Chainsaw sculptors at work

This spotted eagle owl was carved during the Sabie Forest Fair in 2010.

The art of chainsaw carving has its origins in the ancient craft of woodcarving. Unlike the slow and deliberate methods required in woodcarving, however, chainsaw carving sees artists harness the power of modern technology to create their masterpieces.

According to David Bithrey, Area Business Manager for Husqvarna South Africa and six-time National Chainsaw Speed Carving Champion, chainsaw carving is an expression of self. “Chainsaw carving is a dance of skill and dexterity, and a duel between the creation in your head and that which the wood shows you,” says David, who goes on to explain that while his love for chainsaws developed at a young age, he only became aware of chainsaw carving, in its artistic form, much later on in life.

Entered into a competition unaware by his mentor in 2008, his first time carving was both exhilarating and frightening. “I was wielding one of the most dangerous pieces of forestry equipment to create something so delicate, and honestly, I had more guts than skill at that stage of the game,” he says.

Despite being placed second last in that competition, David was hooked and worked hard at mastering his art before he finally won a competition, and took the title from that same mentor, several years later.

Today, he is one of the few chainsaw carvers in South Africa to have been published in both local and international magazines, and several of his pieces have found their way into homes and collections around the world. Despite these accolades, David admits to having made his fair share of “firewood” over the years and encourages those new to chainsaw carving to see these “mistakes” as learning opportunities and to not compare themselves to anyone else.

“Everyone has their own style when it comes to carving. The key is to just get started,” he advises and maintains that the way to learn the craft is through mentorship, skills development and trial and error.

“When I first began, I had almost no skill in carving and no idea that some machines were more appropriate than others for the task at hand.”

Polish chainsaw sculptor Dariusz Nowak used a Husqvarna to carve this chair out of a solid piece of oak at the Forest Fair in Sabie, back in November 2006. The piece was sold before he’d even finished carving it.

Over the years, however, David has indeed learnt that a workman, or an artist as the case may be, is nothing without his tools. “As a chainsaw carver, you need to be able to count on your equipment all the time. You are fighting several factors at the same time: your plan for the carving, the way the timber reacts to your saw, fatigue, the time element in competitions, and more. The last thing you want to worry about is your tools not performing. That’s why I use Husqvarna chainsaws. The 353 chainsaw is my favourite, as it is just such a well-balanced machine with more than enough power to perform seemingly impossible tasks,” he says.

For those looking to try their hand at chainsaw carving, David had some final words of advice to offer: “Enjoy creating something new out of something old. Be brave, be bold but above all else be SAFE. When you’re working with a tool designed to carve through timber, inches away from your face or legs, safety is not a question, it’s a necessity,” he concludes.

Interested in trying your hand at chainsaw carving? Explore Husqvarna’s range of chainsaws at or pop into your closest stockist to discuss your needs.

Speed carving champ David Bithrey shows some delicate touches with his chainsaw.
Completed Tea Set by David Bithrey.