Is Oak Wood A Good Choice For Chainsaw Carving?

Wood carving may have already been around for centuries, but chainsaw carving takes it up an impressive notch.

Chainsaw carving is a recent form of wood carving that uses a powered chainsaw to shape lumber. It is a very intense and demanding art form. Which is why it takes a fair amount of time and practice to be able to do chainsaw carving well.

This art form takes the ‘carving in the round’ technique, and scales it up tenfold. And the end results make for some amazing sculptures.

But, your wood carving tools and technique will often dictate the exact type of lumber you’ll be working with. And chainsaw carving is no exception.

So, in this article, you’ll discover which type of dense tough hardwood is ideal for carving with your chainsaw. You’ll also learn why you’re better off chainsaw carving seasoned wood…not freshly cut lumber.

is oak good for chainsaw carving

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What Is The Best Wood For Carving?

Well, it all depends on your specific carving style. Carving styles that require hand tools will need more malleable timber to work with.

For example, whittling involves using a carving hand tool to make delicate cuts into lumber. So, low density lightweight timber, such as Basswood, is a favorite for this carving discipline.

However, carving techniques that need to hold a lot of detail, need to be made from tougher, more stable wood. So, carving styles such as Relief Carving, work best when paired with the hard dense European Oak.

Related Post: 11 Surprisingly Simple Wood Carving Projects for Absolute Beginners

And What About Chainsaw Carving? What Is The Best Type Of Wood For This Style?

European Oak is the best type of wood for Chainsaw Carving.

Similarly to Relief Carving, you’ll be putting a fair amount of pressure down onto wood. And Oak wood is hard enough to handle the pressure.

It is also going to hold details well too, as its density means it can shrug off dents. And it is stable, so it doesn’t warp and crack with changes in humidity.

Related Post: Is Maple Wood A Good Choice For Chainsaw Carving?

Is It Easy To Carve Oak?

Well, Oak is much harder than Basswood. So, it’s hard to carve this hardwood with only manual hand tools.

With its high Janka rating of 1290 lbf to 1360 lbf, its going to take tough tools to carve their way through this lumber. As a result, Oak is better suited for wood carving techniques that require hard, tough lumber. And chainsaw carving is one such carving technique.

And What Is The Janka Rating (And Why Does It Matter For Carving)?

The Janka rating is one of a few ways that we use to measure the strength of wood.

We use the Janka rating to note a wood species compressional strength, (i.e. how much compressional stress it can take before it collapses).

This rating, (measured in lbf ‘pounds of force’), lets us know how hard a piece of wood is. The higher the Janka rating, the harder and more dense the lumber.

For example, Basswood has a Janka rating of just 410 lbf. Which means it takes 410 pounds of force to cut it.

While European Oak, (also referred to as White Oak), has a Janka rating of 1360 lbf. So it will take 1360 pounds of force to cut into it. This makes Oak wood over three times harder than Basswood.

Related Post: How To Cut Basswood Strips Down To Size

And How Long Should I Wait For Wood To Dry (Before I Start Chainsaw Carving)?

Ideally, you should only really carve wood after it has been seasoned. So, if that tree log has been freshly felled, then you are looking at a 6-12 month wait.

You see, when wood is freshly cut, it has a moisture content of 100%. This so-called ‘green wood’, then needs to be dried out through a process called seasoning.

This process sounds complicated, but really it simply means leaving that fresh lumber in a cool dry place for a number of months. And after wood has seasoned, its moisture content will have fallen to below 20%.

What Is Moisture Content? It’s a way to measure the amount of water contained in any given piece of wood. Moisture content can be measured using a moisture meter (aka moisture detector).

Why Do We Need To Wait For Wood To Season?

The reason why seasoning is important is because of the way wood reacts to drying-out.

As wood dries it shrinks. And, if it dries to quickly, it can even begin to crack and form wood checks as it shrinks.


Related Post: How To Season Wood (7 Tips)

Now, if wood is still drying out as you carve it, your structural dimensions will get thrown off. What’s worse, your well-carved design can become cracked and split.

So, try and wait for that green wood to dry out a little. Or you can simply purchase shop dry wood from your local lumber yard.

Still, once White Oak has been seasoned, it is very stable and doesn’t move around much with changes in humidity.

What Is Shop Dry Wood? Shop dry wood is any wood that has already gone through seasoning, specifically because its been sat in the shop for a while.

To Wrap Up, Here Are The 3 Key Takeaways From This Post…

  • 1). The best type of wood for chainsaw carving needs to be tough and stable. That is why European Oak (also known as White Oak) is perfect for this wood carving discipline.
  • 2). If you want your sculpture to hold intricate designs, only carve seasoned wood, (rather than freshly cut timber).
  • 3). Or, to save time, you can purchase shop dry ready-seasoned wood from the lumber yard.


Warp modeling and validation for European oak [Quercus petraea] wood pieces: Influence of relevant basic properties.” IUFRO WP S5. 01-04.