How To Cut Logs Into Lumber With Chainsaw

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Do you own a chainsaw, but you’re unsure if you could cut logs into lumber using it or how to do it? If yes, then you are certainly in the right place.

Cutting logs into lumber with chainsaw is one of the most common uses of this power tool. Turning wooden logs into rectangular thick lumber can be done in multiple ways. The first way to do that would be by using a chainsaw mill, while the other way to do that is freehand. Once you’re finished cutting logs into lumber, you will need to cut thick lumber to the desired thickness. For that, you will need to use a marker and a scale. Further, you should mark on vertical sides depending on your desired thickness and then start piecing thick lumber.

In this article, you will get to know all about cutting logs into lumber, how to cut logs into lumber with chainsaw, how to achieve the preferred thickness, and more. Stick around to get all the answers that you’re looking for.

Cut wooden log into lumber

Wooden logs are usually round, and they come with an uneven surface. However, most furniture-making companies actually opt for lumber with a rectangular, flat surface. This will allow for more accurate cuts and quite appealing furniture designs, which makes them more accurate for furniture and other wooden boards. 

There are multiple ways that you can make lumber from wooden logs. One of the ways is by using a chainsaw mill, while the other method is by free-hand.  To learn how to cut logs into lumber, you will require a separate tool for chainsaw, a chainsaw mill. This attachment will turn your chainsaw into a milling machine for cutting logs into lumber. This will require no large space; hence it is portable and cheap.

Tools and safety considerations for cutting trees

The most important thing to remember is that when you operate your chainsaw, you need to take necessary safety measures. There is a lot of dust and debris including rocks and pieces of wood that flies around rapidly in different directions. Make sure that you are wearing all the necessary safety gear and have the proper equipment to help prevent injury while complying with OSHA standards. Protective boots, hearing protection, chainsaw chaps, eye protection, and more are important items to wear when working with a chainsaw. Chainsaw chaps are important as approximately 35% of chainsaw injuries take place to the knees and lower legs.

Taking precautions and wearing safety gear apparel will be necessary for proper safety. Once you have ensured your safety, you need to make sure that you’re keeping these points in mind for removing the tree stump – 

  • Logger helmet – Also known as a chainsaw helmet, it will protect you from sudden branches or twigs falling or any other injuries during tree felling 
  • Gloves – Gloves are solely meant for protecting your hands from getting hurt by wood tips or chainsaw 
  • Earmuffs – Earmuffs are essential for protecting your hearing abilities while also keeping you safe from losing your hearing 
  • Chaps – Protect your legs from being injured by the chainsaw chain or while you’re sitting on the ground to cut logs
  • Sunscreen – You wouldn’t want to burn yourself in the sunlight, would you? This is why you should apply sunscreen on your face before you cut the tree.

After wearing the necessary safety gear, you should carry out the necessary steps like picking up the chainsaw, the felling wedge, and more.

How to cut logs into lumber with chainsaw

Step 1: Set up the chainsaw mill

Before you make the first cut, you will need to set up a chainsaw mill. Before making the first cut on the logs, you need to set the chainsaw rail. Slabbing rail will help you with the round and uneven surface of the wooden logs. Ensure that the rail is longer than the log. If this isn’t the case, then you should cut the log vertically and make it shorter.

Start off by setting the log onto the stand horizontally, and then start making a flat surface on the upper side of the wooden log. You will have to select the thickness of the cutting, depending on the uneven surface of the log.

Step 2: Cut the lower portion

You will need to start making the cut at the bottom to get the second flat surface of the log. The thickness needs to be the same as for the first cut.

person cutting large logs into lumber

Essentially, this will be the repetition of the first stop, but you will have to start from the bottom. Once you’re done making the second cut, you will have partially thick lumber.

Step 3: Repeat your previous cuts

You will have to progress with the repetition of your previous cuts. This time, you must turn the wooden log at an angle of 90°. Now, repeat the first and second cuts so that you will have four flat surfaces that look like a rectangular box. Congrats, you have turned a wooden log into lumber.

Get the desired thickness in your lumber

Once you are finished cutting wooden logs into lumber, you can adjust the thickness. To achieve that, you need to cut the thick lumber to your desired thickness. For that, you will need to have a marker and a scale. Mark on the vertical sides according to the desired thickness and then start to piece the thick lumber.

How to cut logs into lumber by free hand

Making lumber with a free hand will only require a long and powerful chainsaw. That’s it, you won’t require any other tools. Here are the steps that you need to follow – 

  • Raise the wooden log from the ground by placing a small piece of wood under the log for support 
  • Measure the depth of cutting depending on the uneven surface and start the cutting 
  • Make use of the front part of the chainsaw for cutting 
  • When you’ve got one flat surface, you should rotate the wooden log by placing the flat surface on the ground 
  • Take off the left and right sides of the log 
  • Rotate once more and take off the last side of the log

After you’ve followed all these steps, you will get the desired lumber. It is used for a small amount of lumber, and otherwise, you should use a milling machine or a chainsaw mill.

