I was recently asked by a YouTube subscriber ‘’ what chainsaw should I purchase first if I want to start chainsaw carving ?‘’. This question is asked frequently but it’s a very good question. There are so many chainsaws to choose from, between brands and sizes where do you even start?
Well, I decided I would share my answer and opinions on this topic with hopes to help you decide. First, real quick I want to say at this time I am NOT sponsored or being paid by any saw companies to write this, this is only my opinion and that’s it.
I’d like to start by saying a chainsaw should not be your first purchase if you plan to start carving. Your first purchase should be safety gear. These items should include, chaps, eye protection or a metal screen face shield, ear protection, gloves that allow finger movement, and a good pair of steel toe shoes or boots.
The first saw I tried to carve with was a Stihl O32av with a 20-inch bar. I don’t know the exact weight but that thing is heavy! My suggestion is to look at smaller lightweight saws. Now for those who don’t know me, I’m a Stihl guy. I just am. Stihl is what I started with and continue to use so if you haven’t guessed already they will be what I’m suggesting. lol. The first new chainsaw that I purchased for carving was the Stihl MSA 170. This saw came with a 16-inch bar running 3/8 pitch .43 gauge chain. If your not sure what that all means you need to do a little more research on saws before you buy. The 170 comes in for less than $200 here in the states. Now a Ms 180 is also a great starter saw and they should not break the bank compared to other saws. Plus they can easily be upgraded to detail saw when you're ready. You can also look at the battery options Stihl offers. Currently, the MSA 200 is a battery-powered saw and mine came with a 14-inch bar running 1/4 pitch .43 gauge chain. This can be much more expensive to start with but your neighbors won’t hate you for carving. Plus it's usually set up with a 1/4 pitch chain which means it can easily be turned into a detail saw with a dime bar.
Now the Ms 170 and 180 are fairly cheap and have enough power to carve smaller pieces. As a beginner carver most start with smaller carvings and work up to bigger ones once skill and confidence have been acquired. The nice thing about the 170 and 180 is the fact that once your ready you can turn them into detail. Now a detail saw usually runs a 1/4 pitch chain and it can be .43 gauge or .50 gauge. Just remember the bar and chain need to match. If the bar says .50 then the chain should say .50. My ms 170 runs a dime tip bar with a .50 gauge chain and I have a battery-powered MSA 160 with a dime bar that runs a .43 gauge chain. Anyway if your thinking of turning one of these into a detailed saw you may need to acquire a 1/4 sprocket, a detail bar, and a specific carving chain. Then swap the old for the new. Now keep in mind this new detail saw is meant just for that detail. They do not have a sprocket in the nose of the bar and can burn out quickly if the chain is too tight so it’s a good idea to purchase a second saw beforehand. As far as a second saw can go I choose another ms 170 because it was so cheap. The only problem is it was not big enough for larger carvings so I had to save and buy a third. My third carving saw was a Stihl ms 250. The 250 was a bit bigger with a 16-inch bar and it runs a .50 gauge chain. This is a good saw for blocking. When this is paired with a detail saw you have the ability to work back and forth between the two as you create your art. When purchasing your saw ask what files you need to keep it sharp. Believe me, you wanna learn how to sharpen your chainsaws.
Like I said way at the top I'm a Stihl guy, you don't have to buy Stihl it's just my preferred brand at this time.
As it would go for most carvers I have acquired several other saws between gas and battery, but the saws mentioned above are a great starting point for an aspiring chainsaw carver. At least in my opinion.
I hope this will help you in starting your new art form. I currently have many tutorial / step-by-step carving videos available to help you get started. They are available on my YouTube channel [Kyle Hall woodworker]. Be sure to hit subscribe. Also, I’m currently working on a few [introduction to chainsaw carving ]videos that will be available in sets here on my website so be sure to keep an eye out for those.
If you are still here remember to be safe and make some sawdust!
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