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 it.
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 saw.
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 use.
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 up!
Find a few chain saws on the following page.