For the more intrepid among us a chainsaw is one of the most laboursaving devices in the garden shed. From trimming or felling trees to sizing firewood, these powerful tools make light work of any task that requires coarse cutting.

Chainsaws, though, can be extremely dangerous if they are not operated correctly and regularly maintained.

Proper Training

If you are new to the world of chainsaws, ensure you know what you’re doing by reading your saw’s manual thoroughly and attending a chainsaw users’ course – these courses are often run by chainsaw retailers.

Use the Right Saw for the Right Job

There are different sizes of chainsaw, each is suitable for a particular type of work.

  • Lightweight chainsaw (20 cm to 30 cm guide bar) – cutting thin branches and shrubs.
  • Medium chainsaw (35 cm to 50 cm guide bar) – log cutting, felling small trees.
  • Heavy chainsaw (guide bar beyond 50 cm) – professional tree felling.

Protective clothing

Protect yourself while operating a chainsaw by wearing the correct protective clothing.

  • Hard hat
  • Safety glasses or goggles
  • Ear protectors
  • Steel-toed boots
  • Heavy gloves

Close fitting clothes are less likely to get caught in the chainsaw. For even more protection consider wearing Kevlar chaps. These leggings are chainsaw resistant and can prevent lacerations to your legs – one of the most common chainsaw injuries.

Correct Maintenance

Regularly clean your air filter and check the spark plug – your machine will run smoother and safer. Use an appropriate bar oil and check that the oil reservoir is sufficiently full – you’ll extend the life of your chain and maintain chain tension longer.

The Chain

An improperly cared for chain is an accident waiting to happen. Check the chain’s tension every time you use your chainsaw. Adjust it in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations whenever necessary. A loose chain can dislocate from the bar, a chain that is too tight will cause the chain to wear prematurely and may result in the chainsaw seizing as the bar expands due to excess heat.

Keep your chain’s teeth sharpened – your machine won’t have to work so hard and your cutting will be smoother and suffer less chance of “kick back”.

Note: before performing any maintenance work on your engine or chain, always disconnect the sparkplug to prevent the saw firing accidentally.

Starting & Operation

Operate your chainsaw only when you are alert and in sound physical condition. Never touch a chainsaw if you are tired, using medication or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

When starting your chainsaw place it on the ground or a flat surface, hold the top handle firmly with one hand and pull the starter cord with the other. Do not start a chainsaw while holding it in the air.

When cutting, hold the machine with two hands. Don’t make cuts between your legs – always saw to the outside. Keep the blade pointed away from you. Cutting with the saw held above shoulder height reduces the amount of control you have over the machine and tends to bring the blade dangerously close to your face.

Avoid “kick back” – where teeth on the tip of the chain snag against something, causing the saw to kick back towards you – by using a chainsaw fitted with a chain-brake, and cutting with the base or body of the blade, not the tip.

Work Safely

By taking the proper precautions, using your chainsaw sensibly and maintaining it well you’ll be able to put this big boy’s toy to work without risking your safety.

To learn more about how to cut with a chainsaw check out this video.


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