Home » Cutting Wet Wood With A Chainsaw: Here’s What Matters

Cutting Wet Wood With A Chainsaw: Here’s What Matters

Come rain, sleet or snow, there’s still wood to be cut.  Some tools perform better than others in wet conditions so it’s understandable to question if your chainsaw can handle soggy weather and wet wood.

If you cut enough firewood, chances are some of it will be wet.  Either from rain or because it is still green.  Wet wood is heavy, dense and messy to work with but is it any harder for your chainsaw to cut?  In my experience, chainsaws chew through wet wood without trouble.

So, can you cut wet wood with a chainsaw?  Yes. Chainsaws easily cut through wet wood without harming your saw.  In fact, cutting wet wood is sometimes easier than cutting dry wood because the moisture acts as a cooling lubricant.  In addition, keeping your chainsaw well maintained and lubricated is important to avoid rust formation in wet conditions.

In most cases, moisture laden wood is the least of your concerns.  Modern saws are designed to take a beating but cutting wet wood still requires other considerations.  After all, we can’t always wait for dry, sun filled days to cut a load of wood.  Read on for other important wet cutting tips.

Will wet wood dull a chainsaw

Among the most common misconceptions is that wet wood will in some way dull a chainsaw chain.  I guess it’s understandable too.  Wet wood is heavier and feels denser.  So, intuitively it makes sense that cutting through heavy, wet wood would wear out a chain faster than dry wood.

Luckily, that’s not true though.  Cutting wet wood won’t dull the chain on your chainsaw.  If anything, moisture in the wood will actually preserve the sharpness of your chain.  

It does this in two ways.  First, moisture in wet wood acts as a coolant and bleeds off excess heat from friction.  In that way, it keeps your chain from overheating and softening, which ultimately dulls a chain more quickly.

Second, wet wood improves the lubricating properties of your bar and chain oil.  The function of bar and chain oil is to reduce friction, thereby keeping the chain from overheating.  When you cut through dry wood, more oil gets removed from the chain making it tough to stay lubricated.  Wet wood, on the other hand, won’t suck as much oil from the chain.  That keeps the oil right where it needs to be.   

There is one caveat though.  If the wood is wet because it has been laying on the ground for a while, dirt and small rocks can cling to the outside.  Cutting through dirty wood is likely to put a few nicks and dings in your chain.  Often people don’t notice the dirt and assume the chain is dulling because the wood is wet.  Before slicing into a log on the ground, take the time to brush off any debris.  This will greatly extend the life of your chain.

Is wet wood harder to cut than dry wood

We have established that wet wood won’t dull your chain, at least not any faster than dry wood.  But is wet wood harder to cut through?  

From the perspective of the saw, wet wood doesn’t present much of a challenge for a well functioning chainsaw.  In most cases, wet wood cuts significantly easier than dry wood of a similar type.  As I mentioned before, moisture in the wood can actually make for smoother, faster cuts.  

Dry wood fibers are incredibly ridged, creating a much harder structure to cut through.    This generates way more friction and heat buildup on your saw’s chain.  Ultimately, it is friction that slows down your saw and prolongs the time it takes for clean cuts.

When you compare wet wood to the same type that’s dry, your saw will cut through the wet wood with the highest efficiency.  Some woods however, are super dense, and wet or dry, it’s going to take more effort for your saw to get through (see the next section for advise on chain selection).

In terms difficulty for you as the saw operator, wet wood is going to be harder to cut.  Why?  Because it is heavy.  Much heavier!  Most species of wood loss over half their weight when dry.  That means bucking up a fir tree that’s still green is going to require a whole lot more muscle to move it around. 

With that in mind, it may be easier for your saw to cut wet wood.  However, is it worth the extra back breaking work to cut it?  You may not have a choice in the matter, but if you do, let the saw take the brunt of the effort.  

Do you need a special chain for cutting wet wood

Because wet wood cuts the same as dry wood, your standard chain will get the job done.  A specialized cutting chain is only useful in a narrow set of conditions. 

Standard chains utilize a chisel cutter with a 90 degree cutting edge.  It’s a design that delivers fast and efficient cuts in wet wood.  Dense, green wood is sometimes a little much for the bite of a standard chain.  Your cuts will be slow and the saw will need to work a little harder.  Switching to a micro chisel chain is a better choice.  The cut won’t necessarily be faster but the saw won’t work as hard.  

If you are working with dirt covered wood, the rounded curve of a semi chisel or micro chisel chain will also minimize dulling, giving you more cuts between sharpening.  

