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Thread: Chainsaw 101

  1. #1
    Permanently Removed CALFFBOU's Avatar
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    Sep 2002

    Lightbulb Chainsaw 101

    Just looking for general insight in chainsaws. You
    guys/gals always throw some good info. out. I am not
    am expert, but will kick down first-

    -Let a spark plug warm up a few seconds for going
    all out on the saw.

    -Make sure the "shark fins" on the chain point
    back towars the power unit.

    And my favorite-

    -Start a saw on the ground, at the unit before
    going aloft. Why?
    -Make sure it starts
    -You have a warm saw that will start before you
    start carving.

    And- I dont know how true this is, but dont keep
    old 2 stroke fuel in the tank, it may gum up.
    (Please let me know about this one...Thanks)

    Ok, please share...Bou

  2. #2
    Permanently Removed CALFFBOU's Avatar
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    Default Also-

    Maybe someone talk about chain tightening and spacing?
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  3. #3
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    Seen a lot of dept's remove the chain brake or safety's. May want to touch on why the safety features are there.

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber MalahatTwo7's Avatar
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    Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.



    Don't use your turnout pants as a form of chain brake when starting the unit on a peaked (or any other) roof.

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  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber BurnCMSFD's Avatar
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    Wasilla, Alaska

    Default 101

    Hey bou, I am a S-212 instructor and have almost 20 years making myself death with those darn things, I think you only had one question- about the gas, its good to get rid of it when it has been in the saw for awhile, we change are gas out on most of equipment at least once a year unless we know it has been run. In my personal saw I will dump it after a couple of months..why I like fresh gas it smells better and my motor does to. I was doing a class the other day and I had a saw run backwards, I have only seen two other saws do that in 20 years, in that case you want the shark fin (depth guage/raker) pointing away from saw.

    Burn<br />LT/EMT/Inst />Central Mat-Su FD<br />Wasilla Alaska

  6. #6
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Mar 2000


    Secure speaker mics well before starting chainsaw.
    IACOJ Canine Officer

  7. #7
    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Jun 2002
    Glenn Dale Md, Heart of the P.G. County Fire Belt....

    Cool OK........................

    Several Points.

    Fuel DOES go "stale" if it sits too long, like over the Summer (or Winter) but a "Normal" FD Saw shouldn't have that problem. Saws used only during Wildfire season might encounter this.

    The Guy (person?) in the picture illustrates several questionable practices at once. First, is he cutting the rafters? Look at the lack of a depth gauge. Why haven't the shingles been scraped clear of the cut line? Normal saw chains are meant to cut CLEAN WOOD only.

    Safe spacing on a roof is computed by the "Shake" factor. If it shakes, it ain't safe.

    I tend to agree with those few Chiefs who view roof operations as "Get up with as few as necessary, get done, get down". Far too many Firefighters (and Officers) think that the roof is a great place to see and be seen. Wrong. It's not the bleachers. Get Done, Get Down.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    First, is he cutting the rafters? Look at the lack of a depth gauge. Why haven't the shingles been scraped clear of the cut line?

    It's California, Harve -- home of fruits, nuts, Bou, and wood-shingle roofs

    That's my guess on the shingles anyway. Leather on my head, asphalt on my roof is my preference.

    *IF* you have someone whose used to operating saws *AND* is thinking you can avoid cutting rafters w/o a depth guage -- I can do it (I hate pitched roofs, please assign me *anywhere* else, please!) and we have several experienced members (mostly trades people) who do well...not necessarily a role for a 20 y/o rookie who only runs chainsaws at the fire department -- I cut a lot of firewood, brush, etc and over the years I've learned to listen to my saw and can usually hear problems before I can even see or feel them developing and I don't know anything other than experience, experience, experience that can teach that well. Hmmm, saw is loading up, better stop cutting this rafter...
    IACOJ Canine Officer

  9. #9
    IACOJ BOD FlyingKiwi's Avatar
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    May 2002
    New Zealand


    Two rules.

    1. Never cut above your shoulder height.

    2. Never cut straight back between your legs while looking straight down at the blade (As in the photo). Kick back is a real B!tch on helmets and faces.

    PS. If the guy operating the saw is dressed the same as his number two, then neither of them should have been allowed to set foot on the ladder. NO GLOVES.
    Last edited by FlyingKiwi; 05-13-2004 at 08:29 PM.
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  10. #10
    Forum Member SafetyPro's Avatar
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    Dec 2003
    Santa Cruz, CA


    As far as chain tension goes, I was trained to pull the chain away from the bar...if the protrusions on the underside of the chain clear the bar, it's too loose. May have to be adjusted during heavy cutting as everything heats up.

