The Art Of Chainsaw Carving

The Art of Chainsaw Carving: Inspiration and Insights

The Art Of Chainsaw Carving

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Chainsaw carving is composed of character, skills, talent, mind, soul, vision, and nonetheless – strength that is both physical and mental. The art of chainsaw carving is a beautiful example of acknowledging the crafts of our ancestors and merging their legacy with modern-day technology.

Thus, it is only fair to call woodcarving the very foundation of the art of chainsaw carving.

Most noteworthy, this magnificent art form keeps growing in popularity up-to-date.

Various events and festivals celebrating the art of chainsaw carving are not the only way the connoisseurs can feast their senses with masterpieces from around the world. The boom of social media has also played a key role in the popularization of chainsaw carving.

Below, we are heading on a journey full of insights and inspiration tracing the very beginning of the art of chainsaw carving all the way to present-day.

Brief Introduction to Chainsaw Carving: Tracing the Development of the Art of Chainsaw Carving

Brief Introduction To Chainsaw Carving

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Even though chainsaw carving has been around for a relatively short period (especially when compared to wood carving employed by the ancient civilizations for the creation of tools, weapons, houses, and utensils, to name a few), experts still find it hard to trace back the exact starting point of the art of chainsaw carving.

However, there are several chainsaw carving enthusiasts that we can certainly call the pioneers of the craft.

The Trailblazers of Chainsaw Carving (the 1950s – 1960s)

The Trailblazers Of Chainsaw Carving

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Ray Murphy

Ray Murphy

Ray MurphyImage Source

Early Life of the Father of Chainsaw Carving

The first notorious name in the history of chainsaw carving is that of Ray Murphy – the Wild Mountain Man.

It was in 1953 when Ray Murphy used a chainsaw to carve the name of his own brother into a piece of wood. Interestingly, Ray Murphy used his father’s chainsaw.

But most importantly, his journey into exploring the art of chainsaw carving didn’t end as a family story. Instead, Ray Murphy would travel and promote the little-known craft. He would still carve names but in this case, he did so on wooden belt buckles.

Subsequently, his customers would wear the finely carved wooden belts and spread the word of the intriguing craft.

Amazingly, Ray Murphy’s approach to promoting chainsaw carving is quite spectacular, keeping in mind that social media didn’t exist back in the 1950s. Hence, we can confidently state that the Wild Mountain Man had an excellent sense of marketing!

Video by CBS News – Chainsaw artist molds marvels out of wood


Contemporary Insights and Inspiration from the Father of Chainsaw Carving

Ray Murphy In The Process Of Chainsaw Carving

Ray Murphy in the process of chainsaw carving – Image Source

Up-to-date, Ray Murphy’s chainsaw carved masterpieces have outreached the mind-blowing 60 000 pieces. Proud to call himself the father of chainsaw carving, Murphy’s workshop is full of hidden treasures, skillfully born by his talent and hard work.

Amazingly, Ray Murphy has worked on 7 continents. Antarctica is also on the list, with a statue of a carved penguin, as well as a polar bear on the North Pole.

But promoting the art of chainsaw carving back in the days when it was still not popular required a lot of dedication, passion, and wits.

Thus, for 25 years Ray Murphy actually brought his art to the people instead of waiting for them to find it.

He was driving a big bus where his chainsaw carved pieces were carefully placed, awaiting to be discovered by their new owners. What’s more, he traveled all around America but also reached the Canadian and the Mexican market, as well.

It wasn’t before the 90s that Ray Murphy finally settled in Maine and opened a gallery and studio. Initially, he started live show events where people from all ages can delve into exploring the secrets of the art of chainsaw carving.

Looking back to the days when he was at the very beginning of his chainsaw carving journey, Ray Murphy believes that he put himself to “doing the near impossible.

Video by WoosterHistory – Chainsaw Michelangelo – The Life and Art of Ray Murphy


Ken Kaiser

Ken Kaiser Carving The Portrait Of Mrs. John Kennedy

Ken Kaiser carving the portrait of Mrs. John KennedyImage Source

Just several years after Ray Murphy’s first attempts in chainsaw carving, Ken Kaiser created the notorious Trail of Tall Trees.  

The year was 1961, and the Trail of Tall Trees chainsaw carving project was commissioned by the Trees of Mystery. Almost 60 years after the Trail of Tall Trees project was completed, it is still well-preserved so that tourists can marvel at the talent of Ken Kaiser.

It is important to mention that chainsaws back in the 1960s were much heavier than the modern-day versions we have available. Thus, Kaiser’s work was sculpted with a lot of efforts and love for the art of chainsaw carving.

In order to introduce the intriguing stories of Ray Murphy and Ken Kaiser, as well as in-depth highlights from the world of chainsaw carving we have looked up at Jessie Groeschen’s book Art of Chain Saw Carving: Insights and Inspiration from Top Carvers Around the World.  

Joseph Buford Cox – from Logger to Inventor

Joseph Buford Cox – From Logger To Inventor

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Did you know that it was in 1946 when logger Joseph Buford Cox invented a revolutionary new chain that marked the new history of chainsaw carving?

Cox was experienced in working with the gas-powered saws long before the advanced chainsaws we know today existed.

