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Using the Stihl MSA 200

Using the Stihl MSA 200 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

Happy New Year!
We’re kicking off 2022 with some tool talk! People often ask about the tools Simon uses, so this week we’re going to share a little more about one of his recommended chainsaws. Keep reading to find out more about using the Stihl MSA 200.

Stihl MSA 200 chainsaw with a plain white background. Part of a blog by Simon O'Rourke about using the Stihl MSA 200 chainsaw.

Stihl MSA 200 (photo from their website)

 

About the Stihl MSA 200

Simon has become a big fan of the Stihl battery chainsaws, and the MSA 200 is one of his most frequently used saws. It’s a cordless/battery-powered saw,  quite small and lightweight (relative to chainsaws!). Its size allows Simon to get close to his pieces which is a bonus for detailing. It’s also a quiet saw – quiet enough that you don’t NEED ear defenders. That said, Simon often still chooses to wear them as it’s more comfortable. Stihl also makes battery backpacks that enable you to carve for longer without changing the battery – very handy!

 

Simon O'rourke using a Stihl MSA 200 chainsaw to create detail in a wood sculpture of Ken Dodd.

Detailing Ken Dodd’s face with the MSA 200

Using the Stihl MSA 200

So, how does Simon use the MSA 200? He mostly uses it as a detail saw. He finds it’s a lovely saw for roughing out precise details in faces or the movement in clothing, fur or anatomy in particular.  One example of this is the drapery on the sculpture below that he’s working on at the moment. He used the MSA 200 to create lines that gave the basic movement – almost like a sketch. That gave movement to the fabric and enhanced the sense of the fabric being pulled in in response to the person stretching.

 

A sculpture in progress in Simon O'Rourke's workshop. Surrounded by chainsaw carving paraphernalia.

 

More About Using the Stihl MSA 2oo

Of course, a chainsaw is nothing without a chainsaw bar! At the moment Simon has his MSA 200 paired with a Canon 8″ .043 gauge carving bar (find out more about Simon’s tips for carving bar maintenance HERE if you’re interested). With the two paired together he finds he can trust his tools and doesn’t have to think about them. Rather, he can focus entirely on the sculpture, which is what every artist wants.
And for those who are interested, Stihl releases a new battery saw later this year; the MSA 300. Unsurprisingly, Simon can’t wait to try it!

 

chainsaw carver simon o'rourke using the stihl MSA 200 chainsaw and battery backpack to carve a series of owls into a tree trunk

Using the MSA 200 with the battery backpack

 

Where to Buy His Recommended Tools?

If you’re looking to buy any of the tools Simon recommends, his Stihl products are from www.stihl.co.uk. He buys his chainsaw bars from www.chainsawbars.co.uk, a company we have talked more about in a previous blog (click HERE to read it). They have a great product range, excellent customer service, quick delivery, and keep their website up to date so if something is out of stock, it will show.

And for those who would like to see Simon using the MSA 2oo, check out the video below. You can see Simon in action, and he adds more detail to the things we’ve shared in this blog.

 

 

If you would like to have Simon use his trusty Stihl MSA 200 to create a sculpture for you (!) please fill out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

 

 

sample screenshot of a tree-nation forest page, showing the team logo and stats on trees planted and CO2 offset

Titan Treecycle Initiative

Titan Treecycle Initiative 900 600 Simon O'Rourke

At the start of November, Simon announced he’d joined ‘Team Titan’, and become part of the Titan Treecycle initiative, but we have never explained what that means! We thought we’d use this week’s blog to explain a little more about the project, and why it’s such an important initiative…

a facebook screenshot from Simon O'Rourke's facebook page announcing he is part of the titan treecycle initiative. the post is accomanpied by a photo of a forest.

Simon’s initial Treecycle announcement

About Titan Chainsaw Carving

Before we talk about the Titan Treecycle initiative, let’s back up a few steps and start with Titan!

Titan Chainsaw carving is a recently opened specialist chainsaw carving tools supply store, started by chainsaw carver Matt Crabb. He’s been a professional chainsaw carver for 15 years, so he certainly knows what carvers of all skill levels need! And although it has begun as a chainsaw carving supplies store, Matt hopes it will be much more.

He wants to support, encourage, inspire, and help new carvers – people with an interest to try carving. He also wants Titan to be a place where beginners come alongside pros, somewhere knowledge and inspiration can be shared.
chainsaw carver (founder of titan treecycle initiative) stands to the left of a large tree trunk carved into a sculptures of four owls

Matt Crabb is the founder of Titan Treecycle initiative
Photo taken from his Facebook page.

Team Titan!

