A gas chainsaw is like a creeping gateway drug that slowly takes hold of your utilitarian brain. It starts off innocently enough, cutting up some yard waste here and there, or clearing out debris.
But before you know it, you’re hooked; pestering friends for leads on abandoned hardwood trees that you can burn, carve, or in my case, mill into lumber for the pure joy and necessity of it.
Fortunately, gas chainsaws have some cost balancing aspects to them as well. They can be used to gather wood to heat your home, or to get lumber for woodworking projects for pennies on the dollar with a gas chainsaw mill. But if you’re new to the world of chainsaws there are a few things you should know going into it.
Unfortunately, they break. Sometimes they break frequently with heavy-duty use. They start off running great, but as time and use start to add up on a chainsaw, it can become a bit of a battle to keep them tuned and running smoothly. It seems I’ve had to run through a trial by fire in this area. Here are some things I learned that will hopefully give you a little more perspective than I had, as you enter the world of the chainsaw.
1) A gas chainsaw is dangerous AF.
Not to be overly dramatic here, but a healthy fear of this tool will keep you safe. Having a good appreciation for the fact that people do get injured with chainsaws can prevent you from becoming one of them. In fact, it’s more than just a few people. According to the CDC 36,000 people per year are injured by these harbingers of tree death. Reading up and studying basic, gas chainsaw safety videos before you run off to fell that tree in your back yard, can save you some stitches. When the saw is at full rev, the cutting teeth are spinning around at more than 45 mph in some cases.
2) The duller a chainsaw is, the greater the chance of unexpected kickback.
The reason the chain on a chainsaw slices through wood instead of bouncing off it, is that it is sharp. That sharpness allows it to penetrate through the wood fibers. Running a saw when it’s dull is a recipe for kickback which forces the bar away from the wood. This unpredictability can be easily addressed by just keeping it sharp. A good way to tell if it’s getting dull is to check the size of the sawdust chips it gives off. The sharper it is, the larger they’ll be. If it starts to look like fine dust, that’s generally an indicator your chain is no longer sharp (It could also mean that your rakers need to be filed).
3) Cutting with the nose causes a ton of injuries.
4) Using high-quality, 2-stroke oil is great insurance and cuts down on fumes.
A gas chainsaw can give off a lot of smoke and fumes, and depending on how long you’re going to be using it, you may want both the higher work load capability of a premium synthetic, and the lowered smoke and fumes that they help eliminate.
5) Burying the bar in wood often causes it to overheat.
6) They’re air cooled so idling allows them to cool down.
7) A gas chainsaw requires a lot of maintenance – sharpening, cleaning the bar, oiler, air filer, and changing the plug, etc.
8) As they age, you’ll need to replace the hoses and filters, and rebuild the carburetor. Fortunately, it’s easy to do. Everything gets brittle. Take a look at this fuel hose.
9) A cheap, Harbor Freight electric sharpener makes sharpening it precisely an easy task.
10) When you need parts for a gas chainsaw, don’t buy the cheap Chinese versions.
Spend the extra on the higher-quality parts. The details are small and often imperceptible, such as metal quality, the amount of oil used in creating plastics, as well as the density. You can’t necessarily see it, but the strength difference can be substantial. If it’s plastic, it’ll just dry out and crack fairly quickly. If it’s metal, it won’t be able to handle the extreme heat long-term.
11) Buying or rebuilding a used quality unit is not that hard.
If you have basic mechanical skills, rebuilding even the more major parts of a gas chainsaw is not out of your ability level, as evidenced by the many people rebuilding them for the first time on YouTube. It’s how I learned to do it and I think you can do the same.
So there you have it. Hopefully some of these tips will help you and your gas chainsaw have a meaningful and bloodless relationship for years to come. Now go make some sawdust!