How To Cut Wood Slices With A Chainsaw (Easily & Safely)

Dennis Howard
by Dennis Howard

Many do-it-yourself woodworking craft projects call for wood slices cut from raw logs. From tables to ornamental pieces, the variety of these projects can keep an avid woodworker busy. Often, the challenge is how to cut wood slices with a chainsaw.

Cutting wood slices from logs with your chainsaw depends on a bit of skill and some understanding of proper chainsaw techniques. To successfully produce wood slices demands that your chainsaw is in top working order, you understand and practice safe chainsaw techniques and practice.

Following a few simples rules and steps can produce uniform wood slices for your craft projects in no time. This article and our instructions can get you on your way to cutting your wood slices.

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Choose your Chainsaw – Size Is Important

Size does matter in the chainsaw world. The size of the wood slice you need determines the size of the chainsaw required. If your project needs wood slices 12 inches in diameter, you will need a chainsaw with a sixteen-inch blade. Larger wood slices need a longer blade, typically an 18-inch blade.

Never attempt to cut a wood slice from a log that is larger in diameter than the length of your chainsaw blade. Trying to make these kinds of cuts can damage your chainsaw or result in a kickback causing serious injuries.

Chainsaw Maintenance – Keep Your Tools in Top Operating Condition

Any job that requires a chainsaw can be dangerous. A chainsaw is a powerful tool the demands respect. Proper maintenance of your chainsaw makes it much safer to operate and more efficient.

A Sharp Blade is a Safe Blade

The most important safety concern with your chainsaw is the blade. The chainsaw blade must be sharp and properly tensioned. You can sharpen your chainsaw blade quickly and easily without taking the blade from the saw. We recommend sharpening your chainsaw blade each time your refill the gas tank on your saw.

Keep it Clean and Lubricated

Regularly remove the built-up oil and sawdust from your chainsaw. The saw will run better and operate cooler, which adds length to the life of your chainsaw. Make sure that you use only top-quality 2-cycle motor oil with your gasoline mixture. Each time you refill with gasoline, top off the bar oil reservoir as well. Check the air filter as well each time you refuel your chainsaw.

Keep Yourself Safe as You Work

Working safely doesn’t stop with good maintenance of your chainsaw. You should use proper safety equipment and operating methods when running your chainsaw. Protecting yourself and others is part of the job.

Dress for the Occasion

Come to your chainsaw party properly dressed. Long pants, sturdy work shoes or boots, and long sleeves help protect you from flying wood chips and splinters. A good pair of leather work gloves should be on your attire list. Your hands will be in the center of the action and need protection.

A pair of leather chainsaw chaps will provide extra protection for the front of your legs as you cut. If chaps are not an option, a good carpenters apron of leather or heavy canvass will work as well.

Eyes and Ear – Special Attention for These

Chainsaws create massive quantities of sawdust and wood chips. A sharp chainsaw will spread this debris over a wide area, pitting most of it out back toward you. Operating a chainsaw without protecting your eyes is courting disaster. Always wear proper eye protection.

The other byproduct of a running chainsaw is noise. Chainsaws produce a wide range of frequencies at levels that will affect your hearing. A good pair of earmuffs designed for high noise environments is your best hearing protection.

Don’t Forget Your Nose

Some species of wood can be extremely irritating to your nasal passages. Many people are allergic to certain varieties of wood. A respirator or mask can keep you from inhaling the dust created by the chainsaw as it cuts.

Technique is Everything

How you cut is as important as how your dress for safety and how you maintain your chainsaw. A few common-sense rules will keep you safe and help you produce the best cuts.

  • Grasp the chainsaw firmly with one hand on the forward handle and the other on the rear grip and throttle. Never try to make chainsaw cuts with one hand.
  • Work in a clear area without trip hazards or debris under your feet. Stand on solid ground that gives you a firm stance.
  • Find a comfortable position with your feet about shoulder-width apart. You should feel balanced and secure.
  • Always start the chainsaw sitting on the ground. Trying to start the motor with the chainsaw unsupported is asking for trouble.

