behind the scenes

wooden sculpture of Fudge the daschund, protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Lower Farm Sculpture Trail 551 600 Simon O'Rourke

In this week’s blog, we’re doing something a little different! Usually, the blog is about finished sculptures. This week though, we invite you to a sneaky peek of a work in progress. Keep reading to find out about one of Simon’s current projects; the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail…

 

Lower Farm holiday cottages courtyard view. The site of the lower farm sculpture trail

Lower Farm holiday cottages, site of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

About Lower Farm Holiday Cottages and the Idea for a Trail

Lower Farm Holiday Cottages are located in Picton, Cheshire. They were originally farm buildings, converted and now run as holiday cottages by Matt and Rachel. When their daughter Olivia turned one, doctors confirmed she was born with a hole in her heart. Alder Hey Children’s Hospital gave her exceptional care and repaired the hole, offering her a bright healthy future. Matt and Rachel were overwhelmed with what the hospital did for them so they offered a family holiday in one of their holiday cottages as a fundraiser raffle for Alder Hey.

To their amazement, the raffle raised £7336! They then had the idea of doing something that would hopefully generate a steady donation stream for the hospital. They’ve always admired and appreciated Simon’s work and always wanted to have something of his, but didn’t have any trees suitable for carving. Then the idea hit them though to do a trail or hunt around the orchard from timber Simon would source. The sculptures would have a common theme, and form a trail or ‘hunt’ that guests could enjoy during their stay. All guests have free access to the trail during their stay, and they simply ask for voluntary donations for Alder Hey Children’s Charity from guests who would like to support the cause.

 

Double bed with brick wall beind and wooden beams. Bedroom at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

One of the beautiful bedrooms at Lower Farm

Commissioning the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

 Matt and Rachel contacted Simon and instantly got the feeling he was very passionate about his work. He talked them through his and Liz’s background which included writing children’s storybooks. In that 30-minute phone call, the idea was born!

Simon and Liz visited the holiday cottages to get a feel for the place, and everyone agreed it would be a fantastic base for a sculpture trail and children’s book incorporating their daughter Olivia, pet dog Fudge and the wild farm animals that visit regularly.

Liz and Simon got to work with input from Rachel, Matt, Olivia and some close family friends. After a few edits, the team settled on their children’s story for the trail, all about Fudge’s evening adventure.

 

A young girl holding her pet dachshund Fudge. He is the cntral character of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Matt and Rachel’s daughter Olivia with Fudge, the main character in their sculpture trail

 

Current Progress on the Trail

The story is now complete, and Simon is creating scenes and characters in the workshop. Once they are all finished, he will install them around the property to form the trail. Keep scrolling for a sneak preview of Fudge, Sid the Squirrel, and the Shetland Pony!

Matt and Rachel have visited the workshop and have “seen first-hand the passion and effort he [Simon] puts into every piece”.

They’re delighted with what they’ve seen so far, and thankfully, they are both satisfied they came to the right place and found the right team to make their vision a reality!

wooden sculpture of Fudge the daschund, protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Fudge the Dachshund: protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Viewing the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

The trail is in a private garden and therefore only available for guests and invited visitors. But!  If you want to stay at one of their cottages you book via www.facebook.com/lowerfarmholidaycottages or www.lowerfarmpicton.co.uk. Alternatively, bookings can be made via Sykes holiday cottages.

Can’t wait for the finished trail? No problem!

Simon has created a mini carved bug hunt while the Fudge trail is in process! Based on an activity sheet created by Matt and Rachel’s talented friend Emma Glaysher, participants can hunt for six (larger-than-life!) bugs hidden around the orchard. Each bug has an assigned letter, and at the end the letters can be unjumbled to spell one of the Lower Farm Holiday Cottages animals.

 

a bug and inscription from Simon O'Rourke's mini bug trail at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

One of the bugs in the ‘mini trail’ at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

 

Beyond the Trail

And while Simon is busy carving, Liz continues to plan and dream with Matt and Rachel.

The couple loved the story about Fudge. They felt “Liz [did] an exceptional job of listening to [their] ideas and creatively writing a children’s bedtime story that is beyond what [they] ever hoped for”. This has led to a second project for the four…

Matt Rachel, Simon and Liz all share a dream of turning Fudge Gets Locked Out into a book which they will sell to raise funds for both Alder Hey Children’s hospital and Dementia UK – another cause close to Simon and Liz’s hearts.

Watch this space for the book release and sale details!

 

Fudge and Sid oak sculptures in a workshop. both are characters from lower farm sculpture trail

Fudge meets Sid the Squirrel in Simon’s workshop!

 

Final Thoughts About Sculpture Trails

Both couples are VERY excited about this trail, and the possibility of a book. We hope you’ll love it too once we share the finished sculptures.

Matt and Rachel are using the trail for fundraising, but a sculpture trail can be just as valuable for business revenue. If you’re thinking about a trail for your business or community, why not read our blog Why Commission a Sculpture Trail? Or make a ‘virtual visit’ to one of his other trails? Just click on the link below to view each one.

