How to Cut a Log Lengthwise With a Chainsaw (Step-by-Step)

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Cutting a log lengthwise with a chainsaw isn’t as straightforward as it seems, even for seasoned professionals like myself. The process can be tricky, and there’s a real risk of messing it up if not approached correctly.

Before you dive in and start sawing that log, let me share the right techniques to ensure you get it done correctly!

Why Cut Logs Lengthwise?

You may not know, but the need to cut a log lengthwise using a chainsaw often comes when building projects like furniture pieces, bench chairs, or fences. 

man using a chainsaw

Besides that, users creating materials for buildings also tend to use these lengthwise lumber cuts to fulfill their demanding project requirements. 

And if you don’t have enough wood at your disposal to create a smooth and large log, we highly suggest utilizing a chainsaw mill

Steps to Cutting Logs Lengthwise Using a Chainsaw

Step #1

The first step in cutting the log lengthwise is building a 4×4 wood post on the surface. You must ensure that the post’s shape is straight enough to gain better chainsaw control. On top of that, building a wood stand is also necessary to make the clamping process easier. 

using clamps while cutting log lengthwise

When cutting a log, always make sure to place the stand close to the surface of the post; it prevents the material from tipping over. It’s essential to hold the chainsaw with a firm grip and guide it precisely to the mark you’ve measured. Trust me, using log support while cutting makes a world of difference.

At this point, it’s crucial to ensure that the chainsaw you’ll be using is sharp enough to cut through the logs. It will also help to check the fuel levels and chain tightness, especially if you plan to cut a log lengthwise with a chainsaw for longer periods. 

Step #2

Grab the bolt and place it above the wood log. If you’re not familiar with how to cut logs lengthwise or how to use a chainsaw in general, I highly suggest using crust-free materials. After that, line the bolt’s edges using a plane to get accurate scabbard and cross-section markings. 

person operating a chainsaw

At the edge of the bolt you put over the log, you’ll have to create another one with the help of the projected rope’s angle. 

By doing this, you can ensure that this angle will be the center of your cut. Once that’s done, you can raise the circle plate away and remove the screw. 

Step #3

In this step, you must determine if you need the installed hook. Don’t forget that it’ll only work when cutting a large wooden log. 

Should your project require a specific shape, I recommend you measure and determine its size first. It’s crucial to know this before aligning the saw blades with the center of the material.

sawing log

If you want to cut a log correctly, avoid making cuts as small as 30mm. Based on my experience, you won’t guarantee that the output will turn out well with such thin cuts.

After marking the board with your desired size and shape, you can head to the next step with the chainsaw and begin the cut. 

Step #4

If you intend to cut a log lengthwise with a chainsaw, the cutting saw you need to use should be at least one meter. Like it or not, the chainsaws must be large enough to cut a thick log without hassle. 

Maintain the chainsaw in a stable position as you hold it in front of you. If you struggle to do this, it’s a telling sign that you don’t have enough strength to operate the chainsaw effectively and safely. 

cutting log with chainsaw

To achieve accurate and straight cuts, securely hold the saw and position it at the hook’s edge. Place it in the middle of the broken kerf lines. However, for a less risky approach, it’s advisable to follow the proper markings on the wooden log with your saw.

Step #5

After you cut a log lengthwise with a chainsaw, these materials should be ready for milling. However, please be reminded not to leave the logs stuck together on the ground. You can lay the logs on both ends and clean them individually.  

Ways to Hold Logs When Cutting With a Chainsaw

Knowing how and where to hold the material down is crucial if you want to cut a log lengthwise with a chainsaw without hassle. However, the technique still highly depends on how you cut a log. Read along as I explain each step. 

sawing lumber on the ground

Method #1: Cutting on the Ground

I suggest doing this method if you need to cut a log near the ground or a flat surface like a working table. The log may roll over, so you can use wedge tools to prevent it from happening. 

