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TOOLS : Exercise Caution When Handling Chain Saws

October 22, 1994|From Associated Press

A chain saw can make short work of cutting heavy brush, tree limbs and trees. But it's potentially dangerous and should be handled with extreme care. Here are some safety tips:

* Plan your work well. Don't use your saw in semi-darkness or when fatigue, intoxication or illness may impair your coordination.

* Wear heavy gloves, steel-toed work shoes, safety goggles and a hard hat. Don't wear clothing that is too light or too loose. Use ear plugs if you plan to work with a saw for a long time.

* While cutting, hold the saw firmly with both hands and stand with your feet solidly placed.

* Keep others away from your cutting area.

* Make sure the saw is free of obstructions. Kickbacks from hitting surrounding tree limbs, earth, rocks and other obstacles cause many injuries.

* Turn off the ignition switch (or unplug an electric model) before refueling, touching the chain, or performing any other maintenance or repairs.

* After refueling, move at least 10 feet from the spot before starting the saw; spilled gasoline can easily ignite. Keep a fire extinguisher handy.

* Start your saw on the ground. Then start the chain before making contact with the wood to prevent saw kickback.

* Stand to the side of the saw when cutting, never directly behind it.

Oil-Gas Mix

Most chain saws are powered by a two-cycle engine that uses a gasoline-oil mix to provide lubrication. It's entirely different than the oil used in automobiles or to lubricate the saw's chain, and it's sold prepackaged to mix with one or two gallons of gasoline. Always mix the oil and gasoline in a separate, clean container. Pour the oil in first, then add some gasoline and slosh it around until thoroughly mixed. Add the rest of the gas and pour the mixture into the saw's fuel tank.

All saws have either automatic or manual oilers that lubricate the chain. Both types must be refilled frequently with the grade of oil specified by the manufacturer. With the manual oiler, push the oiling button about once every minute while cutting. Check the oil level during use to avoid overheating and damaging the chain.


Brush away any sawdust around the gas cap. Keep the fuel clean by also brushing dirt from the container. Always wipe spilled fuel from the engine housing to avoid a fire hazard and possible fouling of the starter, the engine or the carburetor.


Keep your chain saw free of accumulated sawdust. Use a wire or small screwdriver to clean the oil holes in the guide bar and the guide-bar slot. Brush all vents around the engine housing and the muffler to permit efficient cooling.

Check the spark plug before heavy use. If it is heavily coated with oil deposits, replace it.

After every five to 10 hours of cutting, clean the cylinder fins with a stiff brush and a vacuum extension tool. Remove the sheet metal covers and the muffler to reach the fins. Remove the air filter, wash it in detergent and water, rinse, and dry thoroughly before reinstalling it.

Chain Tension

Proper chain tension is the key to safe and efficient cutting. Read your owner's manual for chain-tension adjustment guidelines. The tension changes due to heating during operation, stretching and wear. Check the chain tension frequently during cutting, especially the first half-hour. Let the saw cool before changing the tension.

If your gas-powered saw stalls often or if the chain moves rapidly along the bar as the engine idles, adjust the idle speed, following your owner's manual instructions.

Sharpen the chain after every four hours of use. Get a set of special files and gauges and follow the directions in your owner's manual.

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