How To Safely Use A Chainsaw

by Joseph Truini

If you've ever used a chainsaw to cut down a tree, trim branches, or cut firewood, then you know two things: first, chainsaws are awesome. A sharp chainsaw can slice through the gnarliest tree in a matter of minutes. And second, chainsaws are extremely powerful and lightning fast, which makes them potentially dangerous.

The good news is that anyone—even novice DIYers—can learn to use a chainsaw safely and confidently. Here, I'll share some very simple chainsawing tips and techniques that can greatly reduce the risk of injury.

Chainsaw Safety Features

Chainsaw manufacturers have gone to great lengths to make chainsaws as safe as possible by including the following features:

Safety Gear

You can also dramatically reduce the chance of injuries by wearing proper clothing and safety gear every time you use a chainsaw.

Safe Cutting Techniques

Practice is the best way to become proficient at using a chainsaw. Therefore, it's important to start small until you feel comfortable and confident. Start by slicing up some firewood or taking down a few small trees. Or try trimming some low-hanging branches at shoulder height or lower. Never reach overhead to cut with a chainsaw or climb into a tree with a chainsaw.

Here are some tips and techniques for three common chainsawing chores: felling, limbing, and bucking.


Felling refers to the act of cutting down a tree, a job that's incredibly easy to do with a chainsaw. However, there's a lot that can go wrong if felling is done incorrectly. Keep the following suggestions in mind:

To fell a tree, follow these steps:

  1. Start by cutting a 90-degree notch about halfway into the tree, facing the direction you want it to fall.
  2. Next, saw straight into the opposite side of the tree, directly behind and slightly above the notch. (This is known as the felling cut.) Don't try to cut all the way through the tree. Cut just deep enough until the tree starts to fall. Then pull out the saw and quickly back away along your escape route.
  3. Wait a minute or so for the tree to come fully to rest before approaching it.


Once the tree is on the ground, the next step is to cut off all the branches and limbs, known as "limbing." Again, be careful. The tree can suddenly roll, and there are a lot of tripping hazards when working around a fallen tree.


Bucking simply means cutting a tree into smaller, more manageable pieces. This is typically done after limbing and when sawing logs into firewood.

Chainsaw maintenance tips

Maintaining your chainsaw is important because a well-maintained chainsaw is much safer to use than a neglected one. The owner's manual will provide specific instructions for maintaining your particular saw, but here are a few tips to make any chainsaw run smoother.

So there you have it: a few simple rules and precautions to keep you safe while using a chainsaw. As mentioned earlier, there's no substitute for practice. Take your time, be careful, and welcome to the awesome world of chainsawing!

About the Author:  Joe Truini is a home improvement expert who writes about home remodeling and repair, woodworking projects, and tools for homeowners and professionals. He has authored six books and his work has appeared in several national magazines. Joe also writes for The Home Depot, where they carry a wide selection of chainsaws and sharpeners.

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