Building Projects

How to Make a Firewood Cutting Jig – Processor for Sawmill Offcuts

By March 24, 2018 April 12th, 2019 One Comment

Build your own Firewood Cutting Jig! See the Video on YouTube and download the Plans.

Background for the Firewood Cutting Jig Project

Built a Firewood Cutting Jig! This Firewood Cutting Jig is a fast and easy way to cut firewood from small stripped branches or sawmill slab wood. Can be used as a processor of slab-wood sawmill off-cuts too.

When we purchased this home and property there was a load of old tools and assorted building materials that we asked to be included in the sale. The house, workshops, and out buildings were built sometime in the 1950’s by the owner, an Austrian carpenter who settled here after World War II. From what we have heard, he cleared this land by hand, and he was a meticulous craftsman. His workmanship is evident in the quality of the fit and finishing of the house he built.

In our back field I came across an old Firewood Cutting Jig and I have used it a few times to cut wood stove length material to heat the house. It is a great firewood processor, of a sort. Over the years, this jig has suffered from the weather here on the west coast and the slots can get cut away after each use.

How to cut firewood fast:

MAN about TOOLS - Old Firewood Cutting Jig

I thought it would be a good time to build a new firewood cutting jig based on this design. It’s simple, portable, and very efficient at turning long branches or slab wood off-cuts from a sawmill into firewood. You simply load it up, drop the roped weights over the stack, and run your chainsaw down the slots.

This is a good option to hold wood while chainsawing. I find it one of the best ways to cut branches for firewood. And, it’s a portable chainsaw wood cutting rack.

An excellent log holder for cutting firewood.

The firewood jig is made from these main components: A front and rear support made from 4×4 lumber. A base made from a pair of 2×10’s. Sides made from 1×8’s. Handles made from a 2×6. And weights attached with ropes made from salvaged materials.

  1. The Supports
  2. Side Boards
  3. The Base
  4. Attach Side Boards
  5. Close One End
  6. Attach Supports
  7. Make & Attach Handles
  8. Wooden Weights on Ropes
  9. Finish Up

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - finished build

1. Firewood Cutting Jig – The Supports

Start with the two bases made from a 4×4. For the rear base I’ll need lawnmower wheels, a half inch steel axle rod, some galvanized washers, small mending plates, and cotter pins.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - parts

With one wheel on the axle, line up the edge of the tire to the end of the rod. Make a pencil mark for the cotter pin hole. Repeat on the other end.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - mark axle

Cut a V groove into a scrap piece of lumber to hold the round axle rod for the next few operations.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - cut v-groove

Use a center punch to create a small divot in the steel rod to help guide the drill bit. Use a hardened concrete nail if you don’t have a punch.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - center punch axle

Drill a hole in the axle with a 1/8″ metal drill bit. Use a file to smooth down any burrs.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - drill axle hole

Slide a washer on the axle, the wheel, the opposing washer, and slide a cotter pin into the hole.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - mark axle inner hole

Mark the locations for the inner cotter pin holes, then center punch, drill, and file away any burrs.

Assemble the wheels onto the axle but don’t bend over the cotter pins just yet. Measure the distance between the two inner cotter pins, subtract half an inch, then transfer that measurement to a 4×4.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - layout rear support

Cut this rear support to that length. Measure the front support according to the plans, and cut that as well.

Rear Support Groove

On the rear support measure and layout a groove to accept the axle rod. On the ends I marked the depth of this slot just shy the diameter of the rod. You want the axle to sit slightly high by about a sixteenth of an inch.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - layout groove support

Set the table saw fence and run the rear support through the saw a few times. Adjusting the fence a blade width or so each time until the slot is cut.

I removed the excess wood with a half inch chisel. And test fitted the axle.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - clear groove in support

On the front support I laid out the beveled end and set the angle of my sliding miter saw to match. It’s a shallow angle so I cut it lengthwise with a small support block helping to hold it in place. You could opt to cut this it a 45 degree angle instead if that works better for you.

Once set, I cut the 4 ends of the supports.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - angle cut supports on miter saw

Drill a hole in the center of the axle to accept another cotter pin. Cut a groove with the miter saw at that location. This will prevent the axle from sliding or rotating in the groove.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - cotter pin in axle

I used 6 inch long, 3/8″ galvanized carriage bolts to secure the supports to the base. I’ll use a one and a quarter inch forstner bit to allow the bolt’s washer and nut to recess into each support. You could use longer bolts and not have to do this step.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - carriage bolts - drill bits

Layout the front base with the two holes marked on the center line.

Then drill with the forstner bit one and a quarter inch deep.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - supports on drill press forstner bit

The same with the rear support but offset the holes on either side of the axle channel. Use the washer as a guide to layout the hole location.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - supports on drill press forstner bit

Chuck the 3/8″s bit in the press and drill each hole.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - supports on drill press

This bit was not quite long enough in the press so I used a portable drill to finish.

