Cutting firewood from felled trees safely and easily (bucking)

There are loads of articles on the web showing how (and sometimes how not to!) cut down trees, but not so much about actually cutting firewood after the tree has been felled and stripped of it’s branches (called snedding or limbing in arborist speak). This ‘how to’ shows the easiest way to produce firewood by cutting many logs at the same time. I actually use my firewood cutting operation as part of my fitness regime, much more useful than going to the gym and the same muscle burn the day after!

woodland ready for thinning

Example of woodland that’s ready for thinning out to improve space and light.

When thinning out woodland your aim is to remove the small stuff crowding the good stuff and end up with an even spread of good trees. This allows in lots of air and light, enabling the specimen trees to thrive. Some of the deadwood can also be taken for firewood, but don’t forget to leave a few standing as they improve the bio-diversity by providing habitat for lots of different creatures. Some deadwood that is too far gone to burn can be dropped and left on the floor to provide even more habitat for the bugs!

Practically, thinnings generally range from a couple of inches (50mm) up to around 4″ or 5″ (100-125mm) in diameter which is a nice size for easy felling and chopping for firewood. Taking it easy I find around 3 or 4 hours fills my trailer which is just over one cubic meter. Incidentally, this year that translates to 3 square meters stacked up against the wall.

felled logs ready for cutting into firewood

10 foot (3m) logs stacked ready for cutting into 12inch (300mm) lengths.

I start by cutting the trees into 10′ (3m) logs so that I can easily drag them to my cleared working area close to the pick up point.

firewood cutting saw horse

Using a cradle to safely hold many logs whilst you cut them.

You can make a homemade ‘cradle’ that holds a whole bunch of logs from sturdy construction lumber (2 by 4). This enables you to safely cut many at once, as long as you put some of the heavy logs both at the bottom and on the top. Don’t forget to make the cradle narrow enough for the size of chainsaw bar you have. Usually not more than 12″ or 300mm inside measurement. Make sure that it is constructed in such a way that you cannot hit any nails etc with the chainsaw.

Place the logs onto the cradle keeping the ends off the logs flush one side ( or at least staggered in 12″ steps). If you are fussy like me you can mark one of the top logs at 12″ (300mm) intervals with chalk to ensure even log lengths. Then cut alternate sides (so that it doesn’t topple over to one side), finishing off with a couple of cuts over the cradle itself, don’t forget to stop before you saw the thing in half lol! (See upgraded version below…)

cutting up logs into firewood

My cradle full of mixed sized thinnings after a couple of runs through with the chainsaw.

Once your logs are cut into short lengths (12″ or 300mm) I find the easiest way to chop them into a good size for firewood, is to mount an old car tyre onto a short stump or sturdy lumber platform using screws and washers. Then several logs can be chopped or split at once without having to bend down to pick up the split logs all the time. I generally split anything over 2″ (50mm) or so.

logs ready for splitting with an axe or mawl

12″ or 300mm logs ready for splitting with an axe or mawl.

logs all split ready for stacking.

And 10 seconds later, all split ready for stacking. Beat that chopping one at a time lol!

trailer full of chopped firewood.

All done, time for a cold one!

Arguably the most dangerous tool most of us will ever work with is our chainsaws, especially when cutting firewood. Never compromise your safety, ever! Study videos online to improve your chainsaw knowledge, it might save your life one day.

Finding free firewood

Living in Norway means that firewood is needed for about six months of the year. Of course many buy their firewood cut and bagged ready for use, but us handy folk like to get into the woods and cut our own. Especially as it can be had for free in many areas.

Try contacting the local authority to see if they have a local firewood cutting scheme. Many authorities cannot keep up with maintenance of woodlands and will allow you to take the “thinnings” from a nominated area to use as firewood.

Or you can try local electricity companies if they have men out cutting down trees that threaten power lines. The timber is often left available for further cutting and collection. Try also local arborists as they might let you take away felled timber so that they don’t have to dispose of it for their client.

How do you cut your firewood? I’d welcome any firewood cutting tips you’d like to share with me?

Stay safe and happy choppin!

By Ian Anderson

UPDATE: A new chainsaw with a slightly smaller bar and much more power necessitated a redesign of my ‘saw buck’ to keep it safe. I made the new one a little narrower with only 250mm (10″) for the logs, plus its a little longer at around 1200mm (4′). The most important new feature however is the raised bed that enables me to cut right through the logs into a 120mm (5″) air space before hitting the actual frame….

saw buck for sawing multiple logs for firewood

New improved design for holding multiple logs for chainsawing into firewood.

Comments 8

  1. We received holly wood from our neighbor and have tried using a maul to cut it further into firewood. This is the hardest wood we’ve tried to cut. Any advice?

    1. Post

      Hi Kari,
      Holly sure is tough stuff! Your best bet is to use a wood ‘grenade’ or log splitter etc.
      I wrote about my experiences here….

      You can buy them here…
      Ebay have… Wood grenade or has the… Silverline Log Splitter. Let me know if you find one elsewhere.

      You must wear safety glasses with these though. You can imagine, you are hitting these pretty hard! I use the back of my maul to hit mine but a smallish sledge hammer works even better.

      Good luck with the splitting and you’re sure proving the maxim about wood warming you twice 🙂
      Take care and thanks for calling in,

  2. Great Wood Cradle – I had something similar in Sweden where I cut all my own logs (carefully) with chainsaw respect.
    My adage is if I’m not always a little ‘afraid’ using the chainsaw then don’t – complacency can breed an accident faster than you can say flu…..

    1. Post

      Agree totally JB! I remember as a young man saying that I’d never even use a chainsaw, way too dangerous! And yet here I am in Norway using a pro saw with a non-safety chain regularly! My new saw (a Jonsered) is an animal, so much power, I really need to push hard if cutting with the top of the bar! Still, it gets the work done in half the time.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hi I’ve got a load of logs that are too long to fit in the fire, so I’ve bought a chainsaw to cut them in half. How should I secure the logs to chop them please? Thanks

    1. Post

      Hi Charlotte,
      My first response is ‘how familiar are you with a chainsaw?’ I only ask as chainsaws are not a tool you can just pick up and use like a jigsaw etc. Chainsaws are without a doubt the most dangerous tool around, especially if you’re going to be cutting short lengths up. If you’ve never used one, don’t use one now. Get someone to show you how to use it first.

      OK, safety rant over! To be honest cutting small pieces is going to be tricky to do safely at all. Your best bet is a ‘V’ or ‘X’ type saw horse and even then you should consider strapping one end of the log in place before cutting it in half. Something like this….
      saw horse for chainsaws
      Definitely don’t try standing on them and cutting as they can whip around and make a right mess of your leg….
      It’s great you’re reaching out for advice before starting Charlotte but it worries me, chainsaws are scary things, I fear and respect mine in equal measures and I never get complacent. I know that a seconds lost concentration with a chainsaw could mean disaster.
      Stay well

  4. I used a paint pen and made a line 12 inches back from the tip of my chain saw, then I just hold the line on the end of the log and where the tip is that’s my cut point. Turn the saw 90 degrees and cut. A paint pen lasts longer then a marker. Great pallet breaker plan.

    1. Post

      That’s a good idea Darrell, might just ‘borrow’ that! Be handy for the random cuts you do occasionally on the forest floor.

      Thanks also for the kind words about my crude pallet breaker and indeed for taking the time to comment!
      Cut safe as they say mate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.