How to store a chainsaw

Saturday, December 29, 2018
storing a chainaw

Storage of a chainsaw

The physical maintenance of a chainsaw is very important as we can all appreciate, however, good storage of your chainsaw will also help with good performance making sure it will start the next time you need it.

Chainsaw should be stored in dry and dustfree conditions. Cleaning it before putting it away for the winter will ensure that it's ready when you take it out in the spring.

Here's some other storage tricks you may wish to consider:

Emptying the fuel tank

Empty the fuel tank in a well-ventilated place and then clean it. Remember to drain the carburetor first, to prevent the carburetor diaphragms from sticking together.

Dismantle the saw

Remove the chain and guide bar, give them a good clean and then spray them with protective oil. We like to use CRC.

Store your saw in a dry place

Your chainsaw should be kept in a dry place.

Select an area which is well ventilated and protected from the weather.

Leaving it outdoors is not advisable as it is more suspectable to rust and it really should be protected from the sun - it's UV rays can break down the plastics, making them brittle.

The chain saw should always be packed away in a dust-free environment. You can place it in a dust bag or even a cardboard box or covered under a cloth.

It's also a smart move to store it in a place where children cannot get their hands on it. 

These are some simple ideas you can do - but let's face the truth. You are probably just going to leave the chainsaw on a shelf under a workbench somewhere...

Can I add two stroke oil to a 4 stroke lawnmower?

Friday, December 28, 2018
4 stroke engine oil
So I recently bought a brand new lawnmower. It had a Briggs and Stratton engine which was a real selling point.

As I was in the store, I grabbed some oil as I figured the oil sump was probably empty.

Turns out I was right, as there was a big yellow warning sticker on the engine to remind the user to add oil.

To actually add 4 stroke oil.

Which made me take note as I had bought only 2 stroke oil as that's what I had been adding to my old Briggs and Stratton engine until the casing gave way due to rust and I could no longer safely push the mower.

Maybe that wasn't the smartest idea in the world!

So, given it was a brand new engine, what should I do? Use the recommended oil of course!

Now, I wasn't going to drive all the way back to the store to grab the oil as that would have taken an hour and I really wanted to cut the lawn, so I'd thought I'd just grab some 4 stroke oil from the petrol station down the road.

They had none.

Nor did the one across the road.

Nor did the supermarket.

So screw it I thought and added the two stroke to the brand new engine.

And you know what happened?

Nothing but the grass was cut.

The engine didn't smoke and it started the first time which is simply a great feeling when you've just laid out some serious cash for your first ever brand new lawnmower!

So in terms of the science, 2 engines stroke engines work slightly different from two-stroke engines.

The engine of a two-stroke will complete its combustion and exhaust cycle in only 2 strokes or cycles of the piston, whereas a 4 cycle taking 4 strokes of the piston.

The only other difference between the two engines is that a 4 stroke engine uses oil from a sump system rather than being added directly to the fuel in a 2 stroke system.

However, adding 2 stroke to a 4 stroke engine is not a long term solution. 2 stroke is designed to be used with the fuel inside the engine and not in a 4 stroke engine.

It has different qualities, especially its performance under the high temperatures of engines bigger than it is designed for use in.

It's for this reason that you should indeed follow the engine manufacturer's advice and use 4 stroke oil. Sure the 2 stroke works in a pinch, but for the long-term efficiency and performance, the 4 stroke is the way to go.

If you suddenly feel you need to buy some 4 stroke oil, check out some options on Amazon.

I need a new lawn mower, what is the best one for me?

Thursday, December 27, 2018

I am on the hunt for a new walk behind lawn mower for my yard

This is a legit, genuine hunt and I can show you why.

But first, let me tell you the story of how I have to start my lawnmower.

It's a bitch and a half.

The pull start is rooted. The internal workings are gone. The recoil spring is bung and removed. The idler pulley is just done. It drinks mower oil like a fish.  I have to manually reset it every time I want to use it.

Today I went to mow the lawns and I realized that one of the 'grip bits' had disappeared. I thought about it and wrapped a small rope around the THING and eventually managed to turn the engine over.

And that's when a disaster I'd been expecting finally struck!

While I was mowing the laws, I managed to rip the handle arms out! The joints were pretty rusted and the metal hard started to come away.

So it's kind of impossible to mow the laws when your mower looks like this:

busted lawnmower handles

So now I am on the hunt to buy a new lawn mower for my 400 square meters of lawn. It's a small lawn really so I'm very happy to push it around in my gumboots for about half an hour.

I think I'm after a classic home lawn mower with a catcher.

One that will last at least 6 - 10 years and one that I'm able to maintain fairly easily. I don't want to buy the cheapest lawn mower out there but I think a mid-range, sturdy beast should suit my needs.

I also want a petrol / gas engine as I think petrol just adds to my lawn mowing experience. Even when I flood the damn thing...

What are my options? 

Given how much we love Husqvarna products due to their renown for reliability, let's check out the:

Husqvarna HU800AWDH Walk Behind Mower

husvarna lawn mower

Tackle your lawn care with a superior mower! 

