Top 7 Chainsaw Cutting Techniques for Beginners and Pros

Patrick McMann

Knowledge Based

Chainsaws, while helpful on the one hand, can be incredibly dangerous if handled incorrectly. That’s why it is crucial to learn its proper cutting methods.

In this guide, I’ll cover chainsaw cutting techniques for beginners and professionals. I’ll go over the basics of types of chainsaw cuts, cutting methods, and advanced chainsaw techniques for making clean cuts and handling kickbacks.

But no matter your skill level, it’s important to remember that safety always comes first when operating the cutting machine. Only by following the correct cutting techniques you can safely and effectively get the task done.

best chainsaw cutting techniques

6+ Chainsaw Cutting Techniques Explained in Detail

Chainsaw-cutting techniques refer to the safe and effective methods of using a cutting tool. These techniques include different types of cuts, cutting procedures, body positioning, and safety precautions to prevent chainsaw cut injury. Following them is crucial for both beginners and advanced users to ensure a successful cutting job.

1. Cross-Cutting

Secure the Log: The first step is to secure and hold the log in place with a sawbuck or any other tool to prevent it from sliding during cutting.

Choose a Stable Surface: It is also critical to have a stable surface to work on to ensure safety.

Plan the Cuts: Next, you should plan the cuts according to the log size and the length of cuts you want. But make sure to use the proper technique to make cuts to avoid chainsaw kickback and ensure accuracy.

Mark the First Cut: Mark the first cut to create a flat surface for your cutting tool to rest on, providing stability for the rest of the cuts.

Make the First Cut: Position the chainsaw so that its bar and chain make a 90-degree angle with the log. Make the first cut and stop when you reach three-quarters of the way through the log.

Create Other Cuts: Similarly, make a second cut a few inches away parallel to the first cut. Keep making cuts along the entire length of the log.

Use a Pry Bar: This cross-cutting technique will create wedge-shaped sections of the log. Use a pry bar to pry away the wedges, and repeat steps 3 to 6 until you’ve cut the entire log.

2. Rip-cutting

Install a Ripping Chain: To perform a rip cut, you’ll need a specialized ripping chain for your cutting tool. The chain must have a straight chisel-shaped cutter and a flat top.

Position the Chainsaw: Next, place your cutting tool parallel to the log, with the guide bar resting on the log surface. Typically, the angle in rip cutting is 90 degrees to reduce kickback and produce a straight cut.

Create Diagonal Cuts: First, mark a diagonal cut and use the cutting machine to make a shallow cut along the log length.

Make Other Diagonal Cuts: Make another diagonal cut opposite to the first cut, creating a V-shaped notch. Repeat the process along the entire log length.

3. Plunge Cutting

Mark the Area: Start by determining the area on the wood where you want to make the first cut and mark that area.

Secure the Wood: Secure the log on a table but make sure to leave enough space beneath so the plunge cut won’t damage the table surface.

Create a Starting Point: Place your cutting machine perpendicular to the mark and create a starting point. Keep the machine straight, and don’t tilt it right or left.

Make a Perpendicular Cut: Guide the machine downward vertically from the starting point until you’ve cut through the wood. But be sure to keep the blade straight and perpendicular to the wood.

4. Bevel Cutting

Determine the Angle: Before you start bevel cutting, determine the angle of your cut with a protractor or an angle gauge.

Adjust the Chainsaw Depth: Secure the wood against the table and adjust the chainsaw depth to match the thickness of the wood. This will ensure you don’t cut too deep or shallow.

Mark the Wood: Use a marker to mark the starting point of the cut on the wood.

Begin the Cut: Hold the cutting tool perpendicular to the angle you’ve marked and move it slowly. Use a consistent and steady motion, and don’t tilt the blade.

Complete the Cut: Once you reach the end of the cut, slow down to prevent kickback. After you’ve completed the bevel cut, use sandpaper or a hand saw, if necessary, to smooth any rough edges.

5. Notch Cutting

Plan the Cut: Decide where you want the tree to fall. Clear any obstacles in the surrounding area.

Make the Top Cut: Use a marker and a measuring tape to mark the area and dimensions on the trunk where you wish to create a notch. Then, make a horizontal top cut at 90 degrees to the direction you want the tree to fall. Cut through the trunk one-third of the way.

