What Size Chainsaw for Milling?

Milling is a process of cutting and shaping logs into lumber.

When it comes to milling, you want a powerful chainsaw to cut through wood quickly and efficiently. The size of the chainsaw’s main depending factor is the type of wood that you will be milling.

A 16-inch or 18-inch chainsaw can handle the job for softwoods such as pine and fir. You may need up to 20 inches for hardwoods like oak and maple.

So, get in-depth into the article, and explore what makes the best size chainsaw for milling.

What Size Chainsaw for Milling? Size and Power

The size of the chainsaw is determined by its bar length, which refers to how long the cutting blade is. The longer the bar, the more powerful your saw will be.

For milling timber for lumber, it helps to have a larger chainsaw to cut through thicker pieces of wood quickly and easily. Generally speaking, if you are milling softwoods, you should use a 16-inch or 18-inch chainsaw; if you are milling hardwoods, you should use a 20-inch chainsaw.

Of course, there is no “one size fits all” answer here – it depends on the type of wood that you are working with.

Chainsaw Milling for Beginners

If you’re a beginner stepping into the world of chainsaw milling, choosing the right size chainsaw may seem daunting. However, remember that the right chainsaw for you largely depends on the type of wood you plan on milling.

A chainsaw with a bar length of around 16-20 inches and a 50cc-70cc engine can be a good starting point for beginners. Brands like Stihl and Granberg offer a range of reliable and beginner-friendly chainsaws.

How fast does a chainsaw mill cut?

The rate at which your chainsaw mill cuts will depend on the type of wood you are cutting and the size of the chainsaw bar. Generally, a larger bar length will result in faster cutting speeds.

For instance, a 16-inch chainsaw can quickly cut through softwoods like pine and fir. However, if you are milling harder woods such as oak and maple, you must use a 20-inch chainsaw for faster cutting times.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Chainsaw Size for Milling

Factors that should be considered for milling purposes depend on the following:

Chainsaw Engine Power

The chainsaw’s engine power is a critical consideration. Engine power is measured in cubic centimeters (CC) or cubic inches (CI). A higher number indicates a more powerful engine and, consequently, a more efficient milling process. If you’re cutting hardwood or dense wood, you’ll need a chainsaw with a powerful engine to avoid overheating.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Big Engine Chainsaws for Milling

Following are the benefits and drawbacks as well mentioned below:


Big engine chainsaws, typically those with a power of 50CC or more, come with many benefits. They can easily handle larger, thicker logs, making them ideal for heavy-duty milling tasks.

The extra power also ensures a cleaner, smoother cut, enhancing the overall quality of your lumber. Moreover, big engine chainsaws can maintain high performance for longer, providing consistent speed and precision throughout milling.


While big-engine chainsaws have advantages, they also have drawbacks. One of the primary disadvantages is their weight. These chainsaws are significantly heavier due to larger engines and longer bars, which can lead to user fatigue during extended periods of use. This weight can also make them more challenging to maneuver, particularly for beginners.

Bars and Chains

The chainsaw’s bar length and the chain type are also important. The longer the bar, the more powerful your saw will be. As a general rule, if you are milling softwoods, you should use 16-inch or 18-inch bars, and for hardwoods, it is recommended to go up to 20 inches.

Type and Size of Chainsaw Wood

The type and size of the wood you are cutting are also important when choosing a chainsaw for milling. A larger chainsaw can handle thicker pieces of lumber, but it may not be necessary if you’re cutting smaller pieces.

The type of Wood should is an important factor. Hardwood requires more power than softwood, and you’ll need to choose a chainsaw with a bar length that can handle both types of wood.

Size is also important; if you are cutting larger pieces of wood, you’ll need a chainsaw with a longer bar for more efficiency.

Chainsaw Safety Measures for Milling

Safety should always be a priority when dealing with power tools, and chainsaws are no exception.

