Best Chainsaw for Milling Lumber Reviews 2019
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Best Chainsaw for Milling Lumber

If you work with wood, then you know the invaluable resource a good chainsaw and milling attachment can be. Milling allows you to cut your boards to size and it isn’t a difficult task with a little bit of practice. However, the most important skill to have under your belt is a comfortable use of a chainsaw to make the most of your effort. This also includes being able to choose the best chainsaw for milling lumber.

Milling requires cuts of various lengths through large logs, and a good balance, powerful and high-quality chainsaw is crucial. Below I’ve provided some commonly asked questions surrounding ripping logs to mill into your own lumber, and a list of saws you want to consider for the job. 

Backyard Boss Top 5 Chainsaws for Milling Lumber

HUYOSEN 60CC 2-Stroke Gas Powered Chainsaw - Best Chainsaw for Milling LumberHUYOSEN 60CC 2-Stroke Gas Powered Chainsaw
  • Engine: 60cc
  • Power: Gas
  • Weight: 17.5 Pounds
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HUYOSEN PRO Professional Gas Chainsaw - Best Chainsaw for Milling LumberHUYOSEN PRO Professional Gas Chainsaw
  • Engine: 65cc
  • Power: Gas
  • Weight: 26 Pounds
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Husqvarna 20 Inch 455 Rancher Gas Chainsaw - Best Chainsaw for Milling LumberHusqvarna 20 Inch 455 Rancher Gas Chainsaw
  • Engine: 55cc
  • Power: Gas
  • Weight: 12.8 Pounds
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ECHO 20 in. Timber Wolf 59.8 cc Gas Chainsaw - Best Chainsaw for Milling LumberECHO 20 in. Timber Wolf 59.8 cc Gas Chainsaw
  • Engine: 59.8cc
  • Power: Gas
  • Weight: N/A
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Poulan Pro 20 in. 50cc 2-Cycle Gas Chainsaw - Best Chainsaw for Milling LumberPoulan Pro 20 in. 50cc 2-Cycle Gas Chainsaw
  • Engine: 50cc
  • Power: Gas
  • Weight: 17 Pounds
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Why You Can Trust Us

I’ve always been interested in the idea of milling and cutting my own lumber. In my years as a landscaper and general contractor, I’ve felled my share of trees and it was always shameful to watch perfectly good wood go to waste. It seemed like there was something I could do about it if I just had the right tools and knowledge. Of course, taking a large log to a lumber mill is possible, but it can be very expensive and make the whole process less likely to be profitable.

I was glad when I finally discovered the concept of a chainsaw mill. It was an easy, portable solution that could be brought out into the field and the wood could be broken down right there. However, finding the right chainsaw was very challenging. I ended up doing a lot of research on the right amount of power, what features were needed to keep the saw cool during all those cuts, and what was needed to keep it maneuverable.

Best Chainsaw for Alaskan Mill

HUYOSEN 60CC 2-Stroke Gas Powered Chainsaw
    This high-powered chainsaw is perfect for people who need to make a lot of cuts over a long period of time.



Why We Like It: The HUYOSEN 60CC 2-Stroke Gas Powered Chainsaw is a 3.9 horsepower saw that features a 20-inch cutting bar, which is perfect for milling large logs and breaking them down into wide boards. 

With an engine speed of up to 8,500 rpm, it’s a perfect counterpart to the smaller size of an Alaskan mill. It features an automatic oiler that will keep the chain lubricated during some of the longer cuts. This is incredibly useful for milling since you will have to keep the saw running and cutting for much longer periods than you would for some other applications. The shock-absorbing grip also helps make it as easy and comfortable to use as possible.

Who Should Buy It: People who want the best possible saw for their Alaskan mill that won’t break down or get stuck in the middle of a long cut will benefit from having it.

Best Chainsaw for Powerful Milling

HUYOSEN PRO Professional Gas Chainsaw
    This heavy-duty option is best for those who want a saw that won't overheat when used for a long period of time.



Why We Like It: For those who want to slice through logs effortlessly, the HUYOSEN PRO 65cc 2-Stroke Gas Powered Chain Saw is a great choice. 

The 2-stroke engine is massive and will deliver enough power to cut through almost anything you can throw at it. With a 4.6 horsepower motor that can run at up to 8,500 rpm, this is a great saw for milling harder woods like oak and maple. It comes with safety features like a safety trigger and a kill switch. However, the most important safety trait is the kick-back brake that will stop the saw if it hits something that it can’t cut, killing the engine and creating a much safer operation. 

