Eroded forest road due to poor planning
“Do It Yourself” Best Management Practices

Chainsaw use

More than 22,000 people will be injured by a chainsaw this year. They will be injured through bad habits, tiredness, or ignorance. If you are reading this web page, you are interested in how to use a chainsaw properly.

Best management practices for chainsawing

Click on the smart guy
Click on the smart guy

Use protective equipment.
Unfortunately, many people who swear by protective equipment like chaps, face shields, and boots have already had an accident or at least a "close call."

If you are operating a chainsaw, you should be wearing:

  • A logger's hard-hat (face, hearing, and head protection)
  • Logging boots
  • Sturdy workgloves
  • Chaps or chainsaw pants

Keep the chainsaw teeth sharp.
Sharp chainsaw teeth will allow you to work efficiently in your woodlot, compelling you to cut trees correctly, instead of any way that is convenient. There are many easy ways to keep the teeth of your chainsaw sharp - kits, rotary tool attachments, or just a few minutes with the proper files. Chainsaw store owners and technicians will show you how to do this correctly. There is no excuse for having dull chainsaw teeth.

Keep the engine running in good condition.
Chainsaws can have the most fickle engines, but only if they are not properly maintained. If you use a chainsaw regularly, you have probably already figured this out. If you are a weekend warrior, your chainsaw is probably not getting the maintenance attention it deserves.

Use chainsaws when you are feeling refreshed, not tired.
Many forest do-it-yourselfers are weekend warriors, going out to their woods with jugs of gas and oil and a mind to see big trees fall. However, chainsaws are loud, heavy and will tire an inexperienced worker out very quickly. Plan to conduct strenuous activity early in your workday or after long rests.

Tired chainsaw users make poor decisions. They cause trees to scrape and damage each other while falling, or hang up in other trees to be left to natural forces. Their reaction time to hazards is slower. Worse, they take on trees that are straight and easy to cut, leaving the low-quality leaners and misshapen trees in the woods.

Find and use a chainsaw that is not too heavy for you. Work on one tree at a time, taking an hour or so to plan the process, make proper cuts for a fall in the correct location, and bring the tree down with timber wedges. Pace your work so you are not trying to race daylight or inclement weather. Forest work that is not done can wait.

Directionally release trees to prevent damaging residual trees.
Directional felling is the process of determining the direction a given tree will fall and making cuts to actually steer the tree as it falls. A "felling hinge" is the hallmark of a good directional cut. It is a safe, efficient, and satisfying way to cut a tree down.

Residual trees should not be damaged during woodland saw work. These residual trees are your future timber or wildlife habitat.

Attend chainsaw training classes
All chainsaw owners should take basic and refresher classes. New techniques for felling trees are developed every year. These classes, available through Cornell Cooperative Extension, the NY Forest Owner's Association, and local chainsaw dealers, are very inexpensive, compared to the cost of an injury. Look for a class that offers thorough safety and equipment maintenance tips. The Game of Logging® classes are conducted in woodlots with lots of hands-on time to see and feel how to fell trees efficiently and safely.

Articles about chainsawing techniques

All the following articles were written by Tim Ard, a Game of Logging instructor. They are included here for your benefit as a chainsaw operator interested in efficiency and safety.

The felling plan

Use of the wedge in logging

Managing spring poles

Small tree felling

Limbing and bucking

Considering side lean

Open face notch and sight line

Setting up the hinge

The back cut

Fiber pull and splitting



Photo by Gary Goff
Home | Index | Tools for Planning a Harvest | Cornell Cooperative Extension ForestryCornell Cooperative Extension helps forest owners

Please cite source: Cornell Cooperative Extension, 2004
Written by James Ochterski, CCE - Schuyler County