Best woods for chainsaw carving

wood for chainsaw carving

Although chainsaw carving can involve a variety of materials, one crucial factor is the type of wood you use. Not all woods are suitable for this form of art. Some types lend themselves well to a chainsaw’s sharp, powerful blade, while others do not.

Choosing the suitable wood can distinguish between a successful carving that lasts and one that splinters, cracks, or decays quickly. Therefore, as a wise chainsaw carver, you must understand the properties of different types of wood, how they react to chainsaw carving elements, and which are best for beginners.

Choosing the Right Wood: Factors to Consider

Firstly, consider the hardness of the wood. Softwoods such as pine, cedar, and yew are typically easier to carve. Still, they might not hold intricate details as well as their more rigid counterparts. Conversely, hardwoods like oak, walnut, and mahogany can be more challenging to carve but can yield more detailed results.

Secondly, pay attention to the wood grain. Straight grain is easier to work with, but a block of wood with a more intricate grain pattern can produce a more visually exciting piece. It’s a trade-off between ease of work and aesthetic outcome.

Lastly, the size of your project is crucial. Giant projects will require larger wood blocks, and vice versa. So, choosing a species of wood commonly available in the sizes you need is vital.

Softwoods vs Hardwoods: Which is Better for Chainsaw Carving?

When choosing between softwood and hardwood with a chainsaw, the definitive answer may not be as straight as pointing it directly. We are hesitant to point out the most optimal type of wood because we consider many factors, such as your skill level, the nature of the project you will be working on, and your personal preferences.


Softwoods, which include species like pine, cedar, and fir, are generally easier to carve with a chainsaw. Additionally, cutting through softwood with a chainsaw requires less effort since it is soft and less dense than hardwood. We consider softwood an excellent choice for beginners getting their hands on chainsaw carving.


Hardwoods, such as oak, walnut, and cherry, pose more of a challenge. Unlike less dense softwood, hardwood is very thick, making it challenging to cut through. However, they’re often more durable and can bear intricate designs that softwoods can’t handle. Experienced carvers usually prefer hardwoods for their sturdiness and the rich hues they offer. 

Top 5 Best Woods for Chainsaw Carving

Pine: The Most Popular Wood for Chainsaw Carving

Regarding chainsaw carving, pine takes center stage as the most popular choice, and there are many reasons why.

chainsaw carving pine

One factor that makes pine a popular choice is its soft texture. The smooth surface makes it a favorable wood for those with chainsaw carving skills. On top of that, it has straight grains, which is an advantage since the chances of unexpected chipping and tearing during carving are now almost impossible. For that reason, you can use pine for delicate and intricate designs that call for high precision. 

On a monetary level, pine wood is much more budget-friendly than many other kinds of wood, which makes it a preferred choice for hobbyists and those on a tight budget. With the right finish, your pine chainsaw carving can look as impressive as any hardwood masterpiece. 

On the downside, pine is susceptible to rot and decay if improperly treated. As a result, we recommend that you use protective agents after carving with the chainsaw. A good-quality sealant should do the trick.

If you are looking for affordable and versatile design capabilities, look no further than pine wood.

Cedar: A Softwood with a Unique Look

If you’re after a wood type that promises both easy maneuverability and a unique finished look, cedar is your go-to. It has a cooperative grain pattern and offers good flexibility for designs.


Cedar’s distinctive red hue and pleasing aroma appeal more to your final piece. Cedar can be brittle. This quality demands a delicate touch and a well-maintained chainsaw to avoid unwanted breakages during carving. 

Pro Tip: Ensure your chainsaw is sharp and well-oiled when working with cedar to prevent unnecessary splintering.

However, despite its brittleness, its softness gives it the advantage of being considered a good choice for beginners. Therefore, for beginners, you have so much control over creating detailed cuts in cedar with little resistance.

Pros of Cedar:

  • Easy to carve due to its soft nature
  • It features a distinctive red hue and a pleasing aroma
  • It has less resistance, allowing for more detailed cuts

Cons of Cedar:

  • It can be brittle, requiring a delicate touch and a well-maintained chainsaw
  • Not as durable as hardwoods

Conclusively, because of the unique characteristics of cedar, you should consider it in your projects.

Basswood: A Favorite Amongst Carvers

We can only discuss the best woods for chainsaw carving by mentioning basswood. Its soft and fine-grain texture and workability make it a favorite choice for chainsaws. That’s why most carving enthusiasts will choose it as their go-to medium. 

For instance, the feature that makes basswood so unique is its light color, which ranges from white to golden brown. The color influences the use of basswood, as it offers a refreshing aesthetic appeal. Besides that, its smooth surface allows for intricacy in carving, helping artists bring out the finest details in their work. 

Secondly, basswood has little to no resin. The resin shortage means you won’t worry about your chainsaw blades gumming up while elbow-deep in a carving project. This wood type is excellent for beginners since it’s easier on chainsaw blades and doesn’t wear down as quickly as harder woods.

However, remember that no wood is perfect, and basswood is no exception. It’s less durable than other types of wood, so carvings made from it might only last for a while in outdoor settings. However, if you’re starting your chainsaw carving journey or working on an indoor piece, basswood is an excellent choice.

