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Is it Possible to Mill with a Chainsaw?

Preparing freshly-cut lumber usually involves a series of steps, one of these steps is milling. Normally when you cut a tree, and you want to get usable boards and planks out of it, you’ll first have to cut the log down to an appropriate size. Typically, log milling is often done in large-scale lumber mills. This usually involves the use of large machines that cut away branches, remove barks, and trim the logs into marketable sizes.

However, it is safe to assume that most people don’t have a full-scale lumber milling operation or have all the required machinery set up in their backyard. This brings us to the main question:

Is it possible to mill with a chainsaw?

Yes, you can mill a log using a chainsaw, but you need some appropriate attachments. Normally, chainsaws are used to cut across the grain of trees, but it can be adapted in such a way that it cuts efficiently along the grain to mill logs into planks, boards, or beams. This process is achieved by altering the chain and using a guide to get accurate cuts on the log.

Do you want to find out more on how to mill using a chainsaw? This article will guide you through the basics of milling, like the kind and size of chainsaw you might need for milling, as well as other important factors.

What do I Need to Mill My Own Lumber?

A lot of people might be wondering, why do I need to use a chainsaw to mill? Since only a few people have their lumber yard in their backyards. Well, once set up it will save you the future cost of having to mill your logs of wood or buying them from someone else. The first and foremost thing you might want to consider before milling your wood is the best logging chainsaw that suits you, this is very important. This does not necessarily imply that you get the largest saw you find. No, it simply implies that you should know your preferences and whatever fits the size of the logs you plan to with work.

Transportation of heavy lumber often means additional cost especially if you’re trying to minimize cost. The same goes for hiring a lumber mill to cut them down to size for you. However, if you have a good chainsaw with adequate power, length, and milling attachment, you can easily do all of this in the comfort of your backyard. This is excluding the initial amount you spent on the purchase of the equipment.

Also, you won’t need to hire anyone to help transport or cut the lumber for you. For the most part, it is ideal to get a saw that has at least a 50cc displacement and can run a 20-inch chain. Although this is not compulsory, if you’ll be cutting smaller logs or milling smaller boards, then you can use a smaller chainsaw. This also applies to larger, customized widths and lengths. As long as you have a chainsaw that you’re comfortable with, all you need to do is get a good milling attachment or even create one yourself. Just get a measuring attachment that will help you guide your saw to make the size cuts you prefer.

Why Use a Chainsaw for Milling Lumber?

It is safe to assume that you don’t have a lumber mill in your backyard. This would only mean that after you cut trees down, you would have to transport them to a lumber mill, either by yourself or by a hired lumber truck. This also means that you’ll have to pay someone to transport the lumber to the mill, get it cut down, and then transport it back home for you.

So, the logical reason why anyone would want to mill their lumber with a chainsaw will be to reduce costs. One of the main reasons why people prefer to mill their lumber is to save costs. If you have access to raw lumber on your property or you have been granted access to forests, all you need to get started is your chainsaw, enough gas, and oil. You might be lucky enough to get cords of logs delivered to your house at a minimal cost, then many firewood cutters can also supply uncut logs to you. Bottom line is, with basic research, you can find a way to get the logs you need to mill to your lumber, it will save a lot of money in the long run.

Things to Consider when Choosing a Chainsaw for Milling – Power and Size

The first thing you need to look out for is the chainsaw itself. You must invest in a chainsaw of high quality, one that will last you for quite a long time. It is also wise to get a chainsaw that you find convenient and comfortable to use. Another factor to keep in mind is that you don’t exactly need a large chainsaw just because it’s available. Get an ideal chainsaw with the size of logs you plan on milling.

When it comes to the size of chainsaw that you’re choosing, the size of the log you plan to mill is everything. If you plan to saw down whole trees, you might want to go for smaller chainsaws. Although with a small chainsaw, it might take more time and energy to cut down a tree. Generally, you can still get the job done. However, when you have to mill the logs into boards or planks, you will need something large and powerful enough to efficiently mill the wood. Here’s a list of equipment you will need:

  • A chainsaw larger than 50cc. ideally, the larger the better.
  • Chainsaw mill
  • Wedges, measuring tapes and chalk
  • A range of chainsaw sharpening files
  • A straight edge to create the first cut, this depends on the type of mill used
  • Fuel and oil
  • A forklift or similar machine, or at least a log bar to move and turn logs
  • Timber “stickers”, banding and strapping equipment
  • PVA/emulsion paint for the end grain

● Engine Power – the CCs

Another important thing to factor in is the engine power. When milling wood, the engine power of the chainsaw will determine the amount of energy you will use during the process, the amount of time it will take, and how smooth the job will be upon completion. For most milling purposes, a 50cc chainsaw is usually ideal, at least for everything except large jobs. However, if your chainsaw is heavy and powerful, you’ll be able to get jobs done faster and cut smoother logs of wood. The chainsaw will also be a lot easier to control.  So to get the best results, it is advisable to get a chainsaw with a lot of engine power. If you’re considering milling your lumber regularly and you have large and knotted logs to deal with, you might want to invest in a 100cc. chainsaw. It will be able to handle larger jobs effectively.

● Chain Length

The length of the chain is another important factor to consider when choosing a chainsaw for milling, especially the arm and the chain. For general purposes, an average 20-inch chain will do just fine. That being said, keep in mind that 20 inches are not very long. So if you are dealing with large logs, you may need to find a longer chain. For larger logs, you will need a chainsaw that has a length of about 30 inches or more. Always keep in mind that the length of the chain would depend on the diameter or size of the logs to be milled. If the saw is long enough to make its way through the diameter of the log, you’re pretty much good to go. Just know that there is a general rule of thumb that applies here, the size of chainsaw you need, in terms of chain length, depends solely on the size of the log.

● Cutting Performance

If your chainsaw bar can reach across the log, then you should be able to cut it into lumber. Your chainsaw is also great for cutting wide slabs from large trees. So if you plan on building tables with a single slab top, then a chainsaw mill is the perfect tool for the job.

Final Remarks

We hope this article has helped you realize that you don’t need that lot of equipment to mill lumber. All you need is an appropriate chainsaw and a high-quality milling attachment for your chainsaw (you really can’t mill lumber without the appropriate chainsaw attachment). Be sure to get a chainsaw of at least 20 inches in length and with 50cc. of engine power to achieve good results.

Finally, make sure you figure out the size of the chainsaw you need. We hope that this article answers your questions and guides you. Good luck!