How To Use A Chainsaw (And Keep Yourself Safe)

How To Use A Chainsaw

If you have trees on your property a reliable chainsaw can be incredibly useful.

But it can also be incredibly dangerous if you don’t know how to use it properly.

We’ve prepared a quick and easy guide on how to use a chainsaw for you.

So let’s jump straight in…


Modern chainsaws are typically driven by a gasoline engine connected to a revolving chain containing cutting teeth.

These teeth are often very sharp and one has to be extremely careful around them, especially when the chainsaw is running.


If you follow the right procedures when operating a chainsaw you will find it to be a very practical and efficient machine.

How To Use A Chainsaw to cut woods

Getting The Right Safety Gear

Frankly this is essential:

Getting protective equipment to keep you safe and sound when using a chainsaw is a must, this includes:

Eye protection
A pair of goggles or a helmet fitted with a visor will help protect your eyes from tiny chips of wood that are spat out by the saw during use.

Ear protection
Chainsaws can be remarkably loud. You will need ear plugs or earmuffs to drown out the noise and prevent any ear damage caused by the roar of the chainsaw.

Chainsaw chaps and a long-sleeved shirt
These will help prevent injuries on the arms and legs by flying bits of lumber. Chainsaw chaps are also specially constructed with a tough material that can prevent the rotating saw from accidentally causing injury to the legs.

Heavy duty gloves
Using a chainsaw for extended periods can cause bruises and blisters on the palms due to friction. A good pair of gloves will help reduce this friction on your skin.

Creating A Safe Work Environment

Before you start using the chainsaw, it is important to ensure that your surroundings are clear of anything that may be endangered by the chainsaw, flying bits and falling tree parts.

This is vital:

If you are using the saw to cut logs that are on the ground already, you should ensure that nobody is within a ten-foot radius of the chainsaw.

When cutting tree branches or felling trees, you should ensure that there is no one or no vehicles within a radius of at least two times the tree’s height.

But remember this:

If you are trying to cut trees within a populated neighborhood with houses and power lines around, you should always seek the advice of a professional logger on how to do it safely.

Otherwise you really could be in trouble!

How To Use A Chainsaw - wood and forest

Preparing the Chainsaw For Use

In simple terms:

  1. Check the chainsaw’s controls before starting to make sure they are all in place and to get familiar with them.
    You can consult the owner’s manual of the chainsaw to know the positions of the ignition switch, the gears and other important controls.
  2. Check the chain thoroughly to ensure that it is tightly in place and there are no loose teeth. Also check the entire chainsaw for any loose bolts that may cause some parts to come off when it is in use.
  3. Fill the gasoline tank with the recommended fuel type as specified on the owner’s manual. Also fill the lubrication tank with oil. Lubrication oil is very important for the chainsaw to prevent friction which can cause the saw to malfunction.

Starting The Chainsaw

Ok admit it – you are scared of using a chainsaw for the first time!

Don’t be. Just place the chainsaw flat on the ground with one hand on the grip handle and one foot placed in the rear handle to hold it firmly in place. You should then switch on the chain choke.

The choke is a chain brake that prevents the chain from rotating even when the saw has been turned on. Engaging this brake is extremely important to prevent any injuries when starting the saw.

That is incredibly vital!

Once the saw has been securely held in place and the brake engaged, you can now pull the ignition chain. The engine should rumble and start but the chain will remain still because the choke will still be engaged.

Using the Chainsaw

With the engine running, you can lift the chainsaw with your left hand holding the front handle and your right hand holding the back handle. Proceed slowly towards whatever you want to cut and stand next to it in an upright position.


Ensure that your feet are both firmly on the ground and there are no obstacles around that could trip you. You can now slowly release the chain brake to get it spinning.

Steadily guide the rotating saw towards whatever you are trying to cut making sure that you never get too near nor too far.

How To Use A Chainsaw - man cutting tree in forest

Stay safe:

You should always be in a position where you don’t have to lean to use the saw. To ensure your safety at all times, you will need to do the following;

  1. Never raise the saw to a height above your shoulders. This will affect your stability and make you vulnerable to kickbacks. There are further details about kickbacks below.
  2. Always keep your legs spread apart when operating the chainsaw to ensure you have the right amount of balance.
  3. You should never operate a chainsaw when drunk or under medication that may cause drowsiness. This might affect your attention and increase the chances for accidents.
  4. Unless you have a specially designed chainsaw for cutting through other materials, only use your chainsaw for wood.
  5. Do not use pressure to push the chainsaw into whatever you are trying to cut through. You are only required to ensure that there is contact between the saw and the wood and let the chainsaw cut its way through.
  6. Unless you are a professional or you have a solid experience in logging, do not try to cut trees or trim branches by yourself. There are several risks involved when doing this that can end badly if not skillfully done.

Dealing With Kickbacks

Kickbacks occur when the chain encounters a tough/hard patch that suddenly slows it down. This usually results in an abrupt jerk of the chainsaw pushing it back towards the person using it. Most kickbacks are usually weak and they cause no harm.

Here’s the scary part:

There are sometimes strong kickbacks that cause the chainsaw to spin out of control creating a dangerous situation.

To limit the chances of dangerous kickbacks, you should always maintain a firm grip on the chainsaw and ensure that you never use it above shoulder height.

Storing The Chainsaw

After using the chainsaw, it is important to drain out all the remaining gasoline from the tank.

This will prevent anyone (mostly children) from accidentally starting it and endangering themselves. The chain should also be covered to prevent the teeth from getting damaged.

And that is it – they you can relax!


Want to learn more about chainsaws and using them safely, I recommend these articles:

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5 thoughts on “How To Use A Chainsaw (And Keep Yourself Safe)”

  1. Some helpful tips, thanks! I’m in the market for a chainsaw and will check out your 2018 review of the best saws.

    You never mentioned sharpening of the saw blade in your article. Is that something that should be done by the owner or do you recommend taking the blade in to have it professionally sharpened?

    Also, I won’t be using the saw enough to warrant buying chaps. Are there a certain kind of pant that is better than others for cutting wood with a chain saw? (denim?)

    Thanks again!

    • Thank you – I am glad this was useful for you.

      I am actually planning to write a second post about keeping a chainsaw sharp, but I will give you a sneak preview of it! Essentially they are pretty easy to sharpen yourself – you just need a couple of files and guides. But keep your eyes peeled for my post on it.

      Yes if you don’t want to buy chaps, then a good pair of heavy denim pants will be fine. Good luck getting your chainsaw and don’t forget to check my Best Chainsaws of 2018 post!

  2. This is just perfect, I am using various tools around the farm but the one tool I am always afraid to use is the chainsaw – the dreaded kickback I hear so many accidents from. The safety gear you mention I will need to get asap as I have none of that – your tips for preparing and using it are informative as this is such a dangerous tool if not handled correctly, I found this helpful so I would like to thank you personally for this article

    • No worries David! Using a chainsaw can seem daunting, but I promise you, if you follow the safety guides and get the relevant safety gear then you will be absolutely fine. Good luck.


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