Nigel Sardeson first realised how useful chainsaws were when he helped to clear fallen trees after the 1987 storm, but he developed an interest in carving with a chainsaw while working for the National Trust at Cliveden - there he decided to carve a few animals around the woods to surprise visitors. He now works as a forester for Lincolnshire County Council but part of his time is devoted to professional chainsaw carving.
If people want to try some chainsaw carving for themselves, Nigel emphasises that it is essential to be competent with using a chainsaw. There are some good courses on learning how to carve, such as the ones run by Mick Burns in Lincolnshire. Apart from noise and dust the big danger is the risk of the chainsaw kicking back. You will need a carving bar and a small chainsaw. Nigel's guiding principle when carving is to use as small a saw as he can for the job. His favourite is an MS200 which is a small, light climbing saw and isn't too powerful. "With a carving bar on this chainsaw you can cut curves and it doesn't kick back," advises Nigel.
Most of Sardeson's work is done on a commission basis and he has completed work for schools and for Sustrans cycle paths. He has carved humans, abstracts, sea lock gates and various animals. For the gorilla, pictured here, Nigel had to submit a design in advance and, having been selected, he spent a week carving it at the Westonbirt "Festival of the Tree 2010". It was then auctioned with much of the proceeds going to TreeAid, a charity promoting tree planting in Africa. Says Nigel of his two-tonne gorilla, "starting with a tree trunk I have tried to give the impression of the bulk of the creature. It will be ideal for a foyer or a zoo." This sculpture was carved from Norway Maple and eventually sold for £1,500. "Norway Maple is slow to cut and that stops you making too many mistakes. The best approach" says Nigel, with tongue in cheek, "is not to make mistakes".
The Westonbirt Arboretum's Sculptree Wood Carving and charity auction is an annual event and attracts many talented chainsaw carvers from around the UK including John Wingfield, Simon Hedger (from Wales), Daniel Cordell and Tom Harvey.