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If you’ve ever had a fallen tree in your yard, you might have found yourself wishing there was an easy (and inexpensive) way to cut it into lumber. Chainsaw mills, also called Alaskan sawmills, are designed for just this purpose. These handy devices allow you to use your chainsaw to cut clean, even beams or planks from logs, and because of their portable nature, you can easily bring a chainsaw mill out to a fallen tree—saving you the hassle of moving a huge, unwieldy log.
When shopping for a chainsaw mill, you’ll need to take into account the length of your chainsaw bar, as this will determine what size chainsaw mill you need. It’s also important that your chainsaw is equipped with a ripping blade, a special chain designed for cutting parallel to the wood grain.
Here, the best chainsaw mills on the market.
Best Overall: Timber Tuff 24" Portable Saw Mill
For value and performance, consider the Timber Tuff 24-inch Portable Saw Mill. This chainsaw mill works with 16-inch to 24-inch chainsaw bars, and it’s built from aircraft-grade aluminum and stainless steel for the perfect balance of durability and lightweight design.
The Timber Tuff Portable Saw Mill is small enough to easily transport, weighing under 14 pounds, making it easy to carry to a downed tree. It can cut planks of lumber anywhere from 0.2 inches to 11.8 inches thick, and it quickly attaches to your chainsaw with the included hardware. This well-made and easy-to-assemble chainsaw mill makes it a breeze for you to turn a log into wood planks with your chainsaw.
Best Budget: Timber Tuff TMW-56 Lumber Cutting Guide
Most full-size chainsaw mills are quite pricey, but if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, the Timber Tuff Lumber Cutting Guide is a highly rated alternative. This compact tool works a little differently than other Alaskan sawmills—you mount the guide on a 2 x 6-inch piece of lumber, attach your chainsaw, then place the board on top of the log you want to cut. The Timber Tuff Lumber Cutting Guide holds your chainsaw steady, allowing you to swivel the blade downward to cut even 6-inch pieces of lumber. This is an effective and affordable alternative to a regular chainsaw mill.
The tool is crafted from heavy-duty steel and finished with a powder coat to resist corrosion. The only downside is that you don’t have quite as much flexibility to cut different size boards.
Best Medium: Granberg Alaskan MKIV G778-36 Chainsaw Mill
As mentioned, different chainsaw mills are designed to work with chainsaw bars of varying lengths, and the length of your bar will determine how thick a log you can cut through. For a
medium-sized chainsaw mill, you can’t go wrong with the Granberg Alaskan MKIV G778-36 Chainsaw Mill, which works any chainsaw blade up to 36 inches long.
As with all Granberg products, this chainsaw mill is built to last. Made of tubular aircraft aluminum extrusion and zinc-plated steel, the tool accurately cuts lugs into planks and beams up to 32 inches wide and ½ to 13 inches deep. At a reasonable 20 pounds, it’s not a chore to set up your mill wherever a tree falls.
Best Long: GRANBERG MK-IV G778-72 Alaskan Chainsaw Mill
Granberg is one of the top chainsaw mill brands available today, and if you’re looking for a product to cut extremely thick trees, their 72-Inch Alaskan Chainsaw Mill is the way to go. This product attaches to chainsaws with single-ended bars up to 72 inches or double-ended bars that are 84 inches, giving it the ability to cut planks and beams up to 68 inches wide.
This high-end chainsaw mill is made from aircraft aluminum and zinc-plated steel, and it will work with all chainsaws of 120 cc or more. The lightweight design clamps onto your bar with no drilling necessary, and you can adjust it to cut boards between ½-inch and 13 inches thick. It also includes the brand’s new end brackets, which are easier to adjust and create less vibration than previous models.
Best Lightweight: Haddon Lumbermaker Chainsaw Accessory
For a lightweight product that’s easy to transport, you can’t go wrong with the Haddon Lumbermaker, which weighs around 4 pounds. This highly-rated model attaches to any regular chainsaw, and it uses a 2 x 4-inch or 2 x 6-inch guideboard to help you cut in a straight line.
Unlike other chainsaw mills, the Lumbermaker swivels your saw downward to create plunge cuts, and its design is compact and lightweight, making it ideal for remote jobs.
Best for Beginners: Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill G777
If you're new to using a chainsaw mill, the Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill G777 is a beginner-friendly model. It works with chainsaw bars between 16 and 20 inches and machines with at least 50 cc of power, and it can be adjusted to cut lumber between ½ inch and 13 inches thick. The mill is crafted in the U.S. from aircraft aluminum and zinc-plated steel, and unlike most other models, it includes a clear polycarbonate safety guard.
