How to Cut Logs Into Lumber With a Chainsaw (Step-by-Step)

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While logs are typically round with uneven surfaces, most furniture-making companies prefer lumber with a rectangular, flat surface. This shape allows for more accurate cuts and a better furniture design. 

If you’re interested in this type of wood, I’m here to show how to cut logs into lumber using a chainsaw in a few simple steps.

Chopping Logs Into Lumber Using Chainsaws: 3 Steps

Turning a log into a rectangular thick lumber can be done in two ways. One way includes using a chainsaw mill, whereas the second way is to do it freehand. The succeeding steps will help and guide you through cutting logs into lumber using a chainsaw. 

Before chopping logs into lumber, ensure you have a large space and that your area is not crowded. Also, ensure to collate safety gears, tools, and materials which include:

chainsaw and protective gear

Before anything, you must first purchase a chainsaw mill. This tool is vital in the process of turning logs into lumber. And don’t worry, it’s affordable and doesn’t take up much space for storage. Essentially, it transforms the chainsaw into a milling machine.

Step #1: Cut the Upper Portion

Set the chainsaw mill before making the first cut on the upper side. In addition, use slabbing rails to help you with the textured, uneven surface and round shape of the log. 

Make sure that the rails are longer than the log. However, if the rails are lower, you can cut the log vertically to make it shorter. 

Start by setting the log and stand horizontally. Proceed cutting to create a flat surface on the upper portion of the log. 

man using a chainsaw

Make sure you have a preselected width of cutting. Once you are done, you can remove these slabbing rails. 

Step #2: Cut the Lower Portion

Continue to make the second cut at the lower portion of the log. Like the 1st cut, select the width at the lower portion of the log. You now have two sides with flat surfaces and relatively thick lumber. 

Step #3: Repeat

For this step, rotate the log at a 90-degree angle. Repeat the initial cut and the second cut. Once you are done, you now have a thick rectangular box with four flat surfaces. 

You can repeat the steps above if you feel that the thick lumber has not reached your preferred size. Cut until you have a flat surface piece of wood with your desired thickness. 

How to Achieve Your Preferred Thickness

Now that you have transformed your log into lumber, it’s time to learn how to trim it down to your preferred thickness. To begin this process, grab a marker and a measuring instrument.

sawing lumber

Mark on the sides of the lumber which pertains to your preferred width. Then proceed to cut the lumber to your preferred consistency. 

How to Chop a Log Lengthwise Using Chainsaws

Make sure to wear safety gear before proceeding cutting the logs lengthwise. Also, make sure that the log is held firmly and in place. Furthermore, check that the bullets are lubricated and the blades are sharp, aligned, and clean.

Creating Wood Slabs Using a Chainsaw

Trimmings can be valuable, especially when they are milled. Follow these steps to help you create a wood slab using a chainsaw.

cutting wooden slabs from lumber

Cutting Lumber by Free Hand

You can also choose to cut lumber freehand, as I sometimes do. Here’s how I go about it step by step:

Pros and Cons of Using a Chainsaw Mill

There are several benefits when using a chainsaw mill. These include the following:

chainsaw mill

Also weigh in on some of the drawbacks when using a chainsaw mill. Here are some disadvantages to take into account:

Additional Tips and Tricks

1. Post-process or finishing task

If you have a thick piece, you may need to cut it down to achieve your desired lumber size. Take a piece of pencil and mark it according to your preferred thickness. Then proceed to cut vertical along the length until you are done. 

measuring log before cutting

2. Clean or remove branches

Make sure to remove the branches with a smaller chainsaw before your start slabbing [1]. Doing this makes this process safer and easier. 

My Top Recommendations for a Chainsaw Mill

1. Carmyra 36-Inch Portable Chainsaw Mill

The Carmyra 36-Inch Portable Chainsaw Milling Machine is made from premium-quality steel and aluminum. The high level of accuracy it offers when cutting wood is impressive. Its design is incredibly efficient, helping me turn logs into lumber swiftly.

2. VBENLEM Chainsaw Mill (Planking Milling with a 14” to 36” Guide Bar)

The VBENLEM Chainsaw Mill is made of premium aluminum galvanized steel. Not only is it rust-proof and wear-resistant, but its lightweight nature also makes it easily portable.

Setting up the VBENLEM mill is a breeze, and to top it off, they even provide all the necessary hardware and gloves. 


How can I chop a log straight using a chainsaw?

You can cut logs in a long straight line using a chainsaw by making markings or scoring a line. Using a knife, trace the line you have drawn, cut on one side of the log, and do the same on the other. 

How can I mill logs using a chainsaw?

First, ensure that you have made the initial cut across the guide rails. Set the mill that can cut the under bolts. Remove the rails and top slabs and begin slabbing the log and milling lumber to the preferred thickness. 

Can I do this process with any type of chainsaw?

Yes, you can do this process using any type of chainsaw. A chainsaw is usually used to cut across trees and beams or boards. This can be done by altering the chain and utilizing a guide.


Using a chainsaw can shorten the time it takes to cutting trees, timber, and heavy logs. It’s especially useful when you’re dealing with a log that has an uneven surface and want to turn it into lumber.

As I’ve outlined in this guide, learning how to cut logs into lumber using a chainsaw is quite straightforward. Sure, it requires a bit of practice and skill, but with these steps, you’ll master the task in no time.

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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