If you’ve ever cut tree logs by hand, you would know it is a lot more stressful than cutting logs with chainsaw machines. The ease of use, speed and precision of a chainsaw is simply amazing. However, this all depends on if you know how to properly handle or use a chainsaw, especially since chainsaws can be quite a dangerous tool when it is placed in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.
Fortunately, when using a chainsaw, once you master a few basics operating the chainsaw becomes pretty straightforward. However, mastering a few basics alone won’t be enough know-how when it comes to using your chainsaw for various difficult tasks, like pruning large branches and bucking( a term used for the cutting down of logs with a chainsaw).
Now, for the above-mentioned reason is why this guide exists, to give you detailed know-how on the steps and techniques to utilize when using your chainsaw for varied tasks.
However, being that cutting logs with a chainsaw is one of the skills a chainsaw user needs to learn first, as well as the task he or she is likely to face first, it stands to serve as the crux of this guide.
Hence, in this guide, I’ll highlight for you 6 simple steps to show you the basics of bucking, as well as the techniques or cutting method you should know when cutting logs with your chainsaw. So let’s get to it.
Simple Steps For Bucking
Getting The Right Equipment
When it comes to cutting logs with a chainsaw or basically performing any task involving a chainsaw, the first step to take is simply having the right equipment for the job.
In this regard, the right equipment should range from the proper safety equipment to the right type of chainsaw for cutting logs. However, the most important one to have is without a doubt your safety equipment. Whenever you use a chainsaw, the proper safety wear ought to be worn.
Now, I’ve seen my fair share of people who go on about how inconvenient, uncomfortable or wacky – the look or feel of safety gear, is and neglect to use them. Don’t be one of such people, as not having on the proper safety gear might be the difference between a simple scratch on the wrist or a fatal injury.
On that note, you should know the proper safety equipment to have while cutting a log, as well as the overall general equipment you need for the task. So starting with the safety equipment, here they are:
- Chainsaw Helmet: Like normal helmets, chainsaw helmets are made equipped to provide protection for the head, in this case, from tree branches and other sought of accidents. However, chainsaw helmets are a bit different and unique than your normal helmets, in that they have added features to the helmet. That being the built-in ear protector that offers protection for your ears against the loud noise of the compact engine in your hands, as well as a face screen that shields your face and eyes against sawdust, chunks of wood and any other projectile that might get thrown in your face while cutting the log. However, you can also simply utilize a pair of safety goggles for your eyes and some earmuffs, if you feel the helmet is too much protection.
- Chainsaw Gloves: Along with a pair of strong work boots, a chainsaw glove is irreplaceable when you’re operating a chainsaw. The reason for this is mainly the protection of your hands against the many unpredictable incidents that may occur. For example, if you should lose your balance or you get a chainsaw kickback, putting on a pair of chainsaw gloves makes all the difference. Especially, since there is usually Kevlar, lined on the backs of most chainsaw gloves. Also, there’s the small matter of anti-vibration protection, which you’ll get when wearing a chainsaw glove, in order to reduce the strain you arm and hand will likely face.
- Chaps: This safety equipment is one that is worn around your leg and on top of your pants. It is a piece of protective equipment that serves to protect your leg area and make the difference between a simple bruised leg or something far worse. A pair of chaps is made equipped with an outer layer made of slippery, yet durable material, as well as numerous internal fibrous layers. Both layers of a pair of chaps serve a distinct protective purpose, such as the outer layer protecting you from blows from the chainsaw by sliding the chain of the outer surface. Additionally, if the chain inadvertently finds its way through the outer layer of a pair of chaps, the inner layer serves to slow down the chain or sometimes stop it entirely, by way of the inner layer’s fibres attaching to the chain and getting pulled into drive sprocket of the chainsaw. You should note that when getting chaps, you should get a bigger size compared to your normal pant size, so it hangs a little over your boots.
- The Right Chainsaw Type: You should always endeavour to have the right type of chainsaw for whatever task you are to undertake. Now, in regards to bucking, most professionals will advise you, to utilize a gas chainsaw or an electric chainsaw if it’s a simple bucking around the home.
- Apart from the equipment stated above, you would also need a claw bar, splitting maul and fuel.
Ensure You Have a Clear Area
Now, this step is one most people take for granted, but I assure you, it is highly necessary to do so. The reason for this is that, whenever a tree has been cut down or falls down, there are always branches everywhere, along with other brush and obstructions around.
Now, the objective here is to ensure that before you start cutting the tree into logs, you clear up the surrounding area of any brush or branches. The aim of this is to guarantee you don’t fall victim to what you may call tripping hazards. Additionally, you should note that in clearing the surrounding area, you remove any and all obstruction close to the log, that may otherwise prevent you from having a clean cut with your chainsaw.
Also, by doing this, you’ll have the added benefit of more space to work with, as well as the benefit of preventing a chainsaw kickback and several other possible accidents.
Do Some Limbing
If you’re new to this and a bit confused, you should take note that when Chainsaw or various tree cutting experts mention Limbing a tree, they simply mean cutting off the branches of a tree that has been felled.
Now, there are a lot of branches on most trees, and although some have few around it, these branches will always pose a problem if you want to cut the logs into smaller pieces, so the best thing to do is to cut off the branches before you proceed to buck. Doing this ensures you go through a safer bucking process with reduced risks of a kickback or any tripping hazard, as well as an easier and better experience cutting the logs.
In light of this, you should note that there two ways to perfectly execute limbing. The first way to do so is to employ the use of a small forest axe to easily chop off the branches. With this process, you are advised to utilise a lightweight axe that won’t wear you out quickly.
