How to Properly Use a Chainsaw

A chainsaw can be an invaluable tool around the home, especially during the colder months if you heat your home with wood, but a chainsaw can be used for more than simply cutting firewood. You can use a chainsaw to clear dense brush and scrub growth on your property. Some people even use a chainsaw to make sculptures. Regardless of how you use your chainsaw, it is very important to ensure you are using it correctly. In this post, we are going to cover what safety equipment you should have as well as the proper way to use and maintain a chainsaw. There is a lot to discuss so let’s get to it.

Safety Equipment

  • Long Sleeve Shirt. A long sleeve shirt will help to keep your arms from being scratched or cut and can also serve as a barrier between your skin and the wood itself. Some people have skin reactions to specific types of freshly cut wood when it comes in contact with bare skin. Just make sure the shirt you are wearing isn’t too baggy and that the sleeves are not too long and risk being caught in the chain of the saw. Additionally, make sure you tuck any strings or pull cords inside of your shirt so they don’t cause a potential accident.
  • Long pants. Yes, it may make a sweaty job even hotter, especially when wearing a long sleeve shirt with it, but it will serve the same purpose of having a long sleeve shirt by protecting your legs from scratches and cuts. As with your shirt, make sure your pants are not too baggy and that they do not have any strings or pull cords that could risk getting caught in the chain.
  • Safety Goggles. Protection for your eyes is not an optional piece of equipment. Sawdust, dirt, low lying branches and other sorts of debris will be everywhere and you do not want any of that landing in your eyes. While a full face shield is recommended, you should have a quality pair of goggles that are clean and allows you to see clearly at a minimum.
  • Hearing Protection. Protection for your ears is also NOT an optional piece of equipment. In case you have never heard a chainsaw in operation before, we will warn you right now that they are incredibly loud. They are so loud that prolonged exposure to the noise without hearing protection can actually cause damage to your hearing. You can use earplugs or earmuffs, just make sure that whatever you use provides sufficient protection. Did we mention how loud chainsaws are?
  • Steel-toed boots. Steel-toed boots are essential for, well, protecting your toes. An accidental slip of the blade can result in some very serious injuries in less than a second. For this reason, it is important to have some steel between your toes and the chain. Additionally, when large chunks of wood fall after being cut, it will provide protection to your toes should a piece find its way to your foot.
  • Work Gloves. The gloves you wear should be constructed of durable leather and be form-fitting. If they have drawstrings to tighten them around your wrist, make sure they are tucked in.
  • Optional Equipment. Some optional safety equipment could include a hard hat. If you are simply cutting up material already on the ground, the risk of overhead injuries are kind of minimal but it is better to play it safe. Besides, some hard hats include hearing and eye protection. If you want additional protection to your upper body and legs, you should consider chainsaw chaps and a chainsaw vest. They are made from very rugged materials and will provide additional protection against the blade of the chainsaw.

Operating the Chainsaw

Now that we have covered the safety aspect of operating a chainsaw let’s get to the actual operating procedures. While these procedures are basic, they do apply to almost any model of chainsaw you may have.


Starting a cold chainsaw takes a little finesse but there is a safe method for cold starts that you should follow when starting your saw for the first time:

  • Place the chainsaw on the ground and press the chain brake forward to engage it.
  • Slide the choke/start control to the “ON” position. Some older models have a knob that has to be pulled out while many newer models have a sliding control for the choke/start.
  • If your chainsaw is equipped with a decompression valve, go ahead and press it. Not all models have this feature so you will have to reference your owners manual if you are unsure if your particular chainsaw has one and where it is located.
  • Press the primer bulb five or six times. Again, reference your owners manual to see the recommended number of presses for your specific model. The average for most newer models are between five and six compressions.
  • Engage the high idle which is located on the rear handle with the throttle.
  • Using your left hand, hold the front handle while you place your right foot on the rear handle and then use your right hand, pull the starter cord until the saw fires.
  • Push in the choke and pull the cord again. When the chainsaw starts, disengage the high idle by quickly squeezing the throttle.

Warning: When cold starting a chainsaw, ALWAYS place yourself on the side with the pull cord, NEVER on the opposite side. This places you in an unstable position with the almost directly under you.