Amazingly, the idea to come up with a better chain illuminated Cox after he saw a timber beetle larva. The timber beetle larva was effortlessly making its way through the wood. But what’s more, Cox noticed that the larva could chomp its way with the grain of the wood as well as across the grain.

Thus, Joseph Buford Cox came up with the idea to try to mimic the larva’s jaws. He was determined to design a chain from steel that would duplicate the grip of the larva’s C-shaped jaws.

Larva’s C Shaped Jaws

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The Cox Chipper Chain was introduced to the public in 1947, and that’s how the former logger turned into an inventor. What’s more, many chainsaw manufacturers are still using Joseph Buford Cox’ original chain in their models up-to-date.

The Flourishing Art of Chainsaw Carving: 1960s – 1990s

The Flourishing Art Of Chainsaw Carving

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Within a period of 10 years (the 1960s – 1970s), the love for the art of chainsaw carving slowly but surely started spreading its wings and getting ready to fly high.

Some of the gifted chainsaw carvers were already well-established artists. However, some of them started from scratch, and it was solely the passion for the unusual art form that brought them to succeed in the craft. Ultimately, we must not underestimate the fact that a chainsaw requires to be mastered, or in other words – tamed, which is an incredible skill all by itself.

Then in the 1980s, chainsaw carving underwent another massive boost after William Westenhaver and Ronald Hovde published their book named Fun and Profitable Chainsaw Carving.

Little by little, from 1980 to 1990 chainsaw carving was attracting more and more public attention.

Many of the talented chainsaw carving artists followed the example of Ray Murphy and loaded trucks and buses in order to travel and sell their art across America.

Nevertheless, roadside chainsaw carved masterpieces and small workshops started popping up, as well. Fairs were also an excellent place where connoisseurs and artists of the art of chainsaw carving gathered to exchange experience, ideas, and, of course – stunning wood sculptures.

Finally, it was in the 1990s when chainsaw carving was officially introduced and further promoted as an art form in the United States of America.

Promoted As An Art Form In The United States Of America

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Thus, great efforts put together by the US government, the society, as well as the media, and nonetheless – the chainsaw manufacturers lead to the flourishing of the art as we know it today.

Surely, the 21st century has marked a new era in the development and popularization of chainsaw carving world-wide.

Without any doubt, America is the leading country of the art of chainsaw carving globally. However, the massive boom of the social media and accessible Internet communication has put chainsaw carving in the spotlights all around the world.

Beautifully, we are witnessing the very writing of the new history of chainsaw carving, and it is in the very heart of this history where the USA has left a unique, sparkling trace.

Chainsaw Carving Events: What Does it Take to Become a Chainsaw Carving Artist?

What Does It Take To Become A Chainsaw Carving Artist

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Did you know that there are approximately 65-70 chainsaw wood carving events that took place around the globe (or at least that’s what GoogleMaps has detected and included in its public archive)?

Actually, to be more specific, chainsaw carving events are most popular in the United States where this art form has developed truly robustly.

Australian chainsaw carving events, as well as events held in Japan, are also driving the attention of the global audiences, driving more fans and participants as each year passes.

Canada is not lacking behind either, featuring amazing chainsaw carved sculptures through multiple competitions and other events.

Video by Linda Brown – Chainsaw Competition in Hope, BC, 2017


When it comes to the popularity of chainsaw carving shows in Europe, the United Kingdom is the absolute champion.

Beautifully, the art of chainsaw carving is also making its way into the society of modern-day environmentally-conscious living enthusiasts like Spencer, a UK-based chainsaw carving artist. Spencer manages to make a living through selling his chainsaw carved sculptures roadside while enjoying an off-the-grid life with deep respect to the surrounding environment.

Video by Life Swap – Off Grid UK – Making a living, Community & Family


From shows, fairs, demonstrations, and competitions to festivals – the art of chainsaw carving is alluring the imagination and challenging the skills of gifted masters from all ages and nations.

But what does it take to become a chainsaw carving artist? The magic ingredient is actually a single word: Imagination. There are no strict frames to limit the skills and talent of chainsaw carvers. Instead, anyone is free to discover the type of chainsaw carving that corresponds best with his/her personality.

Thus, some artists can spend months to perfect a particular sculpture. On the contrary, other chainsaw carving masters can prefer to compete in front of a large audience while being restricted by the time needed to finish their masterpieces.

Video by TAT Woodworking – Amazing Fastest Skill Wood Carving With Chainsaw – Extreme Woodworking Skills


Various classes are also teaching chainsaw carving enthusiasts the ancient wood carving techniques. Video tutorials are also popping out, spreading the beauty of the incredible art of chainsaw carving across the globe.

Video by Eric Caron – How to chainsaw carve a basic eagle


The Bottom Line

Contemporary Chainsaw Carving Artwork By Jeffrey Michael Samudosky

Contemporary chainsaw carving artwork by Jeffrey Michael Samudosky – Image Source

“To be an artist is to believe in life”

Henry Moore

Living in the 21st century gives us the one-of-a-kind opportunity to participate in the writing of the new history of the art of chainsaw carving. And if there is anything that can bring us closer together no matter where we happen to live on this big, wide planet we call home – that’s art. If we managed to inspire you with the insights we compiled from the very heart of the art of chainsaw carving, then share this article with friends and family and help us spread the positive vibes!