A Bear From Log to Finish (Picture Heavy)

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Gone but not forgotten RIP
Original poster
OTBS Member
Group Lead
Sep 12, 2009
Macungie, PA
A Bear From Log to Finish

I have been asked to make a Step by Step of how I Chainsaw Carve Bears.
I am honored that so many of you wanted me to do this, and I will do my best.

First a bit of my History:

I never owned a Chainsaw until I was 56 years old. I figured people wouldn't want to buy kitchens from a guy who had a Chainsaw in his toolbox. At that time Mrs Bear & I went to the Pocono Mts, in PA to check out the place our Son was going to be getting married. While we were already up there, we decided to drive up to my old fishing & hunting area. On the way up, we passed a place where a Professional Carver was making and selling his pieces. We stopped there to see if maybe we could find an unusual Wedding present. After splitting up, and looking at Deer, Bears, a Moose, some Fish, an Indian, Raccoons, etc, etc, Mrs Bear came over to me with here opinion. She said, Wow!!, These are really expensive!!" I replied, "Yup, Too much money for me too, but they don't look that hard to do, to me!" Mrs Bear snickered, and said, "Just because you can make cabinets, trim houses, and build decks, doesn't mean you can do this!!" She must have forgotten who she was talking to, because the next day I got my Son to show me how to use his old chainsaw, and off I went into the woods to play around a bit. Then I got a book about chainsaw carving, and went and bought a smaller chainsaw with a smaller chain & bar, to get into tight places. It took a few weeks, but Mrs Bear eventually ate her words, and told me she should have known better. I told her a chainsaw seems to me to just be a different way of cutting wood & making sawdust than I have been doing for many years.
So my first "Real Bear" carving was not too bad, but it was too stiff, too much like a human, not fat enough, and not pigeon toed like Bears are.
I put pics of it on a Chainsaw Carving forum, and let the Pros tear it apart. Then I carved another one, using the suggestions they gave me, and did the same thing. Then I took what they said again, and did another one. I put that one on the forum, and the Pros were saying things like, "I wouldn't change a thing". I carved Bears for about 3 years, until some health problems (I'd rather not dwell on) cropped up that forced me to stop. My only wish is that I would have started carving at an earlier point in my life.

So what I will show you below is just the way I do them. Most carvers don't take them as far as I do. Some are even Chainsaw Carving purists, and stop when they can't go any farther with a chainsaw. I have a friend who lives about 15 miles from me. He only uses a Chainsaw, and he is so good at it that you would not believe he did it all with a chainsaw, but he has been doing it for about 35 years, and the last 10 years FULL TIME. I know some guys who I can tell one of their carvings just by the style of facial expression on their Bears. Everybody seems to have their own style, I guess because the Bear is made with their hands & adjusted through their eyes, and everybody's eyes see things differently.

Note: I use no paint on Bears. Color is all from torching, brushing, & varnishing. Some logs vary a bit in color too.

So Thank You all for asking to see how I did it, and thanks for looking.

Bearcarver ("Bear" to my friends )

First you have to corral a Mess (Sloth) of Bears, and pick one that fits your carving plan:


A 6' Bear has to be from a log at least 34" in diameter (with his arms close to his fat body).
Note the one in the background---First Bear I ever did---Too much like a human---Too straight & stiff & skinny:

I like to mount my logs on a pallet with 3" drywall screws for easy moving in & out of Pole Barn:
Rough out, starting at the top (Don't cut too much off---Can't put it back on):

Keep roughing all the way to bottom of predicted feet:

Same thing----Other side:

More roughing, and thinning out the bottom leg area, before next move (tricky move):

Tricky Step---Plunge cutting the area between the legs (kick-back threat!!!):

Rough out the neck "V" in the fur below the chin:

More shaping & smoothing out:

Chainsaw kerf (to the heart) from center of head all the way to the ground.
This reduces the chance of cracks & checks throughout the rest of the Bear.
This "Stress Relief" cut will draw the pressure to that spot.
When you cut this, it is about a 3/8" kerf.
I have seen it up to 1 1/2" wide at certain times of the year:

More smoothing, and rough out all 4 paws & claws:

Start applying the hair (thousands of little chainsaw cuts), starting at bottom:

Back hair completed up to base of head:

Front hair completed up to neck:

Dremel shaping the face, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth:

Getting profile of head to my liking:

Blend face hair in with heavier head, neck, & body hair:

Burn the whole thing lightly with a torch, heavier at places that need darker shadowing, like crotch, under arms, under chin, under ridges of chest "V" wrinkles.
Torching & brushing also gets rid of all the little splinters sticking all over the place, from putting the hair on.
Also burn nose and claw areas real hard (Black):

Sand off the black from the claws, leaving dark background between claws:

Trim-sand around nose & mouth, and blend facial colors.
Also drill and insert black marbles for eyes:

Now he moves from the Pole Barn to my garage for finishing, because my Son & his climbers make too much dust:

Close-up after one coat of Marine Varnish:

All Finished----Close-up of claws, after 3 coats of Varnish:


More Finished Shots from all angles:


Angle Back:

Left Side:

Right Side:

Right Front:

Left Front:


Extra Shot:

Close Left:

Close Right:

Some of my Other Bear Carvings:

Two of my best together:

"Swampy" on loan to "Bear Swamp Beverages", in Macungie, PA:


Deck Rail Climbing Cub:

"Lazy Bear":

"Buddha Bear":

My Log House "Lookout Bear":

Lookout Bear has a friend:


Lookout and 3 guards on duty:

Bear Attack

I figured you'd all get a kick out of these pictures.

This is one of my lesser ( one of my first cubs) Black Bear Cubs, mounted in a tree, in Potter County, PA. He has been attacked at least 4 or 5 times by real Black Bears, but usually at night. He has been patched up a number of times, by the Buddy of mine who owns him. He has deep claw marks in both shoulders & back, a 1/2" deep fang mark on his butt, and both heels are chewed up. Good thing I carved him out of Poplar, instead of my usual Pine. Below was a day time attack, while my Buddy was home. He took the pics, and he couldn't wait to show them to me.

200+ pounder going up after him:

Chewing on those heels again!!!

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BEAR!  Those are gorgeous!!!!!  My favs are the one on "her side" on the railing and the cute baby bear crawling up the house!

You have some wonderful talents Dear!


You truly have an amazing talent. I've always wondered how those bears were carved, especially with such intricate detail. Thank you so much for sharing these pictures and your back story with us. Love them ALL. The rail climbing and lookout bears are really cute!! Thank you, again.

WOW WOW WOW! That's so cool that you pretty much taught yourself this skill. I really love how torching the bear plays with the shadows and color. I also loved how the seasons changed in the back ground too; from no leaves on the trees, to spring, to summer! (Kind of symbolic of the bear coming to life!)  Super awesome job. Buddha bear is my favorite!
Back a week and already rockin' the house with a great post!! LOL......super duper carving ability there buddy. I'm lucky IF I can follow a straight line with a saw. I'd have to vote Swampy my fav.....guarding the coolers ain't easy
Great Post John, amazing how you can SEE the bear in a rough log...JJ
Thank You everyone for the nice comments!!

I love to show my Bears off.


That is truly the most amazing thing I have ever seen!  I wish I had that kind of talent...but alas, no talent resides within me for carving or anything else.

Thank you for showing us your amazing talent and sharing your bears with us!

Very happy to see this here again!!

 Thank you very much!!


do/did your do any other types of sculpture?

When I lived in Ocean Shores,Wa., there was a guy in Hoquim that carved old fisherman, mermaids and a plethera of other things.
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Speechless ......... Those are absolutely amazing!

Those are some of the best carvings I have ever seen.

Glad to see your up and moving again.
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