The Husqvarna HU800AWDH has an all-wheel-drive system that guarantees balance and power in hilly terrain and the toughest mowing conditions. 

A durable mower, it features a 22" heavy-duty steel deck and a powerful 190cc Honda engine. 

The mower comes equipped with a quick pin, four-point adjustment for level cutting and a water hose connector for easy deck cleaning. 

The specifications as described by the manufacturer:
  • Honda gcv190 190cc 4 cycle engine. Net power at preset rpm: 3000 rpm
  • 22-Inch, 3-in-1 steel mower deck that gives you the option to side discharge, mulch or bag your grass
  • All wheel 4x4 drive rear hi-wheel that is exclusive to Husqvarna products - this provides improved maneuverability in all types of grass or terrain
  • Auto walk self-propelled all wheel drive system lets you control the pace of your mowing.
  • The cutting width is 22 inches
  • Ball bearing wheels 8-inch front and 11-Inch Rear Ball Bearing Wheels, 3 position handle height adjustment

In terms of power, this machine is nicely placed for your traditional lawn set but also has enough grunt for unlevel terrain.

You can employ three grass cutting modes - standard collection for a tidy lawn, a mulching mode for lawn fertilization and ejection!

Here's some reviews from users who brought this mower from Amazon.

"This self-propelled mower is really strong and pulls me along anywhere I want to go. I have to wear hearing protection with this thing because it is so loud, but that's fine with me. I love the power behind this beast and you will too!"

"I held off on the review until now to give me some time with it. The Honda engine has been great, has started effortlessly on the first pull every time I've used it, nothing required other than fuel. The AWD system has been excellent as well with only one hiccup, mulching high wet grass led to some drive belt slippage that remedied itself within a few minutes. The Honda engine combined with AWD allowed me to add a lawn striping roller and the unit effortlessly climbs my hill while mulching and striping."

"This mower is a beast. Built a pool in the back and I have a VERY steep hill behind it now. VERY steep. Climbs right up it perfect. You just walk along with it. Very pleased with it. Plenty of power, easy to start, great packaging/ boxing. Great mower so far. Lots of power."

If this mower sounds like it suits your needs, check out the price on Amazon.

Greenworks 20-Inch 12 Amp Corded Lawn Mower 25022

long world gas lawnmower

Want some grunt with your mower? Have a look at the Long World 161cc 20“ Deck 3-in-1 Self-Propelled Gas Lawn Mower

  • gas-powered push lawnmower with 161cc OHV powerful engine to get grass cut sharply & quickly in small yards.
  • 3-in-1 cutting system, equipped with a 20-inch steel mulching deck to side discharge, mulch and rear bag.
  • One Lever Adjustment, 8 grades of cutting heights (1-3 inch) which lets you cut grass at the size you want
  • 1.2 litre gas tank
  • Front wheels: 7” height; rear wheels: 10” height, wheels for easy operation and control while mowing.
If this mower will chop your lawn down to size, check out the price on Amazon.

The Power Smart range features machines that are ideal for the smaller yards of America. 

The compact, 159cc self-propelled gas-powered power smart DB8621S self-propelled lawn mower is easy to operate in tight spaces & features three cutting systems including side discharge option & mulching capability plus a collection rear bag. 

This is a no-nonsense model that offers a lightweight design balanced with power. The DB8621S features a rear wheel drive mode that makes it easier to maneuver on uneven & rough. 

The deep dome deck design accompanied with the sharp & solid blade makes for better mulching. 

Easy to operate & weighing just 76 lbs., the mower also features a durable steel deck that cuts a 21 in. swath with an adjustable height from 1.18 to 3 inches.

So that's three simple choices for you and for me. Of personal interest, it's been a long time since I've brought a new lawn mower - the key point of change for me appears to be the move from metal to plastic.

... and now this has got me thinking about the best kind of battery based lawnmowers...

How to make sharp, safe cuts with a chainsaw

Thursday, December 20, 2018

A good clean cutting action works for many things.



And chainsaws.

To make a clean chainsaw cut

Provided the saw has been turned on now:

  1. Hold the front handle of the saw with your gloved left hand with your thumb wrapped tightly underneath. 
  2. Grab the rear handle with your gloved right hand. Get into sawing position by spreading your legs apart for stability. 
  3. Now pull back the chain brake to disengage it. 
  4. Then squeeze the throttle. The saw cuts best when the engine is at full throttle.

Pretty simple eh? - there are some clear principles at play - be well positioned, use a good grip action and make sure your chainsaw is well sharpened and well oiled and the depth gauge cutters are properly filed down.

