How To Safely Operate a Chainsaw When Building a Cabin

By: John Garcia | Date Posted: November 5, 2021

How To Safely Operate a Chainsaw? It is not uncommon for people to have reservations about the use of chainsaws. One reason for this is that many are unaware of how these saws work, and their potential dangers. This article aims to dispel the myths surrounding chainsaws by providing some practical tips on using them safely in your log cabin building project. We will start with a brief history of the chainsaws, followed by an overview of how they work. We will then cover common mistakes when operating a chainsaw before moving on to more specific advice on how best to use one when cutting logs or branches to build cabin frames or furniture, or any other project for that matter.

History of the Chainsaw

Two Scottish doctors, John Aitken and James Jeffrey, designed one of the earliest versions of a chainsaw in 1780. Their design featured a large wheel attached to a handle, driving a series of cutting edges around its circumference. Soon after, people started attaching blades from old grindstones to wooden handles to cut their firewood for heating homes. The term “chainsaw,” as used today, originated in the 1920s when Alaskan prospectors developed a method to cut through thick, permafrost-frozen tree trunks. This innovation helped them move out of remote areas more quickly. They improved the design by attaching chains to the blades for a better grip on larger wood pieces.

How Chainsaws Work

Chainsaws are one of the most versatile tools used in forestry and wood harvesting. A typical modern chainsaw consists of a 32-inch long bar with a sharp metal blade at the end that turns rapidly when pulled along an object. The teeth along the edge of the saw’s blade usually have jagged points that face away from the handle of the saw so they don’t dig into it each time they come around on their return stroke.

As the expert reviews at explain, because cutting through wood requires you to push down onto what you are trying to cut, chainsaws also have kickback springs that return the blade to its original position so it can be repositioned for the next cut. Chainsaws work by pulling the blade backward and forwards along an object, rather than cutting into it (like a knife) or chopping straight through (like an ax). The motion makes the blade rotate rapidly (almost 6000 RPM in some models). Instead of trying to cut through a log by forcing the blade straight down, as with an ax, you move the saw back and forth across it. This works much like a crosscut or bucksaw.

How To Safely Operate a Chainsaw

How To Safely Operate a Chainsaw

Starting your chainsaw

Before starting up your chainsaw, always ensure that the chain has stopped moving completely after being switched off. Place one foot firmly on the bar of the saw near the engine, while you pull on the starter cord to ensure that there is no tension in it. If there is, release the trigger immediately and wind out any slack in the chain. Then pull on the handle to start your saw.

Never rest your fingers anywhere but on the handles

One of the most common causes of injury when operating a chainsaw is touching any part of its moving blade. Unfortunately, this often occurs when people are tired or distracted by other thoughts while cutting wood. The reason it can be so dangerous is that mishandling a chainsaw may cause serious physical harm, even death in some cases. This happens if contact occurs between an object (a finger for example), and either one of two places: anywhere along the length of a running chainsaw blade, or any part of the mechanism that drives it. This means that starting your saw without a firm grip on its handles puts you at risk of injury, potentially tearing off your hand or fingers, or causing damage to other body parts, such as your eyes.

Always cut with clean air

When using your chainsaw in dusty conditions, take great care to prevent the air intake from sucking up any loose debris near your work area. A buildup of dust can easily cause this type of engine to stall out and overheat. If this happens while cutting wood, an operator may lose control of the saw and injure themselves.

Remember to Breathe!

Never use your chainsaw unless you’re wearing suitable protective gear such as gloves, chaps, and helmets with goggles or glasses. You should also wear a head covering that can protect against flying wood chips and sparks. While you might naturally start breathing through your mouth when tired, especially in hot conditions, this action leads to inhaling a high concentration of carbon monoxide from your engine’s exhaust. To avoid this happening, always remember to breathe in clean air from where there is an opening closer to the front of the machine. A good idea is to keep a leafy branch nearby that’s within easy reach so that you can keep your face close to it for a supply of fresh air.

Common Mistakes During Chainsaw Use

As with most tasks, performing them safely requires specific methods to prevent injuries. While accidents can still occur despite taking precautions against potential dangers, learning how to avoid common mistakes reduces the chances of injury. Here are some tips to keep in mind when operating a chainsaw:

  • Always grip the saw firmly with both hands at all times during its operation
  • Keep your body positioned so you can maintain control of it during unexpected situations
  • Don’t operate your saw if it is damaged or defective, have it checked out before using
  • Cut trees slowly and avoid cutting beyond tree limbs that are already dead down low on tree trunks as this creates additional stress on the tree which may cause it to fall quickly or unexpectedly onto you
  • Keep your footing stable while cutting trees, this is achieved by making sure you are in a secure position before ever moving the saw into the tree
  • Ensure that no one else is close when cutting trees, especially children. If possible, make sure they are behind you as some may wander out from behind without warning.

Chainsaw Safety Precautions to Practice During Tree Cutting

As with any tool, there’s a specific way of using it as safely as possible so accidents don’t happen. When operating a chainsaw, some safety precautions to keep in mind include:

  • Ensure that the chain brake is on and fully engaged before clearing or carrying wood away from the tree felling site or touching the saw trigger
  • Ensure you position the chainsaw at least 50 feet (15 meters) away from the fueling area before starting up your machine.
  • Keep oil, fuel, and fire sources away from the cutting site if possible so there are no flammable liquids or gases nearby
  • Always keep one hand on the front handle even when making a cut to maintain control of the saw, particularly when making overhead cuts

There are many ways to stay safe while using a chainsaw to build your cabin, including how to use them safely. However, an accident can still happen despite following all safety precautions. Hopefully, you’ve learned some helpful tips about how to be as safe as possible while operating these dangerous but useful tools.

Thank you for reading!


John is the founder and chief editor of Homienjoy. With over 15 years of experience in the home improvement industry, John is passionate about helping homeowners confidently tackle their projects. Holding a civil engineering degree and working as a contractor, project manager, and consultant, John brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Homienjoy community.

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