How to Cut Wood Slabs with a Chainsaw [2 Effective Methods]

Patrick McMann

Knowledge Based

Have you ever come across a beautiful fallen tree and wondered if you could turn it into something amazing? Wood slabs are a perfect solution for transforming a tree into unique and rustic pieces of furniture or decor.

But how do you cut those slabs without a sawmill?

Fear not because, with the right tools and techniques, you can cut wood slabs with a chainsaw in your own backyard!

Today, I’ll cover everything you need to know about cutting wood slabs with a chainsaw — from preparing for the process to the two most popular cutting methods.

So, let’s get started and turn that fallen tree into a masterpiece!

cutting wood slabs with a chainsaw in different ways

How to Cut Wood Slabs with a Chainsaw? Preparing for the Process

Before you dive into cutting wood slabs with a chainsaw, it’s essential to make sure you’re fully prepared.

This means finding a spacious and level location, checking your chainsaw’s fuel and oil levels, and ensuring that you’re wearing the proper safety gear including safety goggles, helmet, hearing protection, and shoes. Check your chainsaw and determine the thickness of your desired wood slab before securing it firmly in place.

slab cutting patterns diagram
Image Credits: Porter Barn Wood

Method 1: Freehand Wood Slab Cutting

Freehand wood slab cutting refers to the process of cutting wood slabs without using a guide or a jig. It involves using only the chainsaw to make the cuts and relies heavily on the user’s skill and experience to achieve straight and even cuts.

It can be a bit more challenging than using a guide, but it can also be more satisfying for those who prefer a hands-on approach.

Step 1: Securing the Wood Slab

First things first, secure that slab of wood as your life depends on it – because it does! Use clamps or a sturdy stand to keep it firmly in place and avoid unwanted movement during cutting.

Step 2: Make Plumb Lines Or Get a Guide Board

Now it’s time to create those plumb lines for precise cuts. Plumb lines are basically like a chainsaw artist’s secret weapon. They’re like Batman to the chainsaw’s Robin.

You know that feeling when you’re trying to cut a straight line, but your chainsaw seems to have a mind of its own? Well, plumb lines are here to save the day!

They’re like little vertical guides that tell your chainsaw where to go, keeping it on the straight and narrow.

Step 3: Flatter the Wood Slab!

Flattening a wood slab is important for several reasons. First, it ensures the slab is level, making it easier to work on and preventing wobbling. Second, it creates a smooth surface that is free from any high spots or unevenness.

This is especially important if you plan to use the slab for a project or as a tabletop, where any bumps or dips could be a nuisance.

Now let’s get started with flattening that wood slab!

First, we need to identify the highest spots so that we can knock them down one by one. It’s like a game of whack-a-mole, except we’re creating a beautiful, level surface instead of winning a prize.

Set your chainsaw bit to take off about 1/8″ of material, and adjust your chainsaw speed accordingly if you use a big slab.

We don’t want to go too fast and ruin our slab, right? Start on one side of the slab, move the chainsaw across, and bring it back.

Once you’re done, move the entire sled down the slab to advance the cut. Repeat this process until you’ve made it across the entire slab.

And here you go with the “Freehand Wood Slab Cutting.” With some practice, you’ll be cutting those wood slabs like a pro in no time!

Method 2: Frame-Style Wood Slab Cutting

Frame-style wood slab cutting is a method that involves using a custom-made jig to guide the chainsaw and make precise cuts.

This method is ideal for producing evenly sized slabs with a smooth and uniform finish. It’s also perfect for those who plan on cutting a large number of slabs and want to do it quickly and efficiently.

Step 1: Make a Jig

A jig is a guide that helps you cut the wood slab precisely. To make a jig, you can use any straight piece of wood, like a 2×4 or a 2×6.

Cut the wood to the desired length, and then use a saw to cut a groove down the middle. This groove will be where the chainsaw blade goes.

Step 2: Set the Jig on the Tree Log

Once you’ve made the jig, it’s time to set it up on the tree log. Place the jig on top of the log, and ensure it’s centered. Then, use clamps to secure the jig in place. Ensure the clamps are tight so the jig doesn’t move during cutting.

Step 3: Start Slicing!

Now that your jig is set up, it’s time to start cutting. Turn on your chainsaw and carefully guide it through the groove in the jig.

Keep a steady hand, and make sure to follow the line you want to cut. Once you’ve cut through the log, remove the jig and repeat the process until you’ve cut all the wood slabs you need.

Best Size Chainsaw for Cutting Wood Slabs

One crucial factor to consider is the size of your chainsaw. You’ll want to choose a chainsaw with a bar length that is suitable for the thickness of the wood slab you plan to cut.

A bar length of 16-20 inches is ideal for cutting wood slabs that are up to 12 inches in thickness. Similarly, a longer bar length of 20-24 inches is better suited for 14-inch or thicker slabs.

Choose a chainsaw with enough power to handle the job but not so much power that it becomes difficult to control.

That being said, since there is no one-size-fits-all answer, it ultimately depends on the specific project and individual preferences.

