How To Safely Use A Chainsaw

Horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre may have given chainsaws a bad name, but this powerful power tool is actually quite useful. The chainsaw’s versatility makes it nearly essential if you have a yard to maintain or wood to cut. Why spend all day hacking away with an axe or hand saw, only to end up paying someone else to take that tree down? For the do-it-yourself enthusiast, a chainsaw may be the best way to go.

Safety First

Like any power tool, the chainsaw can pose a hazard. There is a learning curve associated with chainsaws, so take it one step at a time and grow with each experience. Under the right circumstances, it’s a heavy duty workhorse that is completely safe and highly recommended for felling trees and cutting up fallen branches. Traditional chainsaws run on gasoline, but there are more environmentally friendly models that are powered by batteries. Check out a site like for more information on electric chainsaws.

As wonderful as these machines can be, there is always the potential for a chainsaw to wreak havoc if you aren’t paying attention or fail to take the proper precautions before firing it up. The same could be said for a motor vehicle, so this doesn’t mean chainsaws are inherently bad or scary. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when handling your chainsaw.

Protective Equipment

Whenever you use your chainsaw, personal protective equipment is absolutely necessary. Better to be safe than sorry – even if it’s a small job, you still need to wear safety glasses, ear protection, a long-sleeved shirt or coat, work gloves, long pants, and a rugged pair of boots. A hard hat is a good choice when cutting down trees, or you can get a special helmet equipped with flip-up faceshield and earmuffs to alleviate several safety concerns at once.

To protect your legs, you may want to invest in a pair of chainsaw chaps, consisting of Kevlar layers underneath a nylon surface. If something goes wrong and the saw hits your leg, the Kevlar can withstand any penetration and stops the spinning saw chain by catching its fibers in the sprocket. In other words, you’ll still have your leg. With these chaps on, you’ll be ready for anything, pilgrim – like John Wayne with a chainsaw.

Safe Situation

Now that you’re all suited up, check out your surroundings and make sure the environment you’re working in is as safe as possible. For example, if you’re felling a tree, look in all directions to ensure that there’s a clear space for the tree to fall and have an escape route in mind when it comes down. Take into account the direction of the wind and consider the possibility that the tree may not fall exactly where you want it to go. Plan accordingly if there are any power lines, vehicles, or other nearby objects that might be impacted if the tree veers off-course.

Think of the worst-case scenarios and troubleshoot ahead of time. Also, examine the tree for any signs of disease or infestation that may interfere with the job. Finally, be honest with yourself. If you don’t think this is a task you can safely handle by yourself, call in a professional or seek out someone with more experience, like a friend, relative, or neighbor. They may rib you about it, but the blow to your ego will hurt less than suffering a serious injury or damaging property.

Check The Chainsaw

Perform regular maintenance on your chainsaw and it will reward you with many years of loyal service. Before each use, check the tension and sharpness of the saw’s chain and take a quick look at the controls, handles, and bar to make sure the unit is in good shape. Always fill the gas and bar oil reserves to prevent the saw from running out of oil and suffering damage from the resulting heat and friction.

When filling up the saw, place it on the ground and make sure the saw isn’t hot. If you choose to refuel and top up the oil after you’re finished working, let the saw cool down first. It should also go without saying that you should absolutely not smoke while dealing with gas and oil. Once you’re done refilling the saw, move it at least ten feet away to an area without any flammable debris before revving it up.

Starting The Saw

Now that you’re fully prepared, it’s time to fire up your chainsaw. There are two safe ways to start the saw and they both require that you start by engaging the chain brake, closing the choke, and flipping on the ignition switch.

  • Ground Starting: With the saw on the ground, place your right toe into the back handle loop where the throttle trigger is, use your left hand to stiffly grip the front handlebar, and pull the starter rope to get the engine going. It may take a couple of pulls before the saw pops, but doesn’t start. After disengaging the choke, pull the starter rope again and your chainsaw should come to life.
  • Between The Legs: If you’re really feeling daring, you can start up the saw between your legs. Follow the same method as ground starting, but instead of placing it on the ground, put the rear of the saw against your right leg while tilting it towards the right, and gently squeeze the saw with your left leg to hold it in place.

By now, your chainsaw should be roaring and ready for action. Get accustomed to the feel of the saw and how it responds, ensuring that you are comfortable and well-balanced before cutting anything. Most importantly when using a chainsaw, exercise good judgment and practice common sense.