Small chainsaws are commonly purchased by rural property owners, tree and timber owners, firewood users and farmers. Often, a new chainsaw owner can become frustrated at the learning curve associated with chainsaw ownership.
Here are answers to many questions asked by people planning to buy and operate a chainsaw. This Frequently Asked Questions page is for the new chainsaw owner and addresses the most common concerns about purchasing and maintaining a chainsaw.
Q: How do I select a new chainsaw?
A: You should buy only the chainsaw you feel comfortable with. Chainsaw manufacturers are using newer and lighter materials to build more powerful but durable machines. You need to search for the machine that is comfortable for you and that will not fatigue you too quickly. And do not forget to consider purchasing an electric saw if you are only an occasional user with light work requirements.
Madsen’s Shop and Supply suggests that “it depends on what you are you going to use it for, and what are the size of the average cuts? Buying too small a saw can save you money, but also can create frustration. A saw with too little power for the desired cuts can wear you down creating an opportunity for an accident to happen. Fatigue is a big factor that causes an accident when working with chainsaws. Likewise, a saw that is too big will be burdensome in smaller wood, and also create fatigue.”
I have compiled several articles that just may help you with the purchase of a new power chainsaw. One site even has a poll showing the most popular saws on the market.
What factor to consider when buying a chainsaw?
How To Get The Best Chainsaw For Your Needs
Q: Where should I purchase a new chainsaw?
A: Most foresters and loggers agree and suggest purchasing chainsaws like Stihl, Jonsered or Husqvarna with strong local dealers. Make every effort to find a service department for the saw you are considering. Check the dealer’s reputation. I can guarantee your saw will need work in the future and you just may need some tune-up and chain sharpening instruction.
Tom Bernosky, the owner of Green Thumb Power and Equipment Corporation, says you should “always remember that when buying any machine, buy from somebody who can service. You will only hurt yourself and your business by buying something at a mart-type store.”
Why Shop Online?
Q: How do I learn to operate a chainsaw?
A: There are many great resources on the Internet that can help you operate your saw. The best way is to be instructed by an expert. Your state forestry association or agency just may have or know of local training and if you buy from a local dealer, they will be glad to help you (a great reason to buy a chainsaw from a local dealer).
There also are videos on the market that do a reasonable job teaching the essentials of chainsaw operation. I particularly am impressed with Stihl’s beginner chainsaw video. Stihl’s Chainsaw Video
Q: How and why should I safely operate a chainsaw?
A: According to saw expert Carl Smith, “If you place your hands on a chain saw, you must keep in mind that it is like grabbing a hand grenade without a pin in it. It is very likely to go off in your face. From the moment that you take it out of storage to the time that it goes back to the same place, you can be hurt by either it or by whatever you will be cutting.”
“The chain saw is the most dangerous hand tool that can be purchased on the open market. It requires no license and no training to own or operate it. An overall average of 40,000 injuries and deaths occur annually in the US. This figure is just the “reported” accidents given by hospitals willing or able to furnish the information. That figure does not include out-patient visits to the doctor.”
Remember: Approximately 30 percent of all woods accidents in a year are typically the result of a chainsaw cut. A chainsaw blade can move 45 mph at full throttle and can move rapidly in the opposite direction (called kick-back). Almost all chainsaw accidents can be prevented by using common sense and by using safe cutting practices.
Chainsaw Essential Safety TIPs
The Safe Way To Use A Chainsaw
Q: What is chainsaw kickback and how can I prevent it?
A: One in every 12 timbering accidents is caused by chainsaw kickback. If a professional tree feller is at risk, it can definitely happen to a less experienced chainsaw user.
According to OSHA, kickback is “a strong thrust of the saw back toward the faller generally resulting from improper use of the nose of the bar or the pinching of the bar in a cut. Kickback causes loss of control of the saw and this, in turn, results in numerous saw cuts each year. Kick-back also refers to a tree jumping back over the stump toward the faller. This kind of kick-back generally results from a tree being felled into standing timber and/or lack of stump-shot.”
There are ways to reduce the likelihood of kickback. Use an anti-kickback chain and do not use the tip of the guide bar for cutting. Stand alongside and not directly behind your cutting work. Be aware of what is going on around you all the time.
Q: Do I really need to use chainsaw protection equipment?
A: It is strongly recommended!
Chainsaw expert Carl Smith insists that his “students are constantly drilled that the following items be used while operating a chainsaw: A hard hat, protective leg chaps, gloves, eye protection, hearing protection and “above the ankle” leather boots.” In Carl Smith’s About Saws interview, he insists that the chainsaw is one of the most dangerous tools you can use.