Here are some more tips for an efficient cut:

  • Cutting with the upper portion of the tip could cause a kickback reaction, which can be bloody dangerous and may engage the chain brake. Basically, try to avoid cutting with the tip. 
  • It's good practice to cut at your waist level — never raise your saw above shoulder height. This is just asking for trouble if you run into trouble! You are less able to properly control the saw at this height and angle.
  • Avoid cutting too close to the ground where the blade could dig in and kick back.
  • Try to cut from the side of the saw. This is to say, do not stand 'over' the saw. A kickback in this position could be lethal as the saw will kick back into your line of sight - meaning a chest or face injury is on the cards. It's really easy to suddenly find yourself in this position if you have moved around a bit so keep an eye on your positioning at all times. 
  • You should cut with a downward pressure with the bottom of the bar — known as cutting with a pulling chain since the chain pulls the saw out from you. The vice versa applies when cutting upwards. We suggest you have a fair bit of practice with the standard method before trying an up cut motion. At the least, have a really good appreciation for how your saw feels in your hands.
  • It is very easy to over work your back while using a chainsaw. Try not to curve your spine to move lower, instead bend your knees.

How to sharpen a lawn mower blade safely

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
sharpened lawn mower blade

Guide on how to safely sharpen your lawn mower blade

If you are like me, you like to use your lawn mower as a bit of a mulcher machine.

Maybe you like to monster some stray branches or other plant material such as flax (which can go all stringy and cut stuck around the blade) and you simply run over them with the mower to get rid of the waste.

If you do this enough times coupled with hitting the odd stone or when you accidentally maneuver the blade onto concrete or brick you've got a blunt blade which makes doing the lawns even harder.

And if you're blade is blunt, the grass isn't being cut as well as it should - meaning more work for you, especially if the grass is wet.

How sharp should mower blades be?

Blades should be sharpened so they are like a pair of scissors or butter knife, and not like a boning knife. A knife-edge blade will get dull much faster than a correctly sharpened lawn mower blade.

What angle should mower blades be sharpened?

Most blades leave the factory with the blade sharpened at a 45-degree angle.

You should aim for the same.

If you are ever in a lawn mower store, have a feel of the blade - you'll note it is not honed down razor sharp!

Can I sharpen a lawnmower without removing the blade?

No matter how you choose to sharpen your blade, the first thing to do is to disconnect the spark plug by removing the spark plug wire.

This is to prevent the engine from accidentally starting if the blades generate enough pressure to turn the engine - either when removing it or sharpening. 

Yes, you can. It's a little tricky but can be managed. 

As usual, disconnect the spark plug first. 

Turn the mower on it the side so that the air filter and carburetor are facing up (to avoid oil spillage), grab your file and file the blade at 45 degrees. Make sure you do even strokes on either side.

This is a quick and dirty way to sharpen the blade. You do run the risk of sharpening unevenly and make the blade unbalance. 

We recommend you take the blade off, your call though, like most of us, you don't have all day to get the lawns done.

How to sharpen a lawn mower blade by hand with a file

  • Mark which is the downward facing side of the blade with a Sharpie marker or similar. This is so you do not accidentally re-attach it upside down.
  • Remove your blade from the mower and clamp the blade in a vice.
  • Wear appropriate safety gear, especially safety eyewear.
  • Sharpen the blade with a file. Your strokes should go from the inside edge to the out. 
  • You should aim to sharpen at a 45 degree angle. 
  • Your mower blade is sharp enough when it feels like a butter knife - that's suitable enough to cut with, given the force that occurs when it rotates under engine speed. 
  • Reinstall the blade the correct way up. If we have to say, we have to say it!
A standard file is all you need. 

How to sharpen a lawn mower blade with a drill 

You can use your home handyman drill to sharpen your blade, with the right sharpening attachment.

Usually made of the abrasive corundum (a crystalline form of aluminum oxide), these sharpening aids can be found fairly cheaply on Amazon.

sharpen lawnmower blade with a drill

  • Note which is the downward facing side of the blade with a marker. This is so you do not accidentally re-attach it upside down.
  • Remove your blade from the mower and clamp the blade in a vice with the cutting part of the blade face up. 
  • Add the attachment into the drill. 
  • Put your safety glasses on
  • Line the bevel of the drill up to the blade. This will guide you as you use the drill. 
  • Use a light degree of pressure. 
  • Flip the blade over in the clamp and repeat.
  • Balance your blade

This video tutorial shows an excellent method on how to sharpen the blade safely:

You can also use a rotary tool such as a Dremel, angle grinder or a belt sander to sharpen the blade in the same fashion. Just use the tools in a safety conscious fashion and you'll be fine. 

How to balance your blade properly (as all things should be)

After you have sharpened the blade, you can test its balance with a blade-balancing tool. If you don't have such a tool you can try the classic trick of hammering a nail partway into a wall and hang the blade from it (using the center hole). If the blade hangs horizontally, it is perfectly balanced (as all things should be).

If one side lowers, you can lighten that side with your file or grinder. It's usually recommended that Material should only be removed from the end of the blade, in the sail area.

How often should I sharpen the mower blade?

Many users sharpen the blades at the beginning of every grass growing season. It never hurts to check and give it a tune-up if you frequently use the mower, especially if you've caught a few rocks or mulched some wood with it.

My blade is pretty damaged, what can I do?

damaged lawn mower blade

If your blade has done a diligent service but it's full of cuts and nicks it's probably time to replace it.

You can find plenty of replacements on Amazon. They are usually measured in inches, so make sure the size your order matches that of your machine!

Can I put a mulching blade on my mower?

