STIHL chain saw

We’re only human, right? Whenever we get a user manual, whether it’s for a toaster or lawn mower, we generally toss it aside and have at the machine. When it comes to chain saws and safety, Terry Green, technical manager for outdoor power equipment for Makita, implores that you don’t do this.

“First, read and fully understand the instruction manual,” Green says. “It will help you understand the reaction forces of the guidebar and chain on chain saws.”

Always wear your personal protective equipment. That would include chaps, which are made of Kevlar and will stop a saw instantly, a helmet with face shield and hearing protection, steel-toed boots and good leather gloves. Lastly, if training is available in your area, take it.

“How to operate a chain saw safely, how to fell trees, how to prevent accidents… classes on these subjects are great tools to have,” Green says.

As far as maintenance goes, Green goes back to the instruction manual as essential to keeping your chainsaw in tip-top shape.
“There will be a checklist in the manual of things to do daily, weekly, monthly, every 90 days,” he says. “Following that is a major key to the life of the chain saw.”

Green says chain saw chain manufacturers state that 85 to 90 percent of saw performance problems are the result of the chain being dull.

“So having good quality sharp saw chain, and keeping it sharp and using the right chain for the saw and bar you have, is huge.”

Another key maintenance item is air filters and fuel filters and keeping the cylinder fin area free from buildup.

“Fresh fuel is one of the biggest issues we see today,” Green says. “People use old, stale fuel. The saw doesn’t get operated daily and the gas sits in the garage and gets water buildup in it, and water is heavier than gas, and when you pour it into the equipment, the water goes in first. So use good fresh fuel and a good quality two-stroke oil mix.”

Users can also benefit from reading the instruction manual when it comes to proper use of the chain saw. A common thing Green sees in classes is somebody who hasn’t used a chain saw before not letting the saw do the work.

“You see them going back and forth on it, and moving it back and forth doesn’t do anything,” he says. “Let the saw do the work. Focus on the task at hand — the limb you’re trimming off or log your cutting or tree your felling. Don’t drain yourself moving that 15- to 20-pound piece of equipment on your own.”

Mentioned in STIHL’s user manual is the importance of making sure the chain saw is in good operating condition before using it, says Kent Hall, product manager for STIHL. That includes making sure all the bolts and nuts are tight and fastened, the saw is properly sharpened and in good condition and properly tensioned, the air filter is clean, the fuel is fresh and clean, and the AV system is working properly.

“One of the more important things is to make sure the chain break is operating and functioning,” Hall says.

With maintenance, Hall points back to the manual and understanding what the maintenance schedule is for that particular model of saw. Inspecting fuel filters on a regular basis and inspecting and cleaning air filters is critical. The nice thing is that air filters on some saws today are designed to be washed with soap and water and air dried.

“We have an HD2 filter on some large displacement saws that, unless they get damaged somehow, will last forever as long as you clean it regularly,” Hall says. “It’s made from a material that never deteriorates.”

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