Make an Angled Cut: Use the chainsaw to create a second cut at a 45-degree downward toward the middle of the trunk and opposite the first cut. This cut should meet the V-shaped notch bottom to complete the notch cut.

Use a Felling Wedge: Use a felling wedge to guide the tree to fall in your desired direction.

Make the Back Cut: Make a back cut above the hinge of the notch, but on the opposite side of the tree from the incision and parallel to the top cut. Continue cutting until the tree falls in your desired direction.

6. Limb Cutting

Plan the Cut: Identify the branch you wish to cut and clear the surroundings.

Make the Undercut: Make the undercut with the cutting tool about 6-12 inches away from the tree trunk based on the branch size. Use the tool to cut through one-third of the branch from the bottom.

Make the Top Cut: Make the top cut from the top side of the branch, just outside the undercut, cutting horizontally with a chainsaw. But make this cut slightly away from the tree trunk so the branch falls out cleanly.

Repeat the Process: Make the final cut from the top to remove any remaining wood between the branch and trunk. This cut should be made in the raised area where the branch meets the trunk. Remove the branch and repeat the process with other branches.

7. Buck Cutting

Measure the Log: Start by measuring the log length to determine the desired length for your cuts. Next, identify the location of the first cut, which should be at the end of the log.

Make the First Cut: Install a ripping chain on the cutting tool and use it to make the first cut straight through the log and perpendicular to its length. Next, move to the other end of the log and measure the length of the remaining cuts. For convenience, use chalk to mark the log at the length of the first remaining cut.

Make the Second Cut: Make the second cut on the opposite side of the first cut but parallel to it.

Repeat the Process: Continue making cuts using the same technique until the entire log is cut into smaller bucks.

7 Types of Chainsaw Cuts You Must Know

There are different types of chainsaw cuts that can be made depending on the task at hand. However, understanding them is essential for achieving precise results when using a cutting tool. Let’s explore some of the most common types of cuts:


Cross-cuts are used to cutting down trees and processing them into smaller, more manageable pieces perpendicular to the grain. They are also used to prepare wood for furniture, cabinetry, and fire. There are three types of cross-cuts. Here they are:

  • Overbuck: An overbuck cut is used when the log is too large to cut through from the bottom. It involves cutting the wood from top to bottom.
  • Underbuck: Underbuck cut is used when the log is smaller. It involves cutting the log from the bottom to the top.
  • Box Cut: A box cut is made by cutting the wood into shorter sections. This involves starting from the top, flipping the log piece, and cutting from the bottom.

Rip Cut

A rip cut is another type of cut used for producing boards or planks. It involves using the best chainsaw to cut a log along its length for building projects such as decking, fencing, and framing. Rip cuts are also used to create shelves and table tops in furniture. There are three types of rip-cuts. Here they are:

  • Full-Thickness Rip: This type of rip cut involves cutting through the entire thickness of the wood. This is used for cutting lumber.
  • Thin-Rip: A thin rip cut involves cutting thin strips of wood off the edge of the wooden piece. This kind of cut is used for creating small strips of wood for edging and decorative purposes.
  • Re-Saw: A re-saw cut involves cutting a wood piece into thinner sections. It is used to make narrow boards from a large piece of wood.

Plunge Cut

Plunge cutting is a technique that involves cutting the wood from the middle rather than from the edge. This method is often used when creating openings for doors and windows or interior cuts. There are three types of plunge cuts. Here they are:

  • Straight Plunge Cut: A straight plunge cut involves plunging the chainsaw straight into the wood to create straight openings.
  • Curved Plunge Cut: A curved plunge cut is made in a curved shape and is typically used to create rounded openings.
  • Compound Plunge Cut: A compound plunge cut is made at different angles and depths and is typically used to create intricate openings.

Bevel Cut

A bevel cut involves using a chainsaw to make angled cuts to create a beveled edge on boards and planks. It is used to create decorative pieces or joints. There are three types of bevel cuts. Here they are:

  • Single Bevel Cut: A single bevel cut involves cutting the wood at a single angle, typically between 10 and 45 degrees.
  • Compound Bevel Cut: This type of cut creates two different angles for a more complex beveled edge.
  • Chamfer Cut: A chamfer cut involves cutting the wood at a 45-degree angle along the edge to create a beveled edge.