If you want your lawn mower to do some heavy action mulching - you might want to consider attaching a blade designed to mulch grass (rather than simply cutting the grass).  When using such a blade, it is usually recommended that you leave the grass to be a little bit longer than you would an ordinary blade. 

You will probably also find you need to sharpen a mulching blader more regularly than a regular blade as they come into contact with the grass more.

Thinking of checking out a cordless electric mower? We've got you covered.

Promise us though that you will never sharpen a blade like this guy pictured below. Sure, he has ear cover and his eyes protected but one false move and he's cut himself so bad, he won't be pushing a lawnmower for a while:

unsafe way to sharpen a lawnmower blade

Oregon Powersharp Chain Sharpening Kit Review

Monday, December 3, 2018
oregon powersharp chain sharpener

If getting a file out and sharpening each tooth of your chain is not for you or is too much of a time suck, then Oregon's Powersharp chainsaw sharpening kit may be the tool for you.

Taking the classic concept of sharpening with a stone, this time saving device attaches to the end of your bar. Give the engine a short rev and the chain is sharpened.


The PowerSharp system consists of a chain, a bar, and a bar-mount sharpener.

When your chain gets dull, sharpening is as easy as snapping the sharpener on the blade and pressing the tip of the sharpener into a solid surface for a few seconds, bringing the unique top-cutting cutters into contact with the sharpening stone.

You do have to replace your existing bar because only the PowerSharp has the correct holes to snap the sharpener on.

You can't sharpen regular chains with the sharpener, only PowerSharp chains. But you can put a regular chain on the bar if you don't have any more PowerSharp chains so your investment risk is quite low, as you've brought yourself a qualty bar from Oregon no matter what.

This video from Oregon demonstrates how you can safely and quickly use the attachment:

Here's the technical specifications: 

  • Pitch: 3/8" Low Profile, gauge: .050", drive link count: 62
  • Fast, Easy, Portable, Precise, Tough
  • LubriTec keeps your chain and guide bar oiled for less friction and longer life
  • For saw sizes up to 42 cc

Will this cause any kick back issues?

Oregan state that this saw chain met the kickback performance requirement of ANSI B175.1-2012 when tested according to the provisions of ANSI B175.1-2012. Low-kickback saw chain meets the kickback performance requirement of CSA Standard Z62.3.

Reviews by actual users of the Powersharpener

"I use the PowerSharp to cut anything I would cut with a regular chain, I don't just prune small branches with my saw either, I have an 18" bar because it is what I need for what I cut.
I hate having to change a chain because it is dull, and I don't find it worth spending the time sharpening them, or sending them out to be sharpened. I have had good luck with the PowerSharp and I am pleased with the system. I have used the PowerSharp on an Echo CS-400 18", and an Echo CS-360."

"These don’t cut quite as fast as a normal chain, nor does it have the normal “pull” into the wood as a semi-chisel chain, but this chain stays sharp for 2-3x longer than Oregon or other chains. When sharpening is needed, it only takes about 30 seconds to install the sharpener and run it a few passes! Afterwards, the chain cuts straight and is like new again. The bar seems of good quality, no complaints. Great system!"

"I own a christmas tree farm where I use chains after chains & they get dull and then it takes time to sharpner the chain! After seeing the video from oregon chain saw sharpener i ordered it for my saw to try out! Its was very ez to install! this bar & chain! This is the REAL DEAL! WOW! Takes seconds to sharpen! It performs well! Save me so much time! what an invention! Got to get! Ordered two more for my other saws!"

"My experience with it has been exactly as advertised. I initially came across this because I was looking for a longer bar for my little husqy 235e. the 14" bar was way too short for cutting limbs on the ground. my back protested quite loudly. Oregon made this in an 18" for that saw. I rejoiced, and purchased it immediately. I have only used the sharpener thingy twice, because that is all it has needed in the half-cord's worth of cutting this thing has seen. both times it has been restored to full sharpened glory with under 2 seconds of sharpening. brilliant."

The only con of this product is that many users have found it doesn't work with a Husqvarna bar. 

If this sharpening device floats your boat, check out the price on Amazon.

How to identify chainsaw work area safety zones

Consider your workplace safety zone before you turn on your engine

When you intend to use a chainsaw, it's important to check the work area for hazards before you start felling or cutting.

Obviously, you'll never deliberately do anything that will harm another person when you are using your chainsaw but you do need to be mindful.

Here's a personal example of a lack of mindfulness

Last year I was chopping up some branches my neighbor himself had cut down and thrown over the fence for me to use as firewood.

I happened to run out of fuel and the saw cut out. I put it down in front of me and that's when I realized my two year old daughter was standing just me. Gave me a hell of a fright with the realization that a kick back or an odd movement from myself could have put her in harm's way.

It appears I did not shut the back door of the house properly. Did I think to do so? I can't recall, but either way, I wasn't mindful enough to check my working zone would be safe.

So I know personally this is no joke, and you do too, that's why you're here, looking for safety zone advice.