Fforest Fawr Trail

Meadow Park Trail

Page’s Wood Trails

shetland pony from the lower farm sculpture trail on the back of a truck

This shetland pony is one of the characters Fudge meets in the Lower Farm Sculpture trail

Settled on having your very own trail? Contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ .

giant pinecone sculpture by simon o'rourke

Giant Pinecone Sculpture

Giant Pinecone Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Last week Simon created something very different to his usual style: a giant pinecone sculpture! Did you see it on Facebook or Instagram? It definitely caught his followers’ attention, with comments including:
“Amazing”, “unbelievably awesome”, “wonderful” and “in awe”.  Read on to find out the story behind the sculpture…

 

giant pinecone sculpture by simon o'rourke

This giant pinecone sculpture has been popular since Simon revealed it on social media last week

A Giant Pinecone Sculpture: The Client’s Story

Simon’s client had a Monterey Cypress tree with a tree protection order on it. However, it was shedding branches close to the road. It was a danger to traffic in the area and needed to be cut back. Simon’s client took the necessary steps and received permission to cut the tree back for safety reasons. Please note, if you have a tree with a protection order that has become dangerous, it’s important you take the right steps to get that order amended or revoked.

The client used tree surgeon Harry, from Dedham Vale Tree Surgery, a tree surgeon who sometimes works with Simon. When Harry heard that the client would like to turn the remaining stump into a feature, he recommended Simon. The client made contact and commissioned the giant pinecone sculpture.

 

simon o'rourke standing on scaffolding working on his giant pinecone sculpture with a chainsaw

Simon at work on the giant pinecone sculpture

Choosing a Subject for Sculpture

Sometimes the choice for a sculpture subject is deeply personal. Sometimes it’s symbolic. Other times it’s historic. Or represents a passion, hobby or quirk. This time, however, the choice of a pinecone was really very simple. The client wanted the sculpture to stand out as a feature, and continue the legacy of the rather impressive Monterey Cypress when it had been at its peak. The stump is surrounded by other pines and firs, so the client had the idea of a giant pinecone sculpture!

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke stands next to a 6' tree stump being carved into a giant pinecone sculpture

Simon with the sculpture in progress

Creating the Giant Pinecone Sculpture

Although the concept of the pinecone may seem more simple than some of Simon’s sculptures, it was definitely a challenge! Partly because it was SO HUGE! And partly because it was hard to maintain symmetry.

Simon found it helped with the shaping to draw a circle on the top and mark the sides with horizontal lines at specific measurements.

Once the cone shape was done, he then divided up each row around the shape into sections and drew the diagonal lines in. It was only then that he could start cutting the pattern!
He used the cordless MSA200 saws to create the general pattern, then used Manpa cutters to create most of the 3D spines on the cone.
Finally, it was onto Saburrtooth burr discs on the angle grinder to round off all the edges and get it looking tidy.
giant pinecone sculpture by simon o'rourke

The Finished Sculpture

The final piece is bold and striking and definitely meets the requirement of being a key feature piece. The client wanted something that would be a fitting replacement for the beautiful tree that had stood there before, and the pinecone sculpture is certainly that.  It stands around 6′ tall and (if you’re a cypress lover!) will also smell amazing for a while yet! Simon’s client is extremely happy with the finished piece, describing it as ” a piece of art”.
Do you have a diseased or dangerous tree that you would like to turn into a sculpture?
Contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Prints

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Prints 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

This week on social media, we were excited to launch Simon’s latest collaboration: Chainsaw and Brush. In this week’s blog, we share what it’s all about, and how it began. We’ll also share (importantly!), how you can purchase Chainsaw and Brush art for your home.

What is Chainsaw and Brush?!

At its most basic, Chainsaw and Brush is a collaboration between artist Amanda Waldron and Simon. Amanda is an incredible artist, who will be painting a select number of Simon’s sculptures. Prints of those paintings will be available for sale through Chainsaw and Brush.

 

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy prints lying on a table

Amanda Waldron’s stunning depiction of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy sculpture by Simon O’Rourke

 

How Did Chainsaw and Brush Begin?

The lovely Jon Babb contacted Simon, and asked permission for Amanda to paint the famous ‘Giant Hand of Vyrnwy‘. Fast forward a few weeks and…. Mind. Blown!!!
The painting was PERFECT!
In Liz’s words: “This painting was EVERYTHING I’d ever imagined it would be to represent with brush, my husband’s phenomenal sculptures!
Just like that, Chainsaw and Brush began!

 

chainsaw and brush Giant hand of vyrnwy prints shown next to the giant hand sculpture

Amanda’s painting next to a photo of Simon O’Rourke’s Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

Future  Chainsaw and Brush Collaborations

They’re starting off with limited edition prints of Amanda’s fantastic painting of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. This edition of A3 bamboo prints will have only 200 prints, so you know you are buying something exclusive!
More paintings will follow, including the ‘Dragon of Bethesda’ which made national news in 2019.

 

dragon of bethesda sculpture by simon o'rourke

Simon’s Dragon of Bethesda is the next sculpture Amanda will be painting as part of the Chainsaw and Brush collaboration

How Can I Buy One of the Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Prints?

In time Chainsaw and Brush will have several social and web channels. At the moment, they can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/chainsawbrush. To buy a print (framed or unframed) you can message them through that page or email Liz at [email protected]. Simon and Amanda both sign the prints and they also come with a certificate of authenticity.

Don’t forget to give the page a ‘like’ to see more phenomenal work as it is released!

chainsaw and brush logo

Look out for the Chainsaw and Brush logo and give them a follow!

 

But What is the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy?

This is probably a good time to talk about the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy for anyone who is new to this blog!

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy is one of Simon’s best known and most profound sculptures. It is also ten years old this year, so the release of limited edition prints is a lovely anniversary celebration.

