Chain Saw Safety

In order to get the most from your wood stove, you'll have to cut your own wood, and that requires an understanding of chain saw safety.

| January/February 1981

When I first decided to try to make it on my own in an isolated mountain cabin, I suppose I let the "glamor" of the idea get in the way of common sense. Anyway, I soon discovered that the self-sufficient lifestyle demanded that I put myself into a "crash course" mentality in order to pick up the innumerable necessary skills that my city-girl life hadn't taught me.

Since my new home was wood-heated (and because the Colorado winters can be pretty harsh), one of my first self-teaching projects began when I bought a chain saw and set out to gather my own fuel supply.

A lot of my urban friends were skeptical. After all, as they pointed out, I am a small woman. And was I sure, they asked, that I was "up to" tackling such a noisy and dangerous tool? But, after a lot of preparation and a few mistakes (none of which did me any serious harm), I learned the ways of chain saw safety. I can now sit by a warm stove and look out the window at a substantial wood pile, feeling a good deal of pride and satisfaction in what I'm capable of accomplishing.

This article, which is based upon my own learning experiences, will share with you—the beginning chain saw operator—some techniques that, I hope, will Increase your competence and your confidence.

Before You Begin

Right off, make sure that you buy (or, better yet, borrow ... since in that way you might well be able to try several models before deciding what size and type is best for you) a saw you can lift, carry, and maneuver without too much strain. There are a number of "mini-saws" on the market, but you'll need a machine with at least a 14" bar If you Intend to bring in a full-time fuel supply for your wood burner.

Don't wear loose-fitting clothes, which may get in your (or the saw's) way. Instead, rig yourself out in boots with nonslip soles, heavy pants or jeans, a long-sleeved top, and gloves ... and if your hair is long, tie it back out of the way. I also wear safety glasses, earplugs, and—if I'm working on standing trees—a helmet to protect myself from falling limbs.

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