Chainsaws and chainsaw mills tend to be a male dominated field, but that doesn’t mean that women can’t join in and slab up some logs. Women can absolutely run chainsaws and chainsaw mills, even though statistically they may be less likely to do so.
In this article, I will talk about why women might be intimidated by chainsaw milling, how running chainsaws and chainsaw milling is available for women, and some tips for overcoming fears and safely running chainsaws and chainsaw mills. Lastly, I’ll give my best recommendation for which chainsaw mill to use (spoiler: we love our Granberg Alaskan Chainsaw Mill and you can use our code Making Life for 10% off your next Granberg purchase!)
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Reasons Why Women May Not Use Chainsaws and Chainsaw Mills
Why are men more likely to run chainsaws than women? According to one source, women only make up 4.7% of all chainsaw operators.
Why is that?
One of the biggest factors has more to do with exposure and experience than anything else. I know for me, I can be a little afraid of chainsaws. It’s good to have a healthy respect for chainsaws, but my fear stems primarily from a lack of practice and experience.
I would say another factor is strength. Men tend to be physically stronger than women, and running a chainsaw or a chainsaw mill can be physically taxing. I know from my limited experience with running a chainsaw that it doesn’t take long for your arms to wear out. However, that can be true for both men and women who don’t strengthen those muscles.
I would also say that while women in many cases are naturally less strong than men, that doesn’t mean women are incapable of the work.
I remember years and years ago talking to my farmer neighbor about wanting to be a large animal vet (I didn’t end up doing this with my life, but I was seriously interested in it for a time.) Working with large animals can be intimidating and often requires a lot of strength, but my neighbor told me a little secret. He said that female vets often had to work smarter to work out a problem rather than muscling their way though it. He said sometimes were more successful because they learned to think through a problem, rather than just use their physical strength.
By the way, you’ll find this in rock climbing as well. Women sometimes progress faster than men in rock climbing techniques because they can’t rely on strength to push their way through. They have to learn the actual climbing strategies that help you get to the top, the same techniques that men will have to use once their strength runs out.
Women Who Use Chainsaws
Women may be less likely to run chainsaws, but that doesn’t mean no women are. In fact, there are some really incredible women who are talented with chainsaws and chainsaw mills.
Here are some women that I think you should check out:
- Catherine (Instagram: frkkaasen) is a Husqvarna queen.
- Felixia Banck of YouTube: Female Lumber Jack is a forest and nature technician from Denmark. Here’s a video of her using a Granberg chainsaw mill:
- Michelle from YouTube: Michygoss has videos of logging and sawmilling. I believe she primarily uses a full-size sawmill rather than a portable chainsaw mill, but I may be incorrect about that.
Chainsaw Milling and Chainsaw Safety Tips
I wanted to share some safety tips for women who might be interested in using a chainsaw or a chainsaw mill.
1. Wear Personal Protection Equipment
Top of my list is wearing personal protection Accidents happen in anything, but PPE can help keep you safe in the event that something happens.
All of these PPE items are helpful protection whether you’re running a chainsaw or a chainsaw mill. What are the purposes of each one? Let me tell you.
Chaps or Trousers
Chaps or chainsaw pants help protect your legs from injury should something go awry while you’re running a chainsaw or a chainsaw mill. In addition, they keep your legs safe from flying debris from cutting into wood.
Some people prefer chaps over trousers, but they both can protect you while chainsaw milling or running a chainsaw.
Chaps and chainsaw pants are meant to help stop the chainsaw from running once it comes in contact with the material of the pants.
A helmet is more important when you’re running a chainsaw than a chainsaw mill, but its main purpose is to protect the user from falling debris while cutting down trees. It can also offer some limited protection from chainsaw kickbacks.
Helmets can also be a useful mounts for face shields and ear protection. The helmet referenced here has built in face and ear protection as part of the design.