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy was commissioned in 2011 to transform a storm-damaged tree at the Lake Vyrnwy estate. Once 209′ tall, it had to be felled to only 50′. The Forestry Commission wanted it turned into a memorial to the tree it had once been…

 

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy stands in the Lake Vyrnwy estate

Simon and the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy…

Simon’s sculpture conveys a powerful message. The tree stands in an area of the estate called The Giants of Vyrnwy. He took inspiration from this and came up with the idea of a hand reaching for the sky. That reaching hand is the tree’s final attempt to reach the sky. He wanted to show the hand stretching and straining; fighting to reach its full height. This is why Simon highlighted veins and creases, and why there is visible tension and power in the hand. It reflects a battle against not only the elements but also the damage humans have done.

 

chainsaw and brush giant hand of vyrnwy prints are based on this image of the sculpture

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Final Thoughts

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy is a beautiful and profound sculpture, and Amanda’s painting has certainly done justice to that, and to the beautiful surroundings.
We’re looking forward to seeing her future paintings, and to you being able to take home a piece of Simon’s work in this way!

Please send any Chainsaw and Brush enquiries to [email protected]
All chainsaw carving commissions/enquiries are welcome via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

stihl chainsaw with standard bar in front of a fallen tree carved into a dragon by simon o'rourke

Carving Bar Maintenance for Chainsaw Carvers

Carving Bar Maintenance for Chainsaw Carvers 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

Simon is going to be making a series of videos and blogs to share maintenance tips with other chainsaw carvers. We kick that series off this week with this blog about carving bar maintenance for chainsaw carvers…

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke holds a large chainsaw and licks the blade

Thankfully this isn’t a recommended way of cleaning your chainsaw!

What Is a Chainsaw Bar?

For readers who aren’t regular chainsaw users, the bar has the vital job of guiding the chain – the part that does the cutting! Bars come in different lengths, and there are a few different types serving different purposes. For example, a standard bar with a fixed nose sprocket is good for light gardening. Carving bars are special Stellite bars with a smaller nose radius that minimises the possibility of kickback. Maintaining the bar well preserves the life span of not just the bar, but also the chain. It is also a good health and safety practice, as well maintained equipment equals less opportunity for accidents.

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke using a small stihl chainsaw to carve a sculpture of a woman

Simon uses one of his signature bars from Tsumura at a live carving event

Carving Bar Maintenance for Chainsaw Carvers Tip One: Filing

The first tip involves the bar rails. The bar rails enclose the groove along the edge of the guide bar, and that groove is the channel the chain runs along. With time and use, those bar rails can crack, chip, or become sloped. This can particularly happen if the chain is too slack and ‘clacks’ against it.
If the bar is no longer flat, it causes the tie strap on the chain to wear out. This in turn compresses the metal and causes what fellow chainsaw carver Mick Burns calls ‘stiff-slack’ syndrome. The result of this is a snapped chain!
So not only does good carving bar maintenance preserve the life of the bar, it preserves the life of the chain too.

The solution to this is maintaining its shape.

Check the bar each time you use it, and if you notice signs of wear and tear or a shape change, file it flat again. A vice may help you hold it in place while you file, and ensure you keep them parallel. Simon uses a diamond file from ChainsawBars.co.uk who sell a range of bar maintenance tools. They also have a fantastic selection of chainsaw bars and a loyalty scheme. They’re definitely one of Simon’s recommended resources!

 

A diamond file on a wooden table. Tool recommended by simon o'rourke as part of his carving bar maintenance for chainsaw carvers tips

Simon recommends using something similar to this Diamond Dressing knife from ChainsawBars.Co.UK to file carving bars flat

 

Carving Bar Maintenance for Chainsaw Carvers Tip Two: Cleaning

The second tip for effective carving bar maintenance is to make sure you clean it well.
This means regularly cleaning all dirt and debris from the bar and the bar groove. If you have bar groove cleaner and compressed air, this will give you the best results. There are also tools available, although you can still do a good job with a simple rag.
This is important because if a bar isn’t clean, it won’t oil well, and oil is key to cooling it down. In turn, a cool bar is key in the bar keeping its shape.
As with filing, ChainsawBars have a range of products for cleaning, and also have a series of videos with maintenance tutorials. You can find the video about cleaning bars HERE.

close up of a dirty chainsaw bar. cleaning the bar every use is one of simon o'rourke's tips for carving bar maintenance for chainsaw carvers.

 

Carving Bar Maintenance for Chainsaw Carvers Tip Three: Appropriate Use

Simon’s final tip for carving bar maintenance is a preventative one. Use it for its correct purpose!
As was mentioned in the description of chainsaw bars, carving bars are designed for the purpose of creating detail or improving performance in high-precision jobs. If they are used for big cuts and massive pieces of timber, they will soon pick up cracks and lose their shape. If you are making big cuts, Simon suggests it’s best to stick to a standard bar.
And if you are starting out and don’t want to invest in lots of equipment, don’t worry. In our blog about “Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving“, Simon recommends starting with a standard bar anyway!

stihl chainsaw with standard bar in front of a fallen tree carved into a dragon by simon o'rourke

Using a standard bar like this Stihl Rollomatic ES for bigger cuts will help preserve the life of your carving bar for precision work

More About Carving Bar Maintenance

If you are interested in knowing more, Simon also made a video with more detail about basic carving bar maintenance for chainsaw carvers. It’s about eight minutes long, and well worth the watch if you would like to better understand your equipment and how to preserve it. You can watch it below, or find it on his YouTube Channel, Simon O’Rourke.

