Winter is Coming! Chainsaw Tips and Tricks for Beginners

There comes a time when a choice needs to be made: hire a professional or DIY. That big tree needs to come down and for the price of an arborist, you could purchase a chainsaw, cut the tree down yourself, and maybe even sell the timber as firewood for a tidy profit. It seems pretty straightforward.

Actually, starting with a less ambitious project is advisable, as it takes a little practice to develop good all-round chainsaw technique. It's also well worth seeking out the advice of experts who can provide great chainsaw tips and tricks for beginners to get the job done safely and effectively.

Purchasing a chainsaw

Doing the job right means starting with a high-quality chainsaw. Top name chainsaw brands make the learning curve a comfortable and easy experience, with any additional expenses offset in the long run by superior power and longevity.

Your intended use will determine the length, style, and power of the chainsaw, with the price varying accordingly. Budgetary considerations are important for most of us, but it's worth noting that a powerful chainsaw will provide greater use options in the future.

Safe workwear is an outlay worth taking seriously. You will require a helmet, hearing protection, boots, safety glasses, and Chaps.

Safe workwear is an outlay worth taking seriously (Wikipedia image)

Chainsaw use: getting started

Firstly, dress in the appropriate work-wear, including long pants and long sleeves to avoid annoying scratches. Fill the tank with the appropriate oil/petrol mix and ensure the correct bar and chain oil is added to the oil tank.

Next, engage the chain brake, then switch the ignition to the on position. Engage the choke and set the throttle at a fairly fast idle.

You may prefer to start the chainsaw with it secured on the ground. This is usually achieved by placing the right foot through the handle loop at the back. Then, grip the front handle firmly with your left arm extended, and pull the starter cord. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for more information.

When you begin, you will probably feel more comfortable cutting with the bottom of the bar, as the saw does the work by pulling into the cut. Cutting using the top of the bar (undercutting) tends to push the saw away from the work.

Chainsaws can be quite heavy, so reduce fatigue by bracing the chainsaw handle against your thigh. This technique will also provide optimum control for a beginner.

Chainsaw use tips:

  • Avoid contact with the soil, concrete, or metal as the blade will become damaged
  • A new chainsaw needs to be adjusted often to maintain proper tension
  • The chainsaw should feed into the cut with little additional effort
  • If you need to push too hard, the cutters need sharpening
  • It's good practice to examine your equipment every time you refuel


Chainsaws are often used while standing awkwardly or on an uneven footing. When possible, however, your stance should be comfortable, with feet approximately shoulder width apart. Stand with the saw to one side, and never directly behind it, as chainsaws have a tendency to 'kick back' if used improperly.

Kickback occurs when a cut is made with the top corner of the saw, resulting in the chainsaw throwing itself away from the cutting surface. Almost all injuries resulting from kickback can be avoided by cutting with the chainsaw to your side.

If felling a larger tree, always look up as the tree is falling. Not every branch obeys the rules, and some can snap off, falling straight down rather than away from you. High branches on large trees can weigh an enormous amount and are aptly named 'widow makers.'

Other safety considerations:

  • Don't carry a running saw long distances, especially over unsteady ground
  • Use the chain brake whenever you are not cutting
  • If you are becoming fatigued, take a break
  • Never use a chainsaw while standing on a ladder or other unstable platform

A clean chain and cutting blades (Wikipedia image)

Maintaining the chainsaw

A well-maintained chainsaw will start easily and cut cleanly. Relatively simple mechanical aptitude is required to determine chain tension, change a spark plug, or clean the air filter.

The cutting blades, being the point of contact, require regular sharpening, best done using a depth gauge tool and file guide. Other essentials include:

  • 2 stroke oil/petrol mix
  • Bar oil: stops sap sticking and adheres the cutting blade to the chain
  • Wedge or axe for removing a stubbornly stuck chainsaw from the cut

A quality chainsaw makes heavy work easy, and there is real satisfaction in using the power to your advantage. Professional arborists are essential for dangerous situations involving very big trees, but for the rest of us, a tidy home and free firewood is well worth the investment in a chainsaw.