Now this may be obvious stuff but so is properly shutting a door so here we go:
  • Check that there are no (or will be) no people or animals in your work zone. Tell people around you to stay clear and ask mums or dads to keep the kids inside.
  • Do not work in adverse weather conditions such as heavy rain, snow or high winds or even rain
  • Ensure you have a clear work area in which you have a stable footing and do not have to reach or work off balance. Make ladder adjustments as necessary and have a support person as required. 
  • Make your way carefully on uneven or sloping ground. 
  • Shut down the chainsaw off before carrying it. Carry it by the front handle with the bar to the rear - not balancing on your shoulders mate!
  • If you are felling trees, make sure other people are at least two tree lengths away. Before you commence cutting, determine your escape route escape route, one that is cleared to the side and rear.
  • Check for hazards in the area - such as electricity or telecommunication cables. If in doubt, seek advice from the local controlling authority.
  • Always check for any material such as branches or tops which may dislodge and fall into the work area as the tree falls. 
  • Be mindful when cutting greenery such as blackberry.

Should I buy a gas or electric powered chainsaw?

electric chainsaw pros and cons

Gas or electric powered chainsaws - which is best?

With advances in modern technology arborists and woodcutters no longer need to simply rely on the 'old fasioned' gas powered chainsaw to fell trees or cut firewood.

There are now three kinds of ways a chainsaw may be powered.

As you might expect each kind of machine has benefits and weakness to their use.

Let's consider the merits of each.

The benefits of a gas powered chainsaw

If you're a Tim t'he Toolman' Taylor kind of tool user, you'll have a fond appreciation for devices that run on gas and give off a strong, powerful vibe. And gas or petrol powered chainsaws do just that. 

Gas driven engines can be configured to very high degrees of power output making them super useful for industrial work in the forest or simply being used intensively all day. 

The attraction of a gas powered saw is that they are the most wholly portable of all chainsaws - you can take them with you high into the hills and not have to worry about running out of fuel (if you've of course budgeted for what you needed to use the saw for!)

A downside of using a gas driven engine is they do require a fair bit of maintenance. Many a user will often however take pride in undertaking correct maintenace of their chainsaw - especially when they can cost a small fortune!

Reasons to use an electric chainsaw

Electric chainsaws are a lot more quiet than gas. They don't have the same ooomph of the gas-powered cousins but they do have enough output power to light to medium duty jobs. 

Starting them is as simple as pulling the trigger. That itself has great appeal as starting a finicky gas-powered engine can be one of the most frustrating exercises there is! You know the drill, you just want to cut up the branch that has fallen on to your driveway but you then have to spend time, checking the fuel, checking the spark plug, making sure it has fuel!

The utter drawback of an electric powered chainsaw is that you are only as mobile as your electric cable. This is fine if you just want to use it around the house but you can't run off to the neighbors for a chainsaw chopping party with it! One also should bear in mind that the longer your cable, the lower the voltage supplied to the chainsaw, meaning its power output can drop. 

Another benefit is that giving they are fairly quiet, you will not annoy your neighbours so much as you would with an electric or battery powered chainsaw. 

When you might want to use a battery powered chainsaw

A battery powered saw is a good option when you have to do a small amount of light to medium work such as pruning or cutting small trees. 

These things are obviously battery powered and won't last all day. They are however very easy to use, clean and are quite portable. 

If you only have the one battery, you will be limited by the amount of work you can get done as you'll obviously need to recharge it when empty meaning downtime for you.

How to maintain a chainsaw

A good chainsaw is, in some ways, the keys to the castle.

By cutting down trees, removing fallen branches and preparing firewood to warm your family, you are the King of your Castle.

Any good king knows he's only as good as his loyal subjects, in this case being a chainsaw that turns on when you need it to!

Good maintenance of a chainsaw will result in a loyal tool that will serve your wood cutting needs for many years.

Your first port of call is from the manufacturer's operation manual that came with your chainsaw. If you do not have a copy, google for the PDF of it. Those who made your saw, know it best. So if they say do this, you do it.

But onwards, you can do what you like.

Basic tips on how to properly maintain a chainsaw

To start, there are three key points on the checklist:

  • Before you use the chainsaw, ensure that the bar and chain oil is full. A chain with no oil will quickly become unsuitable for proper cutting and it will also begin to degrade. 
  • The chain must be kept sharp. A sharp chain will obviously cut through wood better than a blunt chain but importantly a sharp chain also helps to reduce the risk of an accident occurring or the chain getting stuck in a log. 
  • Cleaning your chainsaw of wood debris after each use will help keep the engine in top shape and reduce the chance of blockage say from the oil release.

Adding bar and chain oil

For the chain to work properly, chainsaw bars should be kept well lubricated. A good oil will penetrate into chain links ensuring they function well.

To add oil, simply add it to the machine where it is clearly marked for the chain oil. Do not overfill as this is just a waste of oil.

A well-oiled chain will also work to help prevent rust from developing on the chain. It will also help resist the build-up of unwanted deposits such as pitch, sap or gum.

One should always use oil that has been properly designed for chains. They contain what is referred to as a "high-tack" additive that prevents it from flying off the chain as it travels around the tip. Other oils do not have this property so they will quickly disappear off the chain which is just a waste of oil and time.

