What Size Chainsaw For Milling Is The Best

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Are you a chainsaw user looking to find out which chainsaw size is best for milling? If yes, then this is definitely the right place for you to be.

What size chainsaw for milling is a common question that chainsaw users have when they’re milling wood. The minimum-sized chainsaw that you should use with a chainsaw mill for processing softwoods with small to medium diameter will be a 60cc or 4HP chainsaw. As for processing hardwood logs or medium to large-diameter logs, it is recommended that you should use a minimum 90cc or 6HP chainsaw. Having powerful chainsaws will cut easier and last longer for milling. The advantage of having a larger, more powerful chainsaw is that they’ll be able to accommodate larger bar sizes, and they’ll last longer when used for frequent milling operations.

In this article, you will get to learn all about chainsaws for milling, what size chainsaw for milling, how to size a chainsaw for use in a mill, factors that will define what type of chainsaws you will need for a chainsaw mill, and more. Stick around to get all the answers that you are looking for.

Why should you use a chainsaw for milling lumber

You may be wondering why you’d want to use a chainsaw to mill your own lumber. For starters, chances are that you do not have a lumber mill in your backyard. This will mean that after you have cut the trees down, you’d need to transport them to a lumber mill, which you could either do on your own or hire a lumber truck for the job.

Either way, you will be looking at paying someone to transport the lumber to the mill to get it cut for you. Then, you will need to transport it back home. In essence, the reason you would want to mill your own lumber has more to do with cost-effectiveness.

Transporting heavy lumber will cost a lot of money and the same will go for hiring a lumber mill to cut it down to size. However, with a great chainsaw of the right power and length as well as the right milling attachment, you will be able to do all this in your backyard… free of cost. Well, of course, you will have to consider the initial purchase of the equipment, but still, you won’t need to hire someone to transport and cut the lumber for you. It will definitely go a long way in saving a ton of money.

What size chainsaw for milling will be the best

When choosing a chainsaw for milling with a chainsaw mill, it’ll be best to go for a more powerful chainsaw than you think you might need. Choosing a more powerful chainsaw will give you more options, especially when you are faced with a log out of the ordinary to what you’d typically mill. A more powerful saw will also last longer for milling operations than lower-powered chainsaws.

If you’re only milling softwood types, using a minimum of a 60cc or 4HP chainsaw will be recommended. However, it is still considered to be entry-level. If you’re milling large-diameter logs, you should go for a chainsaw with higher engine displacement.

When you’re milling hardwood logs and large-diameter timber, it is recommended that you should use a chainsaw of at least 90cc or 6HP. The power of this size chainsaw will be appropriate for the heavy-duty cutting needed for these demanding logs. The advantage of using a larger, more powerful chainsaw is that they can easily accommodate larger bar sizes, while they’ll also last longer when used for frequent milling operations.

Factors that affect your choice of chainsaw for milling

Power and size

The first thing that you will need to look for will be the chainsaw itself. You will want to invest in a high-quality chainsaw, one that can last for quite a long time.  It will always be a great idea to get a chainsaw that you are comfortable using. Something that you should keep in mind is that you don’t automatically need to go for the largest chainsaw available. You should go for one that is good enough to deal with the size of logs that you plan on milling.

When it comes to the size of the chainsaw that you need, a lot will depend on the size of the logs that are being milled. If you’ll be sawing down whole trees, it will be fine to just go with a smaller chainsaw. If you’ve got a small chainsaw, it may take some more time and effort to cut down a tree than when using a larger chainsaw. But generally, you will still be able to get the job done. In terms of milling the log into boards once the trees have been cut down, you’ll require something large and powerful enough to mill the lumber efficiently.

chainsaw mill cutting lumbers

Engine power (in CCs)

Another important factor to consider is engine power. When you’re milling lumber, the engine power of the chainsaw determines how much effort you’ll have to put into milling, how smooth the job will be, and how long will it take to complete the job. For most milling purposes, a 50cc chainsaw will do just fine, at least for most types of jobs.

With that said, the heavier and more powerful your chainsaw is, the faster you will be able to get the job done, the easier the chainsaw will be to control, the smoother the cuts will be, and more. For the best results, you will require a chainsaw that has a lot of engine power. If you are serious about milling your lumber, and you’ve got large and knotted logs that you have to deal with, you may want to invest in a 100cc chainsaw.

Bar size

The bar size that you require for milling with the chainsaw is dictated by the size of the wooden logs that you need for processing an adjustable range of the chainsaw mill.

The diameter of the wooden log will require a certain size bar on the chainsaw for cutting the full diameter of the log. Chainsaw mills come rated for a minimum or maximum size bar, which will fit within the two clamps correctly and safely.