    On the fuel question, we run our saws about 10 minutes apiece every weekend (not counting calls), so we haven't had a problem with the fuel. However, the State requires that we store the power tools in our OES engine dry.

    We always start our saws before going up on the roof for the reasons you mention...it's pain to get up top and THEN realize your saw's empty or not working.

    We carry 2 chainsaws on each engine: one dedicated for structural work and one for brush work. Basically the same saw with a carbide-tip chain on the structural saw and a standard chain on the brush saw.
    Chris Gaylord
    Emergency Planner / Fire Captain, UC Santa Cruz FD

  11. #11
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    Default Fuel Ideas

    I got some great feedback on the fuel question when I posted... See "Volunteer Forum" thread "Keeping fuel fresh". Now too bad my personal chain saw was declared D.O.A. by the repair shop today! (didn't have anything to do with fuel) Doc

  12. #12
    Forum Member Weruj1's Avatar
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    NW Ohio


    doc........you couldnt bring 'er back ? or did it have an advance directive ?
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  13. #13
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    On the chain its probably worth mentioning the teeth face away from the saw on top go towards the saw on the bottom of the bar.

    Rotate your bar every time you clean the saw (the brand name right side up one time, upside down the next) this helps avoid getting a bend to one side in the bar.

    Clean the saw after use and inspect it each time. (Easily said but I think we've all seen our share of dirty saws on engines)

    Check the fuel before use, and before starting a new task. It's no fun running out of fuel 1/2 way through your pie cut or on a roof. Just because the saw starts doesn't mean its full and saws go through fuel fast. Same goes for the bar oil, and make sure it is oiling properly (should throw oil in front of the saw if you point it at the ground).

    If you carry unmixed fuel on the engine for other equipment (aux pump, generator etc) make sure the cans are differant shapes or well marked, straight gas will ruin a saw in no time. I've used oval and round cans or marked the mixed fuel with a large yellow band painted around the body and 50-1 stenciled across it to make sure it is hard to mix up, also good if you can store the 2 fuels in differant compartments.

    As for the chain tension I was taught that one guide should just clear or be even with the bar when pulled, the guides on either side should not clear the groove. Too tight will damage the bar and over work the saw, too loose and the chain may come off.

    Fuel should be good for 3-6 months but I've run year old fuel without a problem in my own saw, there are a number of synthetic 2 stroke oils such as Optimal that include a fuel stabilizer in them extending the fuels life. Old fuel is a good candidate for burn mix in the drip torches.

    The brake should not be removed since that is what will help keep the saw from meeting your face if you are holding the saw right (hand on handle bar behind the brake so when the saw kicks back your arm trips the brake).

    Never use the saw 1 handed, (I've seen this tried ).

    Try to avoid cutting rocks and dirt on wildland fires (dulls the chain really fast), let the pulaskis dig out the staubs and roots.

    Cut brush flat with the ground not at a 45, it takes a little more work but those sharp points make nice pungie stakes, flat ones don't.

    Keep the chain sharp, the 5 minutes it takes to put an edge on the chain will save you alot of work, I try to touch up the chain after a couple of refuels or after use as needed. If the chain is smoking stop and sharpen it, swap it out with a sharp one or get an axe, making smoke signals with the saw will damage the bar, chain and over work the saw.

    Carry spare chains.

    Don't use a saw if you haven't been trained, for some reason everybody thinks they know how to run a chainsaw.

    Now a question
    Does anyone use saw chaps for roof ops, I've seen them on wildland fires but never in structure use.

  14. #14
    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Aug 2000
    Somewhere between genius and insanity!


    Bring an axe with you as a backup... axes don't require fuel, bar oil and they always work up on the roof!
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  15. #15
    MembersZone Subscriber Firefighter430's Avatar
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    Jul 1999
    Virgilina, VA USA


    Chainsaws are probably the best vent saws out there for residential roof operations but a chainsaw is also one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment you will ever use. With an exposed 18-20Ē two sided blade that normally rips through wood in a flash, most cloth and skin are not a problem and the saw does not care one way or the other.

    If you use a chainsaw during a forestry operation wear chaps, eye protection, hearing protection along with your normal forestry PPE.

    If you use one for vent ops of course wear full PPE and we donít do it but it would probably be good to wear chaps over bunker pants but may hamper movement. If you hit your bunker pants you do have a limited amount of protection but I stress limited. Also if the chainsaw gets into your bunker pants the depts. out of a few hundred verses $50 for chaps.