To help form that community, Matt has formed a team of world-class chainsaw carvers as ambassadors of the brand. As a team, they will also work collaboratively on large-scale carving projects. Simon is honoured to be one of the team, along with Matt, James Elliott, Mike Jones, Michael Tamoszus, Ryan Villiers, Res Hofmann, Simon Archer, and Hikaru Kodama.
Exciting as this is, Matt also has a bigger out-reaching vision, and that’s where the Titan Treecycle Initiative comes in…
Water Dragon by Keiji Kidokoro and Simon O'Rourke Huskycup 2019 one of the top chainsaw carving events

Water Dragon by Simon and Keiji Kidokoro at Huskycup 2019 – a taste of the quality and artistry expected from the Titan collaboration

The Vision Behind Titan Treecycle

Matt is highly aware of the situation with climate change and the desperate need for big change in the world (an awareness Simon shares). As a result, one of his goals is to ensure Titan runs as completely carbon negative. What a fantastic goal! This lead him to an organisation called Tree-Nation, and the Titan Treecyle initiative came from that contact.
Tree-Nation has a goal of reforesting the world. They want to use technology to make tree planting easy and provide support, advice and solutions to citizens and companies to help them transition towards a sustainable future.
five adults hold gardening equipment and tree saplings in pots. they are all wearing white t shirts bearing the tree-nation logo

Some of the Tree-Nation team
Photo taken from the Tree Nation website

The Initiative Unfolds…

Matt decided to use Titan and the team’s ever-growing online presence in the chainsaw carving community, to promote an initiative for every chainsaw carver to replant more trees each year than they use. So he started Titan Treecycle.
Titan Treecycle is a ‘Forest’ or project, within Tree-Nation. Chainsaw Carvers can donate money towards the forest, and Tree-Nation uses that money to plant trees in one of their reforestation projects. If every chainsaw carver in the world joined this action, it would make a monumental change to our carbon footprint.

In Matt’s words:

It should become the norm. We [chainsaw carvers] use up trees to carve luxury items with carbon-emitting tools. Lots of carvers travel around and fly across the world to compete etc. It would be so so easy and at very little cost per individual to offset all of this. If we as a trade could set about this positive change, then perhaps our example can be used to show other trades and industries the way forward.

Looking at the Titan Treecycle Forest page, so far (December 2021) the group have planted 321 trees and offset 142t of carbon dioxide. A great start in only a couple of months!
sample screenshot of a tree-nation forest page, showing the team logo and stats on trees planted and CO2 offset

The forest page provides updates and accountability for members and supporters

Simon and the Titan Treecycle Initiative

It’s fairly well known that Simon only uses trees that are dead, diseased or dangerous for his sculptures, and never cuts trees down specifically to carve. So why join Treecycle?
In his words:
Even though all the wood I currently use has been cut for a valid reason, I feel this is an excellent way to encourage the carving world to go the extra mile in looking after the planet we’re so blessed to live on.

And there’s more…

 

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy stands in the Lake Vyrnwy estate. The sculpture is one of Simon’s most famous examples of transforming a storm-damaged tree

Team Titan Collaboration

Remember we mentioned collaborative projects? The Titan team are planning to meet up in England in April this year to collaborate on (matt’s words!) “the biggest and most spectacular chainsaw carving project on earth!”

At this stage we can’t say anything more, but it promises to be epic!

There haven’t been many occasions before this where a large collective of elite professional artists have collaborated together in such a big way. As Matt says, “It’s going to be a very special project and a huge step forward for the wonderful art of chainsaw carving“.

Simon is excited about the collaboration, and of course, we’ll be sharing about it here!
screen shot of the Titan Chainsaw Carving facebook page. Titan are the founders of the titan treecycle initiative discussed in this blog

More Information and Contacts

Titan Chainsaw Carving supplies are on Facebook and Instagram, and a webpage (www.titanchainsawcarving.com) is coming soon.

You can follow the progress of the Treecycle team on their Forest page, and find out more about the work of Tree-Nation at www.tree-nation.com

Finally, 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/

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.

 

close up of a pair of robins carved into a cedar bench.

Robin Memorial Bench

Robin Memorial Bench 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

COntacSimon often receives commissions for memorial sculptures. One of his most popular sculptures last year was a beautiful memorial for a young lady named Robyn. Recently he received a commission for another robin-themed memorial, this time a robin memorial bench…

 

a robin memorial bench carved in cedar in front of a brick wall

Robin Memorial Bench: The Brief

Simon’s brief for this commission was to create a bench to commemorate the client’s husband, Robin. Beyond that, it was simply to include a robin, and the name Rob. With such a simple brief, were several directions Simon could go. In chatting more with the client, he discovered she likes natural forms, climbing plants, and organic designs, so he set out to create something that would also reflect this.

