frequently asked questions

marbury lady sculpture by simon o'rourke and the what3words location cook.breath.gangs. the sculpture will be part of Simon O'Rourke's what3words chainsaw carving trail

What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week a representative from What3Words approached Simon to ask about using images of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, sharing its location with their followers. Of course, the answer was yes! Simon already uses What3Words as part of his work, and has found it extremely helpful. And as soon as they contacted him, something clicked and another idea was born…

 

image showing people sitting in a park. the what3words location is displayed.

Image from what3words

What is What3Words?

Before we talk about the what3words Chainsaw Carving Trail though, let us introduce what3words! For those who haven’t heard of it, what3words is a geocode system. It’s different to anything else out there because it assigns a three-word code to every 3m square of land. That means you can easily share and save precise locations using the website or app – No long GPS codes, and no vague addresses! It’s currently being used for e-commerce and delivery, navigation, emergencies and so much more, and has some massive benefits…

 

Benefits of Using What3Words

As we said, many industries are using what3words. As it directs you to a location within a 3m square of where you need to be, it is much more efficient than a vague address when dealing with roadside telegraph poles, sections of railway track, water pipes, and more. It is set up for voice input and even works when you have no data. All of this combined means it also has massive health and safety benefits, which is how Simon currently uses the app.

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke in a cherry picker next to a tall tree carving of a mythical tree woman.

Simon often works alone on large estates and parks and can easily share his exact location using What3Words

 

How Simon Uses What3Words

As you know from our health and safety and chainsaw basics blogs, safety is hugely important to Simon. He’s found that giving what3words locations for his worksite is a way of enhancing his safety practice:

“The accuracy makes any communication much clearer, giving clients, public, and emergency services exact locations”

Imagine you are working on a National Trust property or stately home, such as when he created the Ent, Gollum, and Shakespeare Seat sculptures at Poulton Hall, or the Airman at Highclere. The grounds are huge, and should there be an emergency (or even someone coming with some refreshments!) it can be difficult to explain exactly where to find him. This can cause frustration or even dangerous delays.

By giving a what3words location, people can see EXACTLY where he is working.

 

marbury lady sculpture by simon o'rourke and the what3words location cook.breath.gangs. the sculpture will be part of Simon O'Rourke's what3words chainsaw carving trail

The Marbury Lady sculpture and her exact location using the what3words app

 

Creating a What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

Now you know about the app and all its benefits, you’ve probably guessed where we’re going with the what3words chainsaw carving trail!

People often ask where they can see Simon’s sculptures. Sometimes this is easy to explain, as in most residential addresses. Sometimes it’s much harder as they are in a large area, such as the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy at the Vyrnwy Estate. Or perhaps they are visible from a long road like the Dragon of Bethesda on the A5.

Having been prompted by the contact from what3words, we’ve realised it would be really good to extend Simon’s use of what3words, and to share locations of public sculptures.

 

picture of the giant hand of vyrnwy sculpture labelled with its what3words chainsaw carving trail location: incline.lingering.pose

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy will be much easier to find using this geocode!

 

How Can I do the What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail?

At the moment the what3words chainsaw carving trail is in progress. But in the next week or so we will have a link set up which gives the locations of some of Simon’s most-requested sculptures. In time we will add to it, so it’s more comprehensive. In future, people will be able to easily see multiple sculptures within a reasonable distance of each other to visit. Or even plan a national road trip! It’s entirely up to you! The map will be visible in the browser or the app.

Until then, look out on social media for both Simon and what3words and we’ll be releasing some of the locations.

It’s exciting to see technology being used collaboratively to make it easier for people to experience Simon’s pieces!

 

photo of O'Rourke's dragon of bethesda sculpture labelled with its what3words chainsaw carving trail code: rumble.wink.meanders

Now drivers can see exactly where the dragon is coming up on the A5 and hopefully there’ll be fewer sudden stoppages!

Final Thoughts on the What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

It’s great not just to be using this app for health and safety, but also to allow easier access to art. And to be raising awareness of the app! It has huge potential, and has already saved lives, which is awesome! Thank you to Alice at what3words for the email this week that prompted the trail!