Safety Glasses or Shields
The main purpose of safety glasses or helmet shields is to protect your face and eyes from flying debris. This is very important whether you’re running a chainsaw on its own or operating a chainsaw mill. Both of these jobs kick off a lot of sawdust and wood chips that can end up flying back in your face.
Safety gloves make running a chainsaw or chainsaw mill a lot more comfortable, and they can offer protection from the chainsaw itself. Gloves that include chainsaw protective reinforcement can even stop a blade from penetrating the glove and going into your hand.
Running a chainsaw or a chainsaw mill can cause hearing loss, especially for an extended period of time. The CDC says two minutes running a chainsaw can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Wearing ear plugs or ear muffs can greatly help protect your ears from hearing loss while running your chainsaw or chainsaw mill.
A good pair of boots with a steel toe can help protect your feet while you’re chainsawing or chainsaw milling.
2. Get Proper Training
Wearing protective gear is smart for safety, but equally important is knowing how to safely run a chainsaw.
Before you grab a chainsaw and cut down that tree in your backyard that has been staring at you for the past year, it’s important to get proper training.
Look for local training courses or meet up with an experienced person to teach you safety techniques and the basics of running a chainsaw.
Fire and Saw has a list of safety and training courses, but you might be able to find some locally as well.
3. Don’t Try Things You Haven’t Been Trained For (Know Your Limits)
When you’re a beginner with the chainsaw or chainsaw mill, avoid attempting things you don’t know how to do.
Start with small trees or limbs, work on that before you try to take down a large tree. Work in a controlled environment. Think things through before you cut them. Think about what gravity and physics are going to do to the thing you’re cutting. For instance, if a tree is leaning on the tree you’re cutting, they’re both likely to fall down.
Some real training and experience will go a long way with skillfully using a chainsaw or a chainsaw mill.
4. Run the Chainsaw to the Side (Not Directly Over Top or in Line With Your Face)
In case of kickback, always run your chainsaw to the side. That way, it doesn’t come back to hit you in the head or face should the chainsaw accidentally come back toward you.
5. Have a Good Clean Working Area for the Chainsaw and Chainsaw Mill
When running a chainsaw mill or a chainsaw, it’s smart to make sure your working area is clean of tripping hazards and other things that might make running your mill more difficult.
6. Keep Your Hands Out of Any Areas With Exposed Chain
As you’re running your chainsaw mill, be very aware of your hand placement. It takes a fair bit of time to run through a log, and you might find your mind wandering from time to time. Always be aware of where your hands are and pay attention to the chainsaw and what is happening.
7 . Pay Attention to Physics and Gravity
Think before you cut. If you’re attempting to fell a tree for your chainsaw mill, or you’re removing some limbs from a tree, it’s extremely important to consider physics and gravity.
There are a lot of things that can happen that are somewhat unexpected if you don’t know what you’re looking for. For example, if you’re cutting down a tree, always pay attention to where it might land. Will it get hung up in another tree’s branches?
Consider where the tree might fall depending on how it is leaning. Understand though that trees can be extremely unpredictable and can fall in any direction, including back toward you.
Mississippi State University Extension has a pretty extensive list of safety considerations when cutting down trees and running chainsaws in general, and I think it is well worth checking out.
8. Don’t Use Equipment That’s Too Big For You
I’ve used a pretty large and heavy-duty chainsaw for chainsaw milling, but if I were to be running a chainsaw freely, I would choose to be a saw that was relatively small and easy for me to lift. A heavy chainsaw will be difficult to safely run and will tire you out quickly.
9. Don’t Chainsaw Alone
A lot of things can happen while running chainsaws or chainsaw mills, so it’s best to never work alone.
10. Don’t Fear the Chainsaw, Be Respectful Of It
When running things like chainsaws, saws, or other potentially dangerous equipment, it’s important to be respectful of it, but not be afraid of it. Fear and timidity when running a chainsaw can actually lead to an accident.
For instance, if you’re feeling anxious you may try to make your first chainsaw cut with just the tip of the chainsaw, but that would be a dangerous move as it is far more likely to kick back.
