cutting logs with a chainsaw

If you have a chainsaw, then there is a good chance you will be cutting logs sooner or later. In this guide, we will discuss how to correctly cut logs with a chainsaw. Cutting logs might appear as an easy task. However, you can easily waste a lot of time if you are cutting the logs in the wrong way. You can also hurt yourself or those around you. That is why we wrote this guide to make the process safe and efficient for all chainsaw users.

Equipment Required

#1 The Right Type of Chainsaw

Most people will go with a gas chainsaw if they intend to cut logs, greater than 16″ diameter,  for long hours or work away from the mains power source. However if you are only looking to do the odd log cutting job around the home and the diameter of the log isn’t greater than 16″ then you might do just as well with an electric chainsaw.

See our Chainsaw buying guides for more information on choosing the right chainsaw for the job.

  • Best Electric Chainsaw
  • Best Gas Chainsaw
Saw Size

As alluded to earlier it is important to know how big the diameter of the log is that you are planning on cutting, as this will determine the size of the chain bar and also the engine which you will need.

#2 Fuel

You need to have enough fuel to last you through the logging process. It is also best that you buy fresh fuel for each logging trip or session. That will make sure that your chainsaw starts and runs without trouble.

#4 A Claw Bar

You need a claw bar if you are cutting a big log. They come in handy if you need to rollover a big log. You may need to do that to cut the log from the underside. That helps you to cut big logs once you get too deep and your chain bar is shorter.

#5 Hammer or Sledge Hammer

You will need the decent hammer or a sledgehammer for larger logs to pound the wedge into the log. Driving the wedge into wood is the first step of splitting logs.

#6 Splitting Maul

The splitting maul looks just like an axe but it is heavier, to help push the sharp edge into the log. It is basically a half sledge hammer, half axe tool.

#7 Safety Gear

Wearing the correct safety gear will save your life or limbs in case something goes wrong while you are cutting wood. It’s true that modern chainsaws are much safer to use than their predecessors. However, you still need to operate them safely. The following are some of the precautions you can take.

  • You must wear safety goggle to protect your eyes from sawdust and debris; never operate your chainsaw without safety goggles.
  • Protect your ears especially when operating a gas chainsaw. Prolonged exposure to noise is just as bad as short pulses of loud noise.
  • Wear well-fitting protective clothing. Your gloves, boots, overalls, and hat should not obstruct your chainsaw operation.
  • Have a partner to keep you company and help you cut as well as an emergency cell that you can use to call if there is an accident.
  • You need to inspect each tree branch and limb before you cut it to identify if it’s under tension. Limbs and branches under tension spring ones they are released by cutting.
  • Follow all the safety guideline as laid out in the chainsaw’s operation manual.

Now you have all the gear required lets look at the steps to successfully cutting a log safely.

how to cut logs with a chainsaw

Log Cutting or Bucking Procedure

There are four common positions logs may be in when you wish cut them into smaller rounds which we will cover today. Before we get stuck into the specifics of each type of cut, there are some general guidelines to follow that apply to all situations of log cutting.

  • Check your chainsaw is in good working order – Ensure you have fresh fuel (if using a gas chainsaw), check the saw is running smoothly, you may want to cut a small branch also or piece of timber to ensure the chain is in good condition.
  • Clear The Area – Ensure you have plenty of space to work and store you timber once cut.
  • Posture  You need to keep in mind that your posture should always allow your upper body to support the chainsaw without being fatigued. To do that, you need to stand up and keep your step wider than your shoulder length. To do that, always keep your feet apart such that the distance between them is larger than the length of your shoulder.

Cutting Method

  1. Overbucking or Overcutting – this refers to a cut from the top of the log where the log is supported the full length by the ground.cutting a log diagram - overbuckThis is the simplest and safest way to cut a log. Start the cut at the top of the log and apply light pressure with the saw, but try to let the saw do the work as the teeth should pull the chain bar into the log. Try to make sure the guide bar nose does not contact the ground or any other objects. If the guide bar does get caught or pinched in the log, do not try to force it out. Turn off the chainsaw, and drive a plastic or wooden wedge into the cut with a hammer so that the saw can be easily removed. Do not try and restart your chainsaw while it is pinched in a log. Restart the saw and attempt to finish the cut with the same downwards motion.chainsaw pinched in log
  2. Log supported both ends but not in the middle, this situation could include small logs that are supported on a sawhorse or bigger logs that are sitting on two other pieces of timber or when the ground dips in the middle of the log.

how to cut log supported both ends

First cut the log from the top about 1/3 of the way into the wood. Next cut from the underside (underbuck), ensuring you are only exerting light pressure upwards, till you reach the first cut to avoid the log pinching the chainsaw bar. Underbucking Note: when performing an underbuck the chainsaw will want to push back at you. Make sure you are ready for this force and hold the saw firmly being careful as you don’t want to to pull the saw up too hard and hit yourself.

  1. Log supported on one end, with the other in the air.

log cutting supported 1 end

First cut should cut should be made from the underside towards the top (underbuck) about 1/3 of the way through the log. Next overbuck from the top to meet the first cut, this will help the saw getting pinched.Just remember to be ready when the cut portion of the log falls, make sure you are not in the line of fall.