Don’t forget to slow down when you’re half the cut. If you don’t, you’ll damage the surface and the tool’s chain. 

Once the chainsaw runs at low-speed settings, run it through the cut markings you put on the log. It would help if you sliced through three-quarters of every section marked on the log. Lastly, turn the material over 180 degrees and cut the other side. 

Method #2: Holding the Log While Cutting

If you opt to hold the wood manually when cutting lengthwise with a chainsaw, you must wear proper protective equipment to avoid untoward accidents. You can also hold the logs properly by using sledge hammer or claw bar, which I’ll discuss further below.

milling lumber

Method #3: Cutting Large Logs Lengthwise

If you want to split a large log into smaller pieces, you should ensure that you’re using a chainsaw larger than the material and powerful enough to handle its thickness. 

While holding the lumber in position, mark the log with 2-inch slits for extra accuracy. You can make these lengthwise slits as many as you want, but don’t forget to put the sharp wedge where the blade will cut the log. 

Once the position is locked-in, you can use a hammer to lodge the wedge into the material.  

Holding and Cutting Logs Lengthwise: Tips and Tricks

Tip #1: Use the Best Tool or Equipment for the Job

As I mentioned earlier, you must consider the material’s thickness and size to determine the size of the chainsaw you’ll need for the tasks. 

storing chainsaw vertically

On top of that, you must choose other durable and high-quality equipment like claw bars and sledge hammers to accomplish this process. 

Tip #2: Sledge Hammer

You can use a sledgehammer to push the wedge deeper into the material and split it into smaller pieces. Ensure that you’re getting one suitable for the log you’re handling, or it wouldn’t smoothen the operation. 

Tip #3: Claw Bar

Handling a big log alone can be a hassle, so having a claw bar to roll the material over is a big help. You’ll also need this tool if the log is massive and you can’t cut it from only one side. 

How to Find the Right Chainsaw That’s Best for Cutting Logs This Way

For logs that are around 16 inches in diameter, I recommend using gas-powered chainsaw models. They’re not just durable, but they’re also powerful and can handle longer cutting durations without limitations. It’s perfect for those demanding tasks.

cutting tree with Echo chainsaw

Alternatively, you can opt for electric-powered units if you’re cutting small logs in the backyard. However, it will still depend on the log’s diameter and size to find the right tool with adequate engine performance. 

Must-Have Safety Equipment and Gear

It’s not a secret that casual and professional workers in the logging industry encounter accidents and deaths every year [1]. Because of this, it’s important to wear proper safety equipment to lessen the chances of these undesirable mishaps.

Chainsaw Helmet

Even if you’re not slicing down a tree or removing branches overhead, using safety gear like chainsaw helmets will help protect your face and ears. You may not know, but most helmets are already geared with a face shield and ear protection. 

person wearing protective gear

With these features, you can avoid the dangerous effects of engine noise and vibrations. On top of that, your eyes will be protected from dust particles. 

Chainsaw Gloves

As these units are handheld equipment, wearing gloves to maintain a tight grip on the tool is a safety gear protocol you can’t skip. However, you must ensure that the glove material isn’t slippery, which may cause unnecessary injuries and inaccurate cuts.

How to Prepare Before Cutting

The key to learning how to cut a log lengthwise with a chainsaw is prepping the things you’ll need and ensuring that the space is wide enough for the activity you’ll be doing. If you can, clean the tree’s surroundings and make it free from branches and leaves to avoid accidents.  


What length do you cut logs?

You should cut logs at around 16 inches long, as most are sold by face cord (4 x 8 x 16). It’s also the standard size for firewood in the market. 


Mastering the technique of cutting a log lengthwise can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re just starting out.

But take it from me: this skill is invaluable, especially if you plan on staying in the logging industry. Plus, knowing how to do it properly not only boosts your expertise but also ensures your safety, especially if you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to use this method unexpectedly.

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.
Robert Johnson

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