2. Side Boards

Set the front and rear supports aside for now to start working on the main body of the jig. Cut the 1×8’s down to 30″ lengths. I bought a few extra in case I find a few cracks or checks in them. I used pine for this but cedar would stand up to the weather better.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - side boards stacked up

I set a stop on my saw support so I could quickly make these cuts without measuring each one. And this went pretty quick.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - cutting sides to length

I then took the stack of these boards over to the drill press and drilled four holes in one end. I set up a simple guide and stop block. The holes are offset from the long edge 1″ and the pencil marks are 3/4 and 2 and a quarter inch from the end.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - pre-drill sides for screws

This will speed up the process of screwing these boards to the base later.

3. The Base

I cut the pair of 2×10’s for the base down to length and laid out the spacing of the side boards. I used a scrap piece of half inch plywood for one spacer, and an off-cut from a side board for the three quarter inch gap.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - layout side locations on base

The gaps in the side boards alternate between half inch and three quarters along the length of the jig. Half inch for the rope, three quarter inch for the chainsaw blade.

I drilled pilot holes in the top 2×10 to also speed up the assembly. And applied some exterior wood glue and screwed the two together. I used a few extra screws as there was a slight warp in one of the 2×10’s.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - glue together base

Now I had lined up the edges with my speed square but there was a noticeable variation in the width between the top and bottom 2×10’s. To correct this, I set the fence on my tablesaw to the smaller dimension and ran the base through the saw, flipped it end for end, then ran it again. This made the base true and square.

trim firewood cutting jig base

4. Attach Side Boards

With the base on a flat surface, I’m ready to attach the side boards. I use some glue and my finishing nailer to hold them in place, screws added later. I alternate the spacers as I go along. When I got part way done one side I started again at the other end and finished up in the middle.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - secure sides with air compressor nailer

I then laid the jig over on some supports to add the screws. The combination of glue and screws will make for a strong and long lasting joint.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - secure sides with screws

Spin the jig around to repeat this process on the other side.

5. Close One End

The front end of the jig is closed in with 3/4″ inch plywood. I’ll rip to width, then cut to length.

Mark a line with a square 3/8’s from each edge. And mark the centers of each base. Drill pilot holes for screws.

Apply some glue, then a few nails to hold it in place for the screws.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - attach plywood end

For more strength attach galvanized angle brackets to each front corner using short pan head screws.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - attach angle brackets

6. Attach Supports

Turn the jig upside down and mark the locations for the bases on each end.

Add two screws on an angle to hold the bases in place before drilling for the carriage bolts.

I then remembered that I had a long drill bit so this went quick. You can do this step with a shorter bit but try to get the holes lined up so the bolts will tap in easily.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - long drill front support

Repeat this process at the other end. I tapped the carriage bolts up through the inside of the jig and secured the base with a flat washer, a lock washer, and a nut.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - tap in galvanized carriage bolts

For the other end I laid the jig over on its side on saw horses to tap in the carriage bolts.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - secure front support with carriage bolts

The axle can now go in the groove and be secured with short mending plates. The cotter pins holding the wheels to the axle can now be bent over to keep them in place.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - secure axle with mending plates

To the front base I glued and screwed on two feet made from some scrap 2×6. This makes the jig sit closer to level.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - attach wooden feet to front support

7. Make and Attach Handles

I’ll make the two handles from a 2×6. Cutting each to length first then laying out the design. I’ll set the fence on the table saw to one and a half inch and run it part way through.

Then to the miter saw to cut part of the angled section.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - mitre saw handles

And finish up these cuts with a hand saw.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - pocket hand saw handles on sawhorse

Clamp these to a saw horse and round off the hand holds. I used a coarse sanding disc on my grinder. This is all rough carpentry so just as long as it’s comfortable in the hand.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - angle grind handles

With the jig now on it’s feet I can mark the location for the handles, drill the pilot holes, apply glue, and secure it with 6 screws from the inside.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - attach wooden handles

8. Wooden Weights on Ropes

Next the mending plates that bridge the half inch gap between side boards can be screwed in place.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - attach mending plates

I salvaged some wood from a few old hardwood pallets to make the weights. I use an older chop saw with a beat up blade anytime I’m cutting recycled wood. Just in case I hit a hidden nail.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - cut rope weights

And I drilled a hole in each block.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - drill rope weights

I cut 1/4″ diameter rope into 7 foot lengths and melted the ends with a lighter so they won’t unravel.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - attach rope

I tie a block weight on one end and the other to the mending plate.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - wooden weights on rope

9. Firewood Cutting Jig – Finishing Up

To finish off this project I chamfer or round off all sharp corners or edges with the grinder. And that’s it. The new firewood cutting jig is done.

MAN about TOOLS - firewood cutting jig - clamped rounded handles