How to Cut Logs into Lumber with a Chainsaw: A Guide

how to cut logs into lumber with chainsaw

For any woodworker, knowing how to cut logs into useable lumber with a chainsaw is an invaluable skill. Milling logs into lumber yourself allows you to acquire quality wood at a fraction of the cost versus buying it. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through the entire process, from choosing the right chainsaw and accessories to safely cutting lumber and troubleshooting common issues. Let’s get started!

How to Cut Logs into Lumber with Chainsaw?

Cutting logs into lumber using a chainsaw requires the right equipment and proper technique. By following key steps, you can mill logs into slabs, beams, boards, and other wood products for all your projects.

Choosing the Right Chainsaw and Accessories

The first step is selecting an appropriate chainsaw for milling. I recommend a powerful chainsaw between 60 to 90 cc for adequate torque. The bar size should be at least 24 inches to cut wide lumber. A ripping chain designed for milling is ideal to prevent overheating and reduce strain. You’ll also need a sturdy chainsaw mill attachment that bolts onto the bar and frame to guide the saw in straight cuts. Granberg and Timber Tuff are reputable chainsaw mill brands to consider.

Preparing the Workspace and Safety Measures

Milling lumber with a chainsaw is inherently dangerous, so safety should be your top concern. Clear a large, flat area to work in and remove any debris. Always wear protective gear like chainsaw chaps, heavy boots, gloves, eye and ear protection. Have a first aid kit nearby in case of accidents. Make sure your chainsaw is well-maintained and sharpened. Also check that the chain brake is functioning properly.

Take your time and don’t rush the milling process. Keep your workshop well lit if working at night. It’s also wise to have someone assist you to monitor safety and help stabilize logs.

See also  Who Made the First Chainsaw and When? - The History of Chainsaw

Setting Up the Chainsaw Mill

Once you have a suitable workspace, you can begin setting up the mill. First, detach the bar and chain from the chainsaw. Slide the mill onto the mounting bolts and reattach the bar and chain. Tighten everything securely, but not too tight. Adjust the mill rails so they align evenly with the chainsaw bar. You want about a 1/16″ gap between the rails and chain for smooth milling. Test that the chain can run freely without binding before you begin cutting.

Cutting the Upper Portion of the Log

With your chainsaw mill properly installed, you’re ready to start slicing. Position your log on sturdy supports like saw horses or blocks. Use slabbing rails if working alone to hold the log steady for the initial cut. Stand to the side and make your first cut across the top of the log using the mill for guidance. Apply steady downward pressure on the chainsaw while pushing forward. Let the saw do the work.

Go slowly and adjust your depth of cut based on the chainsaw’s capabilities. Taking off 2 to 3 inches per pass is generally ideal. Continue working your way down the log until you’ve removed any uneven or warped top portion. The flat surface will serve as a table for the rest of your milling.

Cutting the Remaining Sides

After removing the top section, you can begin slicing the log into boards or timbers. There are a few different techniques depending on your desired lumber. For wider boards, use a flat cut method by holding the mill rail base flush with the flat top of the log. Carefully cut down one side, regularly checking that your cut stays square and even.

You can also use a quarter cut method by tipping the mill on an angle for a diagonal slice across the log. This exposes interesting grain patterns. For logs with large knots, you may need to rotate or roll the log when cutting to avoid them. Take your time and don’t over-exert yourself during the process. Remember to regularly oil and sharpen the chain as needed.

Finishing and Measuring the Lumber

Once the log has been sliced on all sides, you’ll have rough-cut lumber. Use a measuring tape to check thickness and width of boards. Mark pieces that need additional passes with the chainsaw to reach desired dimensions. You can also use a handheld power planer and router for added smoothing.

Finally, seal any fresh cut ends with anchorseal or paint to prevent cracking and splitting as the wood dries. Stack and sticker the milled lumber, allowing for adequate air flow. After drying for several months, your lumber will be ready for all sorts of woodworking projects. Enjoy the satisfaction of milling your own wood!

See also  What Chainsaw Do Wildland Firefighters Use? A Guide

  How To Cut Logs Into Lumber With Chainsaw in 2024?Additional Tips for Cutting Logs into Lumber

Milling logs into lumber with a chainsaw requires diligence and care for best results. Here are some additional pointers to make the process easier and maximize your yield.

Selecting the Right Logs

Choosing suitable logs is the first step in getting quality lumber. Look for logs with minimal taper, a straight form, and uniform diameter over the length. Try to avoid logs with excessive knots or major defects unless you intend to work around them. Hardwood species usually make the best lumber though softwoods like pine can also be milled.