 

robin memorial bench carved in cedar by simon o'rourke. it sits in front of a red brick wall on a tarmac surface

Robin Memorial Bench: The Design

Simon created the ends to look like old bricks covered in ivy (scroll through the next section for photo). This is reminiscent of much of the old ruins found in Ty Mawr Country Park, where his client was a ranger. He included a pair of robins together which gave a sense of symmetry. It also creates a feeling of a shared life, and the two still being together.

 

close up of a pair of robins carved into a cedar bench.

 

Robin Memorial Bench: Creating the Bench

Simon made the bench out of cedar, one of the top five woods he recommends for a chainsaw carving sculpture. Although the design itself wasn’t complex, it’s always a challenge creating a bench to sit straight and level. When the back and seat are 3 inches thick it’s difficult to make it sit right, especially when it’s being installed on a slight incline!

Simon used a little bit of water-based spray stain in a natural brown colour, and then flap sanded strategically to give highlights. He then used Osmo UV exterior oil to enhance the lovely natural colour, clarify the grain, and give some weather resistance. Another coat of oil every six months will keep it looking great!

 

close up of the sides of robin memorial bench by simon o'rourke. the sides are created to look like brick with ivy growing up them

 

Robin Memorial Bench: Testimonial

As with any sculpture, the most important thing is how the client feels about the final product. This is especially true when its purpose is commemorating a loved one. And in the case of this bench, Simon made something that the client is delighted with. She shares:

“Simon has created a bench for my garden in memory of my much-loved husband Robin. It reflects the sandstone walls in our garden and the ivy creeping over the walls with two lovely robins on the back. I love it and Robin would have loved it too. Thank you Si”

 

the name 'rob' is carved into the back of a cedar bench featuring two robins on the back. it is part of the robin memorial bench created by chainsaw artist Simon o'rourke

The client asked for Simon to include her husband’s name on the memorial bench

Your Own Memorial Sculpture

Having a beautiful and meaningful visual piece can be an important part of the grieving and healing process. As such, Simon always regards it as a privilege to create a sculpture that helps clients remember their loved ones.  Contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to commission a memorial for someone special to you or your community.

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.

Care for a tree carving sculpture. Photo shows a close up of a yew dragon mouth sculpture treated with decking oil

How Do I Care For A Tree Carving Sculpture?

How Do I Care For A Tree Carving Sculpture? 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

I’m often asked is how to care for a sculpture after it’s installed. It’s a really good question! I’m also often asked how to treat the wood to help preserve its life. If you want to retain the colour on a sculpture then there are several things you can do to help. And so, today’s blog explores care for a tree carving sculpture…

 

Hiker in oak by SImon O'Rourke

Preservation of a commissioned sculpture is a natural concern

 

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Choosing an Oil

I’ve always said decking oil is the best thing for sculptures outdoors due to its containing fungicide and UV protection. This is your best option if you want to treat the wood in any way.
There are several different levels of decking oil to choose from, so it can seem a bit overwhelming.
The brands I’ve used in the past are Rustins, Cuprinol, Ronseal, and Osmo. I’ve also tried own brands from B&Q and Wickes.
Quite often, the cheaper the oil, the less viscous it is. This has advantages such as being easier to spray on, but it isn’t often as hardy against the weather.
A lot of oils today are water-based emulsions. This makes them safer for the environment, which is great. However, I’m less sold on how well they do over time, and the finish can be a little gloopy.

 

Care for a tree carving sculpture. Photo shows a close up of a yew dragon mouth sculpture treated with decking oil

Decking oil can help protect sculptures.

 

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Application

One of the most difficult things about oils is the application. My sculptures tend to have lots of rough surfaces which means it’s not always easy to cover with a brush. It can be even more difficult to get an even coat across the sculpture. It’s worth taking the time to do this though.
It’s possible to thin down most oils with good quality thinners or white spirit and use them in a sprayer. However, bear in mind you will need more coats and therefore more time. The sprayers can be very difficult to clean too.

 

care for a tree carving sculpture: many of simon's sculptures are rough and textured and this makes it difficult to apply even coats of oil. photo shows an example of the texture of a lion's face.

It can be difficult to achieve an even finish when oiling heavily textured sculptures like this lion.