However, I’d like to mention some popular options for cutting wood slabs.

These chainsaws offer powerful engines and long bar lengths, making them well-suited for tackling thick wood slabs.

Ultimately, it’s essential to choose a chainsaw that you feel comfortable and confident using and that meets your specific project needs. So, do your research, compare models, and choose the best chainsaw for your wood slab-cutting project.

Can you Cut a Wet Wood Slab With a Chainsaw?

For those living in a temperate climate with constant rainfall, you may be wondering if it’s safe to cut wet wood with a chainsaw.

Well, it’s cool if you cut wet wood with a chainsaw, but it’s important to take extra precautions to ensure a safe and efficient cutting experience.

Wet wood can be heavier, and the chainsaw chain can become clogged with sawdust and debris more quickly, so it’s important to clean your chainsaw frequently and sharpen the chain as needed with a chainsaw sharpener.

Additionally, it’s important to wear appropriate safety gear, such as a rain jacket and non-slip boots, and to take breaks frequently to avoid fatigue.

Now, let’s explore the best chainsaw chain for cutting wet wood slabs next!

What Chain to Use for Cutting Wet Wood Slabs?

When it comes to choosing the right chainsaw chain for cutting wet wood slabs, you don’t want to be stuck with a dull chain that’s as useful as a toothless beaver. Instead, opt for a skip-tooth or low-profile chain with a full chisel cutter.

These chains can handle the extra moisture and prevent clogging so you can slice through wet wood like a hot knife through butter.

Just remember to keep your chain sharp and well-maintained, or else you’ll be left with a soggy mess and a disappointed look on your face.

Now that you know which chainsaw chain to use, let’s talk about ideal wood thickness!

What Thickness to Cut Wood Slab At?

When it comes to cutting wood slabs, size matters!

You don’t want to be stuck with a slab so thin that you can’t even make a decent coaster out of it. On the other hand, a slab that’s too thick can be as useful as a refrigerator in the Arctic.

So what’s the perfect thickness?

Well, it depends on what you’re planning to use the slab for. Whether it’s a beautiful coffee table or a sturdy bench, aim for a thickness between 1.5 to 3 inches. This will give you a sturdy and functional slab that will impress.

So grab that chainsaw and start cutting to your heart’s content!

Learn More: Can You Rent a Chainsaw at Lowe’s?

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you cut wood planks with a chainsaw?

Yes, you can cut wood planks with a chainsaw. With the right method and techniques, a chainsaw can be versatile for cutting planks out of logs, slabs, or larger pieces of wood.

However, it’s essential to use a chainsaw with the appropriate bar length and chain size for the job to ensure optimal performance.

How thick should wood slabs be cut?

The thickness of wood slabs depends on the intended use and personal preference. Typically, wood slabs are cut anywhere from 1 inch to 4 inches thick. However, some may prefer thicker slabs for specific projects or thinner ones for more delicate woodworking.

It’s important to consider the type of wood, the moisture content, and the desired end use when determining the thickness of wood slabs to cut.

What is the best way to cut wood slabs with a chainsaw?

Two main methods for cutting wood slabs with a chainsaw are freehand and frame-style.

Freehand cutting involves securing the wood slab, making plumb lines or using a guide board, and making slices with the chainsaw. Frame-style cutting involves making a jig and setting it on the tree log to guide the chainsaw.

Both methods can be effective, depending on your experience and available tools.

What blade do I need to cut slabs?

The type of chain you use will depend on the type of wood you are cutting, as well as the thickness of the wood slab. A skip-tooth chain is typically used for cutting wood slabs, as it has fewer teeth and allows for faster cutting speed.

Using a chain with a larger pitch and gauge is also recommended, as this will provide more power and stability when cutting through thick wood slabs.

What is the hardest wood to cut with a chainsaw?

You can cut any type of wood with a chainsaw since it depends on factors such as the chainsaw’s horsepower and the blade’s sharpness.

Generally, hardwoods like hickory, oak, and maple can be more difficult to cut due to their density and toughness.

Exotic woods like Brazilian cherry and teak can also be challenging to cut due to their hardness.

What is the easiest way to cut slabs?

The easiest way to cut slabs is using a chainsaw with the appropriate chain, such as a ripping or chainsaw mill attachment. It is also important to properly secure the wood slab and use a guide or jig to ensure straight cuts.

Is it better to cut wood wet or dry with a chainsaw?

It is generally better to cut wood when dry with a chainsaw. Cutting wet wood can be more complex and cause the chainsaw blade to become dull more quickly.

Wet wood also tends to produce more smoke and can be more dangerous to work with due to the increased risk of slips and falls.

Wrap Up!

Get ready to take your chainsaw skills to the next level because you are now officially a wood slab-cutting expert!

From choosing the best chainsaw for the job to mastering two different cutting methods, you’ve got all the knowledge you need to create beautiful, custom wood slabs for any project.

So go ahead, grab your chainsaw, and let’s get slicing those wood slabs like a pro!

Patrick McMann