Cutting firewood with a chainsaw: working well and working safely

Using a chainsaw to cut your own firewood is certainly more fun than buying logs, and can also be cheaper and more sustainable. Here’s how to do it.

Log stack after cutting firewood

Cutting firewood with a chainsaw: a sustainable option

Whether it’s for a fireplace in Winter, or to fuel Summer evenings around the garden chimenea, cutting your own firewood is very satisfying if you are able to do it. The Forestry Commission can issue permits for the gathering of wood in their forests and woodland; the organisation exists to support sustainable forestry practices, among other things, so you should always consult it for information before you start. Of course, trees that have been felled in your own garden and land are free for you to dispose of, and using them for firewood is a sustainable option.

If you have the appropriate permissions, training and permits, you can use your chainsaw for processing firewood on-site in woodland – otherwise you are only permitted to use hand tools for working in forests. Our guide explains the best way to use your chainsaw for cutting firewood safely and efficiently.

First make it manageable

To get started turning a fallen tree into firewood, we recommend cutting all the timber into metre-long pieces that are easier to work with. This can be done directly at the spot where the tree was felled, if permitted. You can cut with the wood directly on the ground if it’s flat enough, or with the help of a cutting stand that you quickly make yourself.

Tips for sawing a log on the ground

If the trunk is lying on an even surface of solid earth in the forest or the lawn in your garden, you can use your chainsaw for cutting the trunk while it is directly on the ground – though you should ensure that the chainsaw doesn’t hit the earth, as this will blunt the chain. But the very first step before you use the chainsaw to make firewood is to ensure that the trunk cannot roll away. Do this by securing the log with wedges or smaller pieces of wood.

Committed to your safety: protective equipment

Cutting with powerful tools is fun and means you can extend your abilities, which is great as long as you are relying on effective and safe protective clothing while using them. Always wear personal protective equipment when working with your chainsaw. This includes a helmet, cut protection trousers, safety boots, and more. The operating manual for your product contains more details on this. Before you use your chainsaw for the first time, fully familiarise yourself with the tool and ensure it is in flawless condition before each use. On request, your STIHL dealer will be happy to prepare your tool for its first use, and will also advise you on models and sizes of protective clothing that you can try at your leisure. Please remember that personal protective equipment is no substitute for safe working techniques.

A DIY cutting stand for sawing long trunks on

If the surface of the ground is not suitable for working on directly, you may need some kind of stand to help you: this not only protects your saw chain but also your back, because it means you will be working at an ergonomically appropriate height. You can quickly cut a log support from another piece of wood. Always make sure that any wood you are cutting with a chainsaw is secured in place and not able to roll away.

Splitting the lengths for firewood

Metre-long pieces of trunk probably won’t fit in your fireplace, and thicker trunks need to be split for ease of use – in any case, smaller pieces of firewood will always dry better than large logs. This is important, as damp wood burns less readily and releases soot and smoke.

Environmentally friendly firewood

When you burn wood, it only releases as much carbon dioxide as the tree has absorbed during its growth – which means that if you generate heat using wood, you know it is a carbon-neutral method.

Processing into firewood

It’s best to use a sawhorse when processing split lengths of wood and smaller branches to create firewood. A sawhorse helps you set up safely, and also offers the greatest possible working convenience for cutting firewood.

A man wearing chainsaw PPE is lifting a STIHL chainsaw off a saw horse beside a large stack of firewood.

Storing firewood

Before the firewood is ready to burn, it needs to dry for about two years, during which time it must be stored correctly to dry well. Stack individual logs in such a way that air can circulate between them, and protect the wood from rain and moisture.

Close-up of a piece of firewood in a sawhorse

Cut firewood with a chainsaw

With the Rapid Duro 3, STIHL has brought to market a chain with carbide tips for medium-power chainsaws. Its teeth are no match even for dirty or particularly tough wood. It also stays sharp for up to ten times longer than standard saw chains.


Only rapidly biodegradable chain lubricants, hydraulic liquids, and alkylate fuel mixtures should be used in for cutting firewood in woodland and natural habitats. You should take empty canisters away with you and dispose of them properly.

Summary: cutting firewood with a chainsaw

  • From tree trunk to handy firewood in three steps: cutting the log to metre lengths, splitting it, and cutting the split wood into handy firewood pieces on the sawhorse

  • Depending on the subsurface and task, you can work directly on the ground, on a sawhorse, or on a cutting stand that you build yourself

  • Personal protective equipment is required for cutting firewood with a chainsaw

  • In Australia, collecting wood in a forest, depending on your state, you may need a permit to collect wood or check the specific dates when you can collect wood

  • If you have questions or are unsure, it’s best to contact the Forestry Corporation or the Forest Fire Management of your state