Friday, 26 September 2014

How to Properly Cut Wood... with a Chainsaw

The first factor that you must determine when cutting fire wood is whether or not to use an axe or a chainsaw. For the purposes of this blog post I am going to assume you chose the chainsaw (which in my opinion is the much better option anyway). We're going to take you through finding a place to cut to general safety advice.

Finding the best location to cut your wood

The best location to up your wood is somewhere that there is an abundance of woo (duh!) that has already been felled or is dead. The reason for this is felling a tree is a very difficult skill in itself and should only really be attempted by someone with experience in the industry. It is not an impossible skill to learn on your own but having help as a first timer would definitely be a huge help and will help avoid property damage or bodily injury.

Chainsaw Safety

  • Wear safety glasses to protect against sawdust and flying debris
  • Wear hearing protection, especially if using a loud saw
  • Make sure clothing (overalls, hats, gloves, boots) do not obstruct your ability to operate the saw.
  • Cut with a partner if possible and keep a cell phone nearby in case of accident
  • Identify any tree limbs that might be under tension. These limbs will act as a spring or catapult when the tension is released by cutting
  • Keep hands and other body parts away from a running chainsaw.
  • Wear hearing protection if the saw is particularly loud
Follow these rules in order to avoid or limit any accidents! Chainsaws may come with a lot of safety features but they are still dangerous pieces of machinery. The best advice is to exercise caution and follow the instruction manual to a tee!

Cutting the wood

Stance: You need to stand in a way that provides upper-body support and prevents fatigue. Your feet should be spread slightly further than shoulder-length, which will help your upper body support the saw. Be careful of loose footing, such as cut pieces of wood, branches, and animal holes.

Technique: There are generally two directions to cut, upwards and downwards. Most wood is cut best by placing the saw above the wood and cutting down through it (above left). Gravity will usually pull the cut piece away from the log and you can continue cutting in this fashion. But in some cases when the log or branch is under tension, cutting from the top down will cause the wood to pinch causing the saw to become stuck within the cut. In this case, it is best to cut upwards (above right) by placing the saw beneath the wood and cutting up through it.  Using the plastic wedge can help keep larger logs from pinching the saw chain

Branches First: With most fallen trees, it is best to begin cutting at the branch end first. Start by cutting off all branches that are too small for firewood. Place the saw at the base of these branches and cut them off smooth at the part of the limb or log where they are attached.

Balance: Look for branches that may be holding the trunk above the ground. These branches act as props and can be helpful in keeping the trunk elevated for easy cutting. You should observe the complete structure of the tree and plan your cutting in a logical order, removing most props last.

Trunks: As you progress from the top of the tree towards the trunk, the diameter of the wood will gradually thicken. You will still be cutting upwards or downwards, only it will be necessary to work the saw at different angles. Cut the wood at two 45 degree angles, or in the form of an A-framed house. When both sides of the logs are evenly cut, you should finish the piece by cutting directly downward or upward.

Dirt & Debris: Nothing will cause your saw to dull quicker than cutting into the dirt. This is why you should allow branches and other natural props to keep the wood lifted above the ground.

Half-Cut Technique: If a trunk is too heavy to lift from the ground, try cutting it into smaller sections of about six feet in length.  Pre-cut each section to the size of firewood you want, leaving about two inches of each cut unfinished. Then roll the section over, exposing the uncut side. Carefully place the saw into each cut and finish the pieces of firewood. This will make cutting trunks easy and will keep your saw chain from hitting the dirt.

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