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Howard Werner wouldn’t advise moving directly from cutting firewood to creating furniture with a chainsaw. He says it’s his decades of experience working with the tool that allow him to safely create fluid, refined chairs, tables, and sculpture. Working with different chainsaw bodies and the sharpest blades, Werner moves deftly through a log, discovering the full design of each piece as it emerges. Once the initial carving is complete, Werner lets the piece dry for up to two years, and then refines it with more chainsaw work or, depending on the piece, a power plane, grinders, handplanes, and sandpaper.
The Design Stage
click to enlarge
A level base. Werner spends a lot of time examining the log, envisioning the final piece before he decides where to make his cuts. After leveling the log, he can place a level against the side to mark a plumb line, ensuring that the first cut leaves the stump sitting squarely on the ground.
Marking out the seat. Chalk is easy to see and makes it easy to erase and start again. Werner uses his own body and a ruler to determine seat placement and symmetry, and lays out the outline of the seat on the stump.
Shaping the Seat
Cut from each side. With the tip of the blade, Werner draws the outline of the seat, following the chalk line. His experience allows him to use just the tip of the saw without it kicking back at him. Once the outline is cut, Werner cuts in deeper. He alternates from one side of the log to the other, plunging deeper each time until the cuts meet in the center. Working from both sides also helps keep things square and straight.
Level. Once the large chunk of waste is removed from the seat, Werner uses a level and chalk to mark the high spots.
Refine. He then goes back with the chainsaw to even out the surface.
Cutting the Base
Back to chalk lines. Almost as if it were a separate component, Werner starts the base only after he’s finished forming the top of the seat. He again uses a ruler, level, and chalk to mark the layout.
Straight cuts define the legs. Flipping the piece over, Werner cradles it on the seat cutoff for stability, and makes straight cuts halfway through on each side to create the legs. To waste away material quickly in a place where two intersecting cuts won’t take away a chunk, he makes multiple straight cuts, breaking off the thin sheets that are left and scraping the bottom clean with the chainsaw.
Then, right side up, he cuts the final shape on the outside of the seat.
Pierced Detail is Last
Mark the square and cut straight through. With a firm grip, and engaging the bottom of the tip first, Werner pivots the saw into the cut and plunges straight through, repeating on all four sides until he can pull out the loose waste block.
Photos: Anissa Kapsales
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