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How to use a Chainsaw Mill

How to use a chainsaw mill featured image.

A chainsaw mill, also known as an Alaskan mill, is a very useful type of sawmill. It can be used by either one or two operators and is commonly used to turn logs into lumber. Once made into lumber, it is ready to be used in construction or furniture. Once you get the hang of using a chainsaw mill, it can help you reduce the amount of time an effort it takes to finish your woodworking projects.

Preparing to Use a Chainsaw Mill

Chainsaw accidents are no joke and are shockingly common. Be sure to wear adequate safety gear, such as thick gloves and goggles. You will also want to have long sleeves, pants, and sturdy shoes. Keep in mind that the beams and slabs you cut will be heavy. As a result, be sure to have a plan for handling them. It is a good idea to have someone else around to help you move wood around. Having an additional person is also helpful in case something goes wrong.

Make sure you have everything you need before beginning your cuts. Be sure to bring fuel, a chainsaw sharpening kit, a tape measure, and anything else that may be handy while doing your work.

How to Begin Cutting

The rails are the most important part of a chainsaw mill. Since the log you are working with will likely have a rounded top, it is essential to set the slabbing rails to the right height. This will allow you to make a flat, smooth first cut. It is important that the rails extend out past the ends of the log. This is so the cut has support the entire time.

Pay attention to the log, and take note of any features you want to preserve. Setting up the first cut is the most important part of the entire job. Once you have completed the first cut, the slabbing rails can be removed.

The Second Cut

Once that initial cut is perfectly made, it will guide future cuts. If you are making beams or other lumber, you will make your second cut on the bottom of the log. Most of the time, these two cuts are sufficient. This results in partially finished lumber.

The advantage here is you can start working on the tree exactly where it fell but perfect it elsewhere with a more precise tool than a chainsaw. Partially seasoned lumber can be seasoned before being finished. Many people choose to use a bandsaw or something similar that takes a slimmer kerf.

The process of partially finishing lumber is commonly seen in high-end types of wood.

The Third Cut

If you are going to use a chainsaw mill to finished the lumber, you will need to turn it 90 degrees and make another cut. You will need to use your slabbing rails again to guide the saw. A carpenter’s square should be used to ensure you have crisp 90-degree angles. If you are now going to transform your log into boards, this cut is going to serve as your guide.

Tips for Using a Chainsaw Mill

Tips for using a chainsaw mill section.


Learning the ins and outs of using a chainsaw mill can take awhile. Having patience and expecting some things to go wrong in the beginning can make your experience better. While in this learning phase, make use of the following tips:

  • Start and stop your cuts slowly. This will greatly improve the quality and cleanliness of your cuts.
  • If you are struggling to make straight cuts, try using the slabbing rails again.
  • Be prepared for a large amount of dust that comes with this type of cutting. Wear a dust mask, and be sure to remove dust around the cap before refueling your chainsaw. Cover things in the area you are cutting that you do not want to get dusty.
  • Speaking of refueling, make a great effort to not run out of it during the middle of a cut. Check your fuel level between slab cuts.
  • After a particularly long cut, it is a good idea to let the saw cool. Keep it on and the engine idling, but do not make your next cut for a few minutes.
  • Once again, the slabs or boards you are cutting may be quite heavy. Have a plan for moving them once they are finished!

Final Thoughts

This is a somewhat simplified explanation of how a chainsaw mill can be used. Once you get the hang of the basics, more complex setups can be used. When you take your time and do the job right, a chainsaw mill can be an invaluable tool for woodworking. Be sure to properly maintain your tool and it can be useful to you for years to come.

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