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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 own boards to size and is not at all a difficult task with a little bit of practice. But the most important skill to have under your belt is a comfortable use of a chainsaw in order 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 length through large logs, and a good balance, powerful chainsaw of quality is a must. Below I’ve provided some commonly asked questions surrounding ripping logs to mill into your own lumber, and a list of saws you may want to consider for the task.

5 Best Chainsaw for Milling Lumber Comparisons

Model
          Features
Husqvarna 460 Rancher Chain Saw



  • Weight: 21 lbs
  • Bar Length: 24 inch
  • Power: 60cc
  • Warranty: Up to 4 years
TIMBERPRO Professional Series Gas Powered Chainsaw



  • Weight: 13 lbs
  • Bar Length: 20 inch
  • Power: 62cc
  • Warranty: 2-year consumer
Husqvarna 455 Rancher Gas Powered Chainsaw



  • Weight: 12.8 lbs
  • Bar Length: 20 inch
  • Power: 55.5 cc
  • Warranty: Up to 4 years
Echo CS-590 Timber Wolf Chainsaw



  • Weight: 17 lbs
  • Bar Length: 20 inch
  • Power: 59.8 cc
  • Warranty: 5-year consumer
Poulan Pro 50cc Gas Powered Chain Saw




  • Weight: 17.8 lbs
  • Bar Length: 20 inch
  • Power: 50 cc
  • Warranty: 2 years

What is Milling?

Milling lumber describes the process of canting a log by cutting the rounded lengths off and then cutting measured boards from what it left. Commercial lumber mills complete these processes through the use of large machinery that can feed through hundreds of logs in an hour- but 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 you can visit your local building supplier for. The only real difference is in how it was made.

What Do I Need to Mill My Own Lumber?

Since very few people have their own little lumber yard in the backyard, the first thing you will want to invest in before milling your own wood is the best logging chainsaw you are comfortable with. Word to the wise: this does NOT mean the largest saw you can get: simply your personal preference concerning the best for the size of the logs you are dealing with will do.

There are a lot of gimmicks involved with the details of this type of job, but all you seriously need is a chainsaw powerful enough to get the job done with a chainsaw mill. For the most part, you will want to have a saw that has at least a 50cc displacement and can run a 20-inch chain. This is NOT a rule by any means, however. If you are cutting smaller logs and milling smaller boards, you absolutely can use a smaller saw. The same thing applies to larger, most customized widths and lengths.

Once you have a chainsaw you are happy with, then you need to get a good milling attachment (or even create one yourself). These go by various names, but the premise is all the same; they are 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?

The biggest reason people like to mill their own lumber is cost. If you have 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 own 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 own lumber and save a lot of money in the long run.

Chainsaw Care

Gas powered chainsaws are defined by a 2-stroke engine which supplies the power to the piston to run the drive shaft. The drive shaft is controlled by the clutch, which when released, transfers the energy to the gears to spin the socket upon which the chain sits. It is a simple design that requires easy maintenance.

Basic chainsaw care includes a general knowledge of how a 2-stroke engine works and spark plug cleaning and replacement, filter cleaning, and gas and oil fuel mixtures must be observed. The use of bar and chain oil, regular cleaning, and proper tension adjustments and sharpening of your chain are all details that will keep your chainsaw running smoothly and efficiently.

  • Proper Gas and Oil Mixture

This is an incredibly important part of keeping your chainsaw running. 2-stroke engines do not have a separate gas and oil reservoir, rather you need to mix them together to keep your engine running or run the risk of burning it out. Most engines run on a mix of gas and synthetic oil at a ratio of 50:1 or 32:1, but be sure to check your owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer recommends.

Chainsaw Safety Tips

Chainsaw safety is a definite must whenever operating such a powerful tool. When using a chainsaw with a mill, you still need to apply proper safety procedure, especially since for the first few times you apply the method and new attachment it will be a new experience.

  1. Wear the correct safety gear. This includes eye and ear protection, gloves, boots, and kevlar chaps that are cut resistant and will jam a blade that it comes in contact with.
  2. Stand in a boxing stance with your dominant foot forward, to the side of the cut, and be sure you are well balanced.
  3. Keep both hands on the saw, and never take your eyes off the blade while you cut.
  4. Plan your cut and know where the bar will exit the cut. It isn’t where you start, it is where you finish that is important.
  5. The top of your chainsaw bar at the tip is called the chainsaw kickback zone. Because of the rotation of the chain, if you suddenly come in contact with a hard object you risk allowing the bar to kick back towards you. Always be mindful of this zone as you cut, even if you have special chains and features to help keep this from happening, and do not stand directly behind the blade.

Factors to Consider When 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 what, exactly, is best for the job. Mentioned earlier was the chainsaw sizes often suggested for most milling projects, but smaller or larger saws may 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 are budget conscious, you may want to 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 do not need as much power, and can be completed with less expensive electric saws if you do not mind owning more than one saw (and let’s face it, most people don’t).

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, but when milling you need to have a strong, smooth cut which 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 is not difficult, but it does require 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 are using. Even the most experienced saw handler may not have perfect mill cuts at first, but with a little practice can be cutting smooth lengths with every cut.

Our Top 5 Best Rated Chainsaw Reviews for Milling Explained

With the many, many options available when picking the best logging chainsaw to cut and mill with, it can be difficult to narrow down your choices. Although there are amazing brand names to choose from, there are also strong and durable chainsaws available that have top consumer ratings for you to also consider. Below is a list of great saws from which you can choose from, and provide you an idea of what sort of saw you might want to be looking for.

