Knowing how to use a chainsaw can help you complete many fall chores quickly and relatively easily, such as trimming branches and cutting firewood. But once you’ve chosen a chainsaw that’s right based on your needs, there are still a number of startup and chainsaw maintenance items that should be performed during and after every use and over time to help keep the saw in great working order and help provide years of productive use.
Before using a chainsaw, get familiar with this piece of equipment by reviewing the operator’s manual to review how to properly hold and run a chainsaw. You can also consult our chainsaw overview, as well as view our recent Ask Troy Live session on how to use and maintain a chainsaw.
Collect Needed Tools and Supplies
Before beginning any project, be sure you have the proper tools and supplies on hand. That begins with using personal protective equipment.
Any time you are preparing, using and maintaining your chainsaw, you’ll need to wear the proper safety gear. In addition to consulting your operator’s manual for details, be sure to wear chainsaw safety gear, such as gloves and eye protection, when maintaining your chainsaw. And when operating your chainsaw, you should also wear a full helmet with a faceguard to help protect your head and face from debris, chainsaw chaps to help protect your legs, and safety gloves and eye protection.
You’ll also need a few tools and supplies when preparing to operate your chainsaw and any time you’re maintaining the tool. You’ll want the proper chainsaw fuel, as well as bar and chain lubricant, rags to clean up spills, and various hand tools (including the scrench tool that may have been supplied with your chainsaw, a wrench and a funnel).
How to Cut with a Chainsaw
When using a chainsaw, you want to prepare the work area by clearing the area of bystanders, children and pets; keep all bystanders at least 50 feet away. Any adult bystanders should wear eye protection. If you are approached, stop the unit immediately.
Before you cut with a chainsaw, keep the work area clean, and do not begin cutting until the area is clear and free from obstructions. Make sure there is secure footing and a planned retreat path from falling trees or branches.
Additionally, do not cut near electrical cables or power lines, and use the chainsaw only in daylight or good artificial light.
The saw chain must be properly tensioned before attempting to start or operate the unit. The saw chain may also require additional tensioning as it heats up during operation, and then again when operation is completed. Refer to your operator’s manual for chain tensioning instructions specific to your chainsaw.
Another routine adjustment you may find necessary as you use the chainsaw is adjusting the amount of lubrication that occurs with the automatic oiler feature equipped on many newer chainsaw models. The default factory setting may be for maximum lubrication, which may be too much depending on the job at hand, causing the unit to emit too much lubrication oil. This setting can be adjusted; review your operator’s manual for details.
To start the chainsaw, many models should be placed on the ground and then held firmly in place by placing a booted foot into the chainsaw handle/boot loop. Refer to your operator’s manual for startup instructions specific to your chainsaw.
Once the engine is running, engage the chain brake and allow the engine to warm up for up to 60 seconds before engaging the throttle lockout to idle the engine. The saw chain should not move when the engine runs at idle. If it does move, refer to your operator’s manual for instructions on how to adjust the unit’s idle speed.
To hold the chainsaw, firmly encircle the chainsaw handles with thumbs and fingers to help stabilize the unit if kickback occurs. Do not grip with thumbs and fingers on the same side of the handles. Always grip the unit firmly with both hands when the unit is running. After the unit is started, keep your fingers off the throttle control until you are ready to make a cut.
When ready to use, disengage the chain brake, then disengage the throttle lockout and squeeze the throttle control to accelerate the engine, as needed.
Hold the front handle with the left hand. Keep the left arm straight to help withstand potential kickback. Hold the rear handle with the right hand, and keep the right arm slightly bent.
Stand in a stable position with feet apart and firmly planted. Do not cut above shoulder height and do not overreach.
Accelerate the unit to full speed before cutting. Make sure that oil is flowing onto the guide bar and saw chain. A small spray should be visible. When using the unit for the first time, allow 30 to 60 seconds for the oil to begin flowing.
Press the unit against the wood to be cut and maintain a firm, steady pressure through most of the cut. Do not put pressure on the unit at the end of the cut.
Do not try to force the saw through the wood. Allow the saw chain to do the cutting. Exert only light pressure. Forcing the cut could result in damage to the unit.
Release the throttle control as soon as the cut is completed. Allow the saw chain to come to a complete stop. The saw chain, guide bar and engine may experience unnecessary wear if the unit is run without a cutting load.
For operation instructions specific to felling trees, removing branches from a live or fallen tree, or cutting a fallen tree into logs, consult your operator’s manual for detailed safety and operation precautions.
Where and how you store your chainsaw is important because of its sharp chain and because the unit may leak lubrication oil from the bar, chain and engine of the unit during storage, leaving oil spots on storage surfaces.
To store a chainsaw and help prevent oil leaks, you’ll want to store the unit as directed in the operator’s manual. For many Troy-Bilt® models, this means storing the chainsaw with the supplied scabbard covering the bar. The entire unit should also be placed on top of cardboard or rags or inside a chainsaw case. Doing so helps keep the sharp chain covered and also helps contain any lubricating oil that may seep from the unit.
As with the fuel, the bar and chain oil also should be drained if the chainsaw will not be used for an extended period of time.
Keep these chainsaw maintenance tips in mind when using your chainsaw; they can help you get years and years of productive use from this tool.