Basswood Pros:

  • Soft, fine-grain texture for intricate carvings
  • Light color for aesthetic appeal
  • Easy on chainsaw blades
  • No resin to gum up your tools

Basswood Cons

  • Not as durable as other woods
  • It is not suitable for long-term outdoor pieces due to its low resistance to decay.
  • Its light color may appeal to some.

To conclude, we can say that basswood’s workability, aesthetic appeal, and friendly nature to chainsaw blades make it a top choice, especially if you are starting in chainsaw carving.

Black Walnut: A Hardwood for Experienced Carvers

For those seeking a challenge, meet Black Walnut. Its hard density and striking dark color create stunning carvings. It is the best wood when it comes to durability and resistance to rot. Nevertheless, that hardness makes carving more challenging, especially for beginners.

black walnut

Walnut Pros: 

  • The complex, dense nature enables detailed carvings
  • Its dark, rich color enhances its visual appeal.
  • Highly durable for long-lasting outdoor pieces

Walnut Cons: 

  • It can be tough on chainsaw blades
  • It requires more experience and skill to carve
  • It can be expensive

To conclude, walnuts are only a rewarding choice for those who’ve honed their chainsaw carving skills. However, its hardness, beauty, and resistance to the elements make it a highly sought-after medium for intricate, lasting pieces of chainsaw art.

Oak: A Classic Choice for Chainsaw Carving

Oak is the best choice if you’re looking for wood that is easier to carve for both beginners and pros. Oak has proven to withstand the test of time thanks to its extraordinary durability, which makes it a favorable choice for outdoor carvings. In addition to durability, oak has a very tight grain structure, providing an excellent, intricate design that needs detail retention.

The ‘Hard’ Truth 

While oak is a great choice, it’s worth noting that it is a hardwood. Therefore, you must keep your chainsaw sharp to ensure smooth cuts and avoid unnecessary strain on your equipment.

Color and Texture 

The rich color and interesting grain patterns of oak add to its appeal. The wood takes stains uniformly, allowing a spectrum of color variations to enhance your carving further. Plus, the texture lends a unique, tactile feel to finished pieces.

Types of Oak for Carving 

  1. White oak is a popular choice for outdoor sculptures thanks to its impressive rot resistance and hardy nature.
  2. Red Oak: Although slightly softer than white oak, red oak is still quite durable and is often preferred for its warm, reddish hue.

Choosing the type of oak for your project largely depends on your aesthetic preferences and the carving’s intended location. Ultimately, the hard work you put into practice working with harder woods like oak counts.

Alternative Woods: Lesser-known Options for Chainsaw Carving

The Appeal of Tupelo 

Tupelo, a water-loving wood native to the Eastern U.S., is known for its tight grain and lightweight. This wood is a fantastic choice for detail-oriented chainsaw carvings, particularly those with intricate designs or thin, delicate sections.

The Hardness of Hedge 

Don’t let its humble roots fool you; Hedge (also known as Osage Orange) is one demanding customer. It is a good wood for outdoor sculptures thanks to its rot-resistant nature. 

Safety Tips for Chainsaw Carving

Proper Gearing 

The first line of defense in any chainsaw carving endeavor is proper attire. Ensure you have safety goggles, sturdy gloves, and ear protection when cutting. Remember to wear hard hats to protect from falling wood debris! 

Keep a Clean Work Area 

To ensure safety, ensure your working area is tidy and free of tripping hazards, because slipping while handling a chainsaw is a horror movie plot waiting to happen. 

Handle with Care 

You should maintain a firm grip on the chainsaw and have stable body positioning to minimize injury.

Proper Maintenance 

A well-maintained chainsaw is not just more efficient; it’s also safer. Ensure your chainsaw’s chain is sharp and the machine works well. 

Respect the Chainsaw 

As much as we’re here to enjoy the art of chainsaw carving, safety always comes first. Therefore, for your good, use a chainsaw with all the caution and respect it deserves.


Finding the perfect wood for your chainsaw carving project can be more manageable than it seems. The secret lies in understanding what you’re looking for and how each type of wood brings you closer to your preferences.

Hardwoods like oak and walnut are renowned for their density and durability, making them ideal for detailed, intricate designs. However, they are not so beginner-friendly due to their toughness.

On the other hand, softwoods such as pine and cedar are easier to carve and more forgiving on the chainsaw blade, making them a favorite among beginners. However, they might be better choices for outdoor projects, given their susceptibility to weather elements.

The key takeaway is that the best wood for chainsaw carving largely depends on your skills, project nature, and preferences. Therefore, we recommend you experiment with different types of wood until you find one that suits your tastes.


I'm a seasoned woodworking professional with a lifelong love for wood. With years of hands-on experience crafting exquisite wooden pieces, I've honed my skills to bring you the finest woodworking artistry. Beyond the workshop, I channel my passion into creating insightful articles. Through my writings, I aim to share the technical aspects of woodworking and the stories, techniques, and inspirations that make this craft a proper art form. Join me as we explore the world of woodworking together, one article at a time.

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