s the way to go. If you can use gas go that way and use the electric for detail. They are under powered and to low of a chain speed for blocking out larger carvings.
Step by step cleaning oil pump by Doug Ricks – Step by step cleaning oil pump
Step by step to finding and cleaning (replacing) that little check valve filter for the fuel tanks on ECHO – Bar Oil fuel valve cleaning
Question: I have a Husquvarna 357 and have recently started playing about making mushrooms, but my saw keep cutting out then stopped all together I changed the spark plug and I started again but only for about a half hour, has anyone got any ideas?
Open for answering.
Question: I am just getting started what kind of saw and other equipment should I buy? I’m ready to get the stuff I need to get started.
Bob: OK, well honestly you only “need” one small quality saw to get going. I’m very pro-ECHO products but you need to buy what you can get help with later if the need arises. Anyway a lightweight finish saw, 4-4.5″ angle grinder set up for sanding discs, a dremel moto tool, a small propane torch and some good safety equipment for eyes, ears, legs and lungs. Its been my experience to buy the quality tools first rather than wishing you did later… After awhile you’ll find more and more equipment to purchase (the quest is immense). Keep in touch with other like minded carvers. They will help you to keep from re-inventing the wheel… See you, Bob
Jim: To start out you’ll need a mid range powered chainsaw to rough out carvings, one with a narrow bar is preferable and 16″ long is ideal. Once you get the feel of rough carving, get yourself a small chainsaw with a dime tip carving bar and 1/4 pitch chain for detailing. They are available as a carving package from Bailey’s Logging Supply or various carvers who sell tools. Grinders, sanders, die grinders, dremel, etc. can be added to your arsenal if you like but they aren’t absolutely necessary. Safety gear is absolutely required. Chaps, safety glasses, work boots and ear protection at minimum. If you aren’t experienced with chainsaws get safety instructions from a pro in person. Starting with a carving bar doing smaller carvings can be the safest method to learn if you have little experience with saws as they are much less likely to kick back due to the small radius of the bar tip.
Question: What exactly is a Hydraulic Chainsaw? I picture myself pulling around a long, high pressure hose and an oily mess on the floor. What’s it really like? The hydraulic saw is simple. A an electric motor turns an hydraulic pump. The pump pumps oil from a tank to the saw and back into the tank. On the saw there is a valve that diverts the oil to the saws motor (basically two meshing gears) which turns the chain. The oil is recirculated from the tank to the saw and back again and only when you give it gas so to speak does it turn the chain. Nothing sprays. The hydraulic oil does lubricate the chain which is nice you don’t need to add bar oil every 20 minutes. it puts out oil on the bar in an amount you can regulate. The saws are light and powerful because the pump is the power source. Did you need more information on it. I can send you to the owners of the companies that make them and they are very friendly to answering questions on their product.
Chain Sharpening and Bars
Question: What kind of oil is best to use for your chainsaw?
Milton: I think chainsaw bar oil sold at chainsaw shops and other places specifically made for this purpose are best for your chainsaw. Some other oils may be better for the carving finish you are working on but a lot harder on the saw. Doug Ricks explains here in photo’s and an explanation of what some other oils may be doing to your saw: Step by Step Echo filter changes and bar oil use results
Question: I want to buy a chain grinder. I know there are grinders for 500.00+ and low as 30.00. My question is–is there a mid range cost grinder that is good and reliable?
Milton: You can get a good one from here at Northern Tool: http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/NTESearch?storeId=6970&N=0&Ntk=All&Ntt=chainsaw%20sharpener&Nty=1&D=chainsaw%20sharpener&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Dx=mode+matchallpartial
I prefer to just bring them to the saw shop when I really hit something bad, else I hand sharpen as them grinders seem to take the temper out of the tooth some and the sharpening don’t last as long. I also hand sharpen because I can put more or less hook in the chain to make it grab more or less and you can’t do this with a machine very easy or as good. They are a handy rig though when you hit nails or other things and need an evening out.
Question: I found that my chainsaw was cutting strangely today. I was cutting up the larger diameter logs and was having to do an awful lot of work even with the under 12” logs. If I tried cutting with the bottom of the bar, near the engine (i.e. like you’re supposed to) the chain would cut great for about two inches, then stop cutting almost completely. It also wanted to curve to the left as I went into the wood. However if I did a sort of plunge / push cut using the bottom 1/2 of the tip, the chain cut well, throwing lots of chips. It would also work well doing up cuts with the bar’s top edge, though again it worked better close to the tip. I tried sharpening the chain (with the HF chain grinder) which helped some, but not a huge amount. I took the rakers down a couple of sharpening ago. The bar has a lot of bluing around the groove, but I am getting plenty of oil. I did notice that I could “rock” the chain to the left and right a fair distance. I’ve been flipping the bar on a pretty regular basis. Any ideas? Have I fried the bar?
