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.

Respect your chainsaw – top 6 chainsaw safety tips

Chainsaw-related deaths are rare, but they do happen. Injuries, however, are a little more frequent and that’s why Mark Odell, Product Manager from Husqvarna South Africa, says that whether you are a seasoned professional saw operator or an occasional user, your chainsaw deserves your utmost respect.

He says that when used correctly, chainsaws are incredible tools that save time, effort and labour costs, particularly for landowners and forestry professionals.

“However, whilst Husqvarna has world-class safety features on all their chainsaws, it is important to remember that most chainsaw accidents are as a result of being hit by the felled tree or a branch, so operator safety training is as important as safe equipment. Operators must be fully educated on chainsaw safety before they even pick up the tool,” he adds.

Six safety tips that every operator needs to know:

  1. Avoid kickbacks by never using the kickback zone of the saw
    A kickback happens when the chain catches something solid and flicks the machine upwards, towards the operator, often resulting in nasty wounds to the face, neck or upper torso. The risk of kickback is simply too high when using the upper part of the nose of the guide bar, so it’s critical that you avoid using this part of the saw and only use the pulling zone of the chain (i.e. the underneath part of the saw).
  2. Make sure all safety features are working
    To achieve a safe working situation a modern chainsaw must be fitted with the following safety features:
    • kickback guard and chain brake
    • throttle back
    • chain catcher
    • right-hand guard
    • accessible stop control.
    Remember to regularly inspect these features and always make sure you have a sharp and properly filed chain. Husqvarna chainsaws have an additional safety feature in the form of the TrioBrake™ which is triggered if the hand holding the back handle touches a second guard.
  3. Guard against chain breaks
    If a chain is going to break, it will probably be whilst it is working. You need to make sure that the guard underneath the chainsaw, protecting your hand on the back handle, as well as the chain catcher, are both firmly in place. It is similarly placed underneath the chainsaw, as the chain goes into the sprocket.
  4. Adopt the correct grip and stance
    Sheer exhaustion or sometimes even the anticipation of the end of a shift can tempt operators into compromising their hold on the chainsaw and/or neglecting their posture. Most safety features rely on the correct handling of the machine so there can be no concession when it comes to firmly gripping the chainsaw with both hands, and wrapping thumbs and fingers around either side of the handles. Knees rather than backs should be bent and the machine held close to the body rather than with outstretched arms. And never use the machine above shoulder height.
  5. Be extra careful with the small stuff
    Most accidents happen when operators are clearing a path to the tree to be felled or when they are cutting branches off. In these situations, kickbacks are far more likely as the chain can inadvertently connect with branches and sticks that are not in the operator’s line of vision.
  6. Wear the right clothing

One of the most important lines of defence for chainsaw operators is personal protective equipment (PPE). Head to toe protection is critical so head protection, eye protection, hearing protection, gloves, chainsaw chaps or pants and safety shoes are non-negotiable. The right hearing protection is your top priority and while it should be sufficient to reduce the noise of the saw to acceptable levels, make sure you can still hear other people, trees cracking and other warning signals as this could save your life.

“Chainsaws are undeniably one of the best industrial inventions and are indispensable in several businesses and homes. We aim to equip Husqvarna customers with the best tools in terms of both efficiency and safety, so please contact your nearest agent who will happily assist by not only providing you with fit-for-purpose equipment - but training too,” concludes Mark.

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Husqvarna's new battery power tools for arborists

Husqvarna is set to give the forestry, garden and park management industry an exciting new choice in chainsaws with the release of two battery-powered options – the Husqvarna T540i XP® top-handle and Husqvarna 540i XP® rear-handle.

Used with the new Husqvarna BLi200X (T540i XP®) or Husqvarna BLi300 (540i XP®) batteries, the new chainsaws are a match for professional class petrol chainsaws, making them ideal for tree removals and smaller felling tasks.

With a completely redesigned and optimised system, they offer 30% more power compared to previous Husqvarna battery chainsaws, equalling the power of 40cc petrol chainsaws but with reduced emissions and vibrations.

The new top-handle T540i XP® offers superior cutting power for drop cuts of thick trunks and branches while being fast and nimble enough to take on smaller tasks. The 540i XP® rear-handle version has the same power and is a perfect all-round saw for any kind of groundwork.

The T540i XP® weighs 2.5 kg, without battery, chain oil and cutting equipment vs 2.9 kg for the 540i XP®.

Managing director of Husqvarna South Africa, Pieter Smuts, said: "We're confident these two chainsaws will set a new standard in South Africa and give arbour professionals the experience they've been waiting for in battery-powered chainsaws. With more power, greater manoeuvrability, superior ergonomics and a user-friendly interface you can get more done in a day with less effort."

Given that an arborist can work anywhere from ground level to 20 meters up and under all conditions, the saws are designed for versatility and easy handling. A newly-developed intuitive user interface allows for quick control, and balanced saw bodies provide the maneuverability needed for difficult cuts.

Benefits of battery
The T540i XP® and 540i XP® chainsaws start and stop at the press of a button and battery status is easily visible. A battery-powered chainsaw offers several benefits, including the absence of direct emissions, reduced noise and vibrations, reducing strain on the body. Depending on the charger, they can be recharged to 80% in around 30 minutes and to full power in under one hour.

To handle the rigorous demands of arborists, only premium light-weight materials and durable components were used in the manufacture of these saws. For example, the 540i XP features a magnesium crank case, clutch cover and bar mount as well as an aluminum front handle. Both chainsaws are weather resistant (according to IPX4 classification).

Both saws use Husqvarna's new SP21G X-cut chain, a semi-chisel 0.325" mini pixel chain with a 1.1mm gauge and low kick guard. The chain has been tailored specifically for the new battery chainsaws to cut quickly, smoothly and more efficiently. The chain produces less vibrations, has low kickback and is particularly good for a fast and easy bore cut.

"We're very excited to introduce these premium and durable battery-powered chainsaws to our market," said Pieter. “They're so easy to handle, easy to start and offer superior cutting power for even the most demanding tasks. As always our countrywide network of Husqvarna dealers is on hand to provide advice, assistance and spare parts as needed."

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