Choosing and maintaining chainsawsIf you’re looking to buy or borrow a chainsaw to do some home land-clearing yourself, I cannot stress how important it is to make sure that you are selecting the proper saw.

Making the proper saw choice — and ensuring that you are performing the proper safety checks and maintenance on it — is extremely important not only for the ease of use, but for your safety as an operator.

There are lots of things to keep in mind before you select a saw. You may even decide that it’s easier to hire a professional to do the job (we would love to give you a free quote). Here are some of the most critical things to consider.

What are you cutting?

This is the most important thing to determine because there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all chainsaw.

Chainsaw selection is determined by the size, diameter and type of tree or brush you’re trying to clear.  If you’re trying to clear an area where there is lots of variety in growth — like most areas are — you may need more than one chainsaw to complete the clearing.

So you’ll want to start your process by surveying the area and determining what you’re working with so you don’t cause harm to the area, yourself, or your saws.

Bar length and engine

The bar length of your saw is typically determined by the diameter of the largest trees you’re cutting; most recommend that your bar length measure at half of the diameter.

Your bar length also plays a major role in determining the power of the motor. Getting a bigger engine with a smaller bar likely won’t make your job easier because of the “extra power.” In fact, it will make your job harder and more dangerous as the saw will be harder to control.

You’ll also want to determine whether you need an electric or cordless saw or a gas saw. Gas saws do tend to be significantly heavier but also cut faster. Electric and cordless saws are lighter and quieter, but have other drawbacks; electric saws require close proximity to an outlet and can’t be used in the rain, while cordless saws sometimes run into issues with battery life.

Cutting chain and tooth shape

Having a sharp and properly selected (and maintained) cutting chain is crucial to your success in clearing. There are a lot of different elements to consider when it comes to the chain.

The pitch and gauge of the chain is extremely important. Pitch is the space between drive links. This can be presented as a fraction of an inch or as a decimal point. The gauge is the width of the drive links, measured in decimal points. The gauge directly relates to the width of the sprocket where the chain is attached.

Tooth shape is another aspect to consider. The chains on most consumer saws are round-toothed, while professional saws can have square-toothed (sometimes called chisel) chains. Both shapes get the job done, but by different methods. Again, it really depends on the type of trees that you’ll be clearing to determine which tooth shape is best for your area. We wrote this to share some of the most popular trees in Middle Tennessee.

Once you’ve selected your chain’s pitch, gauge, and tooth shape, ensuring that the chain is sharp is critical to your success and safety. If you smell burning wood while you’re cutting, or have to press down exceptionally hard, or discover that the saw isn’t making a straight cut, it’s likely that your chain needs to be sharpened.

You also want to check the tension of the chain frequently. Chains naturally stretch as they are used. Having a chain that is too loose or too tight can lead to a dangerous situation. Also, be sure to lubricate the chain to avoid serious damage to your saw. Different types of oils are recommended during different seasons.

Safety and maintenance

Before you start your saw, you want to be sure that you have the appropriate personal protective equipment. You’ll need goggles, leather gloves, hearing protection, and chainsaw chaps. These things can sometimes cost more than the chainsaw itself; however, they are extremely important for your safety.

Be sure to perform regular maintenance on your saws, too. The University of Missouri Extension offers a helpful schedule for maintenance, depending on how long you use the saw and the conditions you’re working in.

If that seems like a lot to consider, it is. But it is really important that you think through all of these things before deciding to tackle a clearing job on your own. You will also need to decide what to do with the brush and timber you cut, consider selling your timber and remember the law regarding burning in Middle Tennessee.

The website Mother Earth News also offers some great suggestions as well.

Or, if you decide that you want some help in clearing your land, please contact us. We can help!