 

photo of simon o'rourke's wwii soldier in workington park. it is labelled with its what3words chainsawcarving trail location: nail.pine.dime

Simon’s WWII soldier is easy to locate in Workington using what3words.

 

If you would like to contact Simon, please use the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

 

ink and bleach illustration of a border collie face by simon o'rourke

Illustrators that Influence his Work

Illustrators that Influence his Work 418 600 Simon O'Rourke
Have you read Simon’s biography? If you have, you’ll know that before Simon tried chainsaw carving, he did a degree in illustration. He had planned on becoming a freelance illustrator of children’s books and went to work with a local tree surgeon and carpenter while he built his portfolio. While working there, he tried chainsaw carving, and in 2010 became a full-time chainsaw artist. Illustration is still something he is passionate about though, and his training as an illustrator influences and impacts his work as a sculptor. In the past, we have talked about sculptors that influenced him. Today we’re going to look at six of the illustrators that influence his work.
an ink and bleach picture of a cat by simon o'rourke. it mimics the blotchy style of ralph steadman, one of the six main illustrators that influence his work

An ink and bleach painting by Simon, reflecting the ‘blotchy’ style of Ralph Steadman

Influential Illustrators: Victor Ambrus

Victor Ambrus was a Hungarian-born artist known for illustrating history, folk tales, and animal storybooks. In Simon’s words: “I love the inky tones and the textures he was able to achieve. In particular, the book Blackbeard had me studying every picture for ages – there was so much detail!”

a selection of illustrations from the blackbeard books showing seven pirates and a rope ladder.

Ambrus’ Blackbeard illustrations fascinated Simon!

Influential Illustrators: Albert Uderzo

We’ve mentioned before that Albert Uderzo was an illustrator Simon loved. And not just the illustrations! As a child, Simon enjoyed reading Asterix books and escaping to the world of Uderzo’s famous viking. Later, as an artist, he explains that “[Uderzo’s] ability to create so much character from a few strokes was amazing, and I’ll always love the Astérix books.”

 

Asterix and Obelisk, characters by illustrator Albert Uderzo. It appears in Simon O'Rourke's blog as Uderzo is one of the illustrators that have influenced his work

Asterix and Obelisk from the Uderzo books that have influenced Simon.

Influential Illustrators: Arthur Rackham

Our third illustrator that has influenced Simon is Arthur Rackham. Simon says that “[he] will always be a firm favourite, timeless fantasy characters and beautiful silhouette work.”

Arthur Rackham is probably one of the lesser-known names in Simon’s list of illustrators that influence his work. He was an English book illustrator and is recognised as one of the leading figures during the Golden Age of British book illustration. He’s known for his robust pen and ink drawings, which he combined with the use of watercolour.

Rackham’s 51 colour pieces for the early American tale Rip Van Winkle were actually a turning point in the production of books since as it featured the accurate reproduction of colour artwork. His best-known works also include the illustrations for Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm.

 

An illustration from Peter pan of leaves blowing and a fairy being caught in the wind

An example of Arthur Rackham’s work in Peter Pan

Influential Illustrators: Hergé

Another illustration we have mentioned before as being an influence on Simon, is Herge, the creator of Tin Tin. Simon always admired his clean lines,  although he could never emulate them! As Simon says, “I’ve always been more at home with a sketchy style.”!
This ‘sketchy style’ is carried over into his sculpting which he describes as being more impressionist in style and uses rustic rather than refined textures.
a picture of the character tin tin with his dog. It appears in Simon's blog as Herge is one of the illustrators that have influenced his work

Tin Tin was another childhood favourite of Simon’s that he later came to appreciate as an artist too.

Influential Illustrators: Joseph Wright

And speaking of having a ‘sketchy style’…

What-A-Mess (the dog created by Joseph Wright) has a place in the hearts of many who grew up reading about the loveable, accident-prone Afghan hound. And, as well as liking the character, his creator, Joseph Wright is an illustrator who has influenced Simon:
“The what-a-mess books always fascinated me with the extra characters in the drawings that had their own narrative going on independent of the story.”

