How to Cut a Log Lengthwise With a Chainsaw: Safely & Easily



A log being split with a chainsaw

To cut a log lengthwise with a chainsaw, start by securing the log and marking a guideline. Then, steadily saw along the line, keeping the chainsaw balanced and applying even pressure.

Cutting a log lengthwise, also known as “ripping,” requires precision and safety precautions. Chainsaws are powerful tools designed for cross-cutting, but with the right techniques, they can effectively rip logs. A well-maintained chainsaw with a ripping chain ensures a cleaner cut and reduces the risk of kickback.

Preparing the work area to stabilize the log is essential to prevent movement during the cut. By using safety equipment and maintaining focus, woodworkers can successfully and safely rip logs to create planks or other woodworking projects. This process is valuable in lumber production, carpentry, and DIY crafts, providing a way to maximize the use of raw timber.

Preparing Your Chainsaw

Ensuring that the right chainsaw is selected can greatly impact the ease and safety of cutting a log lengthwise. Look for a chainsaw with adequate power and a bar length that comfortably spans the diameter of the log. A larger log may require a more powerful chainsaw with a longer bar.

Arousing importance is adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Key safety gear includes a hard hat, safety glasses, ear protection, gloves, chaps, and sturdy boots to safeguard against potential injuries from chainsaw use.

Chainsaw ComponentInspection PointsMaintenance Actions
ChainSharpness, tensionClean and sharpen chain; adjust tension
BarWear, straightnessReplace if bent or heavily worn
Engine/motorStart-up, power outputCheck for smooth operation; service as needed

Rigorous maintenance and inspection are paramount for the longevity and performance of your chainsaw. Prior to every use, the chain should be examined for sharpness and correct tension, the bar should be checked for signs of wear, and the engine or motor must be verified for proper start-up and power output. Timely addressing these elements ensures reliability and functionality.

Planning the Cut

Successful log cutting hinges on a clear understanding of the wood grain direction, which determines how easily a log will split. The grain runs lengthwise through the log, parallel to the growth rings. Recognizing this pattern is crucial for planning your approach. Begin by assessing the log’s size to ascertain the best cutting angle. A straight cut along the grain is ideal for maximizing both precision and safety.

For larger logs, a two-step cutting process may be necessary, starting with a shallow scoring cut that guides the subsequent deeper cut. This method helps maintain control over the chainsaw and reduces the chances of the saw binding. Relying on the log’s natural lines will lead to a smoother cutting experience and a higher quality of the finished product. Properly estimating the log size and cutting angle before initiating the cut will not only ensure efficiency but also enhance your personal safety.

Positioning the Log Securely

To ensure a safe and precise cut when slicing a log lengthwise with a chainsaw, properly positioning and stabilizing the log is crucial. Begin by finding a flat, stable surface where the log can lay without rolling. You can improvise by using sawhorses or a custom-built log holder to secure the log off the ground.

Employing wedges or chocks on either side of the log can prevent movement during the cutting process. It’s also advisable to use a chainsaw mill if available, as it offers a guide that can assist in maintaining a straight cut while providing stability to the log. Always double-check that the log is immobile before starting the chainsaw to enhance safety and cut quality.

Sawhorses/Log HoldersUse these tools to elevate the log and secure it in place.
Wedges/ChocksPlace these around the log to hinder rolling and movement.
Chainsaw MillProvides a guide for a straight cut and adds extra stability.

Marking the Cutting Line

To ensure a precise cut along the length of a log, it’s essential to mark a clear, straight line. Begin by selecting appropriate tools, such as a chalk line, carpenter’s crayon, or lumber crayon. These are particularly effective for creating long, visible marks on rough wood surfaces.

Once the tools are at hand, align the marks along the log’s length. Start by making a mark at one end of the log and stretch your chalk line or straight edge to the other end. Ensure that your line runs parallel to the log’s natural grain, to facilitate a smoother cut with the chainsaw. Snap or draw the line decisively for a clear, visible cutting guide along the entire log. This preparatory step is critical for achieving a straight, uniform cut when splitting the log lengthwise.

Beginning the Cuts

Initiating a longitudinal cut on a log with a chainsaw requires precision and control. Begin by ensuring your chainsaw is sharp, well-maintained, and adequately fueled. To start the cut, create a notch at the log’s top as a guideline. Hold the chainsaw firmly with both hands, making sure you’re positioned so that you can follow through with the entire length of the cut without obstruction.

Guide the chainsaw carefully into the wood, keeping it steady to avoid unevenness. Apply pressure evenly and maintain a consistent speed, allowing the chainsaw teeth to do the work without forcing it. Additionally, ensure your stance allows for adjustment as the log may shift during cutting. This technique aids in achieving a smooth, straight cut along the length of the log.

Mid-cut Chainsaw Handling

Cutting a log lengthwise requires precision and stability. Position your feet shoulder-width apart to achieve a balanced stance, ensuring firm ground contact for safety. Grasp the chainsaw with both hands tightly, keeping your arms slightly bent to maintain control. As you start the chainsaw, guide the blade smoothly into the log, maintaining a consistent speed and pressure. Remember, steady handling of the chainsaw throughout the cut is key to achieving a smooth, even slice through the log.

Throughout the process, recalibrate your grip and stance as needed to maintain optimum control. As the chainsaw moves deeper into the wood, resist the temptation to rush the cut. Instead, focus on a measured approach that allows the saw to do the work. It’s crucial to keep the chainsaw’s bar parallel to the length of the log to ensure a straight cut. With patience and attention to detail, you’ll produce a clean, lengthwise cut.

To know more: How Much to Service a Chainsaw

Managing Longitudinal Cuts

Cutting a log lengthwise necessitates a balance between the depth of the cut and maintaining the log’s stability. To achieve this equilibrium, one must ensure the log is securely positioned to prevent rolling, which could lead to uneven cuts or potential injury.

Employing strategies for uniform cutting is essential when working over extended lengths. Tally marks or a chalk line along the log can serve as a guide to maintain straightness. Utilizing wedges to slightly elevate the log can also help in preventing the chainsaw from binding and assist in producing a smoother, more consistent cut. Maintaining a steady pace and even pressure throughout the cutting process helps in preserving uniformity.

Finalizing the Lengthwise Split

Cutting a log lengthwise requires precision and skill to achieve a clean finish. One popular technique involves using a sharp and well-maintained chainsaw, ensuring consistent pressure and movement along the pre-marked line. It’s crucial to maintain a steady pace and apply even pressure to avoid jagged cuts. A guide bar can be immensely helpful in maintaining a straight path.

Dealing with a chainsaw that gets stuck mid-cut is an obstacle many face. To address this, gently wiggle the saw back and forth to loosen it without applying too much force, which could damage the chainsaw or compromise the cut. If resistance persists, carefully remove the saw from the log and attempt the cut again from a different angle or entry point. Appropriate safety gear and precautionary measures should always be in place throughout the process.


Cutting a log lengthwise with a chainsaw need not be daunting. By following the steps outlined, you can ensure precision and safety. Remember, the right preparation, secure positioning, and steady cutting techniques are key. Embrace the challenge and watch as your woodworking skills expand with each precise slice through the timber.

Keep honing your skills, and your cuts will grow ever more perfect. Join us again at Farm Pioneer for more enlightening adventures in farming and gardening. Your next guide to chainsaw expertise is just a click away!