If you have questions or suggestions for the maintenance series or would like to commission a sculpture, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

 

Creating a sculpture trail. Photo shows a collection of oak woodland animals on a workshop floor ready to be transported.

Creating a Sculpture Trail Part One: Proposal and Preparation

Creating a Sculpture Trail Part One: Proposal and Preparation 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

In the blog “Why is Art Expensive?”, we explained there is a lot of work that goes into creating a sculpture. That work goes far beyond carving, and may even need to be completed before a commission is confirmed. That is especially the case when Simon bids for a commission, rather than someone approaching him. In this series we walk you through the process of creating a sculpture trail, starting from the point Simon either has an interest in a project or has been invited to submit a bid…

 

Creating a sculpture trail. Photo shows a collection of oak woodland animals on a workshop floor ready to be transported.

The Page’s Wood sculpture trail sculptures ready to be transported.

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task One: Understanding the Brief

The first task for Simon is to understand fully what the project entails. This includes not just the artistic/aesthetic elements, but also technical considerations too. And this isn’t just something for his own understanding. Simon will create a document for potential clients outlining his understanding of the brief, and explaining how his design meets the requirements.

That document will include the sketches of the sculptures themselves. It will also explain how/why they tie in with Simon’s interpretation of the brief, any story that goes with the sculptures, technical aspects (such as measurements), environmental impact, any measures to ensure longevity, and maintenance. At this stage, Simon will have also researched any relevant history/associations of the client/venue/locale. That research informs his design, and he’ll also outline those connections in this proposal.

 

part of a proposal from simon o'rourke for a sculpture trail. the bidding process is the first stage of creating a sculpture trail

Extract from a sculpture trail bid Simon submitted but didn’t win

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Two: Costing

At this stage, Simon will also need to work out the costs of the trail. Like coming up with the concept, design, and explanation, this can be very time consuming and may involve Simon getting multiple quotes before he can calculate costs. The final cost however is an important factor in a client selecting a bid. This means it can’t wait until after he gets the commission.  Simon must complete the work before he knows if he will get the job.

The quote includes the cost of site visits prior to the trail being made, as well as materials and labour to make the sculpture. Simon will calculate transport and installation, including any equipment hire needed at this stage. Finally, it also includes the cost of any extra materials, such as bolts or bobbins for installing the sculptures. Although it is more work for Simon (especially as he may not actually receive the commission), it offers a much better experience for the client, knowing that what they pay covers everything.

 

sample from a bid for a sculpture trail, part of simon o'rourkes process in creating a sculpture trail

Another example of a page from a proposal for a sculpture trail

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Three: Health and Safety and Method

At this stage, Simon waits to hear if the client accepts his proposal. He may already have put a couple of day’s work into the proposal itself as well as time to create some initial designs/sketches. Especially if he produced additional documentation, such as proving the chain of custody on the timber he will use. This is an important part of his commitment to sustainability, which may also be a part of the brief.

If Simon gets the job, at this stage he will finalise the designs, but also has MORE documentation to produce! As you’ll know from our Acton Safety blog, Simon takes health and safety seriously. This isn’t just about checking a few boxes to meet requirements. Rather it is part of his ethos to always create the safest possible working environment for his wellbeing, and that of his employees.

Before he can begin any sculpture trail, he completes a risk assessment and a method statement which details how and where the sculptures will be made.

Page one of a 12 page risk assessment for creating a sculpture trail

The first page of a 12-page risk assessment for the Fforest Fawr sculpture trail.

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Four: The Legal Bit!

Once all of the above is in place, Simon and the client can finally exchange a contract for the sculpture trail. It might sound boring, but it’s essential for running a business well! Although sculpture trails are a great way to create revenue, they are definitely a big financial investment. Having a clear, well written, and comprehensive contract means that all Simon’s clients can feel certain as they move forward, reassured about what they will be receiving, when, and how.

extract from Simon O'Rourke's proposal for fforest fawr, part of the process of creating a sculpture trail

An extract from the proposal for Fforest Fawr sculpture trail, showing the sculpture and accompanying story.

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Five: Making the Trail!

Now the documentation and design are completed, both parties are protected, the project is well set out, and expectations are clear. The client can look forward to owning some amazing, sustainable art, and Simon can get excited about carving! This means….it’s time to carve! But that’s a story for another blog! Follow the blog for notifications to see when Part Two is published where we’ll talk about creating the trail itself.

 

Chainsaw artist Simon o'rourke and his apprentice Paul Ossum in a workshop creating a sculpture trail with chainsaws.

Simon and Paul in the workshop, working on a sculpture trail together

Final Thoughts

It would be lovely as an artist to sit around and create all day. However, that isn’t the reality for most artists. We hope this blog has given you some insight into the process of creating a sculpture trail. Or, more accurately, of the work that goes into a proposal that may actually never come to fruition. And that it also gives you an idea of the process if you yourself are interested in commissioning a sculpture trail!

If you would like to know more, invite Simon to bid on a project, or commission your own sculpture, contact him at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We look forward to hearing from you!

A small chainsaw is sufficient

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

Welcome to the second in our series on starting out in chainsaw carving. In the first blog, Simon shared basic pointers. You can find it at www.treecarving.co.uk/tips-for-getting-started-in-chainsaw-carving/ if you missed it.  This week we move on to share a few tips on putting together a basic kit for starting chainsaw carving…

 

Life size wood sculpture of a WWI soldier in progress. There is scaffolding in front of him, and three chainsaws sit around

Simon uses multiple saws (as pictured above) but it isn’t necessary to splash out in the beginning.

