Chainsaw Bears and other wood carvings are made of natural wood.  Wood, when alive is full of water, but when it is cut, it begins to dry out.  The drying process takes months in most conditions, and as the moisture leaves the wood, it checks.  Checking is the small cracks and splits that occur in wood as it dries out.  If wood is properly dried in its whole state (before it is carved), the checking happens evenly around the outer circumference of the wood.  Carving the wood changes its natural shape, and causes the drying and checking to happen unevenly. Checking is an unavoidable part of all large wood carvings, but I do a few things to help minimize the amount of checking.  

   First, I dry the wood as much as possible before carving.  This can take a year in natural conditions which means I have to store the wood as it dries, or I can  buy wood that is already dry. Also, I use a relief cut in the back of the carving.  This is a deep cut made with the wood grain to help cause any additional checking to happen in that cut and not in a conspicuous place. Additionally, I treat all of my carvings with two coats of boiled linseed oil or Australian Timber Oil. This acts as a protectant and conditions the wood in addition to giving the carving a beautiful honey-colored finish.  Even with these precautions, some checking will undoubtedly occur.  Such is the nature of large wood carvings, and in a way, checking adds to the character of the carving. 

   Some things you can do to help your carving last a long time and to minimize unnecessary checking are as follows.  First of all, avoid putting your chainsaw carving near any heat source, such as a wood stove or a heater.  This will accelerate the wood drying process and increase checking. Chainsaw carvings can be great yard decorations, but they will last longer if kept indoors or under a porch roof. If displayed outside, make sure that the carving does not sit directly on the ground. Soil will cause the base to rot and will also expose the carving to termites.   Next, the linseed oil coating will not last forever.  You will need to reapply a liberal coating of the oil once per year for the life of your carving.   If your bear is exposed to the elements I recommend a coat every 6 months.

    You can find "boiled linseed oil"  and Australian Timber Oil at any major hardware store, usually in the paint/ wood finish department.  Just slop it on with a paint brush and work it into all the nooks and crannys.  Start at the top and keep going until the whole thing is soaking wet with the oil.  You need not treat the bottom of the carving as this is intentionally left bare to allow moisture to escape.  If you can heed these tips, your carving will last through many years. 

   Care of Natural Wood Carvings