Husqvarna 460 24-Inch Rancher Chain Saw

Quick Info

  • Weight: 21 lbs
  • Bar Length: 24 inch
  • Power: 60cc
  • Warranty: Up to 4 years

A Husqvarna saw is almost always an indication of great quality and value. With many models to choose from, the 460 Rancher has a 24-inch bar that is compatible with bars down to 13 inches. With a 60cc engine, it is more than capable of handling the logging and cutting required to mill your own lumber.

It also has a fantastic LowVib feature that works well with this size of an engine due to the increased power. And the X-Torq engine has a wide range of rmp for added control and power. This is especially helpful for the handling of the saw when making precise cuts and measurements. The inertia activated chain brake provides you peace of mind, plus easy start and tensioning adjustments keep you working in the field with little to no maintenance issues.

Pros

  • Powerful and easy to run
  • Can be used with a bar down to 13 inches
  • Easy start

Cons

  • May start hard when hot
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Pro tip

This is a versatile saw that can pretty much do it all. If cutting lumber, bucking, milling, or working with timber in any way, shape, or form is in your future, this is a power saw to consider.

TIMBERPRO Professional Series Gas Powered Chainsaw

Quick Info

  • Weight: 13 lbs
  • Bar Length: 20 inches
  • Power: 62cc
  • Warranty: 2-year consumer

People in the forestry industry know their saws, and the TIMBERPRO brand has become a popular name due to their value and dependable power. With a 62cc engine and 20-inch bar, it provides the power you need for ripping your own lumber on just about any average size log. Plus, at only 13 lbs, it definitely lends itself to efficient work conditions.

The easy start system has a decompression valve to get you working reliably each time. A low kickback bar and chain and chain brake mechanism are safety feature no saw of this strength should go without, and the grip and handle placement provide excellent balance when working under any condition.

Pros

  • Excellent balance and weight
  • Strong cutting power
  • Easy to adjust

Cons

  • Only 6-month commercial warranty
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Pro tip

Excellent for millwork, this saw has the power to support a larger bar and chain and comes complete with the tools and protection it needs for maintenance and transporting it to and from the job.

Husqvarna 455 Rancher Gas Powered Chainsaw

Quick Info

  • Weight: 12.8 lbs
  • Bar Length: 20 inches
  • Power: 55.5 cc
  • Warranty: Up to 4 years

The Husqvarna brand is hard to beat for working with lumber related work. The 455 Rancher is on par with it’s larger counterpart, but with a lower weight and large 55.5cc engine- you have 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 are on the job, helping to keep your filters free from dirt and dust, and allowing excellent air flow through the engine. This extends the life, and power of your machine.

Pros

  • Excellent balance and weight
  • Strong cutting power
  • Easy to adjust

Cons

  • Only 6-month commercial warranty
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Pro tip

Like other models of this brand, this saw is incredibly versatile and is of a more compact design yet still powerful enough to handle the lumber related jobs you have in mind for it. The lighter weight is also conducive to use with milling your own boards.

Echo CS-590 Timber Wolf Chainsaw

Quick Info

  • Weight: 17 lbs
  • Bar Length: 20 inches
  • Power: 59.8cc
  • Warranty: 5-year consumer

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 a light to average weight category for the power and size.

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

Pros

  • Easy check fuel tank level
  • Power and balance is excellent
  • Excellent value

Cons

  • Chain guard may crack
  • Replacement bars may be hard to get
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Pro tip

This is an excellent value saw that provides both power and durability for working in the woods. The design is conducive to milling, and all it entails and is a good all-around choice for heavy job loads.

Poulan Pro 50cc Gas Powered Chain Saw

Quick Info

  • Weight: 17.8 lbs
  • Bar Length: 20 inch
  • Power: 50cc
  • Warranty: 2 years

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, but still compact and easy enough 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 is a great versatile choice, and weight 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 and chain features, and a chain brake. Plus, maintenance in the field is easy with fast filter access and a combi-tool located in the handle.

Pros

  • Very powerful and durable
  • Starts easily
  • Idles nicely

Cons

  • The bar is a bit flexible but can be changed
  • Ignition modules may have issues (covered under warranty)
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Pro tip

This is a consumer favorite that keeps popping up over and over in-home use chainsaw reviews. It is extremely strong, and is an excellent value for a well-known power tool brand, and is a great choice for moderate to heavy milling jobs.

Conclusion

When contemplating your own milling jobs, you do want a dependable, well balanced, and powerful saw. This does not mean the heaviest, largest engine is your go to, but professional grade chainsaws should be more of a consideration. 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 own lumber.

My personal favorite is the Husqvarna 455 Rancher 20-Inch Gas-Powered Chain Saw as it is the perfect mid-range engine size that can handle heavy duty milling jobs, as well as an easy design to trade out for smaller bars when needed for other property maintenance work. The lightweight design 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!

 

About The Author

Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod cuts a tragic figure in the High School English classroom teaching literature by day, and moonlighting as a writer and graphic artist by night. Published in a variety of travel magazines, and now a blog, Danielle enjoys coming up with home and garden projects to complete with her two young boys. A native of Michigan, she resides in Southeastern New Mexico with her variety of horses, poultry, and variable mix of rescue dogs (there’s a cat or two in there as well). In her free time she enjoys travel, art, photography, and a good book!

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