Have you ever noticed the background characters in a graphic story?

Cover of a kids book showing a cartoon dog trotting through a garden

The background characters in What-A-Mess with their own narrative fascinate Simon.

Influential Illustrators: Ralph Steadman

The last of the illustrators in Simon’s list of illustrators that influence his work is a bit of a departure from the others: Ralph Steadman.
Steadman isn’t known for his work on children’s books. Rather, he is known for his political and social caricatures, cartoons and picture books, and his partnership with American writer, Hunter S Thompson.
In Simon’s words: “The blotchy splashes of Ralph Steadman are brilliant too. I do try to emulate that with my ink and bleach drawings.”
Breaking Bad's Walter White as illustrated by Ralph Steadman.

Breaking Bad’s Walter White, as drawn by Ralph Steadman.

 

ink and bleach illustration of a border collie face by simon o'rourke

One of Simon’s ink and bleach paintings reminiscent of the blotchy style of Steadman

An Exciting Illustration Project

The timing of this blog about illustrators that have influenced Simon fits nicely with an upcoming project. In our blog about the Picton sculpture trail, we shared that the clients, Simon and his wife Liz shared a dream to publish a book about Fudge, the trail’s canine protagonist. And it’s happening!

Liz authored the sculpture trail story, and has written the book about the adventures of Matt and Rachel’s  Dachshund,  Fudge. Simon is the illustrator, using some of his original sketches for the Lower Farm sculpture trail as the basis for the book.

The book will be released later this year (fingers crossed!) and will help raise funds for Alder Hey Children’s Charity and Dementia UK.  Watch this space for details!

 

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

Fudge the Dachshund, the protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Who are your Influences?

Who are the people who have influenced you in your field? Drop a comment and let us know!

And, (although it’s a very different topic to the blog!) if you would like to commission a sculpture, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

Simon O'Rourke sculpting with a chainsaw and a strong light to his side.

The Importance of Lighting for Chainsaw Carving Sculpture.

The Importance of Lighting for Chainsaw Carving Sculpture. 1067 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week’s blog has something for both carver and client. Whether creating or viewing work can be transformed completely by light. With that in mind, Simon shares some thoughts on the importance of lighting for chainsaw carving sculpture.

 

Photo at night of an uplit batman sculpture on a rooftop showing the importance of lighting for chainsaw carving sculpture

The uplighting on this batman completely transforms his appearance

 

Light and Dark Art

Before we talk about the importance of lighting for chainsaw carving sculpture, let’s look at lighting and art in general.

Light is something that is important in different ways for all mediums. One art history legend says Rodin invited one reporter to meet him at midnight to view his sculpture, as the correct way to view it was by candlelight! It’s even become its own art form: luminism.

However, in general, light can

  • add depth
  • create a 3d feel
  • create shadow  – this is crucial for chainsaw carving as details like eyes are created through use of shadow rather than colour
  • highlight texture

So what does this mean for chainsaw carving?

 

Simon O'Rourke sculpting with a chainsaw and a strong light to his side.

Simon at work in the workshop with a strong light to the side of his workspace

 

The Importance of Lighting for Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: For Carvers

In the video below (also available on his YouTube Channel), Simon demonstrates how light completely transforms a sculpture. It also gives you a sneak peek of his current work in progress! He uses the LED light from his Milwaukee die grinder and moves it across the face. In doing so, her features and even the shape of her face appear completely different.

Importantly, you’ll notice that direct light completely wipes out her features!

This means that if you carve with light directly on the sculpture, you may not get the result you want. Simon often uses a work light that he moves around, especially when working on faces. This ensures features have the correct depth, proportions and symmetry. Moving the light will help highlight any errors in details that you may not spot until they’re in different lighting too.

It’s also worth thinking about moving a directional light for your product photography too. Simon advises against using a direct flash as it will wipe out the details. Instead, why not play with lighting from an angle and see which shows your sculpture at its best?

 


 Simon O’Rourke talks about the importance of lighting for chainsaw carving sculpture.