How to Cut Lumber with a Chainsaw - Freehand (Without a Mill)

How to cut large wooden logs using a log splitter

  1. Ensure that your log splitter is in a stable position.
  2. Remove any jewelry or loose clothing that could potentially get caught in the machine. Remember, as with any other machine, your safety will be most important with this one too.
  3. Only one person must be operating the log splitter at a time. You may feel that it’s faster to have one user loading the logs and the other one operating the log splitter. However, any slip-up in timing could result in an injury.
  4. Load the large logs one at a time. Then, start the splitting from a safe operating position. Once you have done so, stop the log splitter or allow it to stop by itself.
  5. Remove any wood that is still on the splitter before you split the next log.

How to cut large wooden logs using an axe

1. Take a proper stance

You’ll need to stand with your feet placed evenly and shoulder-width apart. In case you find it more comfortable, you could stand with one foot in front of the other. However, remember not to exaggerate it. This might prevent you from properly using your hips and adding more power to the swing, which is actually the secret to effective, low-effort wood splitting.

2. Raise your axe above the head and swing

Now, you should split the axe or maul above your head before letting. You won’t need to use much strength to properly execute the massive swing.

3. As your axe drops, your dominant hand will meet the other hand

As the axe drops, your dominant hand, which will start with gripping the handle beneath the axehead will slide down and meet your other hand at the base of your axe’s handle.

4. Bend your knees and pull back your hips

As the axe drops, you should bend your knees and then pull back your hips so that your butt sticks out. This will add a fair bit of extra kinetic energy to the swing. You will be using your legs and hips in this, and this technique will be the secret to making log splitting easy, even for long sessions.

5. Aim for the midway point

When splitting large logs, you should aim for a point midway between the center and the edge of the round. Trying to split it in the center would be more difficult due to the way wood fibers hold the entire thing together. The edges will be weaker and comparatively easier to cut. Once you have split a round once, it’ll be easier to split it into further pieces.

6. Work your way from one end to the other

If you’re splitting large logs, the same principle will apply. Start at one end of the log near where you’ve already cut it. If you try to split it in the center, it’ll mean extra struggle and time spent. Then, you should work your way from one end of the log to the other.

How to cut large wooden logs using a wedge

1. Position the first wedge

You should position the first wedge such that it’ll go into or follow an existing split in the wood fiber. You can start off on the face of the log cut as well.

2. Use a hammer for driving the wedge in

You’ll be using a hammer or maul for driving the wedge in. If you’re splitting a tough or green, you may have to make a couple of cuts with an axe or saw for creating the first split. Depending on the type of wood you’re using, you might have to sharpen the wedge to get the best results.

3. Once the wood is driven into the wedge, leave it there

Once you have driven the wedge into the wood, you should leave it there. Then, continue to split with an axe/maul or more wedges. You can leave the butt of the wedge sticking out a bit so that you can pull or tap it out of need. Otherwise, it might be stuck, and you won’t be able to split the rest of the log. It can be quite cumbersome to pull it out. This is especially true if you’ve only got one wedge.


How long should a log be dried before cutting it into lumber?

The rule of thumb that should be applied for air-drying lumber is one year of drying per each inch of board thickness. Purchase a moisture meter such that you can check your lumber’s moisture content. Kiln-dried lumber gets dried to around 7% moisture content. For air-dried lumber, you should look to go down to 12% or less.

How to cut a log straight with a chainsaw?

First of all, you will need to score the line. You must take a knife and then trace it over the line that you have drawn. Stand on one side of the log and then cut all the way through in one pass. You need to do the same on the other side of the log.

How to mill wooden logs with a chainsaw?

The first cut needs to ride across the guide rails. You must set your mill in a way that cuts the under bolts. In the next step, you should remove the rails and top slabs such that you can start slabbing up your log. Lastly, you should set the mill to your desired thickness.

What are the common methods of cutting wooden logs into lumber?

The most common methods to cut logs into lumber are plain sawing, quarter sawing, and rift sawing. Remember, none of these sawing methods will guarantee the same result for everyone. So, you should see for yourself how each method works for you, so you can have a striking impact on the overall look of the hardwood floor.

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Hi, I'm Mike - but my friends call me Backyard Mike. I'm the founder of this website, and I'm addicted to outdoor power tools. I love to work with wood and share my knowledge here on this website with you. You can find more about me here.