  1. Log is on a Hill.

bucking a log - cutting on a hill

The golden rule when cutting logs when you are on a hill or an angle is to ALWAYS stand up-hill of the log. If when the cut is finished the log roles you will not get hit and hurt by it. Also remember not to let the nose of the saw contact the ground.

Note: Bucking is simply a term that refers to cutting a fallen tree to desired length.

Additional Log Cutting Advice

Cut The Branches First

You need to start cutting the branches first. Identify those branches that cannot be used as logs and cut them the first. These are usually the small branches. Next, you need to identify those branches that are propping up the tree. These should be cut last because they prop the tree from the ground, which helps to safeguard your chainsaw.

The Cutting Blade is Pinched

It is possible that your cutting blade is pinched. In such a case, it is best just to turn off the chainsaw. Once it is off, you can try to pry it off. If that fails to get it out, simply disassemble it and manual force the bar out. Alternatively, you prop up that section you were cutting from below to undo the pinch. That will release the chain bar from the compression forces caused by the weight of the log at that section. Have someone hold the saw because it will fall right off when you prop up the log. You must make sure you do not attempt to free the cutting bar while the chainsaw is ON. That could easily lead to an accident due to kickbacks.

How to Cut Large Logs with a Chainsaw

When cutting large logs, their weight creates extra tension in the middle of the log. That means that the cutting bar will be stuck as soon as you get lower and deeper into the log. When that happens, you need to use a plastic wedge to prevent the log from pinching the cutting bar. Alternatively, you could switch the cutting direction and start cutting in the upward direction.

Making Firewood from Logs

You will need to have wood splitting tools if you are cutting logs to create firewood. These tools are the plastic wedge, iron wedge, splitting maul and a sledgehammer. You will use the tools to cut the logs into small usable pieces. It is not smart to cut the logs into smaller pieces using the chainsaw because you will waste valuable wood. A chainsaw cuts by chipping away wood, the cutting you do, the more wood there is that is wasted.

How to Cut a Large Log With a Small Chainsaw

Cutting a large log with a small chain can be challenging. It is easy for the chainsaw bar to get pinched if the log is not properly supported. In most cases, the blade will not be long enough to cut across the log. The best strategy to use in such a case is to start from the smaller end of the log. You will then work your way up to the other end of the log. When you get to the section where the diameter of the log is equal to the cutting blade, rotate the cutting bar to a 90 degrees position. That, however, must be done when the cutting depth is deep enough to cover 75% of the cutting blade. At that point, there will be enough friction and pinch to eliminate the risk of a kickback. We hope that this guide has been informative and you will enjoy cutting those logs.

How to Limb and Prune Trees with a Chainsaw

Limbing

Limbing involves removing branches from a tree that has fallen. To remove the branches successfully;

  1. First cut the limbs or branches on the top side of the tree that are not supporting a load.
  2. Next look clear any smaller limbs on the underside of the tree that are not supporting its weight.
  3. The limbs still left that are supporting the load need to be inspected to see what way the tree may roll of collapse when removed.
  4. Once you had assessed the situation, begin to cut the limbs supporting the tree, cut from under these limbs to avoid the chainsaw getting pinched or stuck. Remember you may have to move out the way quickly as the tree looses its support and falls to the ground.

limbing a tree with a chainsaw

Pruning

Pruning a tree with a chainsaw is very similar to limbing except the tree is still standing vertically. Make sure you do not try to cut large branches of a tree that are above chest height, this can become very dangerous. If branches are greater that 14″ inches in diameter it may be worth getting in a professional.

Pruning a tree with a chainsaw

  1. Ensure you have a clear work area and your footing is stable and firm.
  2. Make an initial cut upwards (underbuck), about 1/3 of the way through the branch, a short distance from the trunk of the tree so you have room for the final cut which will be close to the trunk.
  3. Next overbuck the whole branch, further away from the trunk than the first cut to remove some of the branches load.
  4. The final cut should be an overbuck close to the trunk of the tree, this helps the bark grow back and seal the tree trunk.

CAREFUL: Springpoles, a branch, log, sapling or rooted tree that is bending with some tension, may spring back at you when cut. Be very careful for this stored energy that can whip you if you are standing in its path.

dangers of springpoles

How to Find Logs to Cut

If you live in a farm where there are many trees, then you will not have a problem finding trees for logging. If you live in a neighborhood and you have a tree or tree in the backyard, then you may use it for logging. You need to check with the local authority to get permission to cut either the whole or part of the tree. In case there is a storm and branches fall off the tree, that could also provide you with an opportunity to cut the logs for firewood. Some landowners will let you fell some of their dead trees for free or in exchange of some of the wood. Others will just take a small fee. You need to find out what you need to do to clear out all the debris or you will just cut the logs and leave the debris on the farm. If the tree is big and you feel uncomfortable logging, it’s better just to leave it alone. You may also need to read government guidelines on logging to be safe and avoid breaking the law. You can start by going to the local authority website and checking out their arborist section.