Milton: What happen is your chain started to become uneven and one side was sharper, or the teeth filed longer on one side, or one side could have hit something to dull it more then the other side. This made it pull to one side and spread your bar. My advise would to be is once your saw does not cut into a log or carving by itself without much pressure applied you should stop cutting and clean out your saw, switch the bar, sharpen the chain, clean the filter, and gas and oil up. With your situation now I would bring it all to a chainsaw shop and if the bar is any good yet they can squeeze it back together to the right tolerance and grind it back in shape, or even put a new tip on if needed. Also I would bring in your chain and have them machine sharpen it so it is all even again and you should be good to go.
Question: Sharpening a chainsaw.
For a newbie starting off carving what would an expert recommend they do, free hand or use a file guide?
1.Basic sharpening for a standard bar and chain.
Milton: Here is a great guide to sharpening saw chains for beginners. This should answer both your questions above. “Keeping Your Chainsaw Sharp” http://www.motherearthnews.com/DIY/2002-10-01/Keeping-Your-Chainsaw-Sharp.aspx
2.Advanced techniques for carving bars.
Open for answering.
Dick Tilley: Square-Ground Filing Here is an excellent link explaining how to….
and some basic stuff…
4.Tools, “Double bevel”, “Hexagon”, “Goofy Files
Milton: Saburr-Tooth die grinder and dremel bits are the best I have found. That is why we sell them here:
5.Any dangers or increased risks from modified sharpening techniques.
“Example, cutters that can possibly cut through leggings.”
Milton: Anytime you change anything from a factory specification you are voiding any law suits and are at a possible risk for danger. I don’t personally think a modified chain would cut through good chaps but a person never knows. I do not see any dangers myself and I do modify my chains for carving to suit my needs.
Question: How many times typically can you sharpen a chain before you toss it out?
Milton: In my opinion I would say it would depend on many factors. Some of them are your sharpening experience, what kind of wood you are cutting, if the wood was dirty or clean, what kind of chain you are talking about as some have better metal in them then others, and if you hit anything with it. I sharpen my chain by hand for 52 years now and I think it took me a few years or more to get comfortable with free hand. If I hit rocks or metal in the carving and really mess the chain up I will only then put it on a grinder to straighten out the teeth and not spread the bar by uneven cutting. I file my teeth down and use the chain tell at least one quarter of the teeth are gone most of the time. I think they cut faster when they are wore out and like thin needles. They fly off and I always wondered where they go……………
Question: What is the most widely utilized method of sharpening your chainsaw chain? (file by hand , electric sharpener or dremel) ? and why?
Milton: I think that would be up to the persons sharpening experience. Filing by hand is a preferred method of mine as sharpening by grinding wheels and such cause heat and temper loss to the tooth edge and they won’t stay as sharp as long as using a hand file.
The only thing I do different then most carvers is the position I have the saw to sharpen it. I can’t lay a saw down and sharpen both sides equal with a file. I also can’t see the bottom of the top cutting plate very well this way. I ended up with teeth longer or different lengths on each side. To alleviate all these problems for me I went back to a way I was taught logging in Oregon in the 60’s. I stand the saw on the handle and have the bar between my legs. I then take the file and lay it in the tooth I’m going to sharpen. I then pull the chain up or down to get my angle and look at my marks I had ground in the bar for depth cutting, I use this mark for all the teeth. This makes my angle all the same, something I don’t have to watch so much with this method. I can also look and see if I have to much hook or to little and easy adjust by filing. Filing towards the bar and down gives me hook. Filing towards the cutter and no down pressure gives me less hook. You can look and see the hook so easy, so you have all the cutters the same. I then turn the saw 180 degrees and do the other side the teeth using the same mark on the bar for angle. After I have done the whole chain this way, I go over it with a flat file. It is a Save Edge chainsaw flat file with cutting teeth on a half rounded edge on both sides. I use this on the underside of the top cutting plate edge to take the round bottom the round file makes. I’d rather sharpen with a file as you can adjust all the ways you can file you can’t do with a sharpener. The chain will stay sharper longer as the temper is not changed in the chain teeth by a file. Once every 3 or 4 sharpening a person should also use a raker gauge to adjust the height of the raker.
