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

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Logs are generally round in shape and come with an uneven surface. However, most furniture-making companies opt for lumber with a rectangular, flat surface. 

This dimension allows for more accurate cuts and appealing furniture design. If you prefer this wood type, our pro woodworkers will explain how to cut logs into lumber with 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 narrative 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. 

Do not fret since this item is cheap and does not need a large area to store. This turns 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 transformed your log into lumber, you should learn how to trim it down to your preferred thickness. To start with this process, get 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 proceed to start cutting lumber by free hand. You can perform this by following these steps:

Pros and Cons of Using a Chainsaw Mill

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

chainsaw mill

Also consider these disadvantages when using chainsaw mills:

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. 

Our 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. Very portable and easy to use, with high accuracy for cutting wood. It has a sterling design that can help you cut logs into lumber in no time.  

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

The VBENLEM Chainsaw Mill is made of premium aluminum galvanized steel. It is rust-proof and wear-proof, and also portable owing to its lightweight property. 

The VBENLEM unit is easy to assemble, and you are even provided with complete 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 is also very helpful when converting a log with an uneven surface into lumber. 

As shown in this guide, it’s easy to learn how to cut logs into lumber with a chainsaw. It may need some practice and operator skill, but these steps will help you perform this task in no time. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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