  • Protective Gear: Always wear appropriate safety gear when operating a chainsaw. This includes safety glasses, a hard hat, heavy-duty gloves, cut-resistant boots, and chainsaw chaps.
  • Check the Surroundings: Ensure a clear work area around the logs you’re milling. Clear away any obstacles that could lead to tripping or hindrance.
  • Proper Positioning: Stand to the side of the chainsaw when cutting, never directly behind it. This prevents kickback injuries, which can be serious.
  • Maintain Your Equipment: Regular chainsaw maintenance is crucial for safe operation. Keep the chain sharp, and ensure the saw is in good condition before starting your work.
  • Rest and Take Breaks: Operating a chainsaw is physically demanding, particularly when milling. It’s important to take regular breaks to avoid fatigue and maintain concentration.

Chainsaw CC Vs. Log Diameter: A Comparison Saws with Bigger

Chainsaw with a bigger size and power means it can handle larger, thicker logs relatively easily. Most regular chainsaws range from 30cc-42cc, while those in the professional category tend to go up to 70cc.

When deciding what size of saw you should use for milling a particular log, there are several factors to consider. The diameter of the log is one of the most important, as a bigger log will require a more powerful saw.

For example, a 42cc chainsaw is suitable for logs up to 24 inches in diameter, whereas a 70cc chainsaw can handle logs up to 40 inches in diameter.

It is important to ensure that the engine power of your saw matches the size of the log you are cutting. A smaller saw may not be able to handle the job, and a larger saw could lead to overheating or kickback injuries.

Here is the table showing the chainsaw engine size vs. the log diameter. Let’s have a look over it for a better understanding:

Chainsaw Engine SizeLog Diameter (Alaskan Mill)Log Diameter (Easy)
50 cc<20 inches<12 inches
60 cc<32 inches<16 inches
90 cc<52 inches<32 inches
120 cc<70 to 78 inches>32 inches

Why Is Milling Hard On The Chainsaw?

Remember that using the chainsaw is hard for milling and is crucial to cutting wood grain and different types of long bars.

Milling is hard on the chainsaw because it requires a lot of power and torque, which puts tremendous strain on the motor. The long bar used in milling also creates more friction as it moves through the wood, further contributing to wear and tear.

Cutting The Wood Grain

When cutting the wood grain, you want to use a powerful chainsaw to handle harder wood and large logs. If your saw isn’t up for the job, you could experience blade kickback – which can be hazardous. Additionally, a too-small saw won’t cut through the log as quickly or efficiently.

Cutting Long Bars With A Chainsaw

When you are milling the log (without seesawing), the chainsaw makes contact with the whole log thickness at once. This requires enough power to cut through the whole log in one pass. A smaller chainsaw will generate a different level of power or torque, making it more difficult to complete the task successfully.

Cutting Duration

The duration of a sawing task is also important, as it makes the chainsaw slow process of milling the log. A bigger chainsaw with a higher cc engine will make it easier to finish your milling task quickly and efficiently.

Overall, the size of the chainsaw is an important factor when it comes to milling logs. More powerful saws are better suited for larger logs and hardwoods, while smaller saws can be used for smaller pieces of wood.

Are Bigger Saws Better for Milling?

While it’s easy to assume that bigger saws are automatically better for milling, this isn’t necessarily the case. The efficiency of a chainsaw for milling is not solely determined by its size but also by its suitability for the wood being milled.

A large chainsaw may be able to handle bigger logs, but it’s also heavier, more expensive, and potentially harder to control, particularly for a beginner. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider not only the size of the chainsaw but also the user’s experience and the nature of the task.

Therefore, the best chainsaw for milling is not necessarily the biggest but best fits the user’s needs and capabilities.

Do You Need A Different Chainsaw Chain For Milling?

Yes, milling requires a special type of chainsaw chain. Standard chains are designed for cross-cutting or cutting wood perpendicular to its grain. However, when milling logs, you generally cut along the grain, also known as ripping.

Ripping chains, designed specifically for cutting with the grain, have a different tooth design from standard chains, which allows them to make smoother cuts when milling. Using the right chain type for the task at hand is critical to ensure efficient, safe operation and the best possible results. Remember, always check the compatibility of the ripping chain with your chainsaw model before using it for milling.

Best Chainsaws For Alaskan Mill

Alaskan Mill is a type of chainsaw milling that usually requires more power than traditional chainsaw milling. This mill has depending factors for milling:

Alaskan Mill Chainsaw Size

If you’re looking for the Alaskan milling chainsaw, consider a saw with a minimum engine size of at least 70cc. As the details are given in above mentioned table:

One popular chainsaw model is the Husqvarna 562XP, which has an impressive 2.6 horsepower engine and a 24-inch guide bar. This saw is lightweight, well-balanced, and easy to handle, making it ideal for milling longer logs.