 

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving: Safety Gear

The first purchase should be safety gear. The minimum that Simon recommends is:

  • chainsaw boots
  • trousers
  • ear defenders
  • eye protection
  • gloves.

Gloves are actually a debated item, as many chainsaw gloves are cumbersome and awful when they’re wet. It would be amiss to skip them though, and it’s good to at least give them a go for maximum safety.

There are many good brands for buying PPE. As a Stihl ambassador though, Simon obviously has a clear preference! You can explore their range by clicking HERE. Simon also highlights a few favourite pieces of chainsaw carving workwear in our blog ‘When Poppy Met Stihl‘.

 

Poppy Stihl with the MS500i

Poppy models some of Simon’s preferred workwear

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving: Footwear

There are two aspects of footwear that are important: Safety and comfort. Proper chainsaw boots have protective toe caps and sturdy soles, both of which are essential. Finding a pair that works for you is also important. We can all testify that spending all day in an uncomfortable pair of shoes is pretty horrible. And nobody does their best work when in pain!

This is where Simon can’t really make a recommendation because our feet and their needs are pretty individual! As we can’t try things on in shops at the moment, it’s worth reading reviews to see how people talk about the fit, width, toe space etc. Then there is more likelihood of finding a pair that fits well first time.

If finances are an issue, then there is an alternative that doesn’t compromise on safety. Some companies also make chainsaw wellies. You can wear these with thick socks and still get a good level of protection. Stihl make Chainsaw Wellies with both Class one and Class three ‘cut protection’, and both can be purchased for less than their basic boot.

Simon O'Rourke and Keiji Kidokoro wear stihl safety gear as they carve a CHinese Waterdragon at Huskycup 2019. safety gear is an important part of your Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving

Simon and Keiji are both wearing a variety of basic safety gear while they work on their dragon from Huskycup 2019

 

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving: Chainsaws

And now for the obvious piece of basic chainsaw carving kit. A chainsaw!

It can be tempting to think bigger and more expensive is better. However, there is no need to go all out on expensive saws. That said, if noise is an issue then battery saws are a great solution. The Stihl Ms181 is a great starter saw, and there are other similar packages you can get from chainsawbars.co.uk.

 

Stihl chainsaw in front of a carved apple. A small chainsaw like this is good to include in your Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving

A small chainsaw is good enough to start out chainsaw carving

 

Basic Kit for Starting Chainsaw Carving: Chainsaw Bar

Our last piece of kit to start out in chainsaw carving is a bar. There are SO many options out there for carving bars! And like other artists’ tools, personnal preference plays a big part. However, first, it’s wise to get used to a standard bar with a sprocket nose. This will teach you about how the saw handles. There’s also a LOT you can do with a standard tip before moving on to a carving bar.

When it comes to brands, this is one area where Stihl haven’t had the reputation among carvers that their saws and PPE have. Simon has discovered though that with good, careful maintenance, they are as good as other brands he has tried. Again, he recommends chatting to the team at Chainsawbars.co.uk and they can set you up with a good package that suits you. And bar maintenance will definitely be a future blog!

For those in doubt about this, the photo below is an early carving of Simon’s from 20 years ago. This was done with a standard bar on a small saw…

 

chainsaw carving of a rabbit jumping over a cat

This was an early piece created with a small saw and a standard bar

 

Building a More Advanced Kit

Once you have worked with a basic kit for a while, you are able to better identify exactly what it is you need to be able to expand. Once you know that, you can explore purchases one at a time. For example, one artist may want to stay small and focus on a wider range of tool for minute detail. Another may want more power and scale and want to buy a larger saw. The best way to expand your kit will become clearer with time and experience. For those who are interested in burrs and angle grinder cutters though, you could check out the Simon’s favourite Manpatools for creating texture blog or this blog about burr bits for carving faces.

 

Tips for carving big cats: SImon O'Rourke uses a saburrtooth flame burr bit to create texture on a lion's face. Burr bits can be part of basic kit for starting chainsaw carving but aren't essential.

Burr bits are one of the tools you can add to your kit at a later date

Questions and Commissions

If you have questions about chainsaw carving kit, Simon will do his best to answer, but please be patient! He will also be making more videos and blogs in future to asnwer some of the most frequently asked questions. Until then, you can contact him with questions (or to ask about a sculpture) using the contact page www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

tips for chainsaw carving in the sun: wear a powered air filter mask so it passes air across your face. in the photo simon o'rourke is carving an angel wearing such a mask.

Tips for Chainsaw Carving in the Sun

Tips for Chainsaw Carving in the Sun 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

One of the things Simon loves about his work is that he gets to spend a lot of time outdoors. However, carving in all weather does come with its challenges! So today we want to share some tips for chainsaw carving in the sun…

 

Tips for chainsaw carving in the sun. Photo shows simon o'rourke wearing protective headgear, carving a female sculpture from wood using a stihl chainsaw.

Simon carving in the sun at Woodfest 2017. Photo credit: Andy Grady.

 

#1: Stay Hydrated.

Hydration is always the most important factor when we’re in the sun. And chainsaw carving is no different! With so many great environmentally-friendly water bottle options around at the moment, and even some fun options for hydration backpacks with a straw, there’s no excuse not to drink water throughout the day.

