Beginners Guide and Tips on How To Own an Electric Chain Saw
Chain Saw Tips, Advice and Guidance
This electric chainsaw guide is aimed at beginners like me. I promise I won’t burden you with macho, pro-tool, techie talk! But both men and women will find some useful tips and advice, from one beginner to another, on owning, maintaining and looking after a chainsaw.
My story is simple. I decided to get a wood burning stove installed and I have unofficial access to woodland behind my house. I was a bit apprehensive about using a chainsaw but was keen to exploit the free fuel so I bought a simple electric chain saw that has proved really easy to use and maintain.
In this article I’ll try to answer those questions that the serious tools sites don’t tell you. Here you'll find out how to select and buy a simple electric chainsaw cheaply, how to use a chain saw safely, what to wear when using it and how to maintain, service and keep it sharp.
First, don’t be afraid of your chainsaw. It won’t bite (as long as you handle it carefully). The trick is, as with a car or automobile, don’t take your chainsaw for granted. Think carefully about everything you do with it. When you are tired then take a rest before continuing to cut wood.
Finally: If you've had a drink or two (of alcohol) then don't even look at your chainsaw yet alone power it up!
How the Chainsaw Works
The chain saw chain has a series of cutting edges that each slice a piece of wood off the surface of the timber, rather like a plane.
Hence a sharp chainsaw produces strips or chips of wood and not fine sawdust like a regular saw. Also the cut is very wide (the width of the cutting edge).
If you simply want to cut up wood in a static location for your own use then a simple electric chainsaw makes sense. Big petrol or gas saws are more suitable for lumberjacks and folk who want to go deep into the woods and fell large trees.
Buying a Chainsaw
When buying, the obvious features to look for are power. My Bosch chainsaw is 1800W and the length of the cutting bar (the bit the chain wraps around) is 350mm long. This means this chainsaw will happily cut a piece of wood of well over 1 foot in diameter.
Useful safety features include a kickback brake (the black plastic guard in front of the carrying handle in the picture). This is a bar in front of the hand that, when hit, turns the power off and stops the saw.
This is activated if the chainsaw suddenly ‘kicks back’. Kickback typically happens when the saw cutter blades encounter an obstruction during cutting (for example a nail) or the user cuts with the wrong part of the saw chain.
When buying, a useful tip is to look out for new, reconditioned models on the Internet. These are excellent value as you save around 30% on the regular price. They are normally returns that go back to the manufacturer to be checked out and reconditioned before resale so they are as good as new.
Before you begin cutting with your chainsaw
So you’ve bought your chainsaw and carefully read the instructions before using. One of the most important accessories to buy before you actually start cutting up timber is a sawhorse.
This provides a solid support for the timber you are cutting and raises it to a comfortable working height. Pictured here is one like mine made of steel that is inexpensive and folds flat when not in use.
It is worth making sure you are wearing some safety gear before you start cutting wood. The most obvious things to wear are tough leather gloves and eye protection. I’ve also found ear defenders useful, particularly if you use the chainsaw inside a building (I sometimes use mine in my garage when the weather is bad.
You might also consider a safety helmet to guard against flying timber and chainsaw proof trousers (arguably not essential if you are using the chainsaw in a static position with the wood placed on a sawhorse).
Chainsaw Checks Before First Use
- Make sure you assemble the chainsaw correctly and the chain is properly tensioned.
- Check you have the chain installed in the right direction. When I fixed the chain to my saw for the first time and tried to do a trial cut, the result was disappointing. It failed to cut. The reason? You’ve guessed it, I had fitted the chain in the wrong direction.
- Make sure you put chainsaw oil into the reservoir. This automatically lubricates the chain as it cuts and is essential if you want your chainsaw to keep on cutting for very long.
If your saw is sharp and properly tensioned then it should cut just using the weight of the saw. If you find you need to press the saw down to improve cutting then it is probably time to sharpen it. Hopefully your chainsaw will now slice through tree branches like butter and before you know it you’ll have a sizable pile of logs.
Sharpening a Chainsaw
Now you'll hopefully have many happy days sawing timber and building up a huge log pile. However, a day will come when you find it takes longer to cut each log.
You may also find the chain feeling hot and notice that those big flakes of wood that used to be left on the floor have been replaced by fine sawdust. These are all signs that your saw chain needs sharpening.
Chainsaw sharpeners come in a variety of forms from simple circular files in a frame, for just a few $ or £, to sophisticated electrical grinding machines made specifically for saw sharpening. I went for a simple file (I bought it on Ebay).
How to use the simple sharpener? First you place the circular file against the first cutting edge. You line it up with the line marked on top of the chain link. This is at a fixed angle, typically 30 degrees but can vary from saw to saw. You then make sure the frame in which the file is mounted rests comfortably and firmly on top of the chain.
Now file several times in the direction of the line until the file moves easily across the cutting edge. Now repeat this for each alternate (odd) link. You now need to move the angle of the file to sharpen the even links. These are set at the same angle but in the other direction.
As you keep sharpening you can advance the chain by hand until every cutting edge has been sharpened. If you aren't sure when you have done them all, then you could mark your starting point with a spot of paint.
It is much easier than it sounds and once you get the hang of it will only take a few minutes.
I've never regretted buying my electric chainsaw or having a wood burning stove installed. So far I've got through several winters using free wood I find either in my garage or lying around near my home.
A chainsaw therefore represents a fantastic investment that pays for itself within the first year. It also satisfies my hunter-gatherer instincts and keeps me fit (my day job consists of almost exclusively of siting at a computer keyboard, in meetings or driving a car).
Here's hoping you've found these tips and advice about electric chainsaws helpful. So what are you waiting for? get a wood burning stove, buy an electric chainsaw and start finding some free wood to cut up and burn!