Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
Chainsaw injuries can occur to professional and the occasional user alike. Data form the U.S consumer Products Safety Commission identified nearly 28,500 chainsaw accidents in 1999, with approximately 72% being injuries to the legs, knees, and hands. Many people, including myself, first attempt chainsaw operations with minimal protection equipment either due to the cost of the items or some manly perception of invisibility. However, it will take only one close call or injury before you fully understand the danger of using chainsaws without PPE. A severe chainsaw injury can take an appendage or even kill you; you also need first aid items to quickly treat serious injuries. So let’s look at some personal protection gear that can reduce injuries.
Protective apron/chaps – Recommended if using a chainsaw. A protective apron reduces chainsaw accidents, by fraying upon contact. The fraying action wraps fabric around the chainsaw’s sprocket, stopping and/or reducing the movement of the chain.
Protective jacket – Recommended for professional users. Same as the protective apron, but protects the upper body.
Gloves – Cut resistant gloves are recommended; heavy duty leather gloves will suffice.
Ear/hearing protection – Optional, but recommended.
Boots – Steel toe boots are recommended.
First Aid Kit – An advanced trauma kit is recommended due to large wounds caused by a chainsaw. Most budget first aid kits do not have the necessary items to stop bleeding. Look for tourniquets, compressed gauze, and compression bandages.
Chainsaw PPE Kit – Most manufactures have a kit for the occasional chainsaw user; most do not include the protective jacket. These kits are usually more cost effective, but you will need to evaluate every item in the kit to ensure it meets your objectives. Lastly, look for quality items from reputable manufacturers, and do not try to save a few dollars by purchasing inferior products.
There are many options when selecting a chainsaw, crosscut saw, or any other logging tool. The important thing here is to purchase quality items, and items that can be adapted for multiple tasks. For instance, most chainsaws can be fitted with different size bars and chains. Some are more adaptable than others, and have a wider range of capabilities. Some saws are heavy, some are light, and some are designed for occasional cutting tasks. Lastly, all saws have little quirks, so do your research before making a large commitment.
Chainsaw – We recommend Husqvarna or Stihl chainsaws. If purchasing multiple saws, it is best to get components that can be used on both saws, so matching your saws together is important. It is a good idea to have spare chains and a chain sharpening kit, whether the kit is designed to be used in the field or only on your work bench. It is important to have a few spare parts on hand, to include an extra spark plug, sprocket, fuel filter, and air filter. Lastly, when purchasing a chainsaw look to local vendors, especially small retailers. Most small retailers can conduct yearly maintenance and may tune-up your saw for free.
Crosscut Saw – A human powered cutting option includes crosscut saws. Crosscut saws were the primary cutting tool prior to the chainsaw. Crosscut saws can be had in one or two man versions. Newer versions can be purchased online, but also look at estate sales for vintage saws. One downside of crosscut saws is that it takes specialized tools to sharpen the saw, and replacement parts can be hard to come by.
Felling axe – Even if you have a chainsaw, you should also own a quality felling axe. Not all axes are created equal; some have higher quality steel. Invest in a quality axe. We recommend Gransfors Bruks and S.A. Wetterlings axes. While not true felling axes, low cost options included Estwing and Husqvarna. Also, if you own an axe, you also need a sharpening stone.
Small forestry axe – There are many reasons to have a small forestry or belt axe. They are great for removing branches, clearing a path, and processing small firewood. They are highly portable, and can either be placed on your body or in a backpack. We recommend Gransfors Bruks and S.A. Wetterlings axes. The Marbles Outdoors 701SB is a low cost and highly recommended small axe (watch the Wranglerstar Marbles axe review).
Takedown saw | folding saw | bow saw – These types of saