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How to Safely Operate A Chain Saw

The chain saw is one of the most important and straightforward power tools you can own. Important for the application of making quick and easy work of cutting through any type of wood and straightforward in that it will only do this one application – and it will do it very well.

Choosing the right chain saw will require you to consider your minimum and maximum workload and decide which type you’ll need to get the job done.

Types of Chain Saw: Top Handle vs. Rear Handle

There are two basic types of chain saws available: Top Handle and Rear Handle.
A top handle chain saw requires you to grip the handle from the top and is primarily used by arborists working in trees or other professionals doing larger cuts within trees. Rear handle chain saws provide a front and rear handle which gives both easier and greater control.

Unless you’re an arborist or other tree service professional, you will more than likely want a rear handle chain saw. As you consider which chain saw to buy, keep in mind what your primary use will be.  This will help you to narrow your search and keep you from buying something without enough capability. Choose a saw with a bar at least 2 inches longer than the maximum size of wood you will be cutting for safety purposes and to reduce kickback. As you consider different models look for the following features which make up a good chain saw:

• When the chain saw is off, hold the handle with one hand. A well-balanced saw will remain parallel to the ground.
• Air filtration system with a large intake.
• Automotive-style pleated air filter (or a felt type covered with rubber).
• Vibration reduction.

All 2-cycle engine chain saws use a mixture of gas and oil at a ratio of 50:1, or 2.6 fluid ounces of oil for each 1 gallon of gas.  For best results, fill a 1-gallon gas can, preferably new and marked as “Mixed Fuel” to prevent any mishaps with something that needs straight gasoline, and then add the 2.6 ounces of oil. You will need to shake the mixture to ensure the correct consistency. Do this each time you use this mixture as settling may occur. And if you’d rather not deal with mixing fuel, you can use PowerFuel ™ by ECHO, a pre-mixed fuel that’s ready for use with your 2-cycle chain saw.

You will also need to use an ample amount of Bar and Chain Oil. This is designed to keep your chain saw running at top performance and at high speeds. This oil is different than the 2-cycle oil and has its own specific reservoir closer to the bar and chain. Bar and chain oil specifically designed for chain saws has a “high-tack” additive that prevents it from slinging off the chain as it travels around the tip saving both ear to your bar/chain and mess to your clothing and boots.

Starting Cold (refer to OM for specific starting instructions for each saw)

The very first time you startup your new chain saw, you’ll want to make sure everything is correctly filled/in place to help the engine, chain, and components run optimally and not overheat.  In the future, fuel will already be in the lines and the chain saw will probably run more smoothly, even on a cold start. To start your chain saw, first fill the fuel tank with the appropriately mixed fuel and make sure there is bar and chain oil in the other indicated tank. Place the chain saw on the ground with no debris, equipment, or other obstructions near it and make sure the chain brake lever is engaged in the “forward” position.

With the appropriate personal protective equipment on, you are ready to start your chain saw:

Starting “COLD”

• Flip the switch to the “ON” position.
• If your saw has a carburetor with a priming pump, press the pump 3-5 times until you can see fuel within the small bulb.
• Pull the choke knob completely out.
• Place your foot firmly in the rear handle space and grab the front handle with one hand while grabbing the starter with the other hand.
• Pull the starter handle in one swift, smooth motion. This can take more than one try on the first time so try again until the engine turns over.
• Push the choke back in.
• Pull the starter again to start the engine.
• Give the chain saw several minutes to warm up in this idle position before cutting.
• Make sure that bar/chain oil is pumping. Hold the saw over a lighter background, like cardboard, and rev the engine for 3-5 seconds. If oil appears on the cardboard, the bar/chain oil is pumping. Your saw may have an adjustable oiler which you can increase or decrease depending on workload/need.
• Once your chain saw is ready to cut, disengage the chain brake by making sure the lever is in the “rear” position. (this needs to be done as soon as it starts to avoid clutch damage – refer to OM)

Starting “WARM” (refer to OM for specific starting instructions for each saw)

• Flip the switch to the “ON” position.
• The choke knob can be in.
• Place your foot firmly in the rear handle space and grab the front handle with one hand while grabbing the starter with the other hand.
• Pull the starter handle in one swift, smooth motion. Repeat as necessary until the engine turns over.
• Give the chain saw several minutes to warm up in this idle position before cutting.
• Make sure that bar/chain oil is pumping. Hold the saw over a lighter background, like cardboard, and rev the engine for 3-5 seconds. If oil appears on the cardboard, the bar/chain oil is pumping.  Your saw may have an adjustable oiler which you can increase or decrease depending on workload/need.
• Once your chain saw is ready to cut, disengage the chain brake by making sure the lever is in the “rear” position. (this needs to be done as soon as it starts to avoid clutch damage – refer to OM)

Storing Your Chain Saw  (refer to OM for specific storage instructions)

When you no longer need your chain saw for a project or for a longer period of time, it’s best to drain the fuel from the tank before storing. Simply empty the tank, using a funnel, back into the storage container and then start the saw and run it until it stops. Be sure to add a fuel stabilizer to the mix to keep the fuel from getting stale. Also, be sure to inspect the air filter and make sure it is free of debris.  Look for signs of wear and tear and replace if holes are found.

When the time comes to use the chain saw again after storage, inspect the chain to make sure it flows freely and has the right amount of tension. The correct tension will allow you to very slightly lift the chain, while wearing safety gloves, from the bar.  Adjust the chain tensioner accordingly if too tight or loose. Also, make sure the bar nuts are tightened and have not come loose during storage. Fill the tank with fuel and the bar/chain reservoir with bar/chain oil and proceed with “COLD” starting procedures.

While a chain saw is valuable tool that will make intensive wood cutting projects much easier, it is VERY IMPORTANT to know that they are not toys and can be dangerous. To ensure safe operation follow these safety procedures and utilize these safety features with every use.

Safety Procedures and Features

Always wear the proper protective personal equipment (PPE) during operation of your chain saw.

• Thick, preferably steel toed boots
• Polyester chaps (UL listed)
• Long sleeve shirt (tight fitting)
• Hearing protection
• Eye protection
• Helmet for larger debris/falling debris
• Heavy duty gloves

Features

• Inertia chain break – A ring around clutch which causes the chain to collapse around the saw immediately if it feels pressure on the tip of the saw or brake. Simply push the brake forward to stop the saw and pull back to release brake.
• The body of the saw is separated from the handle. Vibration gets absorbed by rubber grommets reducing fatigue on hands = better control.
• The side chain tensioner allows for easy changes to put the right amount of tension on chain to the bar.
• Chain catch is a removable piece that will actually catch the chain if it comes off the rails.
• Reduced kick back bars.
• Reduced kick back chains.
• Tip guards.

* note – use only replacement bars & chains listed in the OM or on the label on the saw

Source: The ECHO Edge Blog

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