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I have some smallish sections of a tree trunk that I would like to break down, but they are too big for the power tools that I own, other than my chainsaw.

My biggest concern with the chainsaw is that it would leave bar oil behind on the wood. Would this create a problem for the jointer or planer afterwards, or would it soak into the wood and create problems when it is time for finishing? If so, should I clean it off somehow first?

Also, if I cut one of them into rounds, would it make a difference with the oil soaking into the end grain vs face grain?

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  • I wouldn't have thought this would be an issue as presumably you're not going to use any surface straight from the chainsaw except for the most rustic or rough work. "Also, if I cut one of them into rounds, would it make a difference with the oil soaking into the end grain vs face grain?" Yes. IF there's noticeably oil contamination. it will soak it much much deeper into end grain than into side/face grain. I stress IF since in practice this doesn't appear to be an issue, but this is based only on the little I've seen of chainsawed stuff.
    – Graphus
    Sep 21, 2021 at 17:40
  • @graphus Well like I said, I was wondering if it would create issues with the machines that will remove the rustic part (jointer and planer), lol. Also, I understand that the end grain will soak up more oil, but was hoping that someone has experience with this and can say that it generally only soaks in an inch (or whatever) so to plan on cutting it back that far. Anyway, hopefully someone has actual experience doing this!
    – lnafziger
    Sep 22, 2021 at 1:30
  • I use a chainsaw often on green wood and I do not notice any oil on the wood, but wet wood resists oil naturally. Sawing dry wood you see marks sometimes but it looks just on the surface
    – Volfram K
    Sep 22, 2021 at 5:50
  • Sorry I didn't want to assume you would be removing all chainsawed surfaces, the last paragraph suggested you would be using the rounds as-is. Incidentally we have some previous Q&As related to those and their low survivability rate, in case you're interested.
    – Graphus
    Sep 22, 2021 at 6:27
  • @VolframK raises a good point, it isn't clear if the wood is already well dried or you're processing a fresh log, but extrapolation from the output of Alaskan chainsaw mills seems to indicate there's zero issue with this. "Well like I said, I was wondering if it would create issues with the machines that will remove the rustic part (jointer and planer), lol." Well then no, since minor oiling of said machines and their blades should be normal. Yeah, I know the oil coming off the chainsaw might be a tad dirty ;-) but again, q.v. chainsaw mills.
    – Graphus
    Sep 22, 2021 at 6:37

3 Answers 3

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No, chainsaw oil is not a problem. Chainsaws, even reasonably decent tuned ones, do not throw out enough oil to seriously damage the wood. If it is, there is something wrong with your saw, either it is spewing way to much oil (in which case you likely need to fill up the oil reserve at least twice as often as the gas) or your chain is so dull that it is spending way to much time cutting through the wood.

There are chainsaw mills all over the country and they are used because they work and are cheap (compared to larger mills). they have a large kerf, and even the steadiest hand leaves a pretty rough cut, so they will need to be run through a jointer and thickness planer, (or lot and lots of hand planning).

People use chainsaws for carving as well. as long as it's decently tuned and sharp, shouldn't be a problem.

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Odds are that your chainsaw cuts aren't going to be super smooth, so you'll end up sizing them with other tools. I cannot imagine that a bit of oil would cause any issue for a planer or jointer knife. On the face grain, the planing/jointing would likely remove any oily bits, and cutting the pieces to length (circular, miter, table or hand saw) would likely remove any of the end grain that had soaked up oil.

A good test would be to cut a test round, the apply your finish directly to the rough cut and see what happens. That will tell you if the saw is leaving enough oil behind to impact your chosen finish, and if so, how much sanding you'll have to do to get past that point.

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    Of course, when you're done with your testing, you're expected to report back with empirical data. ;)
    – FreeMan
    Sep 21, 2021 at 17:46
  • Haha, that's why I asked this question in hopes that someone has already done this and knows whether or not it's something to even worry about! If the community doesn't have any actual experience, I will test on my own though!
    – lnafziger
    Sep 22, 2021 at 1:26
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    I obviously hadn't had my coffee yesterday as I hadn't even considered the wet wood v. dry wood thing in relation to this. If the wood is green then obviously the suggestion in the final paragraph can't actually be used.
    – Graphus
    Sep 22, 2021 at 6:39
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My little experience here: I have an ancient chain saw which gives off a lot of bar oil (better too much than too little...). With it, I cut a huge block of beech out of a quite green tree in a long procedure, surely leaving some oil on the surface. After letting it dry for two years, I cut out some parts, again with the same saw, and after a couple of weeks planed the top and bottom with an electric hand planer.

I didn't even worry about oil residues. The noticable splatters after cutting all went away after time; probably the wood just soaks it in and it diffuses (and dried wood soaks oil really quick!). No traces are visible any more, anywhere on the surface -- neither the planed parts, nor where I let it rough.

OTOH, I have in the past used bar oil as an improvised substitute to treat tool handles (so, really rubbed them with a lot of oil). It does in fact leave a very nice finish, somewhere between a non-drying furniture oil and a drying oil. A bit tacky, but that's exactly what I want on an axe handle. Yet, I'd definitely go into them with tools, and have done so when refitting handles -- there's nothing strange there, it's just like any old tool handle with a patina.

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