That said, there is a big environmental movement to use specially curated vegetable oils as bar and chain oil. This is so that the 'traditional oils' are not left behind in the forest after tree culling (the chain oil is lost in the sawdust). A common complaint about users of vegetable oil is that chains can become gunked up pretty quickly due to the nature of the oil.

Keeping the chain sharp is a must for good cutting (dur!)

A sharp chain is pretty much a must when it comes to chainsaw maintenance. You can sharpen the chain yourself or get a professional to do it for you, it's a service many chainsaw agents are happy to provide.

Here are some sharpening tips:

  • Ensure that you use a file that is the proper size. The owner's manual will tell you what is the correct size to use. If you have lost your manual, google it, most popular brands will have them on their respective websites. 
  • When filing, do so at the correct angle. Chains are designed to operate in a specific manner, so deviating from the correct angle means they will not perform as intended. You can use a file gauge to hold the file in the correct position if need be, but a practiced hand can do the job quite well. 
  • Use the same number of filing strokes on each tooth. This will ensure a consistent sawing action. 
  • Avoid filing the depth gauge too much. If this occurs the saw will bite too deeply into the wood running the risk of a stall or dragging you off balance (which is a safety issue, especially depending on your stance elevation). Again, the use of a file gauge will help prevent this from occurring. 
  • A great trick is to place the blade inside a vice so it's held steady when filing. You can also use a stump vice:

Keeping the air filter regularly cleaned

You've no doubt changed or cleaned the filter in a vacuum cleaner or your lawn mower before, so why wouldn't you do the same for your chainsaw, especially as it's an item that relies on oxygen as part of the combustion process?

Other than the air filter, there's no much standing between the engine and dirt and sawdust and other debris. Get any of that in the internal workings of your saw then the carburetor will have some issues such as poor starting and generally poor running.

Many modern saws have a screen as opposed to a foam or paper filter. A handy way to clean them out is to use an air compressor to force out any debris and dirt. Else, you can do the classic trick of tapping the filter on the end of your workbench or similar and force the debris out.

If you do have a foam or paper filter, then consider regularly replacing it, especially if you use the saw often.

Simple guide-bar groove maintenance

The channel that guides the chain along the bar can become easily become clogged with sawdust and what not. You can remove the drive-case cover, chain, and bar, then clean the groove with a small screwdriver, thin piece of wood or a piece of wire.

You can force out dirt and debris with a blast from a can of CRC or WD40 or a can of compressed air.

Experts will file any nicks flat in a manner perpendicular to the bar's flanks.

Keeping oil ports clog free

There is not so much annoying when using a chainsaw and the oil port gets clogged. This means your chain isn't getting the oil it needs. You can usually tell when this has happened as the wood you're chopping might start to smoke due to the friction!

A handy tip is to clean the port(s) out with a small wire or pipe cleaner when you have the bar off the saw.

A properly tensioned chain saves you pain

When using a chainsaw, it is best practice to ensure the chain has the proper tension. A loose chain is not going to be cutting well and is more likely to come flying off which as we all know is just a pain in the ass when you're in the middle of chopping up some wood.

So don't let the chain sag.

An overtightened chain can also be an issue too.

A chain that is too tight can overheat, causing the oil to overheat and burn off.

If you can't advance the chain forward manually with your hand (wear a glove for safety), then loosen the tension slightly.

Here's a handy video tutorial on how to tighten your chain:

If you have a used your chainsaw and its heated the chain up quite nicely, you should be warned that if you tighten that chain too much, when it cools the chain will probably be too tight.

Also, remember to loosen those nuts before you turn the tension screw!

Spark plug maintenance for strong ignition and combustion

Start Me Up is not just a song by the Rolling Stones, it is a wish from every man or woman who's ever tried to start a chainsaw they haven't used in a few months.

While you're not going to start a chainsaw, first time, every time, a well-maintained spark plug will go some way to helping you easily start one.

To clean a spark plug, use a plug or socket wrench to remove the plug. A handy method is to take a wire-brush to it. Either way, clear off any gunk or rust so it makes a good contact. If the external body of the plug itself is rusted, it may still work fine but know you really should replace it.

When replacing a spark plug, check the manual to make sure you are installing the correct kind.

Plugs should be tightened but not firmly, just say 'moderately'. Older models which user breaker points can be tricky so you may wish to get your model serviced.

Only use a chainsaw which has a working chain break

Chainsaw safety is paramount when using these devices.

If you want to see the horrors of what can happen when things go wrong, I dare you to Google "chainsaw facial accidents". It ain't pretty and at absolute worst, you can die from a kickback.

This is why modern-day chainsaws will come with a chain break. In some countries, it's even the law for both new and used chainsaws. By placing the requirement on used chainsaws, it effectively will remove unsafe chainsaws from the secondary market over time which improves overall safety outcomes across the population of chainsaw users.

So to avoid getting your nose carved in two (and worse) there a couple of things you can do. The first is to always use appropriate safety gear when actively using a chainsaw and the second is to maintain the chain brake properly by checking that it works.

