To "Buck Up" Wood: Meaning

In This Case, It Has Nothing to Do With Good Cheer

Person with chainsaw bucking up a log.
This large log can be made more manageable by bucking it up into smaller pieces. Johner Images/Getty Images

In an outdoorsy context, the term, "buck up" refers to cutting a felled tree and its branches up into shorter lengths. One may use a sawbuck for the operation or simply prop up the wood to be cut on other logs. Either way, it is important to elevate the wood, so that the chain of your chainsaw does not come into contact with the ground.

For example, in preparing for log cabin construction, you would cut a tree down, then buck up portions of it into the lengths required for construction purposes.

An example that will have more relevance to the average homeowner (or at least to those who heat with wood) comes from preparing firewood for curing and eventual burning. You would buck up such wood to a suitable size (16 inches is a common length, but some people prefer to burn longer lengths), split it, and stack it outside for drying in neat rows. The shortened lengths are about the right size when it comes time to bring the firewood inside and insert it into a wood stove for burning.

Staying Safe While Bucking Up Wood

It is important to inform yourself of the relevant yard safety tips whenever you undertake an outdoor project of any kind, but perhaps never more so than when using chainsaws to fell trees or buck up portions of a tree that has already been felled. Improvements have been made in chainsaw safety, but they are still dangerous tools that require you to be on constant alert.

Do not just think about what is likely to go wrong, anticipate what might possibly go wrong. This is one instance where paranoia is healthy.

Dressing properly for the job is one significant step to take in chainsaw safety. Protective eyewear is essential. People have often had a wood chip fly out at them like a bullet when cutting into a tree with a chainsaw -- right at one of their eyes.

Its force is such that it will knock out a lens from the frame of one's glasses. Imagine the eye damage it would cause to someone not wearing glasses! But goggles are even better than glasses, as they protect your eyes from debris approaching from the side.

In addition to goggles, chainsaw operators commonly wear steel-toed boots, hard hats, protective ear muffs (chainsaws are very loud) and heavy work gloves. Do not wear loose-fitting clothing, dangling jewelry, or anything else that could become caught in the chain of the saw. For the same reason, long hair should be piled up under a hat (or, for superior safety, a hard hat).

Incidentally, this definition of the term, "buck up" is so specialized that relatively few people know it. It has another definition that is more commonly used when people are not talking about cutting wood:

  • (As an intransitive verb:) to become encouraged, to cheer up.
  • (As a transitive verb:) to raise the morale of.

You may well find yourself bucking up some wood if you are clearing land in preparation for starting a new garden from scratch.