Notch Cut

Notch is a type of chainsaw tree technique used to fell trees, typically in the forestry industry where you’d mostly see arborist or top-handle chainsaws. The notch helps the tree fall and prevents it from splitting during the felling process.

By creating a notch, you can control the direction of the tree fall and minimize the risk of damage to the surrounding trees and structures. Besides, notch cuts are also used in landscaping to remove large stumps and trees. There are three types of notch cuts. Here they are:

  • Open-Faced Notch: The open-faced notch is created by cutting a 70-degree gap in the tree trunk with a cutting tool. Next, a horizontal back cut is made two inches higher than the bottom of the notch. This allows the tree to fall in the desired direction.
  • Conventional Notch: In conventional notch cutting, you cut a 45-degree notch instead of a 70-degree. Next, the back cut is made parallel to the incision.
  • Humboldt Notch: The Humboldt notch is similar to a conventional notch, but the back cut is higher, leaving a hinge that controls the tree’s fall.

Limb Cut

A limb cut involves using a chainsaw to remove the branches of trees. This type of cut is generally used for pruning and maintaining trees. There are three types of limb cuts. Here they are:

  • Undercut: An undercut is made on the underside of a branch before its removal. This is done to prevent the branch from tearing the bark.
  • Top Cut: A top cut is made on the top side of the branch a short distance away from the undercut for branch removal.
  • Notch Cut: This is made on the underside of a large branch to prevent it from splitting and causing damage to the tree or surrounding vegetation.

Bucking Cut

Chainsaw bucking techniques involve cutting a felled tree or a log into smaller sections or “bucks.” It is used for furniture making, transportation purposes, and other woodworking projects. There are three types of bucking cuts. Here they are:

  • Overbuck: An overbuck cut involves cutting the wood from the top or over bark side.
  • Underbuck: An under buck cut is used to cut the wood from the bottom or underbark side.
  • Combination Buck: A combination buck is used to cut wood from both top and bottom to create a flat surface for stacking or transportation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to cut with a chainsaw?

The best way to cut with a cutting machine is to use the proper technique, maintain your machine well, and wear adequate safety gear including safety pants, gloves, helmet, safety glasses, hearing protection, and work boots.

What are the three types of chainsaw cuts?

The three types of chainsaw cuts are cross-cuts, rip cuts, and plunge cuts. All three types are discussed in detail above, so you can refer to them in case you want to cut a tree with these three types of cuts.

What are the 4 cutting forces of a chainsaw?

The four cutting forces of a cutting tool are tension, bending, compression, and torsion.

How do you stand when cutting with a chainsaw?

When cutting with a chainsaw, the best way to stand is with your feet shoulder-width apart and your weight evenly distributed.

What is the best cutting technique?

The best chainsaw-cutting technique is based on what type of cut you want to make. But generally, it involves making a series of precise and controlled cuts using the proper cutting technique and safety gear.

What type of chainsaw chain cuts the fastest?

A chainsaw chain with a skip-tooth design cuts the fastest. It features a large distance between the teeth, allowing for a more immediate cut with a rougher surface.

What are the 4 methods of cutting?

The four chainsaw cutting methods include notch, bevel, rip, and plunge. Each process is used for different applications and requires a specific technique to ensure cut accuracy.

What are the types of cutting processes?

There are several types of chainsaw cutting processes, such as rip, notch, bevel, limb, buck, cross, and plunge cutting.

Final Thoughts

Chainsaw-cutting techniques are essential to learn for anyone working with wood, trees, or timber. There are different types of cuts that can be made with a cutting machine, as I’ve mentioned above in the post. Each cut has its own unique application and requires specific techniques to ensure safety and cut accuracy.

Whether you’re a professional logger or someone who enjoys woodworking, mastering the techniques is essential for success. However, it’s important to remember that chainsaw cutting can be dangerous if proper safety measures are not taken.

So, make sure to wear gloves, eye and ear protection, and a hard hat. Also, ensure the cutting machine is in good working condition and follow the proper technique for each type of cut to prevent injury.

Patrick McMann