In some chainsaw mills, you could lose up to 4 inches of length on the chainsaw bar because of the bumper spikes and the curvature of the bar’s nose. This can reduce the diameter of logs that you can process by the same amount.

Such factors make a longer bar the recommended choice for milling logs with a chainsaw mill. Generally, most chainsaws come with a limit recommended by the manufacturer of the machine for the size of the bar that can be fitted. Such limitations need you to choose a chainsaw that can accommodate the right bar size for milling purposes.

Chain length

Another important factor that you need to consider is how long the chainsaw chain is, specifically the arm and the chain. For most purposes, going for an average 20-inches chain will do just fine. 

With that said, you must keep in mind that 20 inches aren’t all that long and if you’re dealing with extremely large logs, you’ll want to go for something much larger than that. You might require a chainsaw with a chain length of up to 30 inches or more. You should remember that how long the chainsaw chain needs to be will depend on the diameter of the longs that are being milled. 

What’s the best chain to use for milling?

Essentially, as long as the chainsaw is long enough to make its way through the diameter of the log, you will be good to go. You must keep in mind that there is no rule of thumb here. The size of the chain you require, in terms of chain length, will depend on the size of the wood that is being milled.

Wood size

Wood size is also a factor that affects the chainsaw size for milling. The larger the diameter of the wooden logs, the more powerful the saw you will need for effectively milling the log. If you typically mill small to medium-sized logs, you can make use of a smaller, lower-powered chainsaw. However, when you come across a larger log, your chainsaw will struggle.

Using an under-powered chainsaw will take much longer to cut, require more energy, and will not offer a nice and clean finish to the board surface. The size of the chainsaw logs you will process with your chainsaw mill will be the main factors in deciding the chainsaw power rating and the size of the chainsaw mill.

The maximum diameter of the wooden logs will determine the size of the chainsaw mill for the operation. Further, it will also be a factor in choosing the length of your chainsaw bar.

Larger diameter logs will mean that the chainsaw can easily cut through thicker pieces of wood, with more of the wood coming in contact with the teeth of the chain and creating a lot more resistance in the cut. This will require a chainsaw with extra power for coping with larger-diameter logs.

Type of wood

The type of wood that you’ll be milling with your saw is important, as the power requirements for the chainsaw to cut through wood of different densities will be different.

Pine, cedar, and spruce logs are examples of softer wood logs as they can be easily cut with a chainsaw, even the lower-powered ones. However, if you’re milling walnut, oak, or other hardwood logs, you will need a more powerful chainsaw to cope with the toughness of these types of wood.

Milling hardwoods with an underpowered chainsaw could cause your chainsaw to overheat, which can easily burn out the motor. This can also place extra strain on the motor and the chain drive gears, wearing down the chainsaw components quickly.

An underpowered chainsaw can also stall in the middle of long cuts if the chainsaw struggles with the hardwood. Restarting the chainsaw in this position can sometimes be impossible, and extracting the chainsaw can turned out to be difficult.


What are the benefits of using a big engine chainsaw for milling?

High torque is often the key benefit of using a large-displacement engine, such as a 90cc or 120cc milling.

First, a large chainsaw having a lot of torque will mill faster. Even with log-wide contact with wooden logs, you will be able to maintain the chain speed up and many teeth will cut simultaneously.

Secondly, milling with a giant chainsaw will be easier to control. The large torque reserve will imply that the chainsaw won’t stall as quickly as smaller chainsaws.

Will the chainsaw bar size affect your chainsaw mill selection?

The size of the wooden logs that you need to treat and the adjustable range of the chainsaw mill determines the bar size that you will require for milling with the chainsaw.

The diameter of the logs will necessitate the use of the specific-sized bar on your chainsaw for cutting the wood to its total disaster. Chainsaw mills come rated for a maximum or minimum bar size for fitting correctly and safely within the two clamps.

Because of the bumper spikes and the curve of the bar’s nose, the chainsaw bar could lose up to 4 inches of length in some chainsaw mills. The exact can reduce the diameter of logs that you may process.

Due to the variables, a more extended bar will be the best option for milling logs using a chainsaw mill. The manufacturer’s recommendations often limit the size of the bar that could be mounted to most saws. Because of this limitation, you need to select a chainsaw capable of accommodating the appropriate bar size for milling.

What are the drawbacks of using a big engine chainsaw for milling?

The biggest downside of using a large chainsaw is its cost. The weight and size are also disadvantages. The top-end big-engine chainsaws weigh anything from 15 to 23 pounds, which makes them less ergonomic compared to the 10-pound Farm and Ranch or home-use chainsaws. Further, the 90cc to 120cc chainsaws are great, but they’re clunky in many situations.

How fast can a chainsaw mill cut?

Since a lot relies on the log size and type, chainsaw milling is quite slow. In general, each cut could take between 10 to 20 minutes to complete.

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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.