I have a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains with a wood stove. There are a number of dead trees on my property that I would like to cut up for firewood, but I’ve never used a chainsaw. Talk me into, or out of getting one as you see fit.
If I get one, how steep is the learning curve and how likely am I to cut my head off the first time I use it? I was thinking of getting a smaller, cordless chainsaw to start with; there are lots of smaller branches and trees that could keep me busy for months on the property.
They can be pretty dangerous. Slicing off parts of your body is only a portion of the danger. If you are cutting down trees, you have to do it safely to make sure the tree doesn’t fall on something or someone, including yourself. I don’t know if there are classes on how to operate one, but I would suggest trying to find one before striking out on your own. They also make safety chaps that will protect your legs, I would definitely purchase them and use them too. I have owned a chainsaw for over 20 years and recently bought a pair of the safety chaps even though I only use my saw two or three times a year at most.
I just want to say here that I had the same concern about a chainsaw, so when I needed to get a bunch of heavy bushes and small young trees cleared, I got one of these instead. It’s basically a small electric chainsaw in the form of an alligator pruner, and it worked really well for what I needed it for. The disadvantage is that the maximum diameter it can cut is 4", but you mention that you have a lot of smaller branches to deal with, and that would work well for those. It looks a lot safer than a chainsaw, and I never felt any risk using it.
One of the most dangerous things to do with a chainsaw is to cut down dead or dying trees. First, felling any tree is a task requiring skill. Dead trees are unpredictable - branches can fall off with little provocation, trunks can split, etc. They’re not called widowmakers for nothing. Are the trees already on the ground or still standing?
But even cutting up downed trees for firewood can be tricky. You’re best off taking a chainsaw safety course from where ever you buy your saw. They will show you how to operate one, and make sure you have all the necessary safety gear (helmet, goggles, ear protection, chaps).
If you’re going to be doing a significant amount of cutting, I’d get a gas powered saw. They’re much more powerful and easier to use for a long period of time. Cords get in the way, IMO, and battery powered saws run out of juice too quickly for real work.
I’ve been using chainsaws for about 30 years. I heated with wood for 10 years. Six cords a year it took.
Every tree. Every cut. Is different. You must pay attention to every aspect. From having an escape route for yourself, to where you ‘hope’ the tree will fall. If you get a real chainsaw, get a Stihl. Expensive, but you won’t be disappointed.
If by ‘cordless’ you mean electric then you aren’t cutting down anything large. Get a real chain saw, learn to use it cutting up already downed trees and branches, then move your way up to small trees. Don’t even try to take down a large tree by yourself.
Complacency is the greatest danger, IMHO. Some decades back, a coworker was hacking up some branches on his property. Next thing he knew, the chainsaw was hacking up his leg. Luckily, it didn’t get bone or a major artery, but it did a job on his calf… all because he wasn’t paying attention.
I’ve used both electric and gas chainsaws. They frighten me a bit, so I’m very VERY careful and aware of what’s going on. So far, so good - no lost appendages. To me, one of the main things to pay attention to is the lay of the log - make sure you don’t end up with a partially cut piece pinching and trapping your saw. I use saw horses, or I prop one log on another so the cut end falls away.
Something nobody has mentioned. Chain maintenance. If you find a class on the safe and proper usage if a chain saw, or learn the old fashion way as I did (“here son, your big enough to hold it without tipping, take over there and start limbing the tree”)
Make sure you chain has sharp teeth and is set to the correct tension. I like to keep a couple of extra chains around since different species of wood wear the teeth at different rates (heck different parts of the same tree wear the teeth differently) and it’s not always convenient to run to the shop and wait a day or few for sharpening.
I know, sharp teeth? Chain tension is the real point, but yeah, like kitchen knives, if your chain has dull teeth you work harder, tire quickly and I’ve never had a sharp saw kick back on me, but I have had a dull saw do that.
I know a guy who cuts his own firewood. I think I might see if he’d be interested in working with me to cut up some of the trees on the property and then he could have half of the wood. That way, I could learn on the job with someone who knows what he’s doing.
Gloves, glasses, and boots are not optional.
Chaps are also a good idea.
Ear protection is often overlooked, especially if you’re sawing for a long time.
I would also add a hard hat if you’re downing trees.
Make sure your area is clear around your feet and plan an exit route… or two.
Cut slow and smart.
Always cut away from your body!
Inspect your saw before every use!
Make sure your bar oil is full and dispensing properly. More is better than les in this case.
Check your guard and chain brake.
Handle the saw firmly but (as with all power tools) DO NOT fight with it. If something goes wrong, LET GO! The chain will stop.
A dull chain can cause users to push too hard and a broken chain can cause severe injuries.
Buy a chainsaw file and learn how to sharpen and change your chain! I always keep a spare in the case.
Take a small engines class. Nothing is more frustrating (or exhausting!) than a chainsaw that just won’t start!
Heh. Your comment (IMO) is outdated. I have two gas powered chainsaws and a DeWalt 40V 16 inch bar battery chainsaw. Anything my big gas powered Stihl Farm Boss can handle, my DeWalt battery chainsaw can handle just as well.
In the spring I use a chainsaw most weekends, and I find myself grabbing the DeWalt more and more. For most jobs I eschew the safety stuff, other than good footwear. I’ve been using a chainsaw most of my adult life and the most serious injury I’ve suffered has been when I was putting a new chain on the tool.
**It is a potentially dangerous tool. ** They scare me. I always take a hit of weed just to calm my anxiety, then get to work. Dead-falls are dangerous, limbs under tension can do unpredictable things. Climbing a tree and using a chainsaw is something I’d leave to the pros.
Well, I guess I’ll have to see one working to believe it. I wouldn’t mind having a battery powered saw that worked. I guess you get a lot of torque out of that motor that hasn’t been there in the electrics I’ve seen in the past.
And, yes indeed the danger is great. You can be careful and control the saw, but you can’t control the tree.
If you don’t dedicate yourself to learning and safety, and plan for a one-time use, I’d advise against even trying any big project – that’s for the professionals. Some years ago, when I was much younger, we had a tornado pass through, leaving numerous, 1-2 ft diameter trees on the ground, blocking the driveway. Two of us decided to play lumberjack and rented a chainsaw. We quickly found out we were not lumberjacks and wisely turned the task over to more experienced dudes.
Although I now have a small electric chainsaw for undemanding projects, that’s as far as I ever wish to go. Consider letting the professionals handle it if you can.
(Although that alligator gadget looks like a neat idea!)