Getting Ready to Cut

Preparing your log properly allows you to make a clean straight cut. The best situation is to support your log above ground level. Raising your log allows you to work without digging your chainsaw blade into the dirt. Having your log between knee and waist height also helps you control the saw and is a more natural position.

Planning the Cut

Before you cut, it is always best to measure and mark your log. Marking your log may be a little difficult on the bark, but it will make your job easier in the long run. Some woodworkers construct jigs around their logs using 2×4’s to guide the chainsaw.

Cutting Up or Cutting Down – Which is Best?

Whether to cut upwards using the top of the bar on the chainsaw or to cut downwards generates a lot of debate. In truth, it is a matter of personal choice. The chainsaw will cut equally well under both circumstances.

Cutting up using the top of the bar is a more natural movement for some people. Using the top of the chainsaw bar also sends most of the woodchips and sawdust forward. Cutting upward keeps most of the debris away from the saw operator.

Cutting downward using the bottom of the chainsaw bar makes it easier to see your cut lines and keep the saw positioned close to a jig. The blade on the chainsaw sends most of the debris back toward the operator creating more hazards.

Making the Cut – Let the Saw Do the Work

Follow your chainsaw manufacturer’s instructions on starting your chainsaw. Generally, letting the chainsaw run for a few seconds before starting to cut is a good idea. With the chainsaw running, the actual cut requires a few simple steps.

Step 1: Take your Position.

Position yourself properly in front of the log you are cutting. Hold the chainsaw firmly in both hands and line up the blade with your marks. If you are using a jig, line up the chainsaw blade on the jig’s proper side.

Step 2: Bring the Chainsaw Up to Speed

Squeeze the trigger on your chainsaw. Run the chainsaw at full speed during the entire cut. The chainsaw and blade cut best at full speed.

Step 3: Let the Saw Do the Work

Don’t try to force the saw blade to cut. Apply just enough force to the chainsaw blade to allow it to cut smoothly. If you find that you need to push down harder on the chainsaw blade, the blade may need sharpening.

Step 4: Keep an Eye on Your Guides

Watch your guide marks or the jig. Keeping your chainsaw straight up and down is the key to making nice wood slices from your log. Don’t hurry the saw and keep your attention on the cut to stay aligned with your guides and marks.

Step 5: Finish the Cut in Style

Keep the chainsaw running at full speed until the cut is complete. When the wood slice falls away, release the throttle on the chainsaw. Don’t move away from your cut until the chainsaw blade has stopped moving. Shut down the engine of the chainsaw before walking or moving.

Step 6: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Repeat the steps above to create more nice uniform wood slices for your projects. You may find that there is a certain pleasure in making precise cuts with your chainsaw. Your stash of wood slices may grow beyond your expectation.

Be Cautious – Watch for Hidden Dangers

Logs and felled trees can harbor potential dangers. Nails, wire, and hidden knots in the wood can pose significant threats to your safety and the well-being of your chainsaw. Always examine any log or felled tree that you want to cut. Look for tell-tale signs of old nails, screws, or wire that may be in the wood.

Hardwood knots can hide completely. These remnants of limbs can be extremely dense and often filled with sap. Cutting through a knot can quickly dull a chainsaw blade, damage the teeth, or result in a kickback. Avoid sawing through knots or limb junctions if possible.

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Your Chainsaw – An Amazing Tool

A properly maintained chainsaw with a sharp blade is a versatile tool capable of performing a wide array of jobs. Making wood slices for craft projects is just one of the many ways a chainsaw can prove its worth.

We hope this article proves its value as you set out to make your wood slices with your chainsaw. Remember to work safely and have fun.

Dennis Howard
Dennis Howard

Dennis is a retired firefighter with an extensive background in construction, home improvement, and remodeling. He worked in the trades part-time while serving as an active firefighter. On his retirement, he started a remodeling and home repair business, which he ran for several years.

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