This tool takes a little bit of practice to get used to, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to create clean, even cuts—even if you’ve never used a chainsaw mill before!
Best Heavy-Duty: Norwood PortaMill Chainsaw Sawmill
If you’re looking for a more heavy-duty setup, the Norwood Portamill PM14 may be a worthwhile investment. This unique chainsaw mill uses a household extension ladder as a track, and it has a sawhead that passes along the length of the log. There’s even a throttle actuator that connects to your chainsaw’s throttle, letting you activate the blade from the unit’s operator station. It’s the closest setup you’ll find to a true portable sawmill.
This unit works with chainsaw bars up to 22 inches and models of 65 cc or high, and it’s recommended you use a ripping chain. It can handle logs up to 14 inches in diameter, and you can cut lumber up to 8 inches wide. This model is faster and easier to use than a standard Alaskan sawmill, and is a smart purchase for anyone who plans to mill a large number of logs.
Our top chainsaw mill, the Timber Tuff 24-Inch Portable Saw Mill (view at Amazon), wins top marks thanks to its lightweight, portable design combined with versatility in cutting down lumber into useful planks from 0.2 inches to 11.8 inches thick. If you’re a beginner with a chainsaw mill, however, you might be happier with the easy-to-use Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill (view at Amazon), which makes quick work of lumber between ½ inch and 13 inches thick.
What to Look for in a Chainsaw Mill
Most chainsaw mills are universal, but there are exceptions; some brands of chainsaw mill are only compatible with specific brands of chainsaws, so before buying, make certain that the mill you are considering works with the chainsaw you intend to use with it.
Most chainsaw mills are adjustable in width. However, keep in mind that you can’t expand the chainsaw mill further than the size of your chainsaw’s bar. Also remember that the chainsaw mill’s guide rails take up some of the width—anywhere from 2 to 8 inches depending on the mill—so you’ll actually be limited to smaller logs than the stated cutting capacity. The majority of chainsaw mills have bar lengths between 14 inches and 36 inches, but there are heavy-duty mills that extend much further in length.
Typically, the cutting depth of a chainsaw mill is adjustable, but that range varies from brand to brand. As a general rule, a versatile chainsaw mill has a cutting depth of ½-inch to 12 inches. If you expect to be cutting very large logs, however, there are chainsaw mills with cutting depths of 13 inches or more.
What’s the best size chainsaw to use with a chainsaw mill?
Milling lumber is a slow, tough job, so you’ll need a chainsaw with enough power to handle it. Generally, that means a gas chainsaw, not an electric tool. For the most robust performance, you’ll want a chainsaw with at least a 50cc engine, although more is better, particularly if you plan on tackling large logs. And while the required length of your chainsaw bar depends on the size of trees you’ll be milling, as a general rule, the absolute minimum is 20 inches, but a 24-inch bar gives you a lot more flexibility in the field.
How does a chainsaw mill work?
Chainsaw mills come in various configurations, but all involve a steel frame with straight guide rails that attaches to the bar of your chainsaw. Larger or more complex chainsaw mills include a ladder-like bracket, called a slabbing rail, that sits atop the log being milled, but if not, you’ll have to purchase the bracket separately, or make your own; many people use an actual ladder.
The operator starts by securing the slabbing rail to the top of the log with screws, then attaches the chainsaw mill to the chainsaw bar, and slowly and carefully cuts down the length of the log, using the slabbing rails as a guide to keep the cut straight. This removes the outer, rounded layer of the log. Once that’s accomplished, you can set the slabbing rails aside, as you’ll use the top of the log as a guide for subsequent cuts.
How long does it take to cut planks with a chainsaw mill?
Milling logs with a chainsaw mill isn’t a quick job. While the length of time it takes depends on the power of your chainsaw, your own skill level, and the size of the log you are cutting, as a rough guideline, it will take anywhere between 10 and 25 minutes to make each full cut.
What is a ripping chain?
The regular chain on your chainsaw is designed for cutting across the grain of the wood; that is, for cutting a tree down. However, when milling logs, you are cutting with the grain lengthwise to turn a log into straight planks. For the best results, you need to replace your regular chainsaw chain with a ripping chain, which is modified to cut with the grain. The teeth on a ripping chain are angled differently from a regular chain in order to achieve a smoother cut. Ripping chains maintain their sharpness longer than regular chains, and are more resistant to damage, but also require a slower work speed than your regular chainsaw chain.