Also, this method is best for cutting off small or average-sized branches. Moving on, the second method for limbing is simply utilizing a chainsaw to cut off the branches. Now, this method is obviously the faster way of achieving your desire goal under this step, but it does tend to wear you out quicker, especially if you’re using a heavy chainsaw.
Additionally, you shouldn’t forget to clear out the branches you’ve chopped off before you start cutting the log.
Avert The Kickback Zone
If you look through the steps given above, you would see a line or two about preventing or avoiding a chainsaw kickback, and now, there’s a whole section for it. This is a testament to the fact that a chainsaw kickback is one of the most common and dangerous chainsaw safety issues.
This point is further proved by the fact that most if not all chainsaws have a kickback risk rating, where you see a chainsaw either has a low-kickback or a kickback rating. Now, for those who don’t fully understand what chainsaw kickback is, this should be of help.
The first thing you should know is that every and each type of chainsaw has a kickback zone, usually on the upper-end tip of the chainsaw bar. Additionally, the next thing to understand is that when that kickback zone hits against a piece or chunk of log or anything else strong enough, the piece of log catches the chain and then tosses the entire chainsaw back towards the direction of the user.
This is obviously very dangerous to the operator of the chainsaw and hence, why you must take all steps to avoid hitting the kickback zone or having any problems that are kickback related. To do so, the easiest step to take is to ensure you are always aware of the direction you are pointing the chainsaw tip. It is also safer to keep an eye on your chainsaw kickback zone, ensuring it has no direct contact with branches, logs and such.
Allow The Chainsaw Do its Work
There’s a common misstep people take when they are utilizing a chainsaw and it is simply moving a bit too much. It sounds a bit weird, I know, but it is in fact true. When operating a chainsaw, people tend to work a bit too hard and end up using the chainsaw wrongly.
What this means is that you don’t always need to constantly and hastily wear out your back or your arms by constantly tugging and pushing at your chainsaw. What you ought to do instead is simply put the chainsaw in position and let it do the work. Now, when I say put the chainsaw in position, what you should look out for in regards to bucking, is the bucking spikes that most chainsaws come with.
The bucking spikes are the spikes placed right in front of the chainsaw, next to the chainsaw bar. Now, to utilize your chainsaw properly when bucking, you ought to lodge the bucking spikes into the log and allow the chain to pull its way through the log.
Additionally, you should note that once the chainsaw is lodged in the log, you are to primarily play a supporting role, where you mainly offer stability for your chainsaw. Furthermore, you should remember not to toggle with your chainsaw during the process, except you need to reposition the spikes or you’re done with your cut.
Prevent Your Chainsaw From Getting Pinched
Apart from a chainsaw kickback, there are several other difficult problems you may face when using your chainsaw to cut logs. One of such problems, which is quite common is your chainsaw getting pinched in the log. This usually happens due to the terrain the tree is lying in, and it occurs when there’s an inward curve towards your cut.
Now, a pinched chainsaw isn’t as dangerous as a chainsaw kickback, however, it is quite difficult to remedy, as you might end up damaging your chainsaw when you handle it wrongly. In light of this, here are a few methods that will help you prevent a pinched chainsaw.
- Cut one side at a time: This is one of the easiest and simplest ways you can employ to avoid pinching. Here, if your log is on a ground which looks like it might pinch, all you need to do is cut one side at a time. Therefore, cutting down one side as far as you can go without pinching the chainsaw, before rolling the rolling log over to cut from the other side. Now, you should note that this method is fully based on your personal estimate as to how far you can go without pinching your chainsaw.
- Using wedges: Making use of wedges is another easy way to avoid pinching. However, you should note that making use of wedges is more lined for larger logs. Also, for this method, a felling wedge, as opposed to a splitting wedge is what you are to use. Here, what you do is you lodge your chainsaw into the log and you cut through the log until the chainsaw bar is fully under the log’s surface, and then you get your wedge and tap it into the opening, your chainsaw has created. Now, the reason for this is so the felling wedge keeps the created space open, so it doesn’t close in on your chainsaw. Additionally, if your chainsaw is unfortunately still pinched, you should remain calm and simply add another wedge or gently make small adjustments like shifting the weight of the log.
- Raise the log: As the name implies, this method is straightforward and easy. If your log isn’t that big in size and can be moved, you should either get chunks of wood or a tool called Woodchuck to elevate a side of the tree. And once that is done, it becomes easier to cut into logs and to avoid pinching.
Having given the aforementioned steps to guide you in bucking, it is pertinent you also get a little knowledge on the various cutting methods you can make use of. In light of that, briefly highlighted below are cutting methods you can use for bucking.
Cutting Methods For Bucking
Overcutting or Overbucking: To start it off is the safest and easiest method for cutting logs. This method is simply cutting through a log from the top of the log, while the full length of the log is being supported by the ground.
Both End Support: This method is one used for smaller logs that are supported on each side, either on a sawhorse or for a much bigger log sitting on the ground that is dipped in the middle. Here, you start by over-bucking, that is cutting the log from the top to about 1/3 into the wood, before cutting from the underside, that being under-bucking.
Now, there’s something you should prepare yourself for before you start under bucking, and that is the force you’ll face when performing it, as the chainsaw will definitely push back at you.
Furthermore, you should note that when the log is supported at just one end, while the other remains in the air. You ought to reverse this process, therefore, first under bucking to about 1/3 into the wood, before over-bucking to meet the first cut.
Conclusively, when you’re about to carry out the process of bucking, which is simply the cutting of fallen trees or logs to your desired size, you should pay recourse to this guideline, as you’re guaranteed to go through the process with ease and as safe as you can be.