What Size Of Saw Do I Need For A Chainsaw Mill

A chainsaw mill makes it possible to cut planks and dimensional lumber using a chainsaw. Used in this way your saw must have the capability of processing the timber without placing too much strain on the motor and wear and tear on other components. Sizing your chainsaw correctly for a chainsaw mill is important for the efficiency of the cutting process and longevity of the chainsaw.

The minimum size chainsaw to use with a chainsaw mill to process softwoods with small to medium diameter is a 60cc or 4HP saw. For processing hardwood logs or medium to large diameter logs, a minimum 90cc or 6HP chainsaw is recommended. Powerful saws will cut easier and last longer for milling.

Using a chainsaw in a chainsaw mill requires a saw that is up to the task. Milling with a chainsaw requires a heavier-duty chainsaw to cope with long cuts through thick, tough timber. There are several aspects for consideration when selecting a chainsaw most appropriate for the job.


What Size Chainsaw is Best For A Chainsaw Mill?

When selecting a chainsaw for milling with a chainsaw mill, it is always better to go with a slightly more powerful saw than you think you will need.

Choosing a more powerful saw gives you more options, especially when faced with a log out of the ordinary to what you would typically mill. A more powerful chainsaw will also last longer for milling operations than a lower-powered saw. 

If you will only be milling softwood types, a minimum of a 60cc or 4HP chainsaw is recommended, but this would be entry-level. If you mill large diameter logs, opt for a chainsaw with a higher engine displacement.

When milling hardwood logs and large diameter timber, a chainsaw of at least 90cc or 6HP is recommended. The power of this size saw will be appropriate for the heavy-duty cutting required for these demanding logs.

The advantage of larger, more powerful chainsaws is that they can accommodate larger bar sizes, and they last longer when used for frequent milling operations.

How To Size A Chainsaw For Use In A Chainsaw Mill

The power and configuration of the chainsaw will ensure the saw will be effective and will survive the task. The saw configuration will be determined by the various factors related to your milling requirements, including the size of the logs you mill, the type of wood, the bar length required for the timber sizes, chain type and the chainsaw mill size.   

A chainsaw is a versatile tool for anyone who needs to process wood, whether performing cross cuts to fell trees and trim branches or cutting rip cuts to mill logs into usable boards.

Rip cuts used in milling logs require using a chainsaw in a manner that is generally outside the intended use of this tool, but a chainsaw mill makes it possible. However, using a chainsaw with a chainsaw mill requires that the chainsaw handle the higher demands put on it when used in this way. 

See our article on selecting the best type of milling chain for your chainsaw to ensure you’re getting the most from your chainsaw mill setup.

How Bar Size Affects Chainsaw Choice For A Chainsaw Mill

The bar size you need for milling with your chainsaw is dictated by the size of the logs you need to process and adjustable range of your chainsaw mill.

The diameter of the log will need a certain size bar on your chainsaw to cut the full diameter of the log. Chainsaw mills are rated for a minimum and maximum size bar that will fit within the two clamps correctly and safely. 

In some chainsaw mills, you can lose up to 4-inches of length on the chainsaw bar due to the bumper spikes and the curvature of the nose of the bar. This will reduce the diameter of logs you can process by the same amount.

These factors make a longer bar the preferred choice for milling logs with a chainsaw mill. Most chainsaws have a limit recommended by the manufacturer of the machine regarding the size of the bar that can be fitted. This limitation requires you to choose a chainsaw that can accommodate the right bar size for milling purposes.

See our article on selecting the right bar size for a chainsaw mill for tips on getting the most efficiency when milling with your chainsaw.

Wood Size Affects Chainsaw Size For Milling

Essentially, the larger the diameter of the logs, the more powerful the chainsaw you will need to effectively mill the log. If you typically mill small to medium-sized logs, you could use a smaller, lower-powered chainsaw, but when you come across that occasional larger log, your saw will struggle.

Using an under powered saw will take longer to cut, require more energy from the user and won’t provide a nice clean finish to the board surface. The size of the logs you will process with your chainsaw mill will be the main factor in deciding your chainsaw power rating and the size of your chainsaw mill.

The maximum diameter of the logs will determine the size of the chainsaw mill for the operation. It will also be a factor in selecting the length of your chainsaw bar.

Larger diameter logs mean that the saw will be cutting through a thicker piece of wood, with more of the wood in contact with the teeth of the chain, creating more resistance in the cut. This requires a chainsaw with extra power to cope with larger diameter logs.

Type Of Wood Affecting Chainsaw Choice For A Chainsaw Mill

The type of wood that you will mill with your chainsaw is important because of the power requirements for the saw to cut through wood of different densities.

Cedar, spruce and pine logs are examples of softer wood logs and are easily cut with a chainsaw, even a lower-powered chainsaw. However, if you are milling oak, walnut, or other hardwood logs, you are going to need a more powerful saw to cope with the toughness of these wood types.

Milling hardwoods with an underpowered chainsaw will cause the chainsaw to overheat, which could burn out the motor. This can also place excessive strain on the motor and the chain drive gears and wear the chainsaw components out quickly.

An underpowered saw can also stall in the middle of a long cut if the saw struggles with the hardwood. Restarting a chainsaw in this position is often impossible, and extricating the saw can be difficult. 

If you are milling a mixture of logs, including softwood and hardwood trees, you will need to go for a more powerful saw to handle the tougher wood.


Anyone who has ever done milling tasks with a chainsaw mill will tell you that it is better to have a more powerful chainsaw than an underpowered saw. An underpowered saw can jam up, struggle in the cut and be unsafe to use in this operation. The strain on the underpowered saw will cause the saw and its moving parts to wear out and fail sooner than normal.

Choosing a larger chainsaw will increase the tool’s longevity, increase your milling options and make your milling operation more efficient.

Dane McManis

Dane started learning about farming while volunteering on a farm. Now he and his wife raise chickens, pigs, and ducks on their small farm with their two little girls.

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