Avoid the Kickback Zone
Cutting with the chain on the bottom of the bar is the most common and natural-feeling way to cut. The saw pulls slightly and is easy to control by maintaining a firm grip. Cutting from the underside of a branch requires you to cut with the top of the bar. This is a little unnerving at first because the saw pushes toward you. But it’s safe as long as you’re well braced and follow all other precautions.
However, there’s one spot on the bar that you should carefully avoid. This spot, called the kickback zone, is the top half of the bar’s tip. If the kickback zone comes in with something while the chain is moving, the saw will kick up and back toward you. That’s why modern chain saws are equipped with a chain brake designed to stop the chain if a kickback occurs. It’s also the reason you should always maintain an encircling grip with your thumb around the front handle. But the best defense is to avoid the kickback zone.
How to Know When it’s Time to Sharpen
A sharp chain cuts well with very little force on the bar, while a dull chain tends to ride in the cut without deepening it. If you’re forcing the saw to persuade it to cut, the chain is dull and needs sharpening. Also, when the chain spits out dust instead of chips, it’s time to grab a round file and sharpen the cutters. Find our complete guide to sharpening a chain saw here.
The most common chain saw injuries to the thigh and left arm can be virtually eliminated with just a two simple precautions.
- First, always wrap the thumb of your left hand around the front handle while you’re cutting. This encircling grip keeps the saw under control in the event of a kickback.
- Second, when you move from place to place with the saw running, even if it’s only to the next branch, always remove your right hand from the back handle and carry the saw at your side with your left hand holding the front handle. Then if you trip or stumble, there’s no way the saw’s engine can accelerate and start the chain spinning.