Here's how to do it:

  • Place your chainsaw on a sturdy and stable surface
  • Release the chain brake and engage the throttle
  • Activate the chain brake by pushing your left wrist against the kickback protection without releasing the handle, the chain should immediately cease rotating.

If that occurs, you know the brake is working properly. If it does not, repeat the steps again. If you have a failure, get the unit serviced before your next session with the saw.

It's important to not be cavalier about the chain break.

Yes, they can reduce the likely hood of an injury but avoiding behaviors which can cause kickback in the first place is your best means of keeping safe when cutting wood.

Kick backs are why I bought this face protector to use when chopping wood.

When mixing petrol and oil, follow the recommended ratio

When using a two-stroke chainsaw, you'll need to add engine oil to petrol.

It pays to follow the directions as instructed. Scientists and many years of experience show that if you guess, you'll have an underperforming engine, one which you will have stressed out.

This is to say, if the ratio of fuel to oil is 50:1, then that's what you should do.

You can get mixing bottles that have the ratios marked on the side. Fill the petrol first, then slowly add the oil until you have the correct mix. Give the bottle a good shake and then add to the chainsaw.

The fuel mixture will begin to degrade quickly, it's often recommended you do not use any leftover mix that's older than one month.

If your machine hasn't been used in three months or so, you may have difficulty getting in started due to fuel degradation. If this is the case, we suggest you ditch the fuel and start afresh.

Hey, after you've done the hard work, kick back with some interesting facts about Star Wars

How to sharpen a chainsaw

best chainsaw sharpening kit

Guide to properly sharpening a chainsaw the right way

Have you ever carved up a leg of lamb with a blunt knife?

Shaved with a blunt razor blade?

Whittled a piece of wood with a blunt pocket knife?

I bet you didn't think it was a great experience eh?

And neither is using a chainsaw with a blunt chain.

At best, the job takes longer and is hard work. A blunt chain can wear and cause damage to your bar. At worst. a blunt chainsaw can get stuck in the wood or get a nick, fly off and hit your hand. At the very least, you've got downtime.

That might be fine if you're a weekend warrior with time to burn, but if you've got get that job done before knock-off time, you need a sharp machine.

The maintenance of your chainsaw is so important and a keen part of that good practice is knowing how to sharpen your chain.

In theory, it's a relatively simple task but you've got to apply the principles of it well. The short version of this is that each bit should be sharpened as evenly as possible.

When do I sharpen my chain?

Like a cut-throat razor needs to be periodically sharpened, so does the chain of a chainsaw.

All saw chains suffer wear and become dull after a period of sustained use. A dull chain increases the chance of a kickback, and we all know, you do not want that to happen.

You'll know that you chainsaw needs sharpening when you observe the following:
  • The chain does not pull itself into the cut. You'll know this feeling, it's like a dog pulling on a lead, it just goes.
  • If the saw has to be forced to cut by applying a sustained downloads pressure 
  • When bucking, a fine sawdust is flying out from the cut rather than coarse, thick chips. You want your saw dust crunchy, not dust like. 
  • If it looks like the cut is about to set on fire,  even though the chain lubrication is in order and chain tension is correct, you need to sharpen. This is because the blunt chain is causing a fraction too much friction in the cut zone. 
  • The cut wanders in one direction. This is an indication of dull cutters on one side of the chain or irregular cutter lengths. 
  • If you chainsaw "chatters" and "bounces" during the cut, you'll need to check the depth gauge settings and adjust accordingly. 
Naturally, you may now want to learn how to sharpen a chain!

So what tools do you need to sharpen a chainsaw chain?

As far as we are concerned, there are two ways to sharpen a chainsaw a) you operate in a fast and loose manner with a file and b) you do the job properly.

If you are going with option a) all you need is a saw file that's the correct diameter in size. Your operating manual will tell what you need.

If you understand that chainsaw chain maintenance is a really important part of using a chainsaw then option b) is a bit more thought out.

You will want to have to hand:

You can find all the tools for sharpening in these handy kits on Amazon.

Oh, look here's a great example of one here:

arnolo chainsaw sharpening kit

Here's how to safely sharpen your chain

  1. You know how rules often get made because someone does something stupid? The first rule is 'turn your chainsaw off before you sharpen it'! The mind boggles that that has to be the first thing we mention. That said people do juggling with chainsaws that are turned on so go figure... you can actually remove the spark plug cap so the chainsaw ca;t accidentally start.
  2. If you are sharpening chain while it is attached to the chainsaw bar (which us usual), make sure it’s tensioned properly as it is hard to sharpen properly if the chain is loose.
  3. Put on your protective gear, including gloves. You can even add some safety glasses to the deal, especially if you are going to use a rotating sharpener (discussed later on)
  4. Clean the oil and grease off. This prevents any build-up on the file’s teeth or the wheel when grinding.
  5. If you are being super particular, it's time to inspect your chainsaw chain for damage. Keep an eye out for broken cutters, or tie straps, bent or cracked drive links. If your chain is too worn, too damaged, replace it with a quality chain. Loose rivets will need to be replaced (and that's a whole other lesson in itself)
  6. Ensure you have your filing tools at the ready - being your file guide (which ensures a consistent filing angle) and your file.
  7. Begin sharpening your chain! After two or three strokes of the file, check how much material has been removed. If the surface looks uniform, you are doing it right.  
  8. Use the same number of strokes with the file with each link of the chain. If you are using your file guide, each stroke will be conducted at the same angle, meaning the chain is consistently sharpened in the same fashion along the whole chain. 
  9. Only file forwards and never backward. This means you need to lift the file off the chain on the back pull.
Here's a great video tutorial by the team at Bunnings Warehouse in New Zealand of all places:

Can I use a rotary tool to sharpen a chainsaw?

