Chainsaw Series: Introduction to the Chainsaw

essential skills Jan 06, 2021

There and numerous tools that are needed for the successful working homestead. In fact, I have a post that discusses the 100 Best Homestead Tools. However, one of the most important and useful tools around the homestead is the chainsaw. Yet it is one of the tools that can be intimidating and even feared by many people. That said, one of the purposes of this series of articles is to get you much more comfortable with using this valuable tool.

Chainsaws are either gas powered, battery powered, or electric. It depends on your particular application and location. For example, cutting firewood or clearing timber on the homestead will likely require a gas powered chainsaw. But, if you are pruning trees close to the house, an electric or battery powered tool may do the job.

Traditionally, the chainsaw has been used for cutting firewood and felling timber. However, chainsaws are also used by homeowners, construction workers, firefighters, as well as artists and sculptors.

Although this series of articles will focus almost entirely on the homestead uses of a chainsaw, I think it is productive to at least give some general information.

General uses for wood cutting

Felling timber: This is where the entire tree is cut down at once

Limbing: removing the limbs from the tree after it is on the ground

Bucking: cutting the logs in sections after it is limbed

Pruning: selective removal of unwanted branches from a tree. The purpose is to remove dead branches, to improve growth, or to shape the tree in a particular fashion.

Commercial Uses

Cutting concrete and metal: this requires a special diamond tip chain

Logging: cutting timber for commercial sale

Construction work and demolition: Crews commonly use chain saws for cutting building materials and even for demolition

Rescue and other uses

Firefighters cutting timber breaks: one technique that is used to control wildfires is clearing wide gaps in the forest which reduces available fuel for the fire.

Cutting into buildings: this technique is often used by firefighters and rescue personnel.

How to Choose the Best Chain Saw

As stated before, traditionally the chainsaw was used for felling timber and cutting firewood. However, modern chainsaws have been adapted for a variety of uses and typically their function is very specific. Before purchasing a chain saw there are several things to consider.

Level of experience

If you are new too using a chainsaw, stick to a smaller model that is easy to handle. Smaller saws are easy to maneuver, weigh much less, and cause less fatigue. First time users are better suited to a 16 inch model as opposed to a 20 inch heavy duty farm use chain saw.

Frequency of Use

Using a chainsaw several times a year, once a month or everyday places completely different demands on the equipment. Consequently, the frequency of use makes a huge difference in the type of saw you purchase.

Type of Use

The size of tree or branches you will be cutting regularly makes a difference in the size of chainsaw you purchase, meaning the level of power and length of the guide bar. Larger timber requires a longer guide bar and much more engine power. Whether you are cutting predominately hard or soft wood also makes a difference. Using a chainsaw that is too smaller or under powered for the job at hand only cause excess wear and tear and of course eventual failure.

Other features to consider

Services and maintenance features should also be considered. How easy is it to remove and replace chains, access the spark plug, or change the air filter? Will you perform maintenance yourself or have it performed by a shop? Is low vibration and ergonomics important.

Use as Related to Engine Displacement and Guide Bar Length

Engine displacement is directly related to the level of power. Displacement is measured in cubic centimeters. For example 35 cc or 45 cc. The guide bar length is related to the diameter of material to be cut. Larger diameter trees require a longer guide bar. Typically chainsaws with longer guide bars are going to be more powerful.

Urban dwellers and occasional use

Those that live in urban areas that occasionally use a chainsaw, should consider a gas or electric chainsaw with an engine about 34 cc. A pole pruner, which is essentially a miniature chainsaw with an 8 inch bar, is about 31 cc.

Firewood cutters, frequently use

The most popular size of saw for this use is around 50 cc with a guide bar ranging from 16 to 24 inches.

Professional Use

These saws are built to withstand frequent heavy use. Engine size ranges from 65 to 110 cc.

Basic Parts of a Chainsaw

Now that we have covered the basics and you are familiar with all the important parts of the chainsaw, the next post will focus on safety issues. Since improper use of the chainsaw can result in severe injury, and even death, I think it is important to cover safety issues before moving on. 

See you soon.

Go off grid and live well,


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