 

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Pre-Treatment

It can be a good idea to treat a sculpture with a clear wood preserver prior to oiling, as this helps prevent things from growing on the surface.
I’ve also been told that raw linseed oil can be good to treat exterior green oak. I’ve had no personal experience using it yet though, so I can’t really comment. But I will be trying it on a scrap piece to see what happens! Watch this space to see if it works!
picture shows a dragon carved in oak by simon o'rourke

Hemlock endures a lot while hired out for events, so oil is essential for protecting the sculpture.

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Retouching

The next question is then how often it’s necessary to repeat this process. As with many questions about the lifespan of a wood sculpture, there are no definite answers. The frequency of oiling will vary based on the environment, and it’s important to note that as soon as the oil wears off the surface then the sun will bleach the wood very quickly. You can’t get the natural colour back again at this stage, unless the wood is sanded or cut back.

 

care for a tree carving sculpture: a man is sanding a piece of wood.

People photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Choosing the Right Timber

I’ve shared before that not every timber is suitable for a tree carving sculpture. All wood has different longevity. So I try to make sure that the sculptures I make are created from long lasting timber like oak, cedar, sweet chestnut, certain cypress varieties or redwood. However, I will occasionally carve a tree stump on a property that is from timber with less lastability, like beech or willow. I will always make sure the client understands that the sculpture won’t be as enduring. I also always recommend a good coat of clear wood preserver prior to oiling for these timbers to give them the best start.

 

Simon O'rourke using a chainsaw to cut into wood

Choosing durable wood is a key part of creating a long-lasting sculpture.

Caring for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Installation

The other thing to note is with free-standing sculptures, it’s wise to place them on a surface with good drainage, or have some airflow underneath them. The Queen of the South Soccer Players are a great example of this. They have been elevated so no water will collect. They are also on a wooden plinth which is where moisture will begin to gather first and travel upwards, preserving the players for longer.

sporting sculptures made by simon o'rourke. Photo shows sculpture of three soccer players standing back to back with onlookers admiring the piece

Caring for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Going Natural

The reality is, no wood sculpture will last forever. Really, the only way to ensure the longest life possible would be to keep it indoors! As I have shared before in this blog about wood versus bronze sculptures, I like the ageing process though. I think it adds character and beauty, and is more in keeping with using a material that once had a life of its own. It’s important to know what sort of finish you’re aiming for when you commission a sculpture. Discussing the finish and creating something you will love is all part of the process when you commission a sculpture.

Side by side photo of a woman's face carved in redwood by simon o'rourke to show the aging process of wood. The left is far more yellow and warm. The right has deeper shadows and cracks and grey hues.

Cracks and changing colour give a chainsaw carved sculpture more character

Get in Touch!

If you would like to commission a sculpture, you can contact me at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ And whatever finish you choose for your own piece, I will be able to help with recommendations and tips for upkeep!

Close up of Simon O'Rourke using the manpatools belt sander to refine the mouth of a water dragon. It is one of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures.

FAQs: Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures

FAQs: Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures 1098 1098 Simon O'Rourke

Welcome back to our FAQs blog series! In part two we look at Simon’s favourite Manpatools for creating texture on sculptures.

Chainsaw artist simon o'rourke is using one of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures. The round cutter tool is being used to add texture to flames as a phoenix rises from them.

Using the round cutter head to create texture on the phoenix

About Manpatools

Before we go into specific tools, a little bit about Manpatools.
They’ve been around since 1988. This means they have had over 30 years to develop their tools, and to still be in existence, clearly have a strong customer base. This in itself speaks of quality and customer satisfaction. They focus on attachments that work with an angle grinder, and in the UK are available through www.chainsawbars.co.uk. Incidentally, if you want to know more about buying through them, you can read our blog about our collaboration with chainsawbars.co.uk.
In general, Manpatools are a great quality product, with excellent functionality. They are nicely balanced, straightforward to attach, and come with different sizing rings so you can use different angle grinders. As a bonus, they are also neatly packaged, well presented, and come with an easy-to-understand user manual. Basically a winning product all round!

simon o'rourke's Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: the multicutter. Photo shows the multicutter with various attachments and accessories spread out alongside a manual.

The manpatools multicutter comes with everything you need to get started.

Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: The Belt Sander.

The first of the tools Simon has enjoyed using is the Manpatools belt sander.
As you can see, it is chunkier than some, and Simon reports “it has some beef”. For those who are uncertain, when it comes to power tools, that’s usually a compliment! That said, Simon reports there is minimal vibration when using the sander.