You sure can if the attachment is the right size for the chain. A great example of this kind of tool is the Dremel 100-LG Lawn and Garden Rotary Tool Kit.

It comes with three sharpening attachments designed for use on lawnmower blades, shears, and of course chainsaws and it rocks along at 35,000 RPM.

The Dremel kit includes grinding stones that work best with the attachments as well as cutting wheels for other garden applications so it's win win if you're thinking of buying one.

If your chain has managed to gather some rust, you can probably remove it with an acid bath.

How to reduce the chance of chainsaw kickback

The occurrence of a kickback on a chainsaw can be bloody injurious or even deadly

At the least, you'll get a good scare, at worst you could end up with a chainsaw through your face. 

You think we jest?

 Google kickback injuries to the face and you'll see what we're talking about.

A kickback injury is something you want to wear and is clearly why any person with an iota of sense about personal safety will use some form of safety gear such as gloves or safety chaps when using a chainsaw.

Even if at a minimum, it's a pair of safety classes. 

And personally, we would never use a chainsaw that didn't have a working chain brake which stops the chain from operating in a kickback moment. Those things save lives and limbs!

In New Zealand, it's actually against the law to sell any chainsaw that does not feature a chain brake

There might be a few cheeky hobbits in New Zealand but they sure know a thing or two about product safety.

Causes of kickback

The first is if the chain gets pinched between the material it’s cutting and causes the saw to drive backward into the operator.

The second way is if the tip of the bar comes into contact with something solid (the ground, a log, a branch).

This is the more dangerous form of kickback.

When the tip of the bar hits that solid something at high speed, all the torque from the chain suddenly stopping gets transferred to the body of the chainsaw and the chainsaw wants to flip back at the saw handler, presumably with the throttle still held down.

You begin to see where this is going, literally.

Though putting a chainsaw in the wrong place can cause kickback, the experts at Oregon have put together this list of reasons why kickback can occur either alone or in combination:
  • Improper saw maintenance
  • Dull chain
  • Loose saw chain tension
  • Loose rivets
  • Incorrectly installed chain parts
  • Bent, cracked, or broken saw chain components
  • Incorrectly sharpened chain angles (read our guide on how to sharpen a saw properly)
  • Excessive chain depth gauge settings
  • Incorrect chain depth gauge shapes
Additionally, as the size of the guide bar’s nose increases, so does the potential risk for a kickback.

So what is the science of a kickback?

When you use a chainsaw it creates a 'reaction force'. If you are cutting on the lower half of the saw (closet to the base of the saw), the reaction force is pulled into the body of the saw, or the bumper spikes - this is what you want. When you are cutting with the upper half of the bar, the reaction force tends to act upwards toward the user.

This is a transfer or momentum force.

Hence, if something kicks, the saw is driven back towards the user because the force generated by the engine has to go somewhere.

So how do you avoid a kickback from occurring?

By staying focused on the job at hand. Using a chainsaw can be tiring work and after a hard session, you can find yourself with back muscles you never knew you had.

So concentration is key.

Concentrate on where and how you are placing the top of the saw.

If your arms are getting tired, your back is aching, perhaps it's time to take a break.

Here's some guidance from Work Safe:

Using proper operating techniques will reduce the likelihood of kickback.

  1. Hold the chainsaw firmly with both hands.
  2. Make sure your left thumb is wrapped firmly under the front handle and in the mitt if fitted.
  3. Be aware of the location of the guide bar nose at all times.
  4. Do not let the guide bar nose come in contact with any object. 

Other points to watch are:

  1. Be especially careful when cutting small limbs or light material that may catch in the chain.
  2. Do not over-reach or cut above shoulder height. 
  3. Use extreme caution when re-entering a cut.
  4. Cut only one log at a time.
  5. Correctly maintain your chainsaw. 
  6. Make sure there are no loose-fitting nuts, bolts or screws.
  7. Ensure that safety devices are working.
  8. Make sure the chain is tensioned, sharpened and depth gauges set to the manufacturer's specification.
  9. Use a safety chain (anti-kickback chain) and the correct bar and chain combination.

Here's a really great video tutorial which gives some great times on avoiding kick back. It starts with a hokey demonstration of an accident but the advice given by the presenter is quality stuff:

If you follow good chainsawing practices, in particular being very careful where you place the tip of the chainsaw, you will greatly reduce the chance of a kickback occurring.

The other half of the equation is to ensure that you wear adequate safety gear to protect from injury.
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