It is not surprising that when building a log home you might have to use a chainsaw. They can be used to trim logs to size, cut out door and window openings, et cetera. While a chainsaw is a carefully engineered and useful tool, it goes without saying that a chainsaw can be a dangerous tool if it is used improperly.
This article will discuss some of the common safety issues, tips and considerations for using a chainsaw.
As always, the first rule of power tools is to always read the manual. It is important to understand how the particular model of chainsaw that you purchased works. All the fine details, such as how to properly start and maintain your saw, will almost always be included in the manual. If you are buying a used saw, which lacks a manual, many manufacturers will mail you one upon request (or they often have downloadable version online). For example, http://www.stihlusa.com/manuals/
After learning about your saw from its manual, you might want to read a bit more about how to use a chainsaw. There are many instructional resources, such as the Chainsaw Operator’s Manual by Bernard Kestel, or Training and Standards of Competence for People Working with Chainsaws published by Health and Safety Executive (HSE); (September 16, 1997).
Some of the basic guidelines are as follows…
A chainsaw operator should always wear the proper safety equipment: gloves and hardhat, cut resistant chaps and vest/shirt, as well as eye and ear protection. Note that there are excellent hardhats that have a built in face shield (protective wire mesh).
A chainsaw should always be properly maintained, this includes always using a sharp chain. A sharp chain will produce woodchips, while a dull chain produces more powdery debris.
Do not begin using a chainsaw when you are excessively fatigued (and do not keep using one if fatigue sets in). As with any power tool, mental and physical alertness is where safety begins.
Think before you cut… consider how the object being cut might react to being cut. Look at what is behind and below the object being cut so you cut only what you intend to cut (this is also called ‘sizing up’ your cut).
An inexperienced operator might want to procure an ‘anti-kick back chain.’ Such a chain limits the amount of bite that the chains teeth can get, thus reducing the risk of kickback.
When buying a used chainsaw, make sure it qualifies as a ‘modern saw.’ You probably want it to have a chain brake, dead man switch, spark arrestor, throttle trigger lockout, chain catcher, et cetera.
Do not add gas to a chainsaw that has recently been used. One should wait approximately 30 minutes for the saw to cool before adding gasoline.
Do not use a chainsaw when working alone.
This article was not intended to be the ‘definitive word’ on chainsaw safety. It is only supposed to make you aware of some of the basic safety issues in an abstract sense. It is your responsibility to read the owner’s manual of the saw you are using and follow all the manufacturer’s recommendations when operating your saw. It would also be advisable to read other articles and books on this subject. In addition, if you a novice chainsaw operator, we recommend attending an approved chainsaw operator’s safety course prior to using a chainsaw yourself.
In our log home building class, we demonstrate the use of small, electric chainsaws to cut notches, window and door openings, etc. When done correctly these are very safe activities compared to actually cutting down trees. We never recommend cutting down your own trees — we always recommend that our students hire a forestry professional to perform these advanced tasks. As a profession, logging is one of the top five most dangerous jobs in America… leave it to the pros!