The Importance of Lighting for Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: For Clients

The impact of lighting on a chainsaw carving sculpture has implications for clients too. It’s worth thinking about how you want to light the sculpture and playing around with a portable light before committing to buying anything. How does your sculpture look at different times of the day? If you want to see it at night, does uplighting from the side work best, or something next to the sculpture? What features do you want to highlight?

This doesn’t just apply to an outside sculpture either. Play around with a desk lamp or even the torch on your mobile phone and watch the features change!

 

an small wooden fairy carved from wood. the fairy is uplit which makes her features more obvious showing the importance of lighting for chainsaw carving sculpture

The client uplit this oak fairy so she seems radiant and her features can still be seen at night

Share Your Photos!

If you’re a chainsaw carver (or any artist) why not try moving a light around and see how it affects your work? And clients, why not show us some of your photos showing your sculptures lit from different angles?

And, as always, if you’re interested in your own sculpture or have questions about chainsaw carving that you would like answered in his ‘tips and tricks’ blogs, 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.

 

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.

the prestatyn walker sculptures with bushes in the background

How The Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Could Help Rejuvenate a Town

How The Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Could Help Rejuvenate a Town 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

We’ve blogged before about the power of a sculpture to increase tourism and revenue. Friends of Prestatyn Railway Station had the same thought when they commissioned the Prestatyn Walker sculpture. This week’s blog shares the story behind that sculpture…

 

Prestatyn Walker sculpture photographed at Simon O'Rourke's workshop. The sculpture is a male hiker leaning on a signpost. In the background there are fields.

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: Walkers Are Welcome

Prestatyn was the first town in Wales to be awarded ‘Walkers are Welcome‘ status. Two of Wales’ most significant routes (the Offa’s Dyke trail and the Welsh coastal path) pass through the coastal town,and locals have worked to create a welcoming town with attractions and amenities. However, in a survey, around 1/3 of people were unaware of this. Locals saw the need to change this, especially as the beach brings trade to the town for a short season in the year, but walking had the potential to generate year-round income…

 

the prestatyn walker sculpture on the disused platform at Prestatyn Station. A railway bridge is visible in the background.

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: Prestatyn Railway Station

Around 22 million passengers a year travel through Prestatyn Station, so Friends of Prestatyn Railway Sation felt they had a role to play in attracting more walkers to the town. And so they set to work! The group began to improve the appearance of the station to make it more appealing to visitors. As their ideas grew, they decided to commission a piece of artwork to install on a disused platform. Their goal was to tell a story and help convey the message that the town is associated with walking – thus attracting more visitors.

 

the prestatyn walker sculptures with bushes in the background

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: Commissioning the Sculpture

The story is much longer than we can share in this blog. However, fast-forwarding through all the work and research, the group came to a point of inviting proposals from three artists for the sculpture. Simon’s proposal was a lovely tie-in with the message that walkers are welcome. The clothing made it immediately obvious that the sculpture was a ‘walker’/hiker. It was large enough to be seen from a passing train, the wood sculpture fits the aesthetic, and it immediately told the story the group wanted.

 

a group of people in orange safety vests srround a sculpture of a walker on a railway platform

 

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: From Commission to Installation

The group faced a few hurdles with this project. If you’re thinking of commissioning something for a public area, it’s worth being aware that you can sometimes need to apply for permission. However, they gained sponsorship to cover the cost and persevered with the red tape. And this week, Simon and a team installed the sculpture on the disused platform! (If you have five minutes, the video is below)

Thankfully, in all the challenges they faced working with Simon wasn’t one of them! Sherry Walker can attest that he was ‘excellent to work with’ and that they are delighted with the sculpture.
They now hope the council will extend the walkway to the side of the platform. This means in future, passers-by will see the sculpture with walkers in the background and people will immediately know that indeed walkers are welcome! And hopefully, it will, in turn, encourage more walking tourism to the town.

 

Your Own Story-Telling Sculpture

Has this inspired you to think about how a sculpture could help attract visitors to your town or attraction? If so, contact Simon at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to start a conversation. Even if you’re not 100% certain of what it might be, Simon often has excellent, creative ideas and would love to be a part of rejuvenating your community!

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!