Using a Chainsaw – How To Do It Properly (and Safely)

| Last Updated: February 6, 2021

Tool Tango is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

If you're not familiar with chainsaws, then there's plenty to learn over time.

However, in the article below, we've included some key pieces of information to remember when using a chainsaw for the first time. 

Chainsaw Terminology You'll Encounter in This Article

It's important to know the various terminology so you can stay safe and know what you're doing. Below are some common terms you'll encounter in the world of chainsaws.

  • Guide Bar - The guide bar is what the chain wraps around.

  • Safety Throttle - Most chainsaws require you to hold down two throttle triggers in order to operate the chainsaw. This safety feature is in place to protect users from accidentally turning the chainsaw on.

  • Chain Brake - Your chain brake is an important safety feature that is controlled by pushing the top hand-guard forward to engage and backward to disengage. When enabled, the spring can stop the chain in less than a second.

  • Choke - The choke controls the air and fuel that reaches the engine. 

How to Use a Chainsaw

In the section below, we've provided you with a step by step guide on how to use a chainsaw properly. 

How to Start a Chainsaw

Starting your chainsaw is relatively easy once you get the hang of it; take a look at the step by step guide on how to start your chainsaw.

  1. Find your balance and steady grip - Have your chainsaw on the ground with your right foot on the rear handle firmly, with your left hand on the top handle.
  1. Engage the chain brake and open choke - Ensure the chain brake is engaged, turn the chainsaw on and fully open the choke.
  1. Press the primer and pull the cord - Press the fuel primer bulb three times in order for a faster ignition and then pull the starting cord a few times. 
  1. Partially close the choke - Close the choke halfway when you hear the engine failing.

  2. Fully close the choke - Pull the cord again, and it should start idling, let it idle for 30 seconds and then fully close the choke. 
  1. Disengage the chain brake - Pull back your handle to disengage the chain brake, lift the chainsaw up and pull the throttle. 

Chainsaw Cutting Techniques

There are many cutting techniques, but we'll cover just a few common techniques you can expect to use when you first start out. 

Overbucking - Overbucking a tree is when you cut from top to bottom of a horizontal tree or log. It's the most common cutting technique.

Photo credit:

Underbucking - The opposite of overbucking, you cut the horizontal tree or log from bottom to top. 

Photo credit:

Limbing - This is the process of removing branches off a fallen tree or log. Most experts recommend starting from the top side and then moving around the tree until you reach the underside. 

Photo credit:

Safety Aspects to Keep in Mind

There are many safety tips and advice to follow when operating a chainsaw. Take a look below at some chainsaw safety basics. 

  1. Always keep two hands on the chainsaw when operating the tool.
  2. Ensure the chainsaw is stored away from debris and wet conditions.
  3. Do not saw using the nose of your chainsaw.
  4. Do not wear loose-fitting clothing as it can become trapped in the chainsaw.
  5. Engage the chain brake when moving over uneven terrain. 

Essential Gear To Consider Using a Chainsaw

Safety equipment is important when operating a chainsaw. Below you'll find some essential chainsaw gear and a brief explanation of why they're so important. 

Helmet - Wearing a helmet will allow you to guard your eyes against debris like wood chippings that could otherwise end up in your eye.

A helmet also protects you from kickback, which is when you use the nose of your chainsaw to cut wood, and the chain pinches the wood and throws itself upward. 

Gloves - Gloves are usually made with multiple protective layers of Kevlar and multiple other materials.

If there's ever a time when you aren't paying attention, and somehow your hand touches the chain when running, the Kevlar could save you from a nasty deep gash. 

Chaps - Chaps are pants that you clip around what you're already wearing. They also have protective Kevlar layers and are bright orange to help people spot you in the woods. 


Perfecting your technique is important if you want to reduce the time it takes to complete the initial set up and saw. The above article should provide you with all the information necessary to get started.