Who Should Buy It: For people who need as much power as possible, but still want a saw that is safe and easy to use, it’s going to be a great choice. 

Best Lightweight Chainsaw for Milling

Husqvarna 20 Inch 455 Rancher Gas Chainsaw
    This 20 chainsaw is good for people who want a saw they can bring out to the worksite and won't take up a lot of room in the truck.



Why We Like It: The Husqvarna brand is well-known for working with lumber-related work. 

The 455 Rancher is on par with its larger counterpart, but with a lower weight and big 55.5cc engine. It provides you with increased power and handling for even more versatility. Supportive of a 20-inch bar and chain, this is considered a dependable saw within the logging industry, and a perfect choice for heavy-duty property work as well.

The X-Torq engine also supports a 20% increase in fuel consumption to keep you working longer, and the Low Vibration technology provides more comfortable work conditions. A centrifugal air cleaning system goes to work while you’re on the job, helping to keep your filters free from dirt and dust, and allowing excellent airflow through the engine. This extends the life, and power of your machine.

Who Should Buy It: People who need a saw that they can easily maneuver and bring out to the worksite with minimal hassle will find this product a great match. 

Best Reliable Chainsaw for Milling

ECHO 20 in. Timber Wolf 59.8 cc Gas Chainsaw
    This 59.8cc chainsaw is a good middle of the road saw that you can count on when bringing it out into the field for a long work day.



Why We Like It: The Echo brand is highly regarded as a professional grade saw. 

The CS-590 boasts a powerful 59.8cc engine displacement that supports a 20-inch long bar and chain for excellent durability when cutting timber and milling. This is the largest model offered by Echo and weighs in right at 17 lbs, placing it in the light to average weight category for power and size.

A decompression valve allows for easier starting, and the patented G-Force Engine Air Pre-Cleaner ensures good airflow through the engine for easier starting and a clean running job. This also allows for increased efficiency, and with a vibration dampener built-in, you can work longer without fatigue. Tool-less access to certain features provides convenience in the field. 

Who Should Buy It: If you’re looking for a chainsaw that will start up every time and you need a little more fuel efficiency, this product will be a perfect solution.

Best Versatile Chainsaw for Milling

Poulan Pro 20 in. 50cc 2-Cycle Gas Chainsaw
    This 17 pound chainsaw is a lightweight, versatile option for those who need one saw for a variety of jobs.



Why We Like It: The Poulan Pro is a popular homeowners chainsaw that provides raw power capable of working through heavy job loads, such as logging, bucking, and milling.

However, it’s still compact and easy to handle for large jobs around the house as well. The 50cc engine displacement supports a 20-inch bar and chain, and can easily be swapped out for smaller sizes if needed. It’s a great versatile choice and weighs only 17 lbs for less user fatigue.

The oxyPower engine allows for a cleaner running job and utilizes the power more effectively. Safety features include an easy-grip wrap-around handle, low kickback bar, chain features, and a chain brake. Additionally, maintenance in the field is easy with fast filter access and a combi-tool located in the handle. 

Who Should Buy It: People who want to be able to cut and break down logs of all sizes without having to bring multiple saws out into the field will benefit from using this tool. 

What is Milling

Bosch Chainsaw Resting
Image credits:
Sven Brandsma via Unsplash

Milling lumber describes the process of canting a log by cutting the rounded lengths off and then cutting measured boards from what is left. Commercial lumber mills complete these processes through the use of large machinery that can feed through hundreds of logs in an hour. However, you can do the same thing on a much smaller scale with a chainsaw and a few simple, inexpensive tools. The result of milling provides the same board lengths and widths that you can find in your local supplier. The only real difference is in how it was made.

What Do I Need to Mill My Own Lumber

Stack of Lumber
Image credits:
Alexander Schimmeck via Unsplash

Since very few people have their lumber yard in the backyard, the first thing you will have to do is investing in the proper chainsaw. It means it will have to match your personal preferences, as well as the size of the logs you are going to deal with.

What you need is a chainsaw powerful enough to get the job done with a chainsaw mill. You will want to have a saw that has at least a 50cc displacement and can run a 20-inch chain. However, if you’re cutting smaller logs and milling smaller boards, you can use a smaller saw. The same thing applies to larger, most customized widths and lengths. 

Once you have a chainsaw, you need to get a good milling attachmentThese go by various names, but the premise is all the same, they’re a measuring attachment that helps guide your saw to make the size cuts you prefer. A few other tools to help make basic measurements can also be used, but are not required.

