Chainsaws may sound intimidating to some homeowners. But they’re an amazing DIY tool!
If you don’t have one yet, I highly recommend you start looking around for one to purchase. You’ll be glad you did.
And if you already have one, are you maintaining it like you should? I know I wasn’t for a while.
So let’s break this down
Purchasing Your First Chainsaw
You’ve pushed the intimidation aside, and you’re ready to get that chainsaw.
So, what do you look for when deciding which chainsaw to purchase?
The first thing you want to think about is whether you want a battery-operated tool or one powered with an electrical cord or gas.
I prefer battery powered since it’s easier to use and move around. And it’s easy to simply charge it while it’s not in use. You don’t have to worry about filling it with gas either.
Battery-powered tools are also easier to maintain in my opinion. I’m all about that easy life.
You’ll want to consider maintenance, cost, and what you really want to do with a chainsaw. There are many different types.
You probably don’t need a big ol’ ranch chainsaw if you’re a home improvement DIYer like me. A small one will do the trick.
Make sure it has safety features (like a reduced kick-back chain) and that you’d feel comfortable using this tool (grip, reach, power, etc).
Maintaining Your Chainsaw
So you already have a chainsaw, or you have just purchased one. So how do you maintain the chain? How do you know when it needs sharpening?
Here are a few symptoms your chainsaw will exhibit when it needs sharpening:
- The saw is getting “stuck” or having a hard time cutting. This seems like an obvious one, but sometimes I amaze myself with how much I keep pushing my saw past the point I feel like Im wrestling with it. It shouldn’t be tough at all.
- If your sawdust is dense or more powder-like (like sand), you need to sharpen your chain. A sharp chainsaw’s sawdust will look more like a pencil’s shaving or more sharp like wood chips.
- You chainsaw shouldn’t be burning the wood or “smoking,” as that means it’s overworking trying to cut while dull.
Checking The Tension Of Your Chain
- Test if your chain is too loose by pulling up on the chain. If you can see the bottom teeth coming out of the bar (the piece the chain rotates around), it’s too loose. You don’t want to operate a chainsaw at that point.
- To tighten your chain, you’ll want to look at a knob or wheel in the encasement on your saw.
There’s probably a “lock/unlock” knob that you will need to use in order to move the chain.
Of course, what this looks like will vary based on the model of the saw. But this will be how you tighten most chains.
- As you tighten, check the chain. It should have a little give, but it shouldn’t come off or out of the bar.
- Make sure it’s totally tightened into place and that the chain is appropriately tight as well.
- Put the case back on and screw/lock it into place.
- Re-check chain tension and make sure everything is in it’s place.
Sharpening Your Chain
- Loosen/unlock your cover/encasement.
- Loosen the chain around the bar.
- Lock the encasement/cover back down. You should be able to move your loose chain easily.
- Get ready to use your chainsaw file. You should know how to operate it before hand. Most files will have arrows and some instructions on them to remind you when you use it.
- Mark the first tooth you’re starting with, so you can keep track as you move around the chain.
- Line the file up parallel in the teeth to sharpen. It generally needs a few brushes to get it sharp enough.
- Move the chain around the bar, sharpening as you go, until you get back to where you started.
- Note that there are blades going in both directions, so you’ll have to do both sides to get your chain sharp.
Changing Your Chain
- Take the piece of the encasement covering your chain off. This will expose a point you can use to take your chain off.
- You can take this time to clean around that inside part of the chain if you’d like.
- There will be a gear that you need to loosen to get the bar and chain off. This will loosen the chain so it’s very easy to take off.
- To install a new chain, start at the tip of the bar, planting it into the groove of the bar as you work your way down. Make sure the chain is facing the right way (teeth pointing forward), and that you haven’t started installing it backwards.
- You’ll loop the bottom of the chain around the turning gear, pressing the teeth in as you go, fitting things into place as you tighten the bar and chain.
Hope this helps you feel more comfortable about purchasing and maintaining your chainsaw. Keep an eye out for my up and coming chainsaw safety post!