Keep in mind that if you are using an electric chainsaw, all you will need to do is pull the trigger and the saw will start. However, make sure you are aware of the power cords location while you are cutting.

Using Your Chainsaw

Now that we have the chainsaw fired up and ready to work, and we did it safely, let’s go over the proper procedure for using your chainsaw:

  • Start by using your left hand to hold the front handle with your thumb wrapped underneath and then use your right hand to and grab the rear handle.
  • Keep your legs apart with your right leg slightly behind you. This will help to ensure that you are stable. Additionally, remove any objects that might be a tripping hazard and never run the chainsaw if you cannot find solid footing.
  • When you want to cut, pull back on the front handle to disengage the chain brake and apply full throttle to the chainsaw. Chainsaws work more efficiently when provided with plenty of fuel and will perform better.
  • When finished, turn the ignition switch to “OFF”.

Cutting Tips

So now you have a better understanding of how to start your chainsaw and how to use it. However, before you take off to cut enough firewood for your entire neighborhood, let’s take a look at some cutting tips. As you gain experience using a chainsaw, you will be able to determine what works best for you and your saw:

  • There are two primary methods for cutting with a chainsaw, the pulling chain, and the pushing chain. When you push down on the bar and cut downward, it is referred to as pulling chain since the chain is pulling the saw. With the pushing chain, you are cutting with the top of the bar where the chain pushes back on the saw. Either method is fine and each has its own uses that you will learn with experience. Just ensure you have stable footing, especially if cutting with the top of the bar.
  • Avoid using the end of the bar for making cuts. When you cut with the frontend of the bar you increase the chances of a kickback. Some chainsaws come with a tip guard. If your chainsaw was equipped with one, make sure it is securely in place.
  • If cutting down a tree, ensure everyone stays a safe distance away from the area. Twice the hight of the tree that you are going to cut is the recommended safe distance. If you are cutting material that is already on the ground, the recommended safe distance is 15 feet.
  • Make your cuts while standing to the side and not directly behind the saw. If a kickback were to occur and you were standing directly behind the chainsaw, it could be very dangerous.
  • Try to avoid cutting above waist level and never use a chainsaw above shoulder height.
  • Avoid cutting into the ground. Not only does it dull the chain faster and throw more debris around, but it also can cause the bar to bindup while cutting and increases the chance of a kickback.


The last topic we are going to cover are some basic tips on how you can help to ensure that your chainsaw operates as it’s intended. Be sure to check the owners manual for your specific chainsaw for more maintenance procedures. For safety, make sure the saw is shut off prior to performing any of these maintenance procedures and disconnect the spark plug. If you are using an electric chainsaw, make sure the power cord is disconnected:

  • Check the tension of the chain prior to each use and adjust if needed.
  • Sawdust and other debris can buildup on the air filter, check and clean it. If the filter appears to be worn, replace it with a new one.
  • For this next tip, the chainsaw will have to be running so go ahead reconnect the spark plug/power cord. Check the throttle lockout, chain brake, and the chain oiler for proper operation. If the throttle lockout or the chain brake do not function properly, we recommend getting your chainsaw to a repair technician before using it.
  • Check the owners manual and make sure that you use the correct fuel to oil ratio. If you mix the fuel and oil incorrectly, you can cause mechanical issues with the chainsaw.

Chain Maintenance

Over time, the chain on your saw will also require maintenance. However, you will want to check your owners manual to see if you are able to do it yourself. While some chains can be sharpened manually, there are some that require special equipment in order to be properly sharpened. If you can manually sharpen the chain, the owners manual will instruct you on the proper procedures.

As with nearly all power equipment, there are specific tools you might want to keep on hand to help with maintaining your chainsaw:

  • Cleaning Cloths
  • Chain Depth Gauge Tool
  • A Flat File
  • A File Guage and Round File
  • Screwdrivers and Wrenches or an All-In-One Chainsaw Tool.
  • The Operators Manual for Your Chainsaw


We hope this post has provided you with some helpful information. It may seem like a lot of information to take in, but we did this for a reason. While a chainsaw is a very useful tool to have around, it can also be very dangerous if used incorrectly. However, following the tips and using the information that we have provided, you should be a pro in no time. Alright, maybe not a pro, but you will know what you’re doing. Good luck and be safe. If you would like to leave any feedback, please feel free to do so. We love feedback.

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