Why Would I Want a Chainsaw for Milling

Niwa Chainsaw Resting
Image credits:
Ezequiel Guerrero via Pexels

The biggest reason people like to mill their own lumber is cost. If you’ve ever priced lumber for a project, then you know exactly how quickly it can add up to complete a project.

If you have access to raw lumber through your property or have been permitted to access forested areas for cutting, then you have all you need to get started with only the cost of your tools, gas, and oil. 

You might also be able to get cords of logs delivered to your house for minimal cost, and many firewood cutters can supply uncut logs to you as well. The point is, with some simple research you can find a way to access the logs you need to mill your lumber and save a lot of money in the long run.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Chainsaw for Milling

When considering what is the best chainsaw for logging and milling, you will need to take into account not only your personal preferences but also what is best for the job. Mentioned earlier was the chainsaw sizes often suggested for most milling projects, but smaller or larger saws can be used depending on the power you need. Keep in mind most larger saws are also compatible with smaller bars and chains.

What else do you plan to use the chainsaw for?

Do you plan on using your saw for jobs other than logging and milling? If so, and you’re budget conscious, consider a saw that is more versatile to complete all you have in mind. Also, be aware that smaller jobs around your home and property don’t need as much power, and can be completed with less expensive electric saws if you don’t mind owning more than one.

What is the size of the wood you plan to cut?

The size cuts you need to make are dependent upon the size saw you have. You can effectively cut down large trees with smaller chainsaws with a little extra effort and time. However, when milling you need to have a strong, smooth cut that requires the saw to support the job at hand. Larger engine sizes spin your chain more quickly, making it more effective, and also making your cuts easier to control.

How much experience do you have with a chainsaw?

Milling isn’t difficult, but it requires good control of your saw. Before taking on a milling job, become familiar with the handling and running of your saw, as well as getting yourself comfortable with the size of the saw you’re using. Even the most experienced saw handler sometimes doesn’t have perfect mill cuts at first. But don’t worry. With a little practice, you can get smooth lengths with every cut.

What Size Chainsaw Is Best for Milling

The size of the chainsaw that will be best suited for your milling work will depend on the size of the log you’re trying to cut. For example, if you’re cutting a log that is 15 inches in diameter, you will need a 15-inch chain bar to make it through the log. For most applications, though, a 20-inch chain bar will be long enough to cut through almost any tree. This will get you a 20 inch-wide board and is suitable for any lumber that you want to break down.

However, one of the areas of the size that you don’t want to skimp on is the size of the engine on your chainsaw. For the most part, you will want to have an engine that is at least 50cc to ensure that you have enough power to get through the log. One of the reasons for this is that milling puts a lot of pressure on top of the chain bar due to the weight of the plank you’re cutting.

If you don’t have enough power, you can end up overheating the saw and getting it stuck in the middle of a cut, where it will be almost impossible to get it started up again. If you make sure you have a large enough engine, this won’t be an issue.

Cutting Large Log
Image credits:
Mattias P.R. Reding via Pexels

How We Picked

All of the chainsaws on our list are going to be suitable for cutting large amounts of planks with a chainsaw mill. To make sure of this, we picked saws that had enough power to get through a large swath of wood without getting stuck and without overheating.

All of the saws on our list have engines that are at least 50cc and have enough horsepower to get through harder woods like oak and maple. This way, you won’t find yourself getting stuck in the middle of a big job and having to wait for the saw to cool down.

We also picked saws that are easy to use and maneuver. If a chainsaw is unwieldy, you’ll have a hard time making accurate cuts and may find yourself milling uneven boards. They all have easy starts as well, so you won’t have to wear your shoulder out stopping and starting your saw out in the field.

The Best Chainsaw for Milling Lumber Is…

When contemplating your milling jobs, you want a dependable, well-balanced, and powerful saw. This doesn’t mean the heaviest, largest engine is your go-to. The above-mentioned saws are some of the highest-rated, most popular within this category, and carefully capable of the logging work required for milling your lumber.

My personal favorite is the HUYOSEN 60CC 2-Stroke Gas Powered Chainsaw as it’s the perfect mid-range engine size that can handle heavy-duty milling jobs. It comes with an easy design to trade out for smaller bars when needed for other property maintenance work. Its light weight allows for excellent balance and handling when manipulating the saw with attachments, and keeps you from getting fatigued too easily. 

If you have a favorite saw for milling purposes, or any questions about the sizes and details of the examples we’ve offered, please let us know below. And, as always, please share!