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Chainsaw Carving Judging Criteria Guidelines

These are only suggested guidelines for people wanting to run a competition and what it takes. It is a good starting place for people interested on putting on a quality Chainsaw Carving Show. It also is the best teaching tool I have found for judges that are not from a Chainsaw Carving background to learn to judge Chainsaw Carving Events


1.  Theme: “Fish Tales”. (PROS:  Bring to life a favorite fishing story you have experienced, read about or dreamed of!  This can include real or make believe.  Please read the judging criteria when designing your sculpture.  SEMI-PROS:  This will include anything to do with fishing.) 

2.  Design and artistic impact. (Wow Factor)

3.  Correctness of form, proportion or anatomy. 

Technical criteria’s: 

          Degree of difficulty as related to:

4.  Cuts (How difficult were the cuts to execute?)

5.  Complexity of composition.

6.  Subject matter and scale.


As related to execution of:

7.  Basic cuts (miss-cuts, over-cuts, clean)

8.  Difficult cuts (miss-cuts, over-cuts, clean)

9.  Consistency of quality and finish

 * Well executed joints and structural integrity will have no effect on scores.  However, if obvious poor execution is exhibited, scores will be downgraded in criteria 7 or 8

Keeping these nine guidelines in mind, judges will rate sculptures on a scale of 1 through 7 on each of the nine guidelines, 1 being the best 7 being the lowest.

When all the carvings have been judged, the judges must total up the points for each carving and place them in order from lowest to highest. The winner will be the artist with the lowest point total.

In the case of a tie, the highest and lowest of each score will be taken out to determine a winner. If the tie continues, we will add back in the high score, if a tie still remains, judges may be asked to re-evaluate the tied artists. Judges will be available to discuss their decisions with the contestants after the judging is over.

The judges’ results will be available upon request.

Thank you to Brian McEneny for taking the time to study judging sheets, different judging criteria and taking in other carvers input to write this criteria that takes all aspects of chainsaw carving and attempts to make chainsaw sculpture  “judge able”.  Eight years of work has paid off with a great judging system.   Cindy King

Judging Manual

By Brian McEneny March, 2008

Not all judges have a wood carving background; this manual has been put together so that judges from other background as well as new judges can educate themselves on what to look for when judging chain saw art. 

We recommend an experienced carver as the head judge.  He will take the time to go over this manual with the other judges.  He will show them on an actual carving what each cut represents.

(The judges should arrive one hour before judging starts to review the criteria.)

By having 9 criteria, It makes the value of each criteria 11%.


    Theme                                  11%

     Design & artistic impact     11% (Wow Factor)

     Correctness of form etc.    11%

Degree of difficulty      total   (33%) 

      Cuts                                     11%

      Complexity of comp           11%

      Subject matter & scale       11%

Craftsmanship              total     (33%)

     Basic cuts                            11%

     Difficult cuts                         11%

     Consistency and quality     11%

     of finish

*Well designed joints and structural integrity will have no effect on scores.  However if obvious flaws or poor design is exhibited, scores will be downgraded in this criteria.

1.  Theme: Example: “Fish Tales”, (PROS:  Bring to life a favorite fishing story you have experienced, read about or dreamed of!  This can include real or make believe.  Please read the judging criteria when designing your sculpture.  SEMI-PROS:  This will include anything to do with fishing.) 

2. Design and artistic impact:  With consideration to balance, form and composition, dynamics, three dimensionality, and how they contribute to the overall artistic impact of the sculpture (Wow factor).

3.Correctness of form, proportion or anatomy:  Self explanatory...


The above three categories deal with the artistic aspect of sculpture. They are subjective, and are influenced by the judge’s perspective and personal understanding of proportion and anatomy and how well it fits his concept of theme. The same applies to design and artistic impact.


Craftsmanship and difficulty are technical and more objective criteria’s. That is, they are observable and not perceived. These elements are uninfluenced by emotion or personal prejudice, they are either present in a sculpture or they are not.


          Degree of difficulty as related to:

4.      Cuts (How difficult were the cuts to execute?)

There are two main areas that directly relate to degree of difficulty and lesser important factors that contribute as well

1) Difficultly as related to cuts.
2) Difficultly as related to complexity of composition.
Two additional areas are factors.
    A) Subject matter as related to difficulty.
    B) Scale as related to subject matter.


