Cut your lumber: A Step-By-Step Guide.


Opting for a DIY when cutting your lumber is a job of passion and love because it isn’t a straightforward challenge. For an artisan, milling your lumber allows you to cut unique wood materials to your taste and is a cost-saving strategy. 

Do you have the right tools to cut your lumber? Read this step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Table of Contents

What Tools Are Needed?

Whether you’re a lumber enthusiast, a novice woodworker, or a hobbyist, getting the right tools will make the process more efficient. DIY lumbering has several cost-saving advantages, primarily due to skyrocketing prices. Besides, if you cut your lumber, you can achieve desirable size cuts. These tools help:

Handling Equipment

How will you transport the lumber to your garage or workshop? Which method will you use to load them onto the sawmill? Think about the right equipment you need to handle loads of logs. Examples of equipment that you may think of getting include:

  • A heavy-duty trailer 
  • An effective skid loader 
  • Cant hooks
skid loader

(skid loader)

Bucking Tools

Bucking involves cutting the lumber into sizable and usable lengths. Ensure that you have an appropriate arsenal of bucking tools.

One such must-have bucking tool is a powerful chainsaw with both regular and ripping chains. These chains are essential for trimming your lumber into suitable lengths of milling. 



Fuel and Power Supply

Whether using an electric or gas-powered mill, you need sufficient power to complete your logging needs. 

An electric mill has single-phase and three-phase power options allowing you to choose the option that works with you better.

For instance, if you select a three-phase power mill, ensure that the available power is sufficient to accommodate the mill’s power consumption needs. Similarly, you can’t choose a three-phase mill in a single-phase power supply. 

picture of cut wood

(picture of cut wood)

Protective Equipment

Lumbering involves dangerous and powerful machines that expose you to possible injuries. But remember, protection goes beyond placing guards on the machine. 

Get extra gear to protect your ears, eyes, and appendages. Sawdust, broken pieces of timber, shouldn’t get into contact with your eyes or exposed body parts. Wear protective gear (gloves, goggles, ear muffs) to keep you safe. 

protective equipment

 (protective equipment)

Finishing Tools

Finishing tools help you to tune your timber into complete products. For instance, you can’t lay your wooden floor using a freshly cut and rough board.

It would help if you had finishing tools to smooth the board surface and prepare it for flooring. These tools include a planer and jointer for making unique and smooth cuts of your lumber with ideal symmetry. 

carpenter at work

 (carpenter at work)

The Mill Itself

We discuss below the various steps milling entails, but as mentioned earlier, remember to use the appropriate power setting and ensure enough fuel.  

Using the Right Saw for the Job

You can use a band or chain saw, depending on what you intend to use it for. 

  • Portable chain saw: A chain saw is ideal for cutting your lumber into smaller-diameter logs. This chainsaw is cheaper, more portable, and suitable for evergreen softwoods such as spruces, fir, and cedars. 
  • Portable band saw: Use a bandsaw for bigger hardwoods and logs from deciduous trees, including cherry, poplar, oak, and maple. A band saw will cut through hardwood more efficiently, thanks to its thinner blade, as it kerfs less. 
Chainsaw picture

(Chainsaw picture)

What Chain Do I Use?

The type of chain you use to cut your lumber depends on the kind of wood that you intend to cut. It would be best to have a properly-sized chainsaw, a chainsaw bar, and a suitable chain on the saw.

A ripping chain is the best milling chain because it cuts in the direction of the wood grain. 

The logger was at work with a chain saw

(The logger was at work with a chain saw)

How to Cut Your Lumber: Step-By-Step

Milling involves the following steps:

Step One: Building a Sawmill

The saw you use in the lumbering is the primary consideration when building a sawmill. 

The second consideration is the frame for your sawmill. You can access information on different frame plans and their instructions online. Consider the price of raw materials and the effort you need when choosing the frame. 

Building a sawmill is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process. You can purchase a turnkey if it’s within your budget to save time and make lumbering more efficient. 

Lumber is produced in a sawmill

(Lumber is produced in a sawmill)

Step Two: Finding and Picking Logs

You’ve spent time, resources, and effort building your sawmill. It’s time to try the fun by putting a sawmill into use. The question now is where you’ll get the wood.

Begin searching for any usable lumber in your properties, such as dead trees. Choose a healthy lumber that hasn’t been lying on the ground for several months and ensure the piece is dry. Try using the logs you get to learn using your sawmill. 

You can follow the direction many hobbyists and DIY sawmill operators follow by partnering with tree services and other tree-supplying sources to get the best trees.

Connect with land-clearing contractors by linking with them through social media platforms. Search for property owners trying to get rid of unwanted felled trees. 

the wood

(the wood)

Step Three: Prepping the Logs for Milling

Your handling equipment and the bucking stand your constructed swing to task here. Get the logs you’ve gathered into suitable conditions as you prepare to make your first attempt to cut. 

Always cut your lumber longer than the desired final product. Experts recommend keeping the trim allowance length between approximately four to six inches. Remember to examine the log bark for any handling problems when milling it. 

lumber mill

(lumber mill)

Step Four: Using Your Saw Mill

It’s time to place prepped logs into the proper position using hydraulics or winches. Position the log evenly on the saw blade. Keep the pith level with the ground by raising the smaller side to account for the tapper in the piece of wood. 

It would be best to decide on the ideal orientation position to get the best cuts from the log.

Ensure you strategically position your wood to show knots and other vital features. Clamp down the wood to the frame to prevent it from rolling due to powerful vibrations. 

You can cut your log into various grain patterns, including;

  • Plain: You can achieve this pattern by sawing through the log’s center and down.
  • Quarter: Saw the log into distinct quarters at radial angles before plain-sawing the quarters
  • Rift: This pattern entails sawing and turning several times to generate top-notch quality logs

The last activity is drying your harvest lumber. You can air-dry or use a kiln. 

Lumber pile

(Lumber pile)


Consider your lumbering needs before choosing a milling chainsaw. Also,  always ensure you wear protective gear and follow the lumbering steps when you cut your lumber.

One advantage of cutting your lumber is that it allows you to control every step in the lumbering process.

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