What You Need To Know Before Buying A Chainsaw

By: Alex Olson

The modern, gas-powered chainsaw has proven to be one of the most beneficial tools ever for the forestry and logging industry. Chainsaws are portable tools that feature a small, 2-cycle engine that operates on a combination of gasoline and oil. The chainsaw uses a metal bar of varying lengths to guide a toothed chain in a circular motion to cut through wood.

The first tool resembling today's chainsaw was used in the mid 1800s to cut bone. The chainsaw that we know today wasn't introduced until the 1920s and many of those early mechanical pioneers are still represented by today's leading brands of chainsaws, including Stihl, founded by Andreas Stihl in 1926 in a small German town, and McCulloch, the first North American chainsaw manufacturer.

Most chainsaws are used to cut wood, typically in tree trimming or felling operations by arborists, foresters, and loggers. There are special saws designed for cutting limbs away from the trunk of the tree and others specifically for cutting large logs on the ground. There are also a broad line of chainsaws designed with amateurs and homeowners in mind.

Besides standard tree care and clearing operations, chainsaws are also used in the firefighting industry to clear away hazardous trees and bring control to forest fires and are quite useful for firewood collection. There are also specially designed tips and blades for the popular hobby of wood carving. RedMax and Echo both offer an assortment of tools and accessories for carvers. Specialty carbide chainsaw chains are available as well, though rather costly, for cutting through other materials, including fiberglass and metal.

The chainsaw has revolutionized the tree care, logging, and clearing industries and has made it simple for the average person to manage the small trees and shrubs in their yard. Modern chainsaws require much less labor to operate and work much more efficiently than hand-powered chainsaws used previously. They are also easy to move from place to place and offer more convenience and versatility. The main downfalls of gas-powered chainsaws are the maintenance involved and the major concerns with user safety.

Properly maintaining a chainsaw is crucial for long-term, efficient operation. It is important to use the correct mix of gas and oil, depending on the manufacturer's specifications, and to keep the bar oil reservoir filled anytime the saw is in use. The air filter within the chainsaw must be kept clean and the gears and motor mechanisms should be inspected periodically for clogs and debris. Sharpening the chain can also be time consuming, especially if the saw came in contact with dirt, dead or twisted wood, or metal from a nail, bullet, or fence.

Through the years, chainsaw manufacturers have improved greatly on the safety features and efficient running of their tools, but chainsaws are still extremely dangerous and are responsible for more than 40,000 injuries and death each year in the US alone. Anyone can purchase and use a chainsaw without any type of training or license, but it is recommended that new users become familiar with proper chainsaw safety guidelines first.

The biggest safety risk during chainsaw operation is kickback, which occurs when the teeth on the chain become stuck in the wood, causing the chain to no longer turn and forcing the moving bar towards the user. To minimize this risk, always use a chainsaw with a working brake with your hands in the correct position. If the saw is used properly, your hand will enact the brake and stop the chain if the chainsaw starts to kickback.

It is also important to wear the appropriate protection while operating a chainsaw. Gloves and eye protection are a must and ear plugs are recommended for prolonged use. Chainsaw protective clothing and chaps are also available for extended protection from injury. Use the right size chainsaw, bar, and chain for the job you are doing and leave difficult tree trimming or take downs to experienced professionals.

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