In most cases, a modern chainsaw with a high quality standard chain will be more than adequate for cutting through wet wood with ease. 

Chainsaw maintenance in wet conditions

Proper maintenance on any chainsaw is essential for getting optimal cutting efficiency.  Moisture packed wood and wet conditions call for a bit more attention and care of your saw to avoid long term damage.  

By a long shot, rust is your saw’s number one enemy.  Adequate lubrication with bar and chain oil is the best way to prevent rust and excessive wear in wet conditions.  Always ensure that your oil reservoir is full during use and top it off when needed.   

You’ll probably also notice that wet wood or damp conditions cause sawdust to cake on the chain and saw.  With dry wood, this is not such a problem since the wood shavings are propelled off by the chain’s rotation.  Problems can arise from a build up of wet sawdust.  A dust clogged chain or bar slows down the rotation making your saw work harder.  If you notice a buildup of sawdust, take the time to clear it from your chain (with the saw turned off of course).  Also, make sure to remove sawdust that cakes on the air intake filter.

When you’re done using your saw, dry it off with a rag and apply additional heavy weight oils if needed.  Follow your user’s manual for other suggested maintenance tasks.  The most important thing is to remove moisture from the saw and re-apply lubrication anywhere it’s needed.

Is cutting wet wood with a chainsaw dangerous

Wet wood alone is not any more dangerous to cut than dry wood.  What is dangerous is the conditions you are cutting in.  Anytime you use power tools, safety is paramount.  And wet conditions pose some additional hazards.

No matter what kind of wood you are cutting, standard safety gear is a must.  Things like safety glasses, hearing protection, durable work gloves and protective, anti-cut clothing or chaps are a no-brainer.  

When rain soaked conditions prevail, additional precautions need to be taken.  Water resistant boots with aggressive tread are a top priority.  Comfortable feet and a rock solid footing is critical for keeping you focused and in control of every cut.  Make sure your gloves provide a secure grip on the saw too.  

Safety gear only gets you so far though.  If wet weather has made a muddy mess of your wood cutting area, try moving to a new spot.  Don’t risk slipping and sliding around.  Move to a cleaner work area.  

Not everyone has the luxury of using a chainsaw in beautiful, sunny weather.  In fact, most of us cut wood in soggier parts of the country and that is all the more reason to invest in proper safety gear tailored for wet weather work. 

Can you use an electric chainsaw in the rain

We all know water and electricity don’t mix.  Therefore, it stands to reason that an electric chainsaw is better left for nicer weather.  Let’s see why that is.  

Don’t get me wrong, electric chainsaws are awesome tools.  Any home owner looking for a light weight, low maintenance tool for occasional pruning or small firewood jobs will appreciate an electric chainsaw.  But they do come with limitations.  By the simple nature of how chainsaws work, designing them to be water proof is virtually impossible. 

Plus, you are also dragging around an extension cord on the ground.  On a rain soaked day, your electric saw’s connection to the power cord is a weak point where water can cause problems.  Aside from the potential shock hazard, there is also a risk for shorting out your saw.  

Let’s be clear though.  Cutting wet wood with an electric saw does not pose the same risks as using the saw in the rain.  It is entirely possible for electric saws to cut through wet or green wood on a rainless day.  Just be cautious about where your extension cord is laying.  Keep it out of damp grass or puddles.  The extra moisture from wet wood alone won’t cause a problem for electric saws.

What about cordless chainsaws in the rain

At this point, you might be wondering if rain affects cordless electric saws like their corded counter parts.  After all, there isn’t a cord to worry about dragging through wet grass or puddles.  However, cordless battery powered chainsaws are not any more waterproof than corded electric chainsaws.  Using them in the rain entails similar risks.

Overall, electric chainsaws (both corded and cordless) should be avoided in wet conditions.  A light rain may not cause any problems but significant rain for prolonged periods of time could result in damage to your saw or personal injury.  

Just leave electric saws inside when the weather is bad and save your cutting chores for nicer weather.

Final thoughts

Wood cutting chores won’t wait for fair weather.  Plus, you may not want to let fallen trees lay around uncut.  At some point, we all need to cut wet wood in less than ideal conditions.  However, you now know that wet wood is nothing to fear.  Your chainsaw will rip right through it with hardly a skip in the chain.  

Just remember to use common sense and proper safety gear when tackling wet wood.  Oh, and don’t forget to give your saw a little extra TLC when you’re all done.  Oil liberally and store it right to make sure rust can’t take hold.  Other than that, cut wood wet or dry to your heart’s content.