Question? Someone told me to start using trans fluid or antifreeze, pre paint or stains i also like fire and light stains would either of those discolor the wood?
Milton: I wouldn’t use antifreeze or trans fluid as if someone handled or a young kid chewed on it or similar it would be poisonous to them. Any stain is going to discolor the wood. that’s what staining is about, being able to put a color finish on the wood and still see the grain in it. I would read below more on how to finish wood carvings.
Question? What would you use for the preservation of green wood?
Open for answer:
Question? I just purchased a carving that is unpainted, what kind of paint do I use to finish it?
Milton: It is your carving, you can finish it the way you wish. I usually do as I stated below in the next question. The main thing is whatever you do if you use a sanding sealer first or an under coating make sure it is a water base or oil base to match your final finish what ever you decide to use there, oil or water base. I like to keep them the same. You can do any finish you would do on any other wood to please your eye. I would suggest also if going outdoors with your sculpture I would use an oil base finish.
Question? While carving a piece (a large piece can take me several days) I’ve read that a mixture of 1/2 linseed and 1/2 paint thinner should be applied intermittently while carving . Is this a good idea – even when the final finish is marine varnish?
Milton: Finishes can vary due to the type of wood being used, the moisture content, the environment it is to be displayed in, and if finishing the carving all at once or over a period of time. Myself I use just about all black cherry dead standing or out of my firewood pile. The one main thing that I learned the hard way is to never leave it bare when putting away for even a day. Soon as I see the smallest cracks with my glasses on…. I put the oil or sanding sealer on or It will develop small cracks that will turn big over night. The more heat the faster this is going to happen. I always coat mine with sanding sealer or 3 in 1 oil in-between work stages. I only use the oil if that’s what I’m going to use for a base preservative under my main sealer. I use the 3 in 1 oil when I want a deeper tone to my wood. It makes the black cherry a deep aged look. When I’m done with a carving I either give it all the oil it will take for about 3 days brushed on. If not using oil I use sanding sealer and give my carvings 1 coat a day for 2 or 3 days. I use an oil base spar/urethane in clear, satin, and gloss. It all depends on the carving and what the customer wants for a finish. Putting a finish on the bottom for me is like this: If you believe the moisture should seep in and out at will and stabilize or you think the carving should not have any moisture to enter or leave. I let my inside carvings not sealed on the bottom and my outside ones I seal. I carve mostly only dry dead standing or cut dried black cherry logs so most of my wood is a hardwood and already fairly well seasoned but will still crack real quick without a sanding sealer on it. I do not cut kerfs in dry cherry but do in green wood. I use all outdoor type spar/urethane because I never know if I am going to put some carvings outside and bring others inside. I like to rotate them different times of the year, also I imagine some customers might too. This is one method. You will find as many ways to finish as you can find carvers. This is just my way. I finish my mushrooms different. Listed below.
Question? I have a fresh cut tree stump, I am going to attempt to sculpt a Madonna from the seven foot stump. What should I coat the tree with as I carve?
Milton: I would use Sanding sealer or a thinned out varnish between carving time to keep it from cracking.
Question? Log oil and sanding oil seem to be used a lot on carvings, where do you purchase these?
Cheryl: Sanding sealer is common and found anywhere stains and paints are sold. I like BullsEye because it dries in 15 min or so. Minwax takes a little longer but they’re all pretty similar. As far as oils, I find Australian Timber oil (True Value Hardware, Menards, Home Depot) to be far too expensive, when you can get McKloskey transparent deck oil for $14/gal or so (Walmart). Realize that deck/wood oils are not big sellers in winter, so you may have some difficulty finding them until spring.
For great color, I’ve used Behr solid color outdoor wood preservative. The black looks fantastic on bears. Then I overspray the whole carving with transparent honey brown to give the wood a soft glow of gold. Soak that carving well.
So what you want are wood oils, whether designated as log oils for log homes or deck oils for decks, fences, or outdoor furniture. You want UV protection, mildew resistance, and resistance to weathering/water.
Milton: I also like to use Royal Wood Log Oil from Ace Hardware. Not bad priced and I get good results so far in two years of using this product for an oil finish. 3 in 1 oil makes a deep color on black cherry making it looked far more aged then it is.
Question? How do I finish a carving?
