Chainsaw furniture. Those two words don’t seem to co-exist easily in the same sentence. And while furniture carved out of a log using a chainsaw certainly does not qualify as fine, it is fun to make and perfectly useful. Until recently, I had never used a chainsaw for anything other than making firewood. But after a little research, I decided to give chainsaw furniture a try. I picked up my Stihl MS 261, went out to the firewood pile and selected a straight-grain log, and went to work.
Chainsaw Furniture Supplies
A few notes on equipment. Whether you’re equipped with a battery-powered chainsaw or a smaller gas-engine chainsaw, the process is the same.
My Stihl is a pro-duty saw equipped with an 18-inch bar. It’s designed for timber felling, tree work, and firewood production. Doing carving work with a saw this powerful goes pretty quickly. The chainsaw part of the job takes no more than about 30 minutes. The rest of the work is bark stripping, grinding, sanding, sealing, and painting. All that accounts for another two to three hours.
More From Popular Mechanics
I used a DeWalt right-angle grinder equipped with a wood-grinding wheel to smooth out the rough surfaces left by the saw. Then I sanded to achieve a pleasing surface finish. I’m simplifying, but not by much, to say that the project comes down to cut, grind, sand. Below are links to some of the supplies that I used that you might find helpful.
- Chainsaw: Stihl MS 261
- Right-angle grinder: DeWalt DW 840
- Wood grinding disc: Rollbin 5/8-Inch Arbor
- Random orbit oscillating sander: DeWalt DWE 6420
- Sanding discs: Diablo 100-grit and 150-grit
Preparing the Log
I selected a log about 14 inches in diameter and crosscut a piece out of it that was about 23 inches long.
Next, using an old carpenter’s hatchet, I stripped the bark off the log, being careful not to gouge the wood. Remember that any damage you do removing the bark will have to be removed later by grinding and sanding.
Next, as close as you can, mark the center of the log with a carpenter’s pencil. Since the log doesn’t have a perfectly round circumference, it’s impossible to mark an exact center. Still, you can estimate it. From the approximate center, mark out three lines to the circumference using the pencil and a straight edge so that the end of the log is divided into three segments that are approximately equal.
Divide each of these sections in half and continue the marks down the side of the log for approximately 18.5 inches. The math: the seat is approximately 4.5 inches thick; the legs are about 18.5 inches long. Later, you will trim off 2.5 inches from the legs to produce a stool with a finished height of 20.5 inches. Mark crosshatches on every other section so that you know which three you’ll cut away and which three will remain to form the legs.
Working With the Chainsaw
Make initial cuts into the end grain of the log. Now lay the log on its side and trace along the pencil line with the tip of the saw. Stand the log back up and finish the vertical cuts.
Repeat the three-cut procedure on each leg: A vertical cut into the end grain, a ripping cut through the side of the log, and then drop out with the saw's tip to remove the wedge-shaped cutoff. (Bonus: These pieces are perfectly sized for firewood.)
Once the legs are roughed out, lay the log down and trace the arch-shaped cuts with the tip of the saw. Stand the log up and finish making the arch cuts.
Smoothing. Trimming, and Painting
The surface left from the chainsaw is rough. You could leave the stool alone at this point, but if you want a slightly more finished work, you need to grind away some of the saw marks and sand the surface of the seat.
If you go this route, the most practical tool for this job is a right-angle grinder fitted with a wood-grinding wheel (these wheels are essentially disc-shaped rasps).
With the legs smoothed and their shape refined, stand the stool up and wedge it so it stands level. Mark a cut line around its circumference as shown so that the finished height of the stool will be 20.5 inches tall. Tip the stool on its side and saw on the cut line.
Finish the stool by using a random orbit oscillating sander and 100- and 150-grit discs to smooth its outside surface and the seat. Use exterior wood filler to fill any ugly holes and cracks and then apply a clear transparent sealer or exterior wood stain. Apply a coat of latex primer on the inside of the legs; when that’s dry, apply a coat of flat black paint.
The paint was barely dry when my son Luke put the stool to work and found it the perfect height and size for comfortably roasting marshmallows around our firepit. I hope you find the little stool project enjoyable to make and even more so to use.
James Schadewald is a psychology professor and master tinkerer who’s currently attempting to restore a 1984 Camaro Z/28