Oil and Fuel

Oil and Fuel

Carefulness costs you nothing. Carelessness may cost you your life.

A well-lubricated chainsaw is crucial.


If it isn’t oiled, heat will build up from friction, the saw will need more gas, and the chain won’t turn as fast.

Most saws are self-lubricating.

There is an oil reservoir in the housing from which oil is pumped out using the same crankshaft assembly that turns the chain. Oil is pumped into the groove in the bar. As the chain runs, it lubricates itself and the bar.

Check the oil level when you refuel the saw.

Use chainsaw oil. It is cheaper than regular oil, stays on the chain better, and has better sling characteristics. Using old motor oil is not a good idea since it has metal particles in it and may dull the chain.


Each chainsaw manufacturer has specific requirements for the fuel and oil mixture. On professional saws, the fuel oil mixtures are as high as 50:1. On less expensive saws they can be as low as 25:1. All fuel/oil mixtures must meet the manufacturers’ specifications.

This is an easy way to test oil flow on your chain.


Soil Microbes in Your Georgia Garden Soil

In the middle of soil health month this Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) video is worth a watch.  Dr. Kris Nochols explains the importance of a healthy balance of soil microorganisms.  The photos of the microbes are fantastic.  You will never refer to your “soil”  as “dirt” again.  Enjoy!

Happy Gardening!

The Bar

The Bar

Carefulness costs you nothing. Carelessness may cost you your life.

Let’s talk about the bar…

No, not that place you may go after work. There is much to be said for a cozy watering hole, but we aren’t going to talk about that today. Let’s have a heart-to-heart about your saw bar. It is definitely under-loved and over-used.

The bar is just as important as the chain, and it needs attention. Follow these steps to give your bar the TLC it needs:

  • Wearing gloves, take the bar off the saw. Check to see if it is straight. On a long bar, you can sight down it. If you have a flat surface, lay a bar of any length down on the surface and look for light underneath it. If the bar is curved, it’s time to replace it.
  • To make sure the side rails are level, stand the bar on its edge. It should stand up on its own. If not, use your flat file to level it out by filing from the tip downwards towards the opposite end. Test both the top and the bottom of the bar.
  • Check the bar edges for burrs. Check both sides of both sides. You can do this by running a flat file along the edge of the bar starting near the tip and working towards the opposite end. File off any burrs.
  • Clean the groove on the bar by running a bar cleaning tool in the groove to get the debris out.
    bar cleaning tool

  • Grease the sprockets if you have a sprocket-nosed bar. There is a special grease gun that can be purchased to do this. Look for the hole near the sprocket that’s usually labeled “grease” and fill it with grease.
  • Finally, put a new chain on it and check the chain for excessive side-to-side wiggle. The rails can spread when a pinched bar wiggles in a tree. If your chain wobbles side-to-side, time to get a new bar.
  • Each time you sharpen the chain, flip the bar over to even the wear on both sides of the bar.

Now that this bar work is done, you we can talk about that other one . . .

Soil pH 101 for Georgia Gardeners

Next in our series of posts on soil health, we want to explore soil pH and its importance to garden food crops.  This involves remembering some of your high school chemistry so grab your cup of coffee to get the brain waves working.

pH is the measure of hydrogen ion activity

Soil acidity is a chemical factor that can affect food crop growth.  Soil pH, the measure of hydrogen ion activity in a solution, is important for soil nutrient availability.

Think back to high school chemistry and that daunting Periodic Table.  The element hydrogen (H) is located in the upper right hand corner and is carries a +1.  That +1 means it can easily interact with elements with a -1 or a -2.  Remember water is H2O.  Two hydrogen +1s and one oxygen -2.  Sound familiar?

Soil pH basics for Georgia Gardeners
The daunting periodic table

The pH scale is graduated from 0 to 14. The midpoint (7) separates acid from alkaline. Any number below 7 is acidic—the lower the number, the more acidic.  The lower the number the increased H +1 activity.

