What Size Chainsaw for Milling? Let’s Look at All the Factors to Consider

what size chainsaw for milling

Along with the appropriate attachment, one can easily mill a log using a chainsaw. But with so many different sizes available to purchase today, it can be quite the challenge to select the right saw for the job.

So what size chainsaw for milling is for you? Let's look at all the different factors to consider before getting yourself a brand new saw.


Why Mill Your Own Lumber?

Most mill their own lumber as it's cost-effective. It beats having to hire a lumber truck to transport the lumber you require to cut to the mill, only to have it returned a few days later with a hefty bill.

Not only is hiring a lumber mill to cut your wood to the size you require expensive, but transportation costs itself can be quite pricey, too.

Finding the Right Milling Chainsaw For You

Before anything, let's start by saying that you'll need to invest in a reasonably high-quality chainsaw if you're looking to mill your own lumber.

This will ensure better work productivity and prevent any physical damage to occur on the job.

Furthermore, you'll want to own a chainsaw that will hold up to the task of cutting thick logs for an extended period of time.

However, this isn't to say that you need to spend big bucks on the most expensive, or largest, chainsaw available.

In fact, there are plenty of affordable chainsaws that perform just as well as professional-grade chainsaws.

Here's what you need to keep in mind while buying chainsaws for milling:

Engine Power

The engine's power determines how long it'll take to cut the lumber, as well as how smooth the end product looks when completed.

For most milling purposes, a 50 cc chainsaw is ideal for almost all milling jobs, even with large trees. However, if you're serious about milling, you may need to invest in a chainsaw with up to 100 cc of power, especially for heavy jobs.

Bar Length

As a general rule of thumb, your chainsaw needs to be at least 2 inches longer than what you're looking to cut.

For instance, if the branch you're looking to cut is, say, 10 inches thick, your chainsaw blade needs to be at least 12 inches long. This will allow the chainsaw to cut through the wood in one easy pass easily.

Typically, a chainsaw's bar length and engine come hand in hand. Engines with a higher CC (cubic centimeters) tend to go with a longer guide bar as it's more proportional to its length.

So why not just buy a large chainsaw with a powerful motor prepared to handle anything, big or small? Although it may sound like a viable solution, a chainsaw that's too long for the task can be dangerous.

This is due to the following reasons:

  • Larger saws have increased vibration and greater weight, which makes it more challenging to manage.
  • Kickback is more likely to occur with longer chainsaws.

If your chainsaw is too small, however, the following might likely occur:

  • Increase the length of time you'll be working on your project.
  • Require you to cut the tree from two opposite directions rather than cutting all the way through on one side.
  • Chainsaws might break if the wood is thicker than double the length of your chainsaw, which will force you to buy another.

Recommended Chainsaw Sizes Depending on the Job

To make it a little easier, we've created the following list that will show you which bar length is best suitable, depending on the job.

Job Required / Optimal Chainsaw Bar Lengt:

Chain Length

The chain's length in a chainsaw is frequently dismissed, but it's actually one of the essential factors to consider when you're looking for a chainsaw.

A chainsaw's chain comes at an average length of about 20-inches. However, this is only true for standard chainsaws that cut small to medium-sized trees.

Keep in mind that the diameter of the logs being milled is what directly impacts the length of the chain.

For particularly large logs, you might need chains that extend up to 30 inches or more.

Another thing to note is that if the chain gauge doesn't match your chainsaw, it won't properly fit the bar. If this is the case, don't force it in as this may present a dangerous hazard. If in doubt, ask a professional.

Chain Arrangements

There are three types of chain arrangement for each job. These include:

Full Complement Chains

These have the most cutting teeth and are designed to make smooth and fast cuts. We recommend them for those who frequently require limbing trees.

Full Skip Chains

Teeth found in these chains, as its name implies, are set apart from each other. Due to this, it's more reliable for removing chips from wood. Full skip chains are perfect for extended projects that require a long time to complete.

They're ideal for cutting for long periods as they can easily clear chips from wood and are stronger.

Semi Skip Chains

Semi skip chains are a combination of the chains we mentioned previously. They're mainly used for longer bars and do well in cleaning chips from wood.

Due to this, semi skip chains are considered the "best of both worlds." They're best used for multiple jobs and those who'd rather leave the chains instead of changing them with every type of work.

Video: Milling a Maple Log Freehand With a Chainsaw


What is the best size of the chainsaw for milling?

for most milling purposes, a 50 cc chainsaw is ideal.

How long do the logs need to dry before being cut?

The time varies according to the type and thickness of the
wood. The longer you can leave them before you start cutting, the better.

How long should the logs be?

The standard log length usually ranges from 8 to 16 feet.


Remember, when buying a chainsaw, bigger isn't always better. The above tips will help you choose what size chainsaw for milling you need, so remember to follow them when searching for the right power machine closely.

And as a final note of caution, don't forget to read all the safety warnings found in the manual that comes with the chainsaw. The same applies to any other power tool, as well.