How to Use a Chainsaw to Chop Logs

If you’re tired of chopping your fire logs by hand, a chainsaw should be your new best friend.

Using a chainsaw for the first time can feel be a little daunting. Well, it should be! That spinning blade is the stuff of nightmares (or horror films) and a chainsaw is the single most dangerous hand-held power tool you can use.


The safest way to approach the chainsaw is with a healthy respect. It can be a little scary but if you follow today’s guidelines on how to use it safely, a chainsaw can come into its own for many applications.

Chainsaws are handy tools and when used correctly, you won’t have to worry about the loss of digits or limbs.

The chainsaw is one tool that calls for you to read the instruction manual. To be completely safe, you would ideally go on a chainsaw handling course.

Since you might not do that, we’ve got the next best thing for you today.

We’ll get going with the absolute basics.

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Chainsaw 101

Firstly, make sure you wear proper safety clothing and personal protective equipment. 

Kickback is the term used to describe what happens when your chainsaw doesn’t cut the wood but instead catches and then flings it backward. This is potentially lethal.


Consider all of the following:

  • Ear defenders protect your ears from damage as chainsaws are very loud
  • A hard hat will guard your head against any falling debris or kickback
  • To protect your eyes from flying sawdust, a visor allows you to see what you are doing but stops anything flying into your eyes
  • Specially designed trousers that protect your body as you work are recommended. These are known as chainsaw chaps
  • Boots should be steel toe-capped
  • You should also wear gloves when you’re operating a chainsaw

Before you use the chainsaw, check that everything is working correctly. Your log should be supported so the underside is exposed.

When you start the chainsaw, check the tension is correct and that the chain is well lubricated with oil. If you have a gas-fueled chainsaw, it’s best to fire it up on the ground just in case it jumps. 

Check the throttle and safety chain brake are working and make sure there is no one within a 15-foot radius before you start working.


To avoid kickback when chopping logs with a chainsaw, make sure you:

  • Maintain your saw properly by keeping the blades sharp
  • Avoid using the nose (tip) of your blade to cut. Instead, use only the middle or back of the saw. Don’t let the tip touch anything while you’re cutting
  • Always stand to the left of the blade when cutting. If the saw does fly back, you won’t be in range of the projectile
  • The saw should be set to full power when you start cutting
  • Even if you are left-handed, grip the back handle/throttle
  • Always keep the blade horizontal and cut in the middle of the guide bar
  • It’s always safer to cut at waist height so avoid cutting at shoulder height
  • Similarly, avoid cutting on the ground to minimize the chances of kickback



Your chainsaw must be set at the correct tension. 

To test the tension, pull the chain at the bottom so that some chain links come away from the rail. When you release the chain, the links should snap back into place.


General Pointers

When you start cutting a log, keep the wood steady with one foot and make sure you stand to the side.

Start by making an indent in the wood with the saw where you want the cut to go.

Then, place the blade on the indent and slowly rock the blade back and forth as you squeeze the throttle so the weight of the chainsaw does the most of the work.

When you’ve cut through 80% of the log, flip it over and cut the remainder of the log from the other side. If you don’t cut from the opposite side, you run the risk of the blade going into the ground which will get it dirty and potentially ruin it. 

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Find the cut line and use the same rocking motion until you get through the wood.

If you’re cutting a really big heavy log, it’s best to suspend the log on two branches so you won’t cut into the soil when you get to the bottom.

While cutting, use your foot to apply pressure to the blade as you rock it back and forth. But, when you get halfway through, the weight of the log from both sides can press on the blade and pinch it. If a blade pinches, you run the risk of kickback and serious injury. 

The trick here is to insert a wedge into the cut. If you use the back of an axe-head, you can gently tap it into the gap which will prise the wood apart. If you’re doing this, be sure to stand clear. The log will be extremely heavy and you don’t want it landing on your foot.

If the log doesn’t cut free, you may need to make an undercut close to the original cut. Make sure you stand well clear of the log when it falls.

If you have the right type of chainsaw, it’s possible to cut planks out of logs using a chainsaw. You’ll need to use the right type of chain on your saw. 

Ripping chains are specifically designed to cut wood lengthwise. You’ll need a normal blade for crosscutting the wood, but when you cut lengthways, you’ll need to use a chainsaw with a ripping blade.

Ripping can put a lot of stress on the chain, so you may find you need to sharpen the teeth a lot.


A Final Word on Chopping Logs with a Chainsaw

We hope you’ve found this waltz through using a chainsaw safely and easily has given you a little more confidence.

If you’re stuck for ideas of which chainsaw to invest in, check out our detailed guide right here at Homendgarden. Before you go, bookmark our site and pop back any time you need a hand with any problematic buying decisions. See you soon!

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