Milton: Finishes can vary due to the type of wood being used, the moisture content, the environment it is to be displayed in, and if finishing the carving all at once or over a period of time. Myself I use just about all black cherry dead standing or out of my firewood pile. The one main thing that I learned the hard way is to never leave it bare when putting away for even a day. Soon as I see the smallest cracks with my glasses on…. I put the oil or sanding sealer on or It will develop small cracks that will turn big over night. The more heat the faster this is going to happen. I always coat mine with sanding sealer or 3 in 1 oil in-between work stages. I only use the oil if that’s what I’m going to use for a base preservative under my main sealer. I use the 3 in 1 oil when I want a deeper tone to my wood. It makes the black cherry a deep aged look. When I’m done with a carving I either give it all the oil it will take for about 3 days brushed on. If not using oil I use sanding sealer and give my carvings 1 coat a day for 2 or 3 days. I use an oil base spar/urethane in clear, satin, and gloss. It all depends on the carving and what the customer wants for a finish. Putting a finish on the bottom for me is like this: If you believe the moisture should seep in and out at will and stabilize or you think the carving should not have any moisture to enter or leave. I let my inside carvings not sealed on the bottom and my outside ones I seal. I carve mostly only dry dead standing or cut dried black cherry logs so most of my wood is a hardwood and already fairly well seasoned but will still crack real quick without a sanding sealer on it. I do not cut kerfs in dry cherry but do in green wood. I use all outdoor type spar/urethane because I never know if I am going to put some carvings outside and bring others inside. I like to rotate them different times of the year, also I imagine some customers might too. This is one method. You will find as many ways to finish as you can find carvers. This is just my way. I finish my mushrooms different.
Question? How do you clean and store your paint brushes?
Milton: An old guy that hated to paint and hated to clean his brushes more showed me this one. He said just wrap them in a plastic bag or wrapper of some kind and put them in the freezer. I found this to work great. After a number of freezes and thaws I clean them and start the freezing again tell they are no good and toss them. One kind of spar/urethane made them gum up. Don’t remember the name of it. All other paints and spars it worked great on.
Another way that works good for us frequent users of paint brushes is to set them in a pail of water submerged. Just take them out and wipe them off and use them. Just make sure to keep them submerged and not let the water evaporate.
Question? I carved a bear out of a Pine log , this pine was killed by beetles and I cut it down this makes it about 1.5yrs dead 🙂 The wood is still solid I brushed it with cedar tone fence stain and cut a kerfs’ line….. I will put a coat of spar on it next……. Does this sound right….? should I let it dry a few more months?
Cheryl: I personally don’t think spar is necessary and it’s likely to flake off within 3 years. See what protection attributes your fence stain has (UV and/or moisture protection, etc.). It may be enough by itself. Once it’s warm outside again, spray one of the many wood deck protections that are available on your carving, soaking it well. Use a tinted spray to deepen your color or a transparent selection. The effect can be beautiful and longer lasting than spar.
Question: Torches? I have carved a bear and burned the fuzzes off with a small propane torch, but to char the bear to make it black I would think you need a larger torch such as a weed burner type that’s connected to a 5 gal propane tank, is this what’s commonly used?
Milton: Yes that is what most use to burn with on bigger carvings. A Weed burner torch. I use the small one as I do smaller carvings mostly, but I use nap gas instead of propane. It gives a much hotter flame.
Question: What insurance do most carvers use when putting on shows?
Milton: This is the one I heard talked about being used the most, I don’t use it because I only carve at home.
Specialty Insurance Agency
Performers of the US & Vendors of the US
PO Box 24
New Richmond, WI 54017
Question: What kind of power tools do chainsaw carvers use that don’t do 100% chainsaw carving?
Milton: I mostly all chainsaw carve but at times if a customer wants more detail then I can do with the chainsaw I use dremel tools and a Die grinder. I use the Saburr-Tooth bits almost exclusively. I have a couple of other bits that work ok for some things but I find the Saburr-Tooth bit overall the best for my dremel and die grinder. Occasionally I use a surface grinder and also use the tools on them. That’s why we sell them, I think they are great for sculpting. Some other carvers I am sure use everything but the kitchen sink.
Question: What kind of power tools do chainsaw carvers use that don’t do 100% chainsaw carving?
Cheryl: I recommend two important tools. An angle grinder with 80, 120 and 240 grit sanding discs. I would not suggest getting a Saburr wheel with this until you have experience handling the discs without injuring yourself. A die grinder that can accommodate both 1/4″ and 1/8″ bits. I would suggest Saburr flame and sphere bits (green or yellow) with 1/4″ shanks, and a dovetail Kutzall silver 1/8″ bit. There is a lot of versatility to be enjoyed with these few pieces.
