Chainsaw Hazards - be aware

When you're cutting wood, chainsaw hazards will present themselves. It's inevitable. The important thing is to find them first, before they find you and your saw chain.

Let's look at some of the hazards that we might encounter, how they might affect our chainsaw, and how we can avoid them.

The list of hazards is rather limited, but a few hazards repeatedly encountered can dull your saw chain and contribute to personal injury.



An Overview of Chainsaw Hazards

Let's define a hazard for this discussion as a foreign object in or on wood that you are cutting. That's simple enough. Here they are:

  • Rock or stones from dragging logs or wood impacting the ground.

  • Dirt from wood stored on the ground.

  • Nails and staples in scrap wood like pallets and fence posts.

  • Hardware and fasteners on gate posts, doors and fences.

  • Wire on former pen, fencing and power pole material.

Nails in the wood pole.






Photo to the right shows aluminum letters and numbers that were nailed into place with steel nails to identify a power pole. I cut on either side of these chainsaw hazards in order to get the wood and avoid the problems.




Hardware found in the wood power pole.

To the left is a hefty piece of hardware that was used to hold on a guy wire. Cutting around each side of the hazard allowed me to free it from the wood after I split it. Hitting this with a chainsaw would be unmistakable and unforgettable.

Railroad nails hammered into the wood power pole.




Photo right shows smaller and less noticeable chainsaw hazards. These are old railroad tie year marker nails from 1917 and 1919. They don't belong in the power pole, but someone thought they should go there. This was an easy hazard to avoid, but not easy to spot.



Most of these hazards will dull your blade, but some of them can cause your saw to jump out of control. Wire is the bad one as it can get tangled in the saw chain, and that can be a hazard to you.

The key is avoidance, and the way to do that is to be aware.



Awareness and Avoidance

There are five basic ways to be aware of and avoid chainsaw hazards. Here is what I do to help keep me and my saw chain out of trouble.

Look at the wood before you cut. Examine the path that your saw chain will travel to see if stones, hardware or wire are in the way. Much of this examination can be done while handling your wood. If you spot something odd, examine more closely and keep it in mind.

Feel for the hazards. I don't like to cut blindly on a log. I like to see all the way around it, or at least be able to feel around it to make certain I'm not cutting into a large bolt or ground wire that runs the length of the pole. If you cut blindly on one log without being able to see or feel around it, you run the chance of hitting something embedded in the log you're cutting as well as the one right up next to it.

Wood handling contributes to embedded objects. Dirt, rocks, gravel and stones can be forced into wood poles if you're skidding them along the ground to the location where they'll be cut. I use a peavey to turn the logs over so I can give them a quick look to see if I'm setting myself up for a dull saw chain.

Storage presents common chainsaw hazards like dirt. I learned that pallets stored on edge are much easier to handle, cut and keep clean.

Your approach to cutting makes a difference as well. Cut where you can see, and be ever mindful to back off and stop cutting immediately if you hear or feel something unusual. Assess the situation before proceeding.

For surface dirt, cutting with the bottom of the bar (which is usual) will draw the dirt off the wood while you cut. Cutting with the top of the bar (undercutting) will push the dirt into your cut and help dull the saw chain.

The Bottom Line

Chainsaw hazards are going to exist wherever and whenever you use a chainsaw to cut wood. Scrap wood is especially susceptible to embedded hazards. Use common sense and good judgment, and you'll keep your saw chain sharp and be in a much safer position than you would if you simply blindly went forward with cutting your firewood.



Done with Chainsaw Hazards, back to Heating with Wood

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