How to cut logs with a chainsaw

Man carrying logs for firewood
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing how to cut logs with a chainsaw is essential if you want to get the job done quickly and easily. If you’ve felled a tree or it’s been uprooted by a storm, you can make use of the wood by cutting it into logs. You can turn these logs into firewood, or you may fancy getting creative and using them for DIY projects. Whatever the scenario, we’ll walk you through how to cut logs with a chainsaw, step by step. 

Chainsaws offer plenty of power, but they can be hazardous if you use them incorrectly. Here, you’ll master the basics of how to cut logs with a chainsaw, so you can tackle the job with confidence

New to using one of the best chainsaws (opens in new tab)? We’ve got you covered. Cutting logs is straightforward with the right know-how and is a brilliant way for beginners to build confidence. 

How to cut logs with a chainsaw

1. Protect yourself

Chainsaws can be dangerous tools. It’s vital to take safety precautions. Don’t forget to wear protective gear, including eye protection, gloves, chaps, and earplugs. 

“Be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially other people and animals. You should never chainsaw near a person or animal without first warning them,” advises Melody Estes, a Landscape Gardening Supervisor and a consultant at The Project Girl (opens in new tab).

2. Get the basics right

Sharpen your chainsaw before you begin if necessary. Stand slightly to one side of the device in a stable position, feet hip-width apart.

“It's important to have a good grip on the saw,” advises Melody. Wrap your right hand around the rear handle and your left hand round the front.

When cutting, lower the base of the blade onto the wood. Avoid touching the surface with the tip, as it can result in kickback. 

3. Remove branches

First, you’ll want to cut off the branches. Identify the ones that are supporting the tree and remove these last. Take your time and remove the supporting branches in pieces, moving from the outside in. 

4. Cut the trunk into pieces

Next, cut the log into lengths of the desired size. Use wedges to secure it. Take care not to hit the ground with your chainsaw - you risk damaging the blade. Instead, make your cut most of the way down. Roll the log over to complete the cut.   

Is it better to cut wood wet or dry? 

Surprisingly, wet wood is much easier to cut than dry wood. Dry wood has a low moisture content which causes significantly more friction than wet wood, resulting in a slower chain and a slower cutting speed. 

Wet wood has enough moisture to act as a natural lubricant, which stops the chain from catching on dry knots and slowing down. Dry wood, which is wet on the outside, is also significantly easier to cut than completely dry wood. The denser and older the wood, the more friction and therefore the longer it takes to cut. 

If you have wet wood that you need to cut, it's better to cut it to size now before waiting for it to dry. Whether it's for crafts or DIY, it can be dried and kept dry under a tarp for when you need it. 

Top tips for cutting logs accurately 

Sometimes, you need to cut logs accurately for various reasons. Chainsaws can be surprisingly accurate when used properly and are much quicker than other tools to cut a large number of logs in a short amount of time. These tips will help you to achieve an accurate cut every time.

• Wear the right protective gear

When cutting logs, wearing the correct protection can increase your accuracy significantly. If pieces of wood are flying at you and your ears are being bombarded with the loud noises made by your chainsaw, then you are unlikely to be able to focus enough to cut the logs properly. Wearing ear protectors and goggles will help with this. 

• Stay hydrated and well rested

Drinking water regularly and taking breaks will help you cut accurately. No one can focus properly when they are fatigued, so make sure you are in your best health before cutting.

• Make sure your chain is sharp and adequately lubricated

A sharp chain is much more accurate than a dull one, so you must know how often to sharpen a chainsaw (opens in new tab). By adequately oiling your chain (opens in new tab) you will also avoid any catching or jolting which can mess up a cut.

Use a finished log as a guide

If you need multiple logs of the same length, it can help to use already-cut logs as a guide. Simply line the finished log up with the one that you are now cutting and use it as a reference. This can be very helpful if you are new to log cutting and need to keep a consistent cut. 

• Cut multiple logs at the same time

This doesn't mean stacking a bunch of logs together and trying to cut them in one motion, it means cutting your logs next to each other in a shorter time frame. Once you have got into a rhythm it's much easier to repeat and keep the same cut size.

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Louise Bond

Louise Bond is a UK-based writer specializing in health and wellbeing. She has over eight years of experience in management within health and care and brings this passion and expertise to her writing. Louise has been published in The Guardian, Live Science, Fit & Well, Tom’s Guide, Planet Mindful, Breathe, and Psychreg. She is at her happiest when she is out in nature, whether that’s on an invigorating hike or pottering in the garden.

With contributions from