How to Hold Logs While Cutting With Chainsaw

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To safely cut logs with a chainsaw, you must ensure that they are adequately supported and immobilized. A log jack is the best way to hold logs, but there are other options as well. We’ll cover everything you need to know in this article, as well as give some general tips for cutting logs with a chainsaw. 

How to Use a Log Jack to Hold Logs While Cutting With a Chainsaw

A log jack (also called log lifter, or timberjack) is the simplest and most versatile method for holding logs while cutting them with a chainsaw. 

A man cutting a log horizontally to demonstrate on how to hold logs while cutting with chainsaw.
  1. Check the log diameter. Log jacks are designed to lift and support logs of a certain diameter. Measure the diameter of your log to make sure it fits within the specifications for your specific jack. 
  2. Check the log length. You’ll need to roll the log onto the log jack. If your log is too long to allow it to be rolled, you may have to cut it into smaller pieces before you can use the jack. 
  3. Clear the branches. Remove the branches from the length of the tree before you roll it onto the jack, to make it easier to maneuver and prepare the log for cutting. 
  4. Place the jack on stable ground. The bottom foot of the jack is what will support the log during cutting, so you want it to be steady and secure. 
  5. Roll the log onto the jack. For larger logs, use a claw bar to help get the log moving. Maneuver the log so it rests on top of the jack. 
  6. Set the hook and handle. The log jack has a hook to hold the log in place. Slide the hook over the log. Set the handle of the log jack to about 60 degrees.
  7. Check the hook. Ensure that the hook is properly secured by pressing down on the log jack handle. The log should roll slightly toward the handle, and the hook should dig into the side of the log. 
  8. Lift the log. Most log jacks can raise a log about ten inches – plenty of room to make a cut with a chainsaw. Crank the handle to lift the log to an appropriate and stable height. 

Alternative Methods for Holding Logs While Cutting With Chainsaw

If you don’t want to use a log jack, there are several other options you can choose to hold a log while you cut it with a chainsaw. For large logs on the ground, use wedges. For logs you can lift, use a log holder or a log sawhorse to stabilize the log. 

Use Wedges

If the log you want to cut is too large to lift onto a saw horse or into a dock, you may need to use wedges to stabilize it and cut it on the ground. 

  • Wooden wedges are the perfect support for stabilizing cylindrical logs. 
  • Insert the wedges between the log and the ground. 
  • You should insert a wedge every few feet. Make sure to put wedges on both sides of the log.
  • If necessary, use a mallet to knock the wedges into place. 

You should never allow your chainsaw bar to touch the ground, so you won’t be able to cut all the way through the log in one pass. 

Instead, start by making each cut three-fourths of the way through the log. Then, use a pry bar or claw bar to roll the log 180 degrees.

When it’s time to roll the log over, remove the wedges. Reinsert them before finishing the cut. 

Use an Adjustable Log Holder

If you do a significant amount of cutting, you may want to invest in a log holder. 

  • Log holders have a set of adjustable jaws or a vise that grip the log and hold it in place. The jaws or vise are supported by a sturdy metal frame. 
  • When considering log holders, think about the size and weight of logs you’ll be cutting. Smaller models may be more portable and lightweight, but a heavy-duty log holder is necessary to cut large, heavy logs. 

Cutting hard wood requires the right chainsaw – make sure you aren’t using one that doesn’t have the proper engine power.

Use a Log Sawhorse

Log sawhorses are sometimes called ‘sawbucks’. You can purchase log sawhorses from your local hardware or home improvement store. You can also build a log sawhorse yourself using 2x4s. 

  • A log sawhorse is made from several large X shapes in a row. 
  • The bottom of the X is reinforced with horizontal supports. The top X forms a V-shaped trough that holds your log. 
  • When you’re ready to cut a log, all you need to do is lift it into one or more log sawhorses. Arrange the log so that the cut will ‘open’ and the waste section falls away from the remainder. This will prevend your blade from getting pinched. 

General Tips for Cutting Logs with Chainsaws

Now that you know how to hold logs in place, here are some general tips for successfully cutting those logs with a chainsaw. 

A man cutting a log vertically using a chainsaw
  • The bar of the chainsaw (the part that holds the chain) should be at least two inches longer than the log you are cutting. For example: to cut a log with an 18-inch diameter, you must use a chainsaw bar of at least 20 inches. The tip of the chainsaw should not come into contact with the log, as this is a leading cause of kickback. 
  • For cutting logs larger than 16 inches in diameter, you’ll probably need to use a gas-powered chainsaw. Electric chainsaw bars don’t tend to be longer than 18 inches. 
  • Never cut into the ground. Cutting into the ground quickly dulls your chainsaw blade, can introduce dirt into your chainsaw and can cause dangerous kickback. 
  • If your chainsaw gets pinched between two sections of wood, turn it off immediately. Use a wedge to create space between the wood so you can extract the chainsaw. Don’t attempt to keep cutting, as you could lose control of the saw. 

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Conclusion

To safely cut logs with a chainsaw, they must be properly held and supported. The best way to hold a log while cutting it with a chainsaw is to use a log jack. Other options for holding wood during cutting with a chainsaw include; wedges, log holders, and log sawhorses. 

Ellenkate grew up on job sites run by her family’s construction company. She earned her theater degree from The Hartt School, a prestigious performing arts conservatory in Connecticut. Her design and DIY work from her Chicago loft was featured in the Chicago Reader and on Apartment Therapy.