Chainsaw Bears and other wood carvings are made of natural wood, which when alive, is full of water, but dries out after being cut.  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 there are ways to minimize the amount of checking.  

   First, I dry the wood as much as possible before carving; this process can take up to a year in natural elements. 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 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. 

   How can you help your carving last a long time and minimize unnecessary checking?  First, avoid putting your 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, and will need to be reapplied once per year for the life of the 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 apply liberally with a paint brush and work it into all the nooks and crevices.  Start at the top and keep going until the whole thing is covered with the oil.  You do not need to 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