Turn Your Saw Upside Down to Get the Chain Tight

Turn Your Saw Upside Down to Get the Chain Tight

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

This technique will work every time and it is easy to explain to new workers. It uses gravity to position the bar.

Turn the chainsaw upside down. Loosen the side cover nuts. Turn the chain tensioner screw clockwise to tighten the chain.

Tighten the chain until the bottom edge of the drive link touches the edge of the bar rail and then turn 1/4 turn beyond that. Retighten the side cover nuts and flip the saw back over.

Tightening Your Chainsaw

Phillip Kelley, lead instructor and operations manager of North American Training Solutions demonstrates this chain tightening technique.

Chainsaw Sculpture

Chainsaw Sculpture

Work Safely for the Ones You Love

Bears carved from logs are a popular first project for novice chainsaw sculptors (see video below). With some angle cuts, imagination, and a few finishing tools, you can give your honey a Valentine’s gift right from the heart(wood).

Several manufacturers offer chainsaws specifically for carving or sculpting. Adaptations like lighter weight and low vibration enhance precision, and the dime tip bar allows for detailed shaping and carving.

Alternatively, conversion kits are available to outfit your regular chainsaw with a dime tip carving bar, a ¼” pitch carving chain, and the sprocket necessary to run it. This video will show you how.

While chainsaw sculpting is artistic expression, the tool dictates gearing up with all PPE.

Since art is in the eye of the beholder, however, it might be a good idea to accessorize your Valentine’s creation with jewelry, chocolate, or flowers for an extra measure of safety.

This is how you carve the perfect gift!

Smoking and Fueling

Smoking and Fueling

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

You’ve seen the movies, the good guy (or bad guy) tosses his burning cigarette into a pool of gas, igniting a fire. The fire burns up to the gas tank, which explodes into flames, eliminating the bad guy (or good guy). Nice way to end a movie, but not likely.

A cigarette doesn’t burn hot enough to ignite gas. Gas, both in fume or liquid form, ignites between 500 °F and 540 °F. A cigarette at its hottest (when the smoker draws on it) is between 450 °F and 500 °F.

Gas ignition with a cigarette is improbable. The cigarette just isn’t hot enough to start a gas fire.

However, a match or a lighter burns very hot, well over 1000 °F. That is more than hot enough to ignite liquid gas or fumes! Since you have to light a cigarette before you can smoke it, don’t smoke while you are handling fuel or fueling your saw.

We aren’t sure if these are good guys or bad guys blowing up, but this made us laugh (it is accurate too, the lighter does them in). Enjoy!

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.


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 . . .

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.

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.



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.

Five Signs of a Dull Saw Chain

Five Signs of a Dull Saw Chain

Do not think because an accident hasn’t happened to you that it can’t happen.

Do you need to sharpen your chain?

If you notice these signs while working with your chainsaw, it is time to sharpen or possibly replace the saw chain.

  • The saw chain does not pull itself into the wood. It has to be forced to cut by applying pressure to the engine unit.
  • While doing a split cut or a cross cut (making a vertical cut) the saw chain creates fine sawdust instead of coarse strands.
  • Smoke crops up even though the chain lubrication is in working order and the chain tension is correct.
  • The chainsaw runs in one direction causing a crooked cut. This is an indication of dull cutting teeth on one side of the chain or uneven cutting teeth lengths.
  • The chainsaw “rattles” and “bounces” during the cut. It is difficult to achieve precise positioning.

The above information is from the Stihl blog, yet another great resource. There are many good videos online that will help you sharpen your chain and help you use the service marks on the chain.

We have two other important pieces of information for you.

  1. As you see, there is just one saw safety class listed below. That is because it is the only training on the books right now. Baring a miracle – THAT IS YOUR LAST CHANCE in central Georgia. Sign up!
  2. The saw safety newsletter is going to take a break in December. We will be back in January and start right in on the four essential safety features of every saw. Until then, do not depend on others for safety – help yourself!

Saw Safety Holiday Demonstration

Saw Safety Holiday Demonstration

Safety never takes a holiday, but you do, enjoy.

Ah, the joys of Thanksgiving: friends and family, favorite foods, football, and a couple of days off work. But saw safety never takes a holiday. Chances are, someone will hand you that miniature power saw – the electric knife – and ask you to carve the turkey. This video will help you carve that bird with style.

Here’s wishing you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Alton Brown demonstrating electric knife features and how to carve a turkey.