 

Simon O'Rourke carving a wood sculpture of the god Svantevit in Putgarten, Germany

Another sunny carving day creating Svantevit in Putgarten, Germany

 

#2: Invest in Weather-Appropriate Clothing

The next of our tips for chainsaw carving in the sun is clothing. We’ve all heard it said that there is no bad weather, just the wrong clothes. How true that is! Simon is fortunate that he isn’t climbing, so can wear class A trousers, and favours the Stihl Advance X Light. However, many chainsaw trousers have vents in the legs these days, so it should be easy to find a pair that works for you.

 

Tips for chainsaw carving in the sun: wear appropriate trousers like the stihl advance x light. front and rear view pictures. black trousers with logo on side

Simon favours these Advance X-Light trousers made by Stihl. Photos from the Stihl website.

 

#3: Wear Appropriate PPE

Not all PPE is made equally! So the third of our tips for chainsaw carving in the sun is to find appropriate PPE for all weathers. For example, the JSP Powercap (or a similar powered air filter mask) can be good as it constantly passes filtered air across your face.

 

tips for chainsaw carving in the sun: wear a powered air filter mask so it passes air across your face. in the photo simon o'rourke is carving an angel wearing such a mask.

Simon wearing the powercap while he carves in Germany in 2019

 

#4: Create Shelter

The photo of Simon carving in Germany leads nicely to the fourth of our tips for chainsaw carving in the sun: create a place of shelter if you can. Sunstroke is no joke for anyone, at any time. But it’s definitely not a good idea to combine dizziness and nausea with a chainsaw! Using a canopy can help avoid this danger, like the ones used at the Huskycup pictures below. These can be purchased at any outdoor store.

 

chainsaw carver simon o'rourke stands with two men dressed in traditional german mining uniform, and their portraits carved out of oak. Behind them is a Stihl canopy.

The Stihl canopy behind Simon is ideal for avoiding the direct glare of the sun

 

#5: Take Regular Breaks

And the last of our tips is to put down the chainsaw! Taking regular breaks gives you a chance to cool down, but it also allows you to take a look at your sculpture from different angles, which is really important for keeping the proportions looking good.

simon o'rourke carving an old German miner at the Huskycup

Simon at the Huskycup in 2018

More About Health and Safety

If you would like to know more about chainsaw carving safety, make sure you follow this blog (or any of my social media channels) so you receive notifications about future blogs on this topic. As we mentioned in the tips for getting started in chainsaw carving blog, it can also be good to talk to experts. Simon has invested in the services of Acton Health and Safety to advise and help keep him compliant with safety codes and laws, and we wholeheartedly recommend them.

And lastly, while we’re talking about carving in the sun, if you would like to book Simon for live carving or demonstration at an outdoor event, or talk to him about a commission, please email him via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

simon o'rourke carving an old German miner at the Huskycup

Tips for Getting Started in Chainsaw Carving

Tips for Getting Started in Chainsaw Carving 900 600 Simon O'Rourke

Simon is often asked about how to start chainsaw carving. The reality is, everyone’s journey will look a little different. However, there are some principles that are pretty much universally true.  And there are definitely things that Simon and his team have learned over the years, that could benefit others. So, these are his top tips for getting started in chainsaw carving…

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke next to one of his early pievces, a fairy on a swing. c 2009.

Simon with one of his competition pieces at the start of his career

No 1: Safety First!

The first of our tips for getting started in chainsaw carving is very simple. Get your chainsaw certificate.
Although you don’t need one for ‘messing round’ at home, you will if you are going to become a business and sell your work.
Safety matters. Confidence matters. And you will build both through getting certified. Occasional users should recertify every two to three years. More frequent users around every five.
You can find out more at www.hse.gov.uk/treework/site-management/training.htm

No. 2: Invest in Good Basic Equipment

The next blog in this series will have more information about what this should include. There are some basics where you could buy budget products, but others, where it’s much better to invest in something reliable that you know, will last. Simon recommends Stihl chainsaws but also enjoys using Milwaukee tools and Saburrtooth burr bits.

 

stihl chainsaw. stihl are one of the brands simon recommends buying as one of his top tips for getting started in chainsaw carving.

Stihl Chainsaw – can be used for creative or practical purposes, but either way, safety is paramount!

 

No 3: Get a Mentor

If you can, find a chainsaw artist to be a mentor. Even better if you can actually apprentice with them. Even if it’s on a very low key level at the beginning, input from someone more experienced is invaluable. And being alongside a paid artist in this way will ensure some variety in your subjects that we sometimes don’t get if there isn’t a customer challenging and stretching us to try new things.

No 4: Watch Other Artists

The fourth of our tips for getting started in chainsaw carving is to watch other artists. If you can do this live, it’s amazing! If not, plenty of us in the community have social media, youtube channels etc where you can watch, slow down the action and pause. Watching others is an inspiration but you can also see how they approach different things, and different techniques they employ. If you’re looking for live events (when things open up!) in the UK, Woodfest and the English Open are good places to start. In Europe, Huskycup, Holz-Flori and Friends and Zandsculpturenfestijn in Garderen are worth checking out.

simon o'rourke carving an old German miner at the Huskycup

Simon O’Rourke at the Huskycup in 2018

No 5: Get to Know a Good Tree Surgeon!

Getting to know good, reliable tree surgeons/arborists is a key part of sourcing quality wood. Being able to recommend each other to clients doesn’t hurt either! Simon has also found it helpful to know reliable tree surgeons for assistance moving timber and finished sculptures.

