There are two kinds of saw-operator:

Forestry saw-operators work in plantations and forests, and are responsible for the felling and cutting of trees. They trim limbs from felled trees and saw the felled trees into logs. They use axes, manual saws or chain saws. Before felling a tree, they look at it carefully to determine the direction in which it should fall when cut. Then an undercut is made in the trunk and a saw cut made on the opposite side to meet the undercut; this will cause the tree to fall in the desired direction.

Sawmill saw-operators work in sawmills where felled trees are processed. In the sawmills operators set and operate various machines including band saws, frame saws and circular saws.

Saw machine operators work either indoors in a mill which can be noisy and filled with sawdust or outdoors in the forests where they are subjected to different climatic conditions, which may be hot, cold, rainy and/or dusty.

Both forestry and sawmill saw-operators need to be extremely cautious when working due to the high-risk nature of their jobs. Saw-operators are also responsible for the sharpening of axes and saws.

Edgers at a sawmill operate multiple-blade sawing machines, which cut square the rough and uneven edges of logs. They saw logs into planks and boards of lesser thicknesses, and in standard sizes and lengths.

Personal Requirements

  • dependable and responsible
  • able to work and make decisions independently
  • above average physical health and strength
  • manual dexterity
  • good eye-hand coordination
  • able to give and receive instructions
  • some leadership skills

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

No specific requirements

What to Study

Forestry Saw-Operator: in-service training is given to the more experienced forestry workers. After the in-service training, saw-operators work for a further 6 months before being appointed as chainsaw- operators.

Saw Mill Operator: training is provided at the SALMA Saw milling Training Centre in Sabie, Mpumalanga Province.


  • Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
  • Department of Environmental Affairs (Forestry and Environmental Conservation)
  • Private concerns such as Sappi Ltd

Further Information

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
Private Bag X 313
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 338-7500

SALMA Sawmilling Training Centre
P O Box 189
Sabie, 1260
Tel: (013) 764-2164

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a forestry organisation
  • arrange to speak to a saw-operator about this type of career
  • contact the relevant departments about trainee possibilities

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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