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    Tractor Supply Company

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    How to Use a Chainsaw

    Authored by Tractor Supply Company

    Getting to know your chainsaw and how it works is an important part of learning how to properly use this power tool.

    Chainsaw parts

    The most important chainsaw parts have to do with safety and are what you should learn about first:

    • Chain Brake: Located on the top handle of the chainsaw, the chain brake is used to stop the chainsaw chain from rotating around the bar. There are two ways to engage the chain brake: by pushing the handle forward, or by force of inertia that occur when the saw kicks back. You can learn more about chainsaw kick back in the next section.
    • Chain Catcher: Located on the bottom of the chainsaw is a part called a chain catcher. This is a safety part because it prevents the chainsaw chain from flying off the bar if it breaks or comes loose from its track.
    • Throttle Lock: Located on the top of the rear handle. Push down on the throttle lock to prevent accidental throttle acceleration. The throttle control is located on the inside of the rear handle. Squeeze the throttle control before locking the throttle lock into place.
    • Stop Control: The stop control allows the user to stop the engine quickly with one motion. Read the owner's manual for your chainsaw to find out where the stop control is located on your chainsaw.
    • Right-Hand Guard: Located on the bottom of the upper handle, the right-hand guard shields your hand from the chainsaw chain in case the chain breaks or comes loose.

    Kick back protection

    Chainsaw kick back happens when the nose, or upper tip of the chainsaw chain comes into contact with something and "throws" the saw upward and backward toward the user. As you can imagine, kick back can be dangerous if you are not experienced with working with a chain saw and you are not expecting the saw to behave in this way. Use the chain brake to stop the chainsaw chain from rotating around the bar when a kick back happens.

    Quick checks

    Before starting your chainsaw, make sure you have checked to make sure everything is ready to run, including the chainsaw chain, saw teeth, chainsaw tensioning and lubrication:

    • Chainsaws run more smoothly and therefore are safer to operate if they have a nice sharp chain. Make sure your chainsaw chain has been recently sharpened prior to use.
    • Ensure your saw has the proper tension on the chain around the bar. You should always retention a new chainsaw chain after operating it for the first couple of hours. Also retention chains after long periods of non-use, such as in the spring season when you are tuning up your power equipment.
    • Check the oil level in your chainsaw to make sure there is enough lubrication in the engine and circulating around the bar and chain. Improper lubrication can cause engines to stop working and tools to malfunction. Check with your local Tractor Supply Co. store to find out what type of lubricant you need to help your chainsaw run smoothly.
    • Ensure you have the right amount and type of fuel in your chainsaw. When filling your chainsaw with fuel, use caution by securing the saw on a flat surface. Most chainsaw models come with an overfill protection feature that helps reduce spillage during fueling. Move the chainsaw from where it was fueled to a different location prior to starting the engine to reduce the risk of fire.

    Fire it up

    Now it is time to start your chainsaw. Starting a chainsaw can be somewhat of a challenge for some and, depending on the temperature outside, on the make and model of the chain saw and the maintenance history and condition of the saw, starting can require some patience. Here's how to start:

    • Start the chainsaw at a safe distance from other people. Create at least 15 feet of distance between yourself and anyone else at the time you start the saw. Later we will talk about felling trees. In this scenario, the distance between yourself and any other person should be greatly increased.
    • Put the chainsaw on a flat surface of the ground. Make sure nothing is in the way of the bar.
    • Push the kickback protection forward to activate the chain brake. This will ensure the chain does not begin rotating when you start the engine.
    • If your chainsaw has a SmartStart decompression control, press it. This helps the saw start.
    • If the chainsaw engine is cold or has not been running for the past 2-3 hours, locate the choke and pull it out as far as it will go.
    • While the chainsaw is secure on the ground, put your right foot through the rear handle and use your left hand to hold the top handle of the saw. Use your right hand to pull the starter with a smooth, somewhat quick motion.
    • Push the choke back in, keeping the throttle turned on halfway. Continue pulling the chainsaw starter until the engine starts. Some starters require some elbow grease to crank, so don't give up. You may need to pull the starter several times before the engine starts.
    • Once the chainsaw has started, hit the throttle once and then release to make the engine speed idle. If the engine is sputtering after starting, tap the throttle a few more times just after cranking it to get more fuel injected into the engine. Be careful not to hold the throttle too much, as this can also cause the engine to stop running.
    • Do not release the chain brake until you are ready to start actually sawing.

    Check while running

    Once you have the chainsaw fired up, there are several other checks you should do prior to cutting.

    Check the chain brake

    Make sure the chain brake is working properly by putting the chainsaw on a stable surface. Release the chain brake, squeeze the throttle and then activate the chain brake by pushing your left wrist against the kickback protection without releasing the handle. This should cause the chain to stop rotating immediately.

    Check chain oil

    To ensure the bar and chain oil is flowing properly while the chainsaw is in use, hold the saw above a light-colored surface such as a stump or gravel. Do not make the saw contact the surface, but hit the throttle and you should see a line of brown-colored oil spray onto your test surface. This indicates the chain oil is flowing as it should.

    Learn how to use your chainsaw by practicing safe cutting and tree felling techniques.