The Cutting Edge: Chainsaw Workshop

The weekend of the 24 & 25 March was a ‘cut above’ the rest of our workshops for 27 participants from the region.

Workshop trainer Barry Aitchison shared with us some chainsaw related statistics. National Coronial Information Service data shows at least 99 deaths occurred in Australia between 2000 and 2016 as a result of chainsaw use and tree felling (Source ABC News). According to Barry in 2014 there were over 60 accidents from chainsaw use requiring at least 66 stitches in NSW hospitals. Having worked in the industry for over 33 years Barry believes that the main cause of injury is apathy, complacency and fatigue as most accidents occur in the afternoon.

So what are Barry’s top five tips for safe chainsaw operation and maintenance?

  1. Safety is the number one priority – invest in a good chainsaw and safety equipment. Including chainsaw chaps, helmet, eye and ear protection, gloves, close fitting clothing and lace up boots if possible. A dust mask is also useful to prevent dust and fungi from the wood dust getting into your respiratory system. When in the bush consider using a hi-vis safety vest. Always be aware of other people around you by keeping them in your line of sight.
  2. Chainsaw fuel once mixed does not last forever. At the beginning of the season empty the old fuel from the chainsaw and put in fresh fuel. Use a high octane fuel and a special synthetic chainsaw oil. If the chainsaw is not working check the fuel, spark plug and chainsaw air cleaner first. For new chains soak the chain in bar oil for two hours so the reservoirs in the chain fill up with oil to lubricate the bar.
  3. Use a safety chain with a low profile, this will help prevent kickback. Different chainsaws models require different chains. The chain, bar and sprocket must match. The chain can not be pulled in the reverse direction if the chain and sprocket don’t match. The chain can be fitted the wrong way, so check the cutting edge is facing forward.
  4. A kickback occurs when the top quadrant (or kickback zone) at the end of the cutter bar snags on a log. The resulting torque effect causes the chainsaw bar to kick upwards towards the operator. To help prevent kickback, know where the top of the cutter bar is at all times and put the bottom part of the bar into the log first. Use a safety chain and ensure that the chain brake is working. Modern chainsaws have chain brakes as a standard safety feature. More about kickbacks .
  1. Know your equipment and keep it sharp and clean. The chain can be sharpened using special files designed for each chain. The chainsaw bar can build up a burr that can be removed using a special tool. The burr will slow down the chain spinning on the bar. Carry a wedge to help free your cutter bar if it gets caught in a cut. And apply bright coloured paint to your tools so they don’t get lost or left behind in the forest.

See chainsaw maintenance video 

By providing links to external information in this summary, the Small Farms Network Capital Region is not recommending or promoting any brand of equipment. The links contain the best available diagrams and information on the topic.

The Small Farms Network Capital Region would like to thank Mr Greg Simms from BRURAL for sponsoring this field day. Sponsorship enables us to keep the cost of our workshops affordable.  Check out the range of BRURAL chainsaw equipment in store and online.

This field day was made possible with funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services and sponsorship from BRURAL. Thank you to our sponsors ,the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability, and our hosts Alan and Sue for giving up their weekend to help others learn.