A soil pH above 7 denotes alkaline soil conditions.   The higher the number the increased OH -1 activity.  The pH scale is logarithmic; a soil with a pH of 5.0 is 10 times more acidic that one with a pH of 6.0 and 100 times more than a pH of 7.0.

pH affects nutrient availability

This activity of H+1 and OH-1 can bind up nutrients that plants need by bonding with other soil ions.  This is a very simplistic explanation and true soil chemistry is much more complicated.  But, I think this gives you an idea of how pH is can be very important to plant growth.   For example, at a soil pH of 5.0 much of the nitrogen fertilizer you add to the soil won’t be available to be absorbed by your plants!

Soil pH basics for Georgia Gardeners
Nutrient availability and pH. The wider the band the greater the availability. (USDA)

Correcting soil pH

A soil pH that is too low or too high can decrease the amount of nutrients absorbed by plant roots. Lime can be used to increase the soil pH, while sulfur can be used to decrease it.  An accurate measure of soil pH is needed before corrections should be made.

Soil pH also influences other reactions in soil, such as microbial activity. Most food crops grow best in soils with a very slightly acidic pH, close to a neutral pH of 7.   Most soils in Georgia, however, are too acidic, and lime is often needed to maintain ideal growth conditions.

Winter is a great time to have your soil pH tested.  Contact your local UGA Extension office for assistance.   To find out how to properly collect your soil for testing see Soil Testing for Home Lawns, Gardens, and Wildlife Plots.

Happy Gardening and congratulations on making it through the chemistry lesson!

Sharpening Tips

Sharpening Tips

Carefulness costs you nothing. Carelessness may cost you your life.

After a certain amount of use, the cutters on your saw chain will need sharpening. When you see dust rather than chips, it’s time.

If you’re using a square chisel, take it to the shop. Those square files are tricky to use.

You can sharpen all other cutters yourself.

Follow these steps to find the right file for your cutter:

  • Determine the pitch of your chain; measure any three consecutive rivets in the saw chain from center to center in 1/16ths of an inch. Divide that measurement in half. This number is the pitch.
  • Use this chart to determine the size of the file you need.
  • The file size needed for your chain may also be printed on the saw bar.
  • Don’t forget to file the depth gauge with a depth gauge tool. Otherwise you’ll still have a slow cut with a sharp chain.
    depth gauge tool

  • Most cutters have a witness line on the top of the tooth. It will help you maintain the correct file angle when sharpening.
  • When the cutter is sharpened to the witness mark, it is time to discard the chain.

There are many great videos online to help with sharpening.

A sharp chain is a safe chain.

Soil Texture in Georgia Soils

How much soil do you need to refill your raised beds?-A Guest Post by Steve Pettis

For our first blog post on soil health we are going back to basics:  soil texture.   Knowing what soil texture we have will allow us to work towards improving it for our use.

Soil scientists tell us that the texture of soil is based on the proportions of sand, silt, and clay:

  • Sand:  particles with diameters from 0.05 to 2.0 mm.  They are the largest of the soil particle types.  Soils high in sand drain well. However, they do not hold nutrients well and are not very fertile.
  • Silt:  particles with diameters from 0.002 to 0.05 mm.  These are the medium sized particles.  These soils hold water and nutrients well and are considered fertile.
  • Clay:  particles with diameters less than 0.002 mm.  These are the smallest of the soil particles.  Clay soils hold water and nutrients well.  However, these soils have small pore spaces and show poor water drainage.  Soils high in clay can form hard clumps when they are dry and become slick when wet.

Web Soil Survey Tool

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has done extensive research on soil and has actually mapped the soil texture.  They have developed a wonderful computer tool useful in determining soil texture for a specific location.  The Web Soil Survey allows you to find out your soil textural class at your garden.  The website has easy to follow instructions and it can be as simple as typing in your garden address.

When typing in my home address I find that the native soil at my garden is sandy, clay loam.   Connecting the lines on the soil texture triangle below, I learn that my soil is about 60% sand, 30% clay, and 10% silt.   That surprises me.  I would have guessed higher in clay particles.

NRCS’s Soil Texture Triangle

By using other tabs on the computer program I can see how the NRCS views the properties of this type of soil.  I encourage you to visit the website and play with the computer program.  What did you find out about your soil texture?


Chains and Cutters

Chains and Cutters

Carefulness costs you nothing. Carelessness may cost you your life.