Let logs dry for 6-12 months after harvesting to reduce sap and moisture. Debark logs before milling if possible. Starting with quality timber ensures usable boards and reduces waste.

Chainsaw Maintenance

It’s paramount to keep your chainsaw well-tuned when milling lumber. Sharpen the chain regularly with a file and gauge for optimal cutting. Maintain proper chain tension but don’t overtighten it. Check the chain brake and oil delivery system before each use.

Clean the guide bar periodically with a wire brush to remove built-up sawdust. Inspect the sprocket for wear and replace if needed. With frequent maintenance, your chainsaw will perform reliably during milling and last for years.

Can the Techniques for Cutting Logs into Lumber with a Chainsaw be Applied to Cutting Trees on the Ground as Well?

Can the techniques for cutting logs into lumber with a chainsaw be applied to cutting trees on the ground as well? Cutting trees with chainsaw on ground requires similar skills and equipment as cutting logs into lumber. However, there are additional factors to consider, such as the tree’s position, size, and surrounding obstacles. Adapting chainsaw techniques for ground-level tree cutting can ensure efficient and safe operations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best chainsaw for milling lumber?

For milling lumber, a chainsaw in the 60 to 90 cc range with at least 24″ bar length works well. Many experienced sawyers recommend Husqvarna, Stihl, and Makita. Look for a model with high torque and low-end power designed for sustained cuts. A chainsaw tailored specifically for milling is ideal.

How do I know if my chainsaw is suitable for milling?

Check that your chainsaw has sufficient power by verifying it’s within the optimal 60 to 90 cc engine range. The bar length should be a minimum of 24 inches for wider cuts. See that the chain is a ripping-style made for milling. Test that the saw can run for long periods without overheating during use. If your chainsaw meets these criteria, it should be capable of milling lumber.

See also  How to Put Chain Back on Worx Chainsaw?

Can I mill logs without a chainsaw mill?

While a chainsaw lumber mill is highly recommended for guidance, it is possible to freehand mill without one. This requires skilled precision and carries additional risks. Remove the chainsaw’s protective tip and carefully plunge directly into the log using rails to steady it. Go slowly and use extreme caution, using the chainsaw’s body as an improvised rail. This method is only advisable for experienced sawyers. Using a mill attachment is safer and easier for most woodworkers.

How long does it take to mill a log with a chainsaw?

The milling duration depends on the log size, your saw’s capabilities, desired thickness, and your experience. As an estimate, it takes about 1 hour to mill a moderate 12-18 inch diameter, 6 foot long log into 2-3 inch live edge boards. Larger logs and thicker cuts will require more time. Expect the process to be slower when first learning. With practice, you’ll increase the speed and efficiency of your milling. Allow yourself plenty of time for saw maintenance and breaks.

What safety precautions should I take when milling logs with a chainsaw?

Milling with chainsaws poses significant risks if safety isn’t practiced. Always wear leather chainsaw chaps, steel-toe boots, heavy gloves, and head/face/ear protection. Have a spotter or helper when working alone. Check the chainsaw’s safety features and keep the chain sharp. Support logs securely and clear the area of debris. Make slow, steady cuts without forcing the saw. Stay focused and take frequent breaks. Keeping safety the top priority minimizes the considerable hazards.

How do I maintain my chainsaw mill?

It’s important to keep your mill attachment well-maintained along with your chainsaw. Regularly inspect the rails for burrs and gouges which could affect guidance. Lightly sand any imperfections. Check that the mounting bolts are tight before each use. Clean the rails and chainsaw thoroughly after milling. Periodically lubricate the adjustment rods. Store the mill attachment safely when not being used. With proper care, your chainsaw mill will provide years of reliable service.

Can I use a chainsaw to mill large logs?

While limits depend on the individual saw, most chainsaws can effectively mill logs up to 36 inches diameter or more. Large logs require an adequately powered saw, long bar/chain, and ripping chain to handle the increased demands and friction. A hydraulic chainsaw attachment can further boost capability for big logs. Go slowly on large logs to prevent overtaxing the saw. Letting the mill do the hard work with gradual passes yields the best results. With patience and the right equipment, even substantial logs can be milled into lumber.


Cutting your own lumber using a chainsaw mill is deeply satisfying and economical. By choosing the right chainsaw and accessories, implementing critical safety measures, properly setting up and operating your mill, and performing routine maintenance, you can transform logs into usable boards. While physically demanding, milling lumber yourself gives you quality wood at a fraction of the cost to purchase – a skill well worth the effort for any woodworker.

Similar Posts