Purchasing and Maintaining a Chainsaw

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Stihl Chainsaw Parts
Dorling Kindersley, Getty Images

Small chainsaws are commonly purchased by rural property owners, tree and timber owners, firewood users and farmers. Often, a new chainsaw owner can become frustrated at the learning curve associated with chainsaw ownership.

Here are answers to many questions asked by people planning to buy and operate a chainsaw. This Frequently Asked Questions page is for the new chainsaw owner and addresses the most common concerns about purchasing and maintaining a chainsaw.

How to Select a New Chainsaw

You should buy only the chainsaw you feel comfortable with. Chainsaw manufacturers are using newer and lighter materials to build more powerful but durable machines. 

Where to Purchase

Most foresters and loggers agree and suggest purchasing chainsaws like Stihl, Jonsered or Husqvarna with strong local dealers. Any reputable brand of chainsaw you purchase with a local dealership servicing that brand can last a long time.

How to Learn Operating One

There are many great resources on the Internet that can help you operate your saw. The best way is to place it on flat ground, pull the start control to the on position, and hold the front handle with your left hand as you place your right foot on the rear handle. Make sure to safely review hazards before operating a chainsaw.

According to saw expert Carl Smith:

"If you place your hands on a chainsaw, you must keep in mind that it is like grabbing a hand grenade without a pin in it. It is very likely to go off in your face. From the moment that you take it out of storage to the time that it goes back to the same place, you can be hurt by either it, or by whatever you will be cutting."

Chainsaw Kickbacks and Prevention

One in every 12 timbering accidents is caused by chainsaw kickback. If a professional tree feller is at risk, it can definitely happen to a less experienced chainsaw user. The main focus is to be aware and alert and always wear chainsaw safety clothing. Notice the position of the chainsaw bar's nose and chains.

Chainsaw Protection Equipment

Wearing the proper clothing is one of the best safeguards for you to reduce the possibility of serious injury. Wear sturdy, snug-fitting clothing that gives you complete freedom of movement.

The Most Important Parts of a Chainsaw

OSHA requires you to have 10 parts on a chainsaw including the chain catcher, flywheel, and the clutch. It is also wise to not buy a chainsaw bar that's too short for your average trunk or limb diameter.

Mixing Oil With Gas

All 2-cycle engines require gas to be mixed with oil. The "oil" tank is for bar and chain lubricant. Additionally, you really do need to use a quality bar oil as your chainsaw bar oil rather than regular motor oil. This is because the bar and chain oil have a "high-tack" additive that prevents it from slinging off the chain as it travels.

Chainsaw Chipper Vs. Chisel Chain

A chipper is a round tooth, round filled chain. It maintains it's edge better in dirty cutting. The chisel chain is a square tooth, often ground round and older in design.

Filing a Chain

When the chips it cuts are no longer chips but dust, or when you have to physically push or force it to cut, you need to sharpen your chain.

Depth Gauge

Depth gauges are the metal point in front of each tooth on a chainsaw chain. They determine how large a chip the tooth can be taken by the cutter.