The size means it isn’t great for precision work when it comes to creating textured sculptures, but it’s great for creating contrast in larger areas. For example, creating a smoother appearance on the bones in the wings of this water dragon collaboration with Keiji during the 2019 Huskycup.

simon o'rourke's Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on sculptures. Photo shows SImon using a belt sander to create smooth texture on the bones of dragon wings

Simon uses the manpatools belt sander

Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: The Rear Handle

Another of Simon’s favourite Manpatools products is the rear handle attachment. This is really great when working on a large scale, or with chunky pieces of timber. It transforms the angle grinder (Simon likes a Milwaukee angle grinder by the way) to a rear handle tool. It’s easy to put together, and holding the tool from further away means less vibration.
Although this may not seem to be a big thing, it’s actually super important for health. Vibration can cause changes in tendons, muscles, bones, and joints, and it can also affect the nervous system. Collectively, these effects are known as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), and it isn’t something you want! Minimal vibration helps prevent these problems from developing.

Close up of Simon O'Rourke using the manpatools belt sander to refine the mouth of a water dragon. It is one of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures.

Simon refines the water dragon mouth with the Manpatools belt sander

Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: The Multicutter

The multicutter by Manpatools has become one of Simon’s essential pieces of kit. It is absolutely brilliant for creating texture on sculptures, and extremely versatile because this attachment also comes with a range of attachments!
The basic kit comes with a side handle, wrench, pulley wheel, drive belt, sizing rings, a rounded carbide cutter, cutter housing, and  – of course – the cutter itself. It’s extremely smooth with no wobble and has a massive amount of applications depending on the cutter used.

For those who have time, Simon introduces the tools in much more detail in this 20-minute video, as well as showing how to put them together…

Favourite Manpatools for creating Texture on Sculptures: Shaped Cutters

As we said, one of the things that makes the multicutter so versatile is the various attachments available. It comes with the round cutter, and Simon has also tried the square, triangle, v, hole, crack, and miniature cutters.

The round cutter is a staple and was used to create the scales on Maggon the Fire-Breathing Dragon, featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. You can actually stay in this building, and see the incredible texture up close for yourself! Visit www.thedragontower.co.uk to find out more.

A close-up of a redwood dragon mounted onto a wall, breathing fire! The close up shows the texture of the scales that artist simon o'rourke created using a manpatools round cutter attached to a milwaukee grinder; one of his favourite tools for creating texture on sculptures.

A close up of Maggon the Dragon shows the texture created with a round cutter.

Focus on: Miniature Cutter & Crack Cutter

It didn’t take long for the miniature cutter to become one of Simon’s favourite attachments. He finds it especially useful for adding subtle texture and movement to a sculpture. For example, folds in clothing and other drapery, such as the clothing on this angel.

Simon tends to use the miniature cutter with very gentle, light movements. In this way, he takes very little off the wood and doesn’t dig very deep. He’s mindful of the direction of the fabric and uses it next to larger folds to create more subtle movement. If he does need to remove larger amounts to show a deep fold, he sometimes turns it on its side and scrapes, leaving a deeper cut and greater shadow. You can see both techniques demonstrated in this video.

angel sculpture by simon o'rourke stands surrounded by greenery. The angel has 'praying hands' and a serene expression.

The Manpatools miniature cutter was used to enhance the drapery in this angel sculpture.

Focus on: Triangle Cutter

The triangle cutter is absolutely amazing for creating fur and hair. It’s a unique tool, and is one of Simon’s top tools. The shape of the cutter allows Simon to create thin, sharp lines, such as the mane of this Sri Lankan lion.

 

A tip for using the triangle cutter in this way is that less is often more – especially in large scale sculptures. Simon will often add texture to very specific parts of the sculpture rather than the whole thing. For example, on the lion below, he added small sections of texture to show the way the fur lies on the chest, which helps add to the shape of the sculpture.

For those with time and an interest in how to use the tools, you can click HERE to watch Simon demonstrate.

close up of a lion cub carved by simon o'rourke. the photo shows the texture of the chest fur, created with on of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures, the triangle cutter

The fur on the chest of the lion cub was created with the triangle cutter

Other Cutters

Simon has also used the hole cutter for deep holes and some shaping, and the square cutter in a similar way to the triangle. Although they haven’t had their own ‘section’, both are a useful part of his collection and are definitely still some of his favourite Manpatools for creating texture in sculptures.

Close up on a monkey puzzle ent by Simon O'Rourke showing heavily textured trunk created with a manpatools triangle cutter

The texture on this Ent was created with the multicutter tool

Your Own Experience with Manpatools

If you try any of these for your own sculptures, we’d love to see what you create! If you got this link on social media, drop us a photo in the comments.
And if you would like to commission your own sculpture by Simon and watch him in action using some of these tools, use the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will be in touch to discuss details.

Thank you for reading this week’s blog, and we leave you with this video of Simon in action with the Manpatools Multicutter…