What kind of chainsaw do I need for an Alaskan mill? When it comes to selecting the best chainsaws for Alaskan Mill, there are a few standout choices to consider available on Amazon are:

  1. Husqvarna 460 Rancher Gas Chainsaw: A powerful choice, the Husqvarna 460 Rancher is a highly efficient and robustly built model. Its 60cc engine delivers a good amount of power for milling, coupled with a 24-inch bar for handling larger logs.
  2. Echo CS-590 Timber Wolf Chainsaw: With a 59.8cc engine and 20-inch bar, the Echo CS-590 Timber Wolf Chainsaw is suitable for milling mid to large logs. It’s easy to use and maintain, making it ideal for beginner to intermediate users.
  3. Poulan Pro PR5020 Chainsaw: A great budget-friendly option, the Poulan Pro PR5020 is a 50cc chainsaw that delivers impressive power for its size. It’s suitable for milling logs up to 18 inches in diameter and comes with a 20-inch bar.
  4. Granberg chainsaw mill: If you’re looking for a more portable solution, the Granberg chainsaw mill is an excellent choice. Its lightweight aluminum and steel construction make it easy to transport and set up anywhere you need it, while its adjustable cutting widths allow you to mill logs of any size.

No matter which option you choose, always remember that safety should be your top priority when milling with a chainsaw. Read the safety manual carefully and wear appropriate protective gear before beginning any task.

90 cc vs. 70 cc Chainsaw

Several factors come under consideration when comparing a 90 cc chainsaw to a 70 cc chainsaw.

A 90 cc chainsaw, with its larger engine size, typically offers more power and torque, making it suitable for heavier tasks like milling large logs. Its increased capacity for power output generally means a faster, more efficient cutting process. However, this additional power comes at the cost of increased weight and potentially higher fuel consumption.

On the other hand, a 70 cc chainsaw, while less powerful, is often lighter and easier to handle, making it a suitable option for those with less experience or for tasks that demand less power. Despite having less power, a 70 cc chainsaw can still handle considerable log diameters and offers a balance of power, control, and ease of use.

Conclusion: what size chainsaw for milling

Choosing the correct chainsaw size for milling comes down to your specific needs. Evaluate factors such as the nature and size of the logs to be milled, your level of experience, and the type of chainsaw you can comfortably handle. Always prioritize safety and ensure you have the appropriate protective gear before beginning any milling task.

Remember, a larger saw, preferably above 70cc, is ideal for heavy-duty milling. However, the exact choice should be based on your specific use case, the size of the logs, and your comfort in handling the chainsaw.


What is the minimum cc for a chainsaw mill?

The minimum recommended engine size for a chainsaw mill is typically around 70cc. This provides enough power to handle most milling tasks efficiently. However, the specific requirements may vary depending on the size and type of wood you are milling.

What is the best Stihl chainsaw for milling?

The Stihl MS 661 C-M is an excellent choice for milling. It’s powered by a 91.1cc engine, delivering ample power for heavy-duty tasks. Its ergonomic design and advanced technology ensure efficient and comfortable operation.

What size chainsaw do lumberjacks use?

Lumberjacks typically use larger chainsaws, with an engine size of 70cc or more and a bar length of 20 inches or more. The specific choice depends on the nature of the task and the size of the wood being cut. The Husqvarna 455 Rancher 20″ Chainsaw is one of the most popular for professional chainsaws.

What is the best chainsaw for milling?

The ultimate choice for the best chainsaw for milling largely depends on the user’s needs, budget, experience level, and the specifics of the task. Some Stihl models, such as Stihl MS 661 C-M, Stihl MS 661 C-M, Stihl MS 462 C-M, and Stihl MS 391, are popular for their powerful engines.

How To Size The Chainsaw For The Chainsaw Mill?

Sizing the chainsaw for the chainsaw mill comes down to the task at hand. A chainsaw with a smaller engine (around 50cc) may suffice for smaller projects. However, a chainsaw with a larger engine (70cc and above) is generally recommended for more substantial, professional-grade milling.

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