Question? What’s the best way to secure the base of a tall skinny log so that it does not move when carving?
Milton: I would lay it down blocked up or if small enough lift it on some lumber horses or a prop to a good carving height. Then I would wedge it and screw the wedges in with wood screws.
Question? I am a new carver.2 years running. My question is, have you ever used auto body filler in the small cracks. I saw a chainsaw carver in Jackson Hole WY use it. He said it works great, you can use oil, stain, paint right over the auto filler and its cheaper than wood filler.
Milton: I have used it in smaller size holes when in a hurry, it works great. I also use the clear Gorilla glue and saw dust from the same carving when possible or same type of wood to fill smaller cracks and holes. For real big ones I will carve a plug that size and use the clear Gorilla glue to hold it in and then shave it off or carve it again.
Question? What is used to texture a bears fur? Some of the bears I see its hard to believe its a chainsaw as the blade is so wide. I’ve used a die grinder with Ice but haven’t tried it with wood.
Cheryl: Unless the animal carving is smaller than a cat, I always use the saw to carve the fur. There are a lot of other tools available to you, but they take so long that I always go back to the saw. Keep in mind that you are not approaching the wood at a perpendicular angle and plunge cutting, but instead you are stroking the wood with your bar/chain just as you would use a pencil on paper.
I was taught to “draw” the hair on the bear as if you were drawing flames, or making multiple S curves without lifting the chain from the wood. A series of these overlapping marks looks just like fur, especially after flap sanding.
Milton: Some people use the side of the chain and make fur or other methods with the chainsaw. Others use the Kutzall dovetail bit, it is the most versatile bit from what I hear for either a Dremel or die grinder for this work. It’s used for eyes, claws, and fur. Use the chainsaw to make the grooves between toes and create the outside curve, then use the dovetail to take out the wood under the claws. The bit gives you just enough reach (you don’t have to cut under the whole claw or you will risk it breaking off).
Question? How do you know how far to cut into a carving with a plunge cut?
Milton: I use to take a black indelible ink pen I used in my greenhouse and marked my bar. After some cutting it would wear off. I now take and mark it with my dremel tool to mark the bar permanently. I also know from the tip of my bar on my saw to the back of it the measurement, plus to the back the saw from the tip of the bar, and any other easy spot to use is good to know and remember when cutting. I started doing this cutting firewood years ago and kept refining it.. Any method that is good for you will work.
Question? What do you use for eyes on your carvings:
Milton: I usually carve mine by hand. the better the carving the more detail. Try carving eyes inside out. I often hear new carvers say that they have the most trouble with faces and in particular, the eyes. When carving eyes, the common practice is to start at the outside and carve the eyelids and wrinkles first, then carve the eyeballs last. What often happens is that you run out of space for the eyeball. Try reversing the process. Carve the eyeball first, then the eyelid and wrinkles. Eyeballs tend to be a little on the large side at first, but you will have room for all the parts and its much easier. After you get the process down pat, proportion will fall into place.
Rick Woodward Eyes: After the paint is dry lay the carving down so the eyes are level. Its Devcon 5 minute epoxy. in the syringe. If your careful, use a toothpick pick up a small drop and you can put it right on the iris. If you wait a minute it will start to thicken, and not flow out so well. this will build a “cornea” or the lens bump. let it set up then pick up a bigger drop of fresh epoxy and let it flow over the whole eyeball. Don’t mess with it after it flows, you’ll leave a trail. I think The Indian i did is on Chainsawsculptors.com at Indian eyes site with a close up of the eye before epoxy and after in another picture. Arts & Craft Gallery.
Cheryl Campbell Eyes:
A few tips that might help you:
1) do one eye at a time. The epoxy will flow slowly and you’ll have enough to keep track of.
2) lay the carving down (talk soothingly so it doesn’t get nervous)
2) you don’t need a lot, so maybe squeeze out a nickel sized dollop on a disposable plastic lid, foil, cardboard, something you can throw away.
3) Terry McKinnon recommended using a screw head to stir it up and apply a drop. It’s like a mini-spoon and I still use that to apply a big drop to cover the whole eye.
4) I also try to get a slight cornea bulge, but it’s in the way I move the carving or use a toothpick for control. Rick’s way might be better. I put it in because it’s easy and picks up the light.
4) More is not better. It’s harder to control and leave a smooth surface. You want it to just coat the eyeball, not flow over the edge. Use a toothpick to gently scrape it back to the high point of the eye or remove it.
5) Learn to quit playing with it. At some point it won’t settle and you’ll leave a lumpy, uneven surface that will definitely show when the light hits it.
6)If you screw up, grind it off. Check out Cheryl’s fox eyes: Gallery
Once you put the epoxy on, DON’T coat over the eyes with the finish you’re using for the rest of the carving!! You’ll completely lose the effect and the point of putting it on in the first place.
Terry McKinnin passed this along to put a thin first coat of epoxy on, put a little dot of white for a highlight (try at 2:00 position), then put another coat of epoxy on. It will give it a real 3D effect.
More Sculpting Methods Continued
Question? Do you carve on any type of wood, for example would cotton wood trees be any good to carve?
I myself and most carvers have a favorite wood they love. Mine is black cherry because I own a lot of it growing on my land and I love the detail I get with hardwoods. It also is a pretty wood. I do carve about any type of wood I get a hold of. cotton wood I have never carved but I do carve aspen or poplar which I believe is close.
Question? I have a pine stump the top of the tree had no life but the stump is still wet I would like to make a high back chair out of it. Would it be best to let it dry (a little, a lot) or cut it wet? Do I need to treat the wood as I go or wait till I’m done with designs and all?
Open for answering.
Question? Fresh cut pine , after carving how do you handle as far as treating…….. Let it dry for months first ?
Barre: Wood is something like 85% moister when it is fresh cut. It is very important to allow water to evaporate from the surface of wood and replace that water initially with a permeable finish. There are some water based finishes I have tried but I don’t like them as much as oil based for this purpose. Spar, straight poly and other plastics are like putting that sponge in a plastics bag the wood cannot breath. What ever you choose to use give the wood time to develop small checks in the end grain that lets you know the wood is dry a bit and will take a finish. Penetrating oil finishes with a little poly in them, replace the water evaporating out of the wood with out making a plastic coating. In time if you like the poly coated look you can add straight poly.
Question? What do I need and where do I get wood thanks. I also need to know what kind of wood thanks for help. John
Jim: You can buy or get free wood sometimes from sawmills, tree services, landscapers, firewood sellers or even excavators who do lot clearing for builders. Generally softwoods are preferable with white pine being a favorite of many and cedar also. It depends on what area you live in as to what is available, affordable and easily carved. The logs can be green which makes them easier to carve as a rule
Question? What use are burls?
Milton: I have been taking some of these burls and cutting them in half and using them for lamp bases, the knobs on large logs can be cut off and if good can be peeled and used too.. I then use a 2 inch tree or desired piece of of wood and make the tower for the lamp. I use a tree a few inches in Diameter with some black cherry burls starting to grow out of it. It makes the lamp tower look more interesting. I otherwise carve something on the lamp pole and/or base. Some of the bigger burls I have cut into slabs with my Alaskan Sawmill and use them for end tables.
Question? What do you do for cracks in carvings?
Milton: Before you carve a piece of wood, cut an inch or two thick slice off it. Then lay that piece of wood in the shade. Let it dry tell you start to see enough cracks in it so you can read the wood as to where the cracks are going to happen. You can pick your piece up, then match it to the log you are carving and see the places the cracks will happen. This way you can locate your kerfs cut into the right location on the carving and put the back where it should belong for minimal damage to the carving from cracks. I’m sure that some variance in this rule will change with defects lower in the wood or grain changes and other character changes. I’m going to experiment with this in the summer and refine this more.
If you must repair cracks in carvings, form a small wedge. Use wood from the same piece of wood you are repairing if possible, if not try and use the same type and color of wedge as the wood being repaired. Make sure that this wedge is cut so the grain is the same direction as the grain in the crack you are going to repair. This is important for a blend in repair. If need be straighten the crack best you can to accept the wedge. After that tap the wedge into the crack and see where it is high. I usually do this and sand off the high spots with my dremel tool with a drum sander on it. I do this tell I feel I have a tight fit on my wedge. Apply the proper amount of glue and tap the wedge into the crack. I use a roofing knife and scour both sides the wedge and it will snap off easy. I then sand the wedge even with the carving. When finishing the piece natural I like to burn them with a torch. If I have wedges that show some, I take a black indelible marker and just hit them to blend them in and finish right over the top with my finishes that I am using.