No 6: Employ Experts

When you build a business as a chainsaw artist, there are a LOT of things that happen behind the scenes. So our sixth tip is to employ experts. This ensures things are being done well, and it also frees you up to focus on the creative side. Accounting, Health and Safety, business strategy, web and marketing, social media, video editing… these are just some of the areas where it’s worth seeing if you can delegate or employ an expert.

tips for getting started in chainsaw carving No 5 - know a good tree surgeon. photo shows a Treetech truck.

Sourcing and transporting the raw materials is one of the expenses underlying the cost of a sculpture

No 7: Just Do It!

Tip seven? Just do it! Give it a go! Find time to experiment and try different things. It’s worth remembering that sometimes we hold ourselves back as artists when we are more worried about the product than the process. To grow in skill and style, especially in the beginning, you will need to just keep trying. Go for it and HAVE FUN!

No 8: Pace Yourself

At the beginning of the blog, we said that every journey is unique. It’s good to have goals and objectives and plans for how to achieve them. But if the pace isn’t working for you, take a step back. Building a thriving business as a chainsaw carving artist (or any art!) is a marathon, not a sprint. Initially, it may look like going to some country shows or fairs and selling some small sculptures you made once or twice a month. And then you may pick up a couple of commissions through social media. And then you get a commission but not much else so you’re back at fairs. Stick with it, don’t be discouraged, and go at the pace that suits your life priorities, finances and health/energy.

It’s OK if it takes time, and it’s OK if it doesn’t look like the same route someone else took.

a pair of lion sculptures: photo features the face of the oak lion mentioned in the accompanying blog

Final Thoughts

We hope you found these tips helpful. Watch out for the next in the ‘How to’ series where Simon will share his recommended basic tool kit to get started.

As always, if you have questions for Simon about a commission, contact him using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

Simon O'Rourke uses a chainsaw to carve a lifesize portrait of Ken Dodd

The Impact of Creativity and Art on Mental Health

The Impact of Creativity and Art on Mental Health 1920 1080 Simon O'Rourke

This week was Mental Health Awareness Week. Although the focus was ‘nature’, we’ll be highlighting the benefits art has on mental health…

Simon O'Rourke uses a chainsaw to carve a lifesize portrait of Ken Dodd

The Impact of Creativity and Art on Mental Health: The Benefits

There’s growing agreement in the world of mental health professionals about the way art can benefit people. The Mental Health Foundation website states that it can help with ageing and loneliness. Their research shows being involved with arts helps boost confidence, and leads people to be more engaged/present/mindful as well as more resilient. Creative arts can also help create community, and alleviate anxiety, depression, and stress.

sculptures based on movies: simon o'rourke creating a giant groot marionette for Wales Comic Con 2015

 

The Impact of Creativity and Art on Mental Health: Application

Obviously ‘arts and creativity’ covers a wide range of skills, hobbies, interests and possibilities. So what exactly are we talking about? Well, in terms of ‘arts’ we mean anything creative! Sketching, painting, sculpting, music, dance, baking, writing….the list goes on! Pretty much anything that involves creating!

But what does it look like? There are a few different ways we can go about using the arts to improve our mental health. These are just a few applications…

Art for Art’s Sake

Simply take time to create for the sake of creating something that brings you pleasure – whether that be the process, the product, or both. Whatever your craft, just do it and enjoy it!

Journalling

Creative journalling has grown in popularity a lot in recent years. And it’s no wonder!
Taking time to journal creatively (writing, sketching, vlogging…there’s no limit!) improves mental health in and of itself. But it also leaves us landmarks so we can see growth and progress, helps us tell our story, aids us as we process, and can help reveal patterns so we learn both our stressors and the things that bring us joy.

Therapy

Lastly, formal art therapy. This area is a growing speciality, and there is an increasing number of art therapists available. Always make sure though that you find someone who is accredited and works in association with a supervising body. The British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT) is the best place to start if you are looking to explore this form of counselling.

Chainsaw artist SImon O'Rourke works on a life size oak sculpture of a man

 

The Impact of Creativity and Art on Mental Health: Simon’s Story

The opportunity to create has helped Simon over the years. In his own words…

“I find working with wood very cathartic, although the chainsaw is such a loud and aggressive tool.
I’ve also found that returning to my roots as an illustrator and creating artwork using pen and ink is relaxing and helps me to focus. I have had times though when I’ve really struggled to be creative and it can be pressure when income depends on completing work within a certain timeframe.”

If you can relate to that and sometimes struggle to be creative (whether that’s because it feels forced or something like feeling overwhelmed by the mess or effort), Simon has learned it’s OK in those times to walk away for a little bit. Go off and do something else you love, like gardening or walking or play a computer game and then come back to it. A ‘not now’ doesn’t mean ‘not ever’!

Simon sketching the face of ayrton senna. Impact of Creativity and Art on Mental Health

Simon’s Story Continued…

“Over the last 20 years of sculpting, I’ve had numerous ups and downs and have sometimes felt like giving up entirely. It can be difficult sometimes even with a job I love to see past the need to generate income, and I think that happens for anyone. I’ve found it really important to slow down even if it means a drop in revenue for a time. It’s so important for overall health to take time to recuperate and allow yourself to breathe.
I’m not very public with my emotions and feelings and not great at being open with people, but I’ve found that taking time to create something just because I want to, not because someone is paying me to do so is one of the best things. It allows me some freedom to enjoy the creative process without time constraints.”
Impact of creativity and art on mental health - simon o'rourke pictured using a chainsaw to carve a dragon's mouth egg casket. He finds the process cathartic and beneficial for mental wellbeing.