    I would check with you local forestry department to see if they offer a chainsaw operations class. We had one a couple of years ago and its well worth it. They teach maintenance in the class also. Safety with the saw is universal whether itís for forestry or structural. The only thing about the two operations is that they present their own challenges and dangers based on the environment you will be working in.

    I have seen pictures of a mans face after a kickback and its not pretty. Learn it and treat it with respect and it still might get you but you reduce the chances a lot.
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  16. #16
    MembersZone Subscriber SamsonFCDES's Avatar
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    Just some rules of thumb.

    - Proper hand placement and an operating brake prevent kick back injuries.

    - Eye protection, eye protection, eye protection. I hate diging swa dust out of my eyes.

    - For wildland, learn to read your wood. Tree falling is an art. Dont forget to look up, factor the wind, look for snags, run away when the timber drops.

    - Replace chains often, it makes the saw work faster, safer, less taxing.

    Chaps are a good idea, but as was mentioned I have never seen anybody use them at a structure fire.

    When I was geting my sawyer card we also had a class of firefighters geting in their first chainsaw time. The one guy started his saw and was holding it 2 handed running it half speed to warm it up.

    For what ever reason (I think he was gawking off) he put the saw to his thigh!

    The saw immediatly tore into the chaps, cloged with the kevlar string and died.

    He looked at it sort of funny, set the brake, fiddled with the choke and then tried to restart the saw. He didnt even notice what had happened!!!

    The instructore was awestruck and just sort of stood there for a few seconds in disbelief.

    It was a bugger to take the saw apart and get all of the chap material out, but it did its job. the chaps had a big gouge out of them, but they work very well. That saw stoped instantly.
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  17. #17
    Permanently Removed CALFFBOU's Avatar
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    Default UPDATE...

    Thanks for all of the good feedback. I like these "101"
    threads. Good stuff to review.

    As for the picture I posted, I was just for effect.
    I didnt think it was going to get critiqed, but thats
    ok. I didnt realize that the FF had his leg in the
    way of the blade. But like we have said before, a
    picture is a blink of an eye in time.

    Good stuff. Thanks for sharing!
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 05-15-2004 at 01:00 PM.

  18. #18
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    Perhaps it wasn't mentioned yet..apologies if it was..
    but one prevalent unsafe technique is just starting the saw..chain or K12
    It seams rare to ever observe safe technique.

    Things like:
    Starting it while walking...

    Flinging the saw in one direction, with one hand, pulling the cord with another. If it fires backwards with the cord starter engaged, well you know..not to mention comprimising someone next to them while flailing the saw about them.

    I've even seen fire instructors do these things in front of a class..

    There appears to be two techiques deemed 'proper' and safe.

    One is saw on ground, kneel next to saw, toe of boot in the rear handguard loop, elbow of arm on saw's front handle locked, head to the side.
    Bunker boots and the extra kneeling seem to make this technique impractical for us.

    The other appears to be described as: standing, one arm on the front handle, elbow locked. Rear of saw wedged between the theighs and sqeezed; head not directly behind bar.

    The latter provides excellent control of the saw, and is very rapid. It also is great on a pitched surface, or when balance and/or footing is not optimal.


  19. #19
    Forum Member len1582's Avatar
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    Feb 2002


    When refilling your gas/oil mix can for the saw it should be as empty as possible. If you leave some mix in the can the gas is no problem but after a few refills the extra oil can cause the saw to smoke.
    After starting while checking the rig, put it on the ground and just let it run for awhile on it's own for a few minutes. Giving it a quick start and shutting it off in 20 seconds is a good way to foul the plug and not get a good spark when you need it.

  20. #20
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    Oakland Fire Department, CA


    Some tips:

    - Run saw without Secondary Air Filter (the foam ones on the outside of the main one), runs better especially in a smoky environment.

    - Use a 40-50:1 Ratio for 2 strokes, seems to run cleaner.

    - Chain Tension - when you can pull the chain up high enough that a dime or nickel can slip underneath the drive teeth, its about right.

    - Replace chain if 3 teeth in a row or 5 total are missing


    - Use gasoline to clean the body and chain after a fire.

    - Always carry a scrich with you to the roof

    - Never carry a running chain saw...and you shouldn't have to start it before you bring it up either, that should have been checked in the morning BEFORE the fire.

    - Always carry an axe with you, never know when the saw is going to take a S**T!!

    - When starting saw cold, wait a bit before revving it up, can stick open the carb and/or gum up the spark plug.

    - After revving it up, wait a bit with it at idle before shutting it off.

    - Check spark plug gap at least once a month or after 3 uses (fires)
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