Or as Popular Mechanics puts it, “If you cut with the bottom of the bar, the spinning chain will pull the saw into the log and downward. This is generally the safest way to cut. The most dangerous is to use the tip, which can see the chain’s rotation sending the business end of the saw upwards and directly at your mug.”
Once you have your PPE and you’ve been trained, be confident with chainsawing. Get into it.
Additional Resources for Chainsaw and Chainsaw Mill Safety
We are giving you an overview of safety tips, but this should not replace taking certified safety classes or working with a professional who can teach you chainsaw safety.
For some additional resources about chainsawing or chainsaw mill safety, check out these resources.
Tips for Making Chainsaw Milling Easier
Work smarter, not harder.
There are a number of things you can do to make chainsaw milling easier. Here are a few tips!
- Use gravity (cut slightly downhill). Gravity can be your friend. Use a slight downgrade to help making chainsaw milling easier. Trust me, you don’t want to cut uphill with your mill.
- Use wedges. Chainsaw wedges are useful for chainsawing down a tree but they can also be very beneficial for making chainsaw milling go smoothly.
- Get a ripping chain. Granberg’s ripping chains work a lot faster and better than a regular chainsaw chain. (You can use our code: MakingLife for 10% off your purchase with Granberg).
- Keep chains sharp. Keeping your chains sharp will help with safety and with difficulty when running your chainsaw through a log. Granberg’s Precision Grinder can help keep those sharp and ready to go.
- Start on softer woods. Some woods are harder to cut through than others, so as you’re learning to run your mill or chainsaw you might want to start with softer woods like pine or cedar.
- Use the Granberg EZ rails. You can use a ladder (which we have done a number of times!), but the Granberg EZ rails make the job a lot simpler and more manageable. We would definitely recommend this product, you can learn more about it in our Granberg EZ Rail review.
The Best Chainsaw Mills
You’re now ready and prepared to start chainsaw milling, but how do you know what chainsaw mill to purchase? As you’ve probably already deciphered, we’re a big fan of Granberg’s chainsaw mills. As far as we’re concerned, they are the best! So I’m going to share with you a few of the different sizes and varieties offered by Granberg, but I really don’t have any other mills to talk about at this time.
Here’s a list of chainsaw mills that are worth your time and money!
You can use code: Makinglife to save 10% off all Granberg equipment and accessories!
Alaskan MKIV Chainsaw Mill
The Granberg Alaskan MKIV comes in a variety of sizes from 24″ to 84″. We have a a 36″ one and it has been sufficient for everything we’ve needed it for. You might want to purchase a bigger one if you’re cutting down bigger trees, but keep in mind you would also need a bigger chainsaw as you move up in size with the mill.
Alaskan Small Log Mill
The Alaskan Small Log Mill is a good choice if you’re working with a smaller chainsaw and smaller logs. This can be a good chainsaw mill to help introduce you to milling and allow you to work with a smaller chainsaw. I’ve seen a few videos of women using this sawmill over some of the larger and heavier setups.
Best reason to by Granberg chainsaw mill is:
- Proven quality
- Easy to assemble
- Great customer service
- Support small business
- Made in the USA
Best Chainsaw for Milling
Typically when it comes to chainsaw milling the recommendation is to get the biggest chainsaw you can afford. I wouldn’t give the same advice for buying a chainsaw for regular chainsaw work, as you might want a smaller chainsaw that is easier to carry around and use. But running a larger chainsaw on the chainsaw mill is not as cumbersome.
It’s a great idea to get your chainsaw at a local chainsaw dealer so you can have your saw serviced there and they can deal with any warranty issues that might arise.
Chainsaw Milling for Women Final Thoughts
Chainsaws and chainsaw mills can be great tools for any woman who is interested in learning how. With proper training, the right protective equipment, and some quality tools, you’ll be milling your own lumber in no time.
Are you a woman who is already running a chainsaw or chainsaw mill? Have you admired it from afar but haven’t started using one yet? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!