This past summer when my children and I are were in the midst of our Great Eco-Friendly Summer Road Trip, I received a message that a huge branch of our apple tree had fallen. My husband went out to buy our (his) first chainsaw. As you might imagine, he was thrilled, I was less so. These tips are great for women to feel empowered to take on the type of tasks that may otherwise seem daunting. Watch out, there may be some chainsaw wielding in my future!
Chainsaws are frighteningly powerful tools. They can be found on most farms and in homes where wood is cut for heating, or where landscaping requires one. Despite the benefits of using a chainsaw, the potential for accidents while using a chainsaw is high, and injuries sustained while operating a chainsaw are often severe. Do not be afraid of the tool. Rather, learn to master them and use them with extreme caution.
While modern chainsaws incorporate many safety features not found on earlier models, it is up to the user to operate a chainsaw safely. Here are some suggestions for safely using a chainsaw, along with proper chainsaw maintenance tips.
Using a Chainsaw
Before you begin, it is important to purchase safety gear and actually wear it. Specially made chaps will often times stop a moving chain and save your thigh from a gruesome accident. A helmet with a face screen, coupled with ear protection, is a convenient and simple way to keep your head, eye and ear protection in one easy to access package. Wearing steel-toed, cut-resistant boots, sold at most chainsaw dealers, will also help you prevent any possible accidents.
Chainsaws are the perfect tool for cutting up fallen trees and large branches. Figuring out where to start and how to properly go about the job can prove to be a challenge, though. The most common chainsaw injuries occur to the thigh and left arm, but they can be virtually eliminated by taking a few simple precautions. First, always wrap the thumb of your left hand around the front handle while you’re cutting. This grip helps keep the saw under control in case the chainsaw kicks back.
Secondly, when you’re moving around the yard with your chainsaw running, always remove your right hand from the back handle and carry the saw at your left hand holding the front handle. This will ensure that if you trip and fall, there is no way the saw’s engine can accelerate and rotate the chain.
The most common and natural way to cut is with the chain on the bottom of the bar. The chainsaw pulls slightly and is easy to control by maintaining a firm grip. However, cutting from the underside of a branch will require you to cut with the top of the bar. This can be slightly unnerving as the saw pushes toward you. But as long as you have braced yourself well, and have taken the necessary safety precautions, you will be able to safely use this technique.
There is one spot on the bar you should avoid using. Known as the kickback zone, this spot is located at the top half of the bar’s tip. If the kickback zone comes in contact with what you are attempting to cut (while the chain is moving), the saw will kick up toward you. Modern chainsaws are equipped with a chain brake which is designed to stop your saw’s chain if a kickback occurs. Going back to an earlier point, it is important to have your left hand placed firmly around the front grip to help prevent chainsaw kickback. However, your best line of defense begins with avoiding contact with the kickback zone.
Learning to properly maintain your chainsaw and keeping it in top working condition can become a matter of life and death. While modern saws are equipped to provide you with more safety than ever, you are still operating a machine with a sharp blade capable of cutting down trees. Your limbs will be no match for the chainsaw if used improperly. Maintaining your saw can save your life, as well as extend the life of your chainsaw.
The first thing you’ll want to do is to keep your chain sharp. A dull chain can contribute to accidents, not to mention wear you out. You can tell when your chain is sharp, as your saw should cut without requiring excessive downward pressure. When sharpened properly, your chainsaw will spit out chunks of wood. If your saw is spitting out sawdust, you will need to change your chain to a sharp one, or have your current chain sharpened.
While you can learn to sharpen your chainsaw yourself, it is recommended that you have a professional do it for you (typically costs $10). If you can afford it, it would be in your best interest to have a couple sharp chains with you at all times so you can change them out when you accidentally hit a rock or your chain dulls from normal use. To help keep your chain sharp, you should store your chainsaw with a scabbard to prevent your chain from getting dinged up when in storage.
You will also want to make sure you are keeping the chain clean, tight, and well lubricated. As you use your chainsaw, make sure wood and sawdust are not building up in the chain. Check your chain before each use that it fits tightly against the bar, but that it is loose enough for you to move it with your gloved hand.
You cannot check your chain’s tension too often. Make sure that your chain never gets to the point where it sags off of the bar. A sagging chain can be very hazardous, as it increases the risk of the chain snapping when in use. Some designs have automatic chain tensioning systems, but learning how to adjust your chain’s tension is an absolute necessity to ensure your safety.
Your chainsaw won’t cut effectively if it isn’t properly lubricated. Some chainsaws have automatic lubrication systems, which will save you the hassle of doing it manually. Though, if your chainsaw does not have this feature, make sure you purchase bar and chain oil to properly lubricate your tool. Do not use motor oil. There’s a reason why you can buy oil specifically for your chain and bar. Just like you wouldn’t use cooking oil in your vehicle, make sure you are using the proper oil for the job.
For more tips on how to improve and protect the health of our children and those we care for, visit Almost All The Truth.
Rachael Jones is Staff Writer for DIYMother.