What You Need to Chainsaw Your Own Lumber
Stihl ProMark forestry helmet, $70
Worn in conjunction with safety glasses, this helmet protects your head from falling or scratching limbs. The steel-mesh face screen keeps out flying debris, and the NRR 25-rated earmuffs dampen engine noise. A no-brainer—to protect your brain.
Stihl ProMark protective chaps, $90
Waist sizes 30–42"
These heavy-duty chaps protect your legs from a moving chain. Multiple layers of cut-retardant material shred and bind up the saw before it can cut into your leg.
Move Logs Easily
LogRite cant hooks, $95–115 each
Available with 36", 42", 48", and 60" aluminum handles, these cant hooks work great at helping you roll logs. The textured rubber grips prevent hand slippage, and the hooks grab logs for ideal leverage. We like the 48" handles best because they provide adequate leverage without being too cumbersome.
LogRite ATV Arch, $1,750
This ingenious tool, made of heavy welded steel, hooks up to an all-terrain vehicle or small tractor via a 2" ball hitch. Wrap a cable around the log and lift it with the winch, taking most or all of the log's weight off the ground. That makes it easy to pull, and keeps blade-dulling dirt off the log. LogRite says it will hold up to a 25"-diameter log with a maximum weight of 2,000 pounds.
Keep the Chain Sharp
Lee Valley hand-crank
chain sharpener, $132.50
(Sharpener $109; carbide burr $23.50)
Inevitably, you'll have to sharpen the chain on your saw, and doing it with this unit beats hand-filing by a long shot. Simply clamp the device onto the bar, align the burr (think of this as a spiral carbide router bit) with a tooth, and then rotate the handle and burr until sharp. Repeat for all teeth.
Wilton hitch vise, $200
This vise fits into a 2" receiver hitch on your truck or SUV, providing a solid workholder in the field. The 6" jaws open to 53⁄4 " (horizontal) with a 5" throat depth (vertical). We love it for holding a chainsaw for sharpening, but it also holds lumber for cutting, drilling, or routing.
Turn Logs into Lumber
Granberg MK-III Alaskan mill
8 sizes from 24" ($235) to 84" ($400)
(Chainsaw not included)
A chainsaw mill provides the lowest price point for a do-it-yourself lumber mill, and you can hand-carry one right to the log. The Granberg Alaskan mill, with few frills (and a lot of your own labor), may not be elegant, but it makes good lumber. To begin, you rig up a flat, straight reference surface, such as a 2×8, on top of the log to register the mill for the first cut; succeeding cuts then reference off the freshly cut face. We recommend cutting boards 2–3" thick to minimize waste and labor. After the lumber dries, resaw it on your bandsaw to make thinner stock.
Logosol M8 mill, $1,800
(Chainsaw not included)
Though the M8 requires a more sizable investment than an Alaskan mill, it requires much less effort to saw logs. Once you mount the saw to the carriage and secure a log in place, simply crank a handle that pulls the saw through the log via a cord-and-pulley system. It also has precise depth-of-cut markers for establishing board thickness. This 18' mill can cut logs up to 16' long and as wide (log diameter) as your bar length allows.
Choose Your Chainsaws
For light-duty work and smaller trees
Echo CS-400, $300
40cc engine, 16–18" bar length
The CS400 has few frills, but it starts easily, runs and cuts well, and handles nicely. It's ideal for a woodturner. And, it comes with a 5-year warranty.
Stihl MS251CBE, $379
45cc engine, 16–18" bar length
We love this saw for its easy start. Rather than pull the cord fully as with other saws, you make three short pulls and it fires up. It also has tool-free chain adjustments.
For heavy-duty work and larger trees
Echo CS-590, $400
60cc engine, 18–20" bar length
For a low price, you get a saw with plenty of power to take down large trees, yet it's nimble enough to handle for hours without getting fatigued. And it has Echo's 5-year warranty.
Stihl MS291, $500
55cc engine, 16–20" bar length
The successor to the Farm Boss (Stihl's top-selling chainsaw for years), the MS291 combines a strong engine with a well-balanced body. Its two-stage air filtration extends the filter life.
Husqvarna 550XP, $600
50cc engine, 13–20" bar length
Although the 550XP has a smaller engine and weighs less than the models above, it cuts like a larger saw. The engine never bogged down during cuts, and vibration was the least among the group we tested.