Feb 16

DIY: Pocket Chainsaw for $15

The other day I got stuck in the YouTube black hole, checking out all sorts of things related to prepping when I came upon the concept of the pocket chainsaw.  Essentially it’s a chainsaw chain with handles on it which allows one to (very efficiently) saw through pretty large pieces of wood if in a pinch.  The fact that these things are pretty small and much more efficient than say…a hatchet, had me shopping around online for a good one.  I NEEDED to have one for my bugout bag!  Most were priced out around $25 plus shipping and while I could have gone that route I figured why not give it a go and make one myself.  After all how hard could it really be?

I consulted with our resident expert, The Maj, and then set off to Lowes to gather the necessary materials.  An 8″ pole chain was the most expensive component at $12, I also picked up a dowel rod which brought the total with tax to around $15.  Keep in mind the overall cost listed in the title is me making the assumption that you have tools similar to what I use in this DIY, a Dremel with cutting disc in addition to some 550 paracord laying around the garage. Here is the chain in all its glory with the Dremel standing by ready to put in work.

8" Chainsaw Chain

8″ Chainsaw Chain

Here’s the cutting disc that I used with the dremel in order to grind down the rivets on the chain.

Dremel cutting disc

Dremel Cutting Disc

What, you thought I couldn’t grind AND take a picture at the same time?  You were wrong!  The chain was secured in a bench vice and eye protection was worn (of course).

Grinding and sparking

Grinding and Sparking

Once the surface of the link was flat (rivets ground down to nothing) I was able to snap the chain in half with my hands with very little effort.  The holes which were left on either side is what I would use to secure my handles to.

Chain in 2 pieces

Chain in 2 Pieces

Next step was to attach the handles to the chain, but I needed handles first!  That’s where the wooden dowel rods come into play, I measured them out at 2 inches each.  After cutting them to length I drilled out holes in the center so I could route wire through them.

Wooden Handles

Wooden Handles

Once the handles were complete it was time for safety wire and safety wire pliers.  I wired both the chain end and handle end and then covered it with “gutted” 550 paracord.

Installing Safety Wire

Installing Safety Wire

Here is what the completed project looked like.

Pocket Chainsaw

Pocket Chainsaw

Obviously the next step was NOT to throw it in my Bugout Bag, but to TEST it to make sure it actually worked.  I took my dog and walked down to the river to find a suitable tree to test it on.  I found a decent one which was already dead so I didn’t feel bad attempting to cut it down.

Lining up the saw

Lining up the Saw

Here’s exactly how this went.  I started sawing back and forth…5 to 10 seconds of “wow this is awesome!”  And then….SNAP.

Piece of Crap

Back to the Drawing Board

My safety wire had snapped like it was made of rice paper.  What a disappointment!  Back to the drawing board, where I decided to exclusively use 550 paracord held to the chain with key chain rings.  If you try this method make sure to burn the end of the paracord with a lighter or it will fray like crazy.

Key Chain and Paracord

Key Chain and Paracord

I widened the hole on the handle and ran the paracord through it, tied a simple knot on the end to keep it from coming back through the hole and called it good.

Handle with Paracord

Handle with Paracord

Next step was to walk back out to the tree and give it another go.  Once I had everything set up and starting sawing away, it probably took around 30 seconds to take it down.

Pocket Chainsaw Victory!

Pocket Chainsaw Victory!

So there you have it, the pocket chainsaw in all it’s glory.  Spend around $15 and you can DIY in around 30 minutes.  The lesson learned here is that you should always test your gear because the last thing you want to do is find out something doesn’t work when it really counts.

Pocket Chainsaw

Pocket Chainsaw

One final note, the chainsaw fits nicely into the same plastic case that it came in.  I made sure to spray a little oil on there to keep it from rusting (thanks for the tip Maj!).  Next stop…Bugout Bag.

Pocket Chainsaw Storage

Pocket Chainsaw Storage



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    • The Maj on February 16, 2014 at 9:07 PM
    • Reply

    Great design PJ. I especially like the use of 550 cord to give you extra length and it and the dowels are easily replaced if/when they break. Using a chain to cut (friction and bite) causes heat, so it is important to keep the chain oiled/greased over extended periods of cutting. Also, you will probably want to plan to pack a chainsaw file for sharpening because the chain will dull over time (although it will stand up well for “survival cutting”).

    Having the capability to clean cut larger pieces of wood quickly really can help in a survival situation, whether it is cutting poles for a shelter or larger firewood.

    On a different note, many things advertised as “survival” can be built for less money and be much higher quality materials by purchasing the parts at a local hardware store and putting them together like you did here. It is all a matter of research and having the capability to put it all together. Also, you can tweak designs to fit your personal needs.

      • PJ on February 16, 2014 at 9:18 PM
      • Reply


      I was really shocked at just how efficient this was in slicing through the tree. I’ve hacked down similar sized trees with hatchets and the pocket saw was much easier AND faster. Thanks for the tip on keeping it oiled, I sprayed it down with some lube before storing it.

      I totally agree that many things can be done cheaper and better when you DIY, as opposed to purchasing a pre-made kit. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things out there I can’t fathom making myself, but when I can I’ll skrimp a bit and try to DIY…it’s always a fun challenge.

    • J on February 17, 2014 at 1:05 PM
    • Reply

    I really like this idea. KISS simple, lightweight and easy to pack. Sure beats the little ones you can find for sale.

  1. That’s great! I’m also shocked to hear it worked that well, PJ. I might have to give that a try in the near future.

    Thanks for posting it, and for taking the time to take the pictures!

    • Ranger W on February 18, 2014 at 11:18 AM
    • Reply

    Sweet. I bought one a while back and used it to cut my christmas tree and was surprised with how well it cut. It is a pretty fast method of dealing with smallish trees. Can definitely be used to make firewood.

      • PJ on February 19, 2014 at 10:42 PM
      • Reply

      Probably not going to use it while stacking firewood for the winter but for emergency situations it will definitely work.

  2. PJ Great Post. TYVM.

    I did try one of those “Survival Rope Saws” years ago. It lasted about as long as a pig fart. Was wondering what to do this afternoon. Now I have a DIY.

    I also like the fact that you used the proper brand chain. OREGON.

    (for you Eastern folks that’s pronounced Ory-GUN not Ory-gone)

    Capt. Mac.
    Pandemonium Airlines
    “We hope you enjoy your drinks shaken, not stirred.”

      • PJ on September 24, 2014 at 11:07 PM
      • Reply


      Glad you enjoyed the DIY, let me know how yours goes!

    • Dan G on October 7, 2014 at 6:49 AM
    • Reply

    Thank a lot for sharing this. I reached your site in frustration over the ready made ones I saw which I deem to be of low if not usable quality.

    Just a quick question, did the chain not come with a break apart section? you know like the ones in bicycle chain where you can remove a section easily?

  3. This can be a nice 1. I purchased 1 some time as well as tried it to slice my own Christmas tree as well as was amazed with exactly how well this reduce. This is a quite fast approach to coping with smallish trees and shrubs. Really can be applied to create fire wood.

  4. This is a good idea for DIY. Thanks for your sharing! It’s portable chainsaw

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