Chainsaw Cutting Techniques (Proper Ways to Cut Logs and Branches)

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Using a chainsaw isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Kickback, carbon monoxide fumes, hand-arm vibration syndrome, and noise-related hearing damage are just some of the hazards you might face. But don’t worry, with the right experience and know-how, you can handle a chainsaw like a pro and keep yourself safe. 

Dive into this article, and I’ll share with you some essential cutting techniques and safety pointers for your tree-chopping ventures. Let’s get you started on the right track!

10 Safe and Proper Chainsaw Techniques

#1: Overbucking - The Overcutting Method

To chop logs lengthwise is the simplest and safest way. This technique consists of making a vertical cut through a log while the log is resting vertically on the ground.

overbucking log

#2: Underbucking - The Undercutting Method

This method is the opposite of overbucking and is also known as undercutting. The log is halved horizontally. You’ll save time and effort by cutting wood this way. 

It will only take you a third as long as the overbucking method. The chainsaw will not get caught on the log when you employ this method.

#3: Method for Pruning Trees

Picture a tree standing tall and proud. Now, to keep it looking its best, we sometimes need to trim away some branches. Think of it like giving your tree a little haircut. 

First things first: find those pesky branches that are out of place. Below are some safety tips to ensure your tree-trimming goes smoothly. 

  1. Once you’ve figured out which branches require cutting, you’ll want to ensure you’re standing firmly on something and that your workspace is uncluttered.
  2. Cut the branch about a third of its size and underbuck it about a foot from the main trunk.
  3. To lighten the pressure on the branch, overbuck it 2–4 inches from the first cut.
  4. Remove the branch by making a last overcut near the trunk.
cutting tree branch

If you prune branches close to the trunk, the bark will regrow and seal the wound, allowing the tree to grow and thrive. You shouldn’t lop off any huge limbs higher than your shoulder because it is extremely risky and could cause harm.

#4: Method for Limbing Trees

This method cuts off branches from downed trees, as the name suggests. Expertise and extreme caution are needed while implementing this method.

  1. Start by removing dead or dying wood. The tree’s posture won’t change when you cut these branches off.
  2. Check the other branches to see if you can predict the log’s movement after eliminating these.
  3. Now that you know which branches to remove, you need to figure out which side the tree will fall. Turn around and begin severing the limbs as you stand in this position. Also, nobody should be in the path of the tree’s potential roll.
limbing a tree

The undercutting method is often the best option to avoid pinching or becoming trapped during cutting.

If the tree breaks away and causes an accident, you should be ready to take evasive action to avoid getting hurt. So we suggest knowing how to cut branches with a chainsaw properly.

#5: Method to Cut a Log Supported on One End

If you’re underbucking a log that’s being supported on one end, follow the steps below.

  1. Start by cutting about a third of the way through the log.
  2. Next, you’ll need to cut it from above to avoid pinching the blade.
  3. Now, it’s important to anticipate where the log will land, so you’re not in its way.

#6: Method to Cut a Log Supported on Both Ends - Crosscutting

Cross-cutting is employed when slicing through a supported log on both ends. This technique is preferred over overbucking or underbucking because the bow will naturally fall toward the region being cut as you cut the log.

crosscutting a tree

And if you use a crosscutting technique with your chainsaw, you won’t have to worry about your saw getting pinched or stuck within the wood.

  1. Cut the log from the top about a third to initiate the cross-cutting chainsaw method.
  2. The underbucking method entails slicing through the log from underneath and working your way up until you hit the initial slash.
  3. The log should break in half and tumble downward as you near the top cut due to the weight of the wood.

Prepare for the saw pushing back at you, and hold tight to the gear. You need to be careful not to pull too hard as you make your cut. You risk injuring yourself if you do since the arrow will fly out of the wood and straight at you.

To avoid injury, keep your feet out of the way of the splintered logs.

#7: Method to Cut a Log on the Ground

The overbucking method is used when chopping a log lying flat on the ground.

cutting a log on the ground
  1. Simply make a series of cuts across the log’s top to create a split. To avoid damaging the chainsaw, keep it off the floor. 
  2. Let the chainsaw do the work for you, and drive the chain bar further into the wood with the help of its teeth.
  3. The nose of the guide bar and the chain should not make contact with the ground at any time. A kickback or worn chain could result from doing this.

If your chainsaw gets stuck, here’s what you do: First, set it down and turn it off. Then, to free it up, gently tap a wedge into the gap. Once done, you can forget about the hiccup and move on. Trust me, it works like a charm!

#9: Method to Cut a Log on a Hill

Your position is the most important factor when felling a tree on a slope. Always keep your back to the hill. So that, even if it falls over, you will not get wounded.

man operating a chainsaw

When you’re ready to make the best, safest chainsaw cut, utilize one of the methods described above.

#10: Stump Cutting Method

Even though there are many options for removing a tree’s base, this is the simplest and most reliable way.

  1. The area around the stump should have as much dirt dug out as possible. Remove the dirt and grime with a power washer or a hose. You’ll be able to operate the chainsaw more freely and without worrying about damaging or dulling the chain due to debris.
  2. You might use an old chain for the task. If it works thus low to the ground, it will inevitably be damaged.
  3. To get the closest to the surface, use a horizontal cut. Use caution and a steady hand with the chainsaw.
  4. Use a wedge to maintain a space between the upper and bottom levels of wood if you discover that the saw chain is being pinched.

Chainsaw Safety Reminders

When using a chainsaw to chop wood, your first thought should be on safety. To avoid any untoward accidents [1], please take the following safety precautions.

chainsaw and protective gear


How do you cut down a tree without pinching a chainsaw?

You can cut down a tree without pinching a chainsaw by mixing overbucking and underbucking methods. Overcut the log to a size roughly a third of its original diameter first. The log is then divided in half through an undercut and an overcut. You can use this to fell a tree without risking a pinch.

Why does a chainsaw stop in the middle of cutting?

If the blade on your chainsaw gets dull, you won’t be able to cut anything. If so, the knife needs to be sharpened. Also, a common cause is a too-tight chain. Reduce the force on the chain and readjust it.

What techniques can I use to split larger logs with a chainsaw?

Larger logs can be split by overbucking and underbucking. Underbucking is two-thirds as fast as overbucking and saves time in the long run.

What are the methods of cutting a stump using a chainsaw?

To keep the chainsaw from becoming clogged up, you should first clear the area around the stump. Then, cut horizontally as low to the earth as you can. Keep your hand on the saw’s handle until the entire stump is gone.

See Also: CutList Optimization Software Review 


When it comes to chainsaw wizardry, there are two big moves you’ve got to know: overbucking and underbucking. Think of them as the bread and butter of chopping down trees, branches, and logs.

If you follow these methods, you should be able to accomplish most standard tree-cutting tasks. You should use a reliable limbing chainsaw two inches longer than the log you’re chopping. A chainsaw, typically 16 or 18 inches in length, is the most versatile tool you can use.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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