The Impact of Creativity and Art on Mental Health: Final Thoughts

If this has piqued your interest, we definitely recommend finding out more, or just pulling out a camera, pen, pencils or even playdough and having a go! Or perhaps you have a story to share about how engaging in the arts has positively impacted your own mental health. We’d love to hear it!

And as always, to commission a sculpture, connect with Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

 

 

Photo shows a man carving a sculpture from a tree trunk. He is standing in a tall cherry picker. Equipment like this is one of the Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

A chainsaw carving sculpture can be a great addition to your home or business. It’s a lovely way to give life back to a tree that is dead, diseased or dangerous. As well as being a beautiful piece of art in its own right, it can also add value to your attraction or home. However, there are lots of practical considerations to think about if you want to commission an on-site chainsaw carving sculpture. When you contact Simon, he will ask for details and photos to help him plan. This blog is to help you think about those considerations, to help make the process as smooth as possible.

Simon can travel to your home or business to create a sculpture from a standing tree.

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Simon’s Workspace

Ideally, Simon needs 2-3m space around the tree stump to be able to move easily and approach the sculpture from the best angle. If it’s possible to clear this space, it’s really helpful for him. However, don’t worry if this isn’t possible. If the tree stump is against a fence or something similar and he doesn’t have this space, it doesn’t mean he can’t do it – it’s just good for him to know in advance.

When thinking about the workspace it’s also worth remembering that sometimes some large pieces of timber can come down off the tree. For this reason, we suggest moving anything valuable from the area before Simon comes to set up. Nobody wants a smashed table or squashed prize-winning begonias!

oak maiden sculpture in process

This photo of the Oak Maiden in process shows the size of branches Simon sometimes has to remove

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Spectator Space

It’s FASCINATING to watch Simon carve! It can be tempting to want to get as close to the action as possible, and if your sculpture is for a community, inviting people to watch may even be part of generating support for the commission. However, it can also be dangerous to get too close! If you do want to watch (or invite others), you will need to make sure there is a 6m space between Simon and the next closest human being!

Crowds watching ice carving for Wrexham Museum

Crowds watch Simon from a safe distance outside Wrexham Museum*

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Access for Equipment

All Simon’s equipment can be carried, so in some ways distance from parking to the site doesn’t matter. BUT! Some of it is quite heavy. If you are able to make a way for him to park as close as possible to the place he will be carving, it is incredibly helpful.

Simon will also ask you for photos of his access to the site from the parking spot – especially if he needs to use scaffolding or a cherry picker. This is because slopes or other obstacles may change the equipment he needs to hire. He may also need to find a creative way of getting it to the site. This happened this week in fact, getting this cherry picker to the carving site…

Photo shows a man carving a sculpture from a tree trunk. He is standing in a tall cherry picker. Equipment like this is one of the Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Simon’s colleague Paul working in a cherry picker for an on site carving

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Additional Equipment

And while we’ve mentioned cherry pickers, let’s talk additional equipment!

Simon has his own platforms which enable him to carve a sculpture up to 2.5m without hiring extra equipment. For anything taller than that though, he will need to use scaffolding or a cherry picker. He will arrange it all, so don’t worry about suddenly having to become an expert in this area! As the client though, it’s worth knowing that this will impact the cost of the commission. It may also impact the time needed too. For example, the scaffolding for the Spirit of Ecstasy sculpture took a day to assemble!

Again, Simon will ask you for photos not just of the tree, but of the surrounding ground to help him arrange the best and safest equipment for the job.

Work in Progress: Spirit of Ecstasy by Simon O'Rourke

This photo of work in progress on The Spirit of Ecstasy allow you to see suitable timber size and access for an onsite carving, as well as the scaffolding needed.

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Clean Up!

Chainsaw carving is messy! As you can imagine, there is a LOT of sawdust as well as chunks of tree. Simon is happy to do that tidy-up. However, this means paying for his time, so it’s generally better for the client to handle this part themselves. If you’re commissioning a sculpture, make sure you include time and energy for this clean up before you invite people over for an unveiling!

ThA sculpture of an ent in a monkey puzzle tree trunk. It is surrounded by sawdust. Clean up of this mess is a factor to consider whren you Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

The Ent at Poulton Hall surrounded by sawdust! It’s important to be prepared for this, and budget time and energy for cleaning up

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Power supply

Simon will generally come armed with fully charged batteries, petrol etc for his chainsaws and olfi video equipment. It can be helpful though, if possible, to give him access to a plug socket or two by running an extension cable through a window.

Simon O'Rourke's giant hand of vyrnwy surrounded by scaffolding. Scaffolding hire is one of the things to consider when you commission a chainsaw sculpture

Simon’s Giant Hand of Vyrnwy before the scaffolding was taken down.

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Final Thoughts

We hope this helps you understand the kind of information Simon will ask for (and why) when you commission and on-site chainsaw carving sculpture. Of course, we missed out that providing copious amounts of tea, coffee and the odd jammy dodger never go amiss either!

If you’re thinking of commissioning a sculpture, we recommend reading this blog about the suitability of your tree first. It may also be helpful to read this blog about commissioning a sculpture too.

To contact Simon about a commission, use the contact form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We look forward to hearing from you!