Madsen’s Shop and Supply says “safety chaps are a great safety item. The Kevlar fibers built into the pads of safety chaps clog up the chain and sprocket and buy the operator some reaction time. They aren’t armor that can prevent a cut from happening, but may allow enough time necessary to react appropriately, and prevent or at least minimize a cut.”
From NASD: “Wearing the proper clothing is one of the best safeguards for you to reduce the possibility of serious injury. Wear sturdy, snug-fitting clothing that gives you complete freedom of movement. Do not wear anything loose that could catch in the moving chain, such as sleeve cuffs, cuffed pants, scarves, loose long hair (tie it back), jewelry or (if you are female) a skirt.”
“Heavy-duty, non-slip gloves will improve your grip and protect your hands from abrasions, cuts, and splinters. Sturdy boots with non-slip soles ensure good footing, and protective toes and high top boots protect your feet and ankles. Wear a non-fogging, vented face screen or safety goggles to prevent injury from flying chips or a chain that may break off and fly toward your face.”
“Wear an approved safety hard hat. If it is properly fitted, it will be cool, comfortable and provide protection from falling limbs. Chain saws are very noisy, so ear muffs or earplugs are essential to protect your hearing. Chaps made for use when using chainsaws protect your legs from severe cuts should the chainsaw slip.”
Chainsaw Safety Clothing – Give Yourself The Best Chance To Avoid Serious Injury
Q: What are the most important parts of a chainsaw?
A: OSHA requires you to have the following parts on a chainsaw:
- Chain Catcher (protection from the chain)
- Anti-vibration handle system (hand and protection)
- Handguard (hand protection)
- Muffler (hearing protection)
- Chain brake (kickback protection)
- Throttle (controls saw speed)
- Throttle interlock (kills power when dropped)
Q: Do I need to mix oil with gas for my chainsaw?
A: “All 2-cycle engines require gas to be mixed with oil. The “oil” tank is for bar and chain lubricant. It has nothing to do with engine lubrication. The only lubricant the engine parts receive is what’s mixed in the gas.” – Madsen’s Shop and Supply
Q: Can I use regular motor oil as my chainsaw bar oil?
A: You really do need to use a quality bar oil. Here is why! Bar and chain oil has a “high-tack” additive that prevents it from slinging off the chain as it travels around the tip. NEVER use used motor oil!
Q: How long a chainsaw bar should I get?
A: Do not buy a chainsaw bar that’s too short for your average trunk or limb diameter. You also must remember not to buy a saw with a bar too long for the power your saw is capable of developing. A long bar can become unbalanced and awkward to carry.
Q: What’s the difference between a chainsaw chipper and a chisel chain?
A: Madsen’s says a “chipper is a round tooth, round filed chain. It maintains it’s edge better in dirty cutting. Chisel is a square tooth, either ground round or square from the factory. The fastest cutting chisel is the square grind. It is also the hardest to maintain unless you use a chisel grinder. The chisel tooth is more efficient because the square-edged tooth severs the wood fibers better than a round tooth.”
Q: How long should a chainsaw last?
A: Any reputable brand of chainsaw you purchase with a local dealership servicing that brand can last a long time. A good chainsaw will stand up to many hard hours and is built tough to be used regularly.
Madsen’s Chainsaw Shop and Supply suggest that “most non-pro saws today will last upwards of 10 years with good care and regular maintenance. Most manufacturers supply parts for their models for upwards of 10 years.”
Q: How often do you file a chain?
A: Madsen’s Shop and Supply says “when the chips it cuts are no longer chips but dust, or when you have to physically push or force it to cut” you need to sharpen. “You should be able to put your saw to the wood and not have to push very hard for it to cut. The harder you have to push, the duller it is getting. Pushing harder on your saw to force it to cut also leads to fatigue, enhancing the risk of injury.”
Here is a great collection on how to sharpen a chainsaw.
Q: What is a chainsaw depth gauge?
A: Depth gauges are the metal point in front of each tooth on a chainsaw chain. They determine how large a chip the tooth can pull as it travels across the wood. Some are small and pointy and some are large. Depth gauges need to be maintained on a regular basis.
“This little piece of metal is what controls how much bite the tooth takes with each pass. You need to adjust the height of the depth gauge each time you sharpen your chain because, if you notice, the teeth of the chain are sloped down as you go back. A good choice of height is 20 to 30 thousands of one inch. Professional cutters use 35 to 40 thousands of an inch. If the chain is sharp and the lower your depth gauges are, the more it will cut – and I mean fast! But the lower you go the more dangerous it becomes – kickback/push back. Never exceed .025 inch unless you really know what you are doing!” – Tyson Schultz