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Chain Saw 101
Chain saws used to be heavy, clunky machines, but over the
years they've been transformed into units that start easier, are lighter,
vibrate less, and have standard safety features mandated by OSHA. While these
factors are important, they're not enough to prevent accidents.
"A 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," says Carl Smith, an experienced logger, who has trained
people to safely run chain saws since 1975.
His book, Chain Saw Safety Training Guidelines, offers the
following tips on choosing a chain saw, operating it safely, and maintaining
Choosing a chain saw
It's easy to find chain saws at a variety of stores or
online, but Smith suggests going to a local dealer.
"When something goes wrong, there's no one to repair
the saws sold at big box stores," he explains.
Local dealers can provide advice on the best saw and bar
length for the specific tree types in your area.
Use an antikickback chain, Smith says, and consider using an
antikickback bar, which has a narrow nose and a protective piece at the tip.
Operating it safely
Smith emphasizes the importance of wearing safety gear and
recommends that a hard hat, protective leg chaps, gloves, eye protection,
hearing protection, and above-the-ankle leather boots be used while operating a
Cutting down trees requires focus. Plan two escape routes
and never turn your back on a falling tree. Make the right undercuts and back
cut, and use a wedge and the proper cutting procedure. Handling a saw requires
strength and a firm grip; cutting trees shouldn't be scheduled at the end of a
long working day.
Maintaining the machine
"With a chain saw, 15% of the efficiency of the tool is
the motor; 85% is the chain," Smith notes. "Without a sharp chain,
you are going to fight it, and that increases fatigue." He recommends
having all chain parts professionally sharpened on a grinder after every third
Regularly blow debris and sawdust off the saw and check
filters to prevent plugged chain oilers and other problems. A chain saw that
won't be used for a long time should be drained of gas, then set on its side
until the fumes escape before being stored.
Done properly, cutting wood can be satisfying as well as
good exercise since cutting, splitting, piling and burning wood all warm you
Find a few chain saws on the following page.
Echo Model CS-530
Features: Engine: 2-stroke. Engine size: 50.1 cc. Bar
lengths: 18 and 20 inch. Vibration Reduction System standard. Weight: 11.2 lbs.
(without bar and chain). Fuel capacity: 20.3 oz. Oil capacity: 9.5 oz. Consumer
warranty: 5 years. Oiling system: automatic/adjustable.
Price: $419.99 (18-inch bar)
Homelite Model UT10522
Features: Engine: 2-cycle gasoline with single 2-step start.
Three-point antivibration. Safe-T-Tip and inertia-activated chain brake.
Automatic bar and chain oiler. Toolless chain tensioning. Weight: 10 lbs.
Warranty: 2 years. Bar length: 20 inches.
Husqvarna Model 359
Features: Engine: 59 cc. Horsepower: 3.9 hp. Fuel capacity:
1.44 pints. Ignition system: SEM AM50. Vibrations: 3.9 m/s2 (front handle) and
4.2 m/s2 (back handle). Chain pitch: 3/8 inch or .325 inches. Weight: 12.1 lbs.
Recommended bar lengths: 13 to 20 inches.
Solo Model 656-18"
Features: Engine: 2-cycle. Engine size: 56 cc. Horsepower:
4.1 hp. Electronic Ignition: Yes. Fuel capacity: 20 oz. Antivibe: Yes. Chain
pitch: 3/8 inch or .325 inches. Weight: 11.5 lbs. Automatic oiler: Ekomatic.
Warranty: 2 years. Bar length: 18 inches.
Stihl Model MS 390
Features: Engine size: 64.1 cc. Horsepower: 4.3 hp.
Carburetor: IntelliCarb. Fuel capacity: 18.9 oz. Weight: 13 lbs. Chain oil
capacity: 11.2 oz. Oilmatic chain: 3/8 inch. Bar lengths: 16, 28 or 20 inches.
Side access chain tensioner. Adjustable automatic bar and chain oiler.
Price: $469.95 (18-inch bar)