3) PLUNGE CUTS (2 types).
    A) Pierce thru cuts
    B) Whole cuts (2 types).
        B-1) closed hole cuts
        B-2) Open hole cuts


1) LINE CUTS: Like drawing with a pencil. These cuts are used for lettering and relief work as well as texturing, hair and detail.

2) BLOCK OUT CUTS: major waste removal cuts that form the rough shape of a 3-dimensional carving. If the cuts leave the sculpture with a carved front, back and two sides the carver has blocked out a 3-dimensional sculpture.

     a) Pierce thru Cuts: Cuts that go all the way thru the carving. Cuts that
         penetrate from front to back or side to side.
     b) Whole cuts: Cuts that penetrate deep into the carving without
         coming out the other side. (2 types)

 b-1) closed hole cuts: A recessed cut completely surrounded by the surface                                of the carving. (More difficult)

  b-2) Open hole cuts: A cut surrounded by the carving on 3 sides,
         Open on one side. (Easier to execute).

4) APPENDAGE CUTS: Cuts that leave surfaces or areas jetting out from the body of the carving.


How the above mentioned cuts relate to difficulty.

LINE CUTS: A wood carving made with primarily line cuts will be a relative easy carving.
Objects will be outlined and will have height and width, but they are lacking the third dimension of depth other than the depth of the relief. Example:
A logging scene depicting a 40’ tree and a 6’ logger would have the same depth. A carver choosing this type of carving for a competition piece avoids the problem and difficulty of creating a 3-dimensional sculpture.
This is the easiest type of carving to execute.
Line cuts can be used for flat work as well as around the circumference of a log. Carving the 360 degree surface of a log does not increase the difficulty. This type of carving is not a 3 dimensional carving. It is a line cut, 2 dimensional carving, on a 3 dimensional surface. These types of cuts dictate the easy level of degree of difficulty.
In theory this type of carving could win a competition, but should never win the criteria category of difficulty, if there are 3-dimensional carvings present.

2) BLOCK OUT CUTS: The next degree of difficulty would be a 3 D block out that utilizes line cuts for surface dimension, details such as hair, wrinkles, texture.
Example: A simple figure such as a Sea Capt. With hands in his pockets, legs together. (This is a simple 3 D sculpture using block out cuts and line cuts.)


  (a) pierce thru cuts …These cuts are harder to execute because of the possibility of misalignment and miss cuts. If the opening does not line up on each side this can easily distort the anatomy and essentially ruin the sculpture. The recessed sides of these cuts are harder to reach, therefore possesses a higher degree of difficulty to finish.

  (b) Hole cuts: (2 types) These cuts are also difficult to execute because of

    1) Greater potential for miss cuts.
    2) Difficulty in clean up and finish of these deep
Recessed areas.

4) APPENDAGE CUTS: When you leave protruding areas that extend out from the surface of the carving, you increase the difficulty.
The difficulty lies in the alignment of the two sides of the cut, (miss cuts, cutting one side deeper than the other).
Also the inside corners of these cuts are harder to finish adding to the difficulty.

NOTE: Good executions of all cuts are important in scoring a competition piece.
A competitor can raise the degree of difficulty by implementing the last 3 types of cuts. Plunge cuts (2 types, pierce thru and hole) and appendage cuts.
If these cuts are numerous and executed cleanly without miss cuts, a competitor will score higher in 2 criteria‘s.

1) You raise your difficulty level over pieces not using these cuts.
2) Good execution of more difficult cuts will directly reflect on scores in
Conversely…. If you try to increase the difficulty by adding more difficult cuts (plunge, appendages and complex composition) but you fail to execute with a high degree of proficiency, you may increase your degree of difficulty score, but poor execution will result in a lower score in craftsmanship. It will be a wash or worse.

Scenario #1

A carver produces a piece with a degree of difficulty score of 1 and craftsmanship score of 7, the average would be 4.

Scenario #2
Degree of difficulty 3
Craftsmanship 3
Average would be 3

Scenario #3
Difficulty 3
Craftsmanship 2
Average 2.5

Note:  We want to discourage carvers from saturating areas in a sculpture with none essential plunge and appendage cuts in an attempt to achieve higher scores in the "difficulty of cuts criteria".  Rather, we want to encourage carvers to use plunge and appendage cuts to:

1.Better define the sculpture.

2.To display negative space.