While saw chains and cutters all have the same end purpose, different configurations offer differences in speed and handling and may require different maintenance.

Have you got a standard, semi-skip, or full-skip chain?

The standard or full house chain has the most teeth and is common on bars up to 24 inches. It cuts fast and smooth.

The semi-skip saw chain is a specialty chain used by people who want a balance between standard and skip chains. They are only available with square chisel cutters.

Finally, the full-skip chain is used on bars 24 inches or longer. It has better chip clearance in long cuts and a quicker sharpening time. However, it can be prone to vibration, and it can be grabby on smaller cuts because it has fewer teeth.

Even though they all have the same parts, there are different types of cutters. Low profile cutters are generally found on consumer and small arborist saws. They have safety features and are low kickback. The chisel is the most popular. It has the fastest cutting speed and does not dull quickly. The semi-chisel doesn’t cut as fast, but stays sharper longer than the chisel. The square chisel is not very common and needs to be sharpened on a machine by a professional.

Comparing the cutting speed of various chain types…

This is a nice video comparing the speed of different chains and cutters.

Soil Facts for Every Georgia Gardener

Experienced gardeners realize that the success of their gardens starts with healthy soil.  But, what does healthy soil really look like?  Here is a snapshot:

Healthy soil is full of organisms

Soil is not inert; it is full of living organisms that are important in the soil ecosystem.  Viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, and earthworms are all essential in healthy soil.  Most of these organisms cannot be seen with  the naked eye.  A virus is only 0.03 to 0.02 micrometers in width while a much larger earthworm can be an indication of soil health.   To compare the size of soil organisms visit Cells Alive.  Researching these soil residents would be a fun thing to do in the cold days of winter.

Healthy garden soil has a pH of 6 to 7

pH is the measure of hydrogen ion concentration.  In the soil it is a part of complex chemical interactions.  Simply put, soil nutrients are not available for the plant roots to absorb at high and low pHs.  Have your soil tested regularly to determine your soil pH and get advice on how to correct it if needed.

Soil with compost

Compost is important

Organic matter assists desired soil chemistry, improves soil texture, can add nutrition to the soil, and can aid in the increasing the microorganisms.  Making your own compost can be a very rewarding way to use garden scraps.  This could be a great goal for 2017.

Soil chemistry and the soil ecosystem are complicated and intricate topics.  Check with your local UGA Cooperative Extension office to see what soil workshops are being offered this winter.  During the first part of 2017 we are going to do several in-depth posts about healthy soil on this blog.  We hope you will be a part of the discussion.

Happy Gardening!



What causes kickback?

The most common cause of accidents is kickback. Kickback occurs when the top quarter of the saw blade, also known as the kickback zone, contacts a solid object (wood or metal). Because the cutter is coming down the edge of the saw bar in the kickback zone, the depth gauge is lower than it should be in relation to the tooth. Literally, the saw bites off more than it can chew, stopping or slowing the chain. The result is a rotational force that flings the bar backward, into the operator. When the bar rears back, the chain break will be activated and stop the chain in 1/55th of second. The saw may still strike you, but the chain is not rotating and the damage will not be as severe.


Low Kickback Chains (aka Safety Chains)

Low kickback chains are commonly found on saws for homeowners and are standard equipment on many new saws. As you can see from the picture, low kickback chains have an additional depth gauge between the cutters. The extra depth gauge is either the result of a special drive link (called a bumper drive link) or putting a bumper on the tie straps.

The depth gauge sets the depth or thickness of the chip produced by the cutting corner of the cutter. The depth gauge is an important safety feature. The thicker the chip, the more severe the potential kickback. By regulating chip size, depth gauges also regulate the severity of reactive forces.

  1. Low kickback chains really do reduce kickback, but they’re not popular with professionals for two reasons.
    If you’re felling trees, it makes a bore cut nearly impossible. The bore cut is a safety technique that minimizes the possibility of getting injured or killed by the barber chair or stump jump. Because the upper half of the bar tip won’t cut well, bore cuts go very slowly.
  2. If you sharpen the chain yourself, a safety chain can be more difficult to sharpen. This isn’t a problem if you take your chain to a dealer to sharpen.