Chainsaw Rip-Sawing

I decided to try something a little different today and see how it turned out. It’s been cold enough that the concrete place was shutdown, so I took my day off to try my hand at ripping lumber with a chainsaw. The results were most excellent.

I had never thought about it until last night. I was pondering over the ease of splitting logs on the ground (as in laying on their side) and why nobody was talking about that. The only mention I could find was one of Steven Edholm’s videos that I’d somehow avoided before. Anyway, I wondered if I could rip boards with my chainsaw in a similar fashion to ripping them with a handsaw, where a groove is started and used as a guide for the remainder of the cut.

As you can see from the picture, the process works quite well. Lucky for me, I did manage to find a video of a Russian guy who had the same epiphany. He had spent money on special chainsaw jigs and mechanical aids, but in the end resorted to simply using the saw. I saw another video from a low-income country where people were doing the same thing.

As you can see from the picture, the technique works quite nicely. Here’s a little summary of the process:

First, I get the log off the ground by rolling it onto stumps or other logs. This keeps the chain from snagging a rock while punching through. Then I ran a snapline from one side of the log to the other. Starting at one end, I cut gently along the snapline and get as much of the blade in the cut as possible to have the best line. Then, holding the saw low and level, I gradually work the cut line toward the far end of the log, pushing it along rather than pulling it.

Once the line is roughly cut past the bark, I work the tip of the blade in slowly while moving back and forth along the line. Keeping the chainsaw moving seems to be the secret to a smooth cut. As I dig deeper, the angle of the chainsaw changes so that the bite is all on the tip. I don’t have a rip-chain on my saw, so burying the teeth will only result in grinding the wood instead of tearing out fluffy sawdust chips.

Sooner or later, I reach the bottom and punch through, then remove the piece and continue on.

The result:

I only managed the two from the small log. Their dimensions are 2×4 and 4×4 inches, and roughly 7 feet long. Look how straight and nice! Up close, they are quite rough, but anyone working with these will likely plain down the rough cuts anyway, and they are more than straight enough to be workable. I could build a structure with these and never question it. Live wood is prone to warping and bending as it dries anyway.

I could have cut a single 4×6, or a couple 2×6 pieces, but I wanted the 4×4 for possible sale to a wood-turner, who would be blocking it up on a lathe. I’m new to selling lumber, so we’ll see what the market is around here for walnut billets, and I’ll probably find a workable dimension soon that I can sell in quantity…maybe. I’m really hoping to get these to someone who can do something with them, as I hate burning walnut, not because of the fire it produces, but because it’s such a wonderfully pretty wood and I think it deserves better. At least part of that dead tree will live on.

I think I mentioned already, but the tree was on its last winter, which is the main reason I cut it.

I used the same technique to cut out some rounds as well. I didn’t have a guide on this, but saw that they were fetching some pretty nice prices on ebay, so I gave it a “round.”

I’m saving the piece on top for me. After sawing up nine of the large 17-inch rounds (each of them about 2-1/2 inches thick) I decided to make a chopping block out of one. I left the bark on one side and rough cut the rest with my chainsaw. I also tried a random cut from the side of one log and split open an old cedar log with my new-found skill. In fact, I’ve been sawing things all afternoon. It’s fun, and it could potentially give me a little side-hustle income from harvesting my woods while cutting firewood. I even busted out my chop saw and made some coasters out of a smaller log I pulled from the woods the other day.

You can check out the pics on my instagram profile. You’re following me on instagram, right? No? Okay.

If you want one of these, btw, shoot me an email. I think I’m pricing the rounds at $30. It might make a nice product to start my OGG store with, but I need to consider the shipping very carefully, as I haven’t shipped chunks of wood before, and I need to consider how I’ll do it, and what it will cost. In the meantime, I’m taking everything to the farmer’s market the next chance I get. There are usually crafty people around would could turn one of these rounds into a $100 wall clock, or book-ends, or anything. I don’t have the tools to do the finishing, so I’ll leave that to someone else.

Needless to say, I’m excited about this. I must cut firewood anyway, so learning this skill has opened up a new world of possibilities. That’s not to say I’ll have any success with my sawing, but if I can turn firewood that runs $150 – $300 per cord (128 cubic feet) into something useful to crafts-people, get them to buy my hand-sawn stuff, and turn that into a business, then I’ll tick off several of my awesome boxes. First, nice species of wood won’t be shoved off to the burn pile when the tree dies or I harvest it for other reasons. Second, it’ll be super cool to start actually earning money from my property (the microgreens aren’t fetching me much at the moment), Thirdly, I love cutting the stuff, examining the wood, and finding fits for each little bit I harvest. Burly pieces can go to pen-makers, larger chunks to wood-turners, exotic blemished bits to bowl-makers, etc.

I’m always wondering how I can earn enough to just stay put up here, and if this blossoms into that kind of business, then I’ll be doing very well. If not, at least I’ll know where I can get good strong lumber for building my next house, toolshed, or other construction. There are some big logs that I’ve had my eye on, but they remain out of reach for normal woodcutting (side of the mountain is thick with tall timber). Breaking them into boards makes it possible to get them out in manageable pieces and haul them out, and there’s plenty that needs harvesting, as the forest has grown very dense in the last 120 years since it was last cut for timber. It could use a little thinning to improve the health of the stand, and there are downed weakling trees as the result of the poor forest health everywhere as proof. I need to get some of those out of there.

I’m digging to far off into the daydreaming side. The point is, you don’t need a big sawmill or a special gadget to make logs. Riving is another process, but that takes all day to get a couple splits. Using this process burns up some gasoline, but makes manageable wood that can actually be gathered in enough quantity to start building things again, and it’s super fun too. If you are handy with a chainsaw, give it a try sometime. You may surprise yourself at how nicely the boards come out. There will be saw marks, but who cares? If I do this to an oak tree, I’ll have solid, sturdy 2x4s that nothing from the local lumber store can compare to in quality and durability. I actually prefer rough-cut lumber as a building material now because of the superior strength, and the roughness serves to hold things in place with friction instead of boards sliding all over while you try to drive a screw in.

Have fun, stay safe, keep dreaming.

Here’s a shot of that piece from the cedar log that’s been “rotting” for 6-7 years:

Still pretty on the inside! And still has the wonderful aroma when cut.

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