3. To minimize blocky look and to integrate these cuts in such a manner that it enhances the carvers vision and produces a sculpture of higher visual interest for the viewer.

5.      Complexity of composition

Listing elements from lesser to greater difficulty.

1) As previously stated, a carving primarily made with line cuts,
2-dimensional flat work will be least difficult.

2) A simple symmetrical, 3 D carving, having no plunge cuts or appendages, with line cuts for detail, are the next level of difficulty.

The following elements increase the level of difficulty.

3) Plunge cuts and appendages

4) Asymmetrical- not a straight line carving, but having twists, curves, spirals and bends, depicting motion.

5) Double objects containing elements of #3 & 4.

6) Triple and multiple objects containing elements of #3, (cuts) and #4, (Asymmetrical).

Note: A multiple subject sculpture, containing 3 simple figures is not necessarily a difficult carving.
A single figure carving containing elements of plunge cuts, appendages, asymmetrical, and complex pose, could easily have a higher level of difficulty.

6.    Subject matter and scale 


The following lists subject matter from least difficult to most difficult.

1) Inanimate objects (rocks, dirt)
2) Plant life
3) Animals, human form

Note: It is generally accepted that human form is the most difficult subject matter. But most competition sculptures, depicting people, are usually heavily clothed or robed. If this is the case the challenge of recreating human form and anatomy has been greatly reduced.

Example: If a human figure with only a face exposed or hands and face exposed, is heavily clothed with no difficult cuts, (plunge, and appendages and is static and straight), this is an easy way to depict human form and level of difficulty is very low.

Conversely: a sculpture depicting a single animal showing anatomy and muscle definition, with difficult cuts, along with a complex pose, (twists, curves etc, displaying motion). This would have a much higher level of difficulty.

So, which subject matter is more difficult, human form or animals?
The answer is, either can be more difficult, depending on anatomy actually carved, difficulty of pose, difficulty of cuts used.

Note: How it is executed is not considered in this criteria. Execution will be considered in craftsmanship.


SMALL SCALE: Given the size of chain and the radius of a carving bar, there is a scale that fit’s the physical attributes of the bar and chain.

Some contestants attempt carvings so small in scale they are difficult to execute and finish. Often times this distorts proportion and the latitude for correcting miss cuts is minimal or none. This may increase degree of difficulty but possibly lower the score’s in anatomy and craftsmanship.

LARGE SCALE: It is often considered easier to carve large rather than small. There is more latitude in correcting miss cuts.
The main area of difficulty in carving large is working off the ground. It is always more difficult and awkward carving on a ladder or scaffold than carving at the ground level.


As related to execution of…

7.  Basic cuts (miss cuts, over cuts, clean) How well the basic cuts are executed.

 8. Difficult cuts (miss cuts, over cuts, clean) How well the difficult cuts are executed.  Are       there miss cuts or over cuts present?

 * Well executed joints and structural integrity will have no effect on scores.  However, if obvious poor execution is exhibited, scores will be downgraded in criteria 7 or 8

9.  Consistency of quality and finish:

If the piece is sanded, does it display finish consistency, or are there textural variations intended by the artist to contrast areas of the carving.

All competition pieces are finished to some degree.

However a carver chooses to finish his entry, (burned, wire brushed, flap sanded, sand blasted, rough sanded, finish sanded etc.), judges need to look at each of these techniques and evaluate the skill needed to execute each one. It does take skill to sand a piece evenly and consistently leaving no areas untreated or unfinished because they are hard to reach. Also, competitors need to consider the complexity of their design and how it impacts their ability to finish the carving the way they choose and in a manner that best suit's the sculpture.


Anatomy: The structure of an organism or body.*

Artistic Impact: The power of an event, idea, etc. to produce changes, move the feelings, etc.*

Balance: Equalizing the visual and the psychological weights of things. Visual: Such as the relative size, brightness, or amount of contrast of one ore more of the visual elements. Psychological: The relative importance of a person or object in the work.

Composition: The arrangement of the parts of a work of art so as to form a unified, harmonious whole.* The working together of the visual elements.

Craftsmanship: Showing skill in the mechanics of ones art.*

Design: The arrangement of parts, details, form, color, etc. so as to produce a complete and artistic unit.*

Dynamics: Energetic, vigorous, forceful.*

Form: The shape, outline or configuration of anything.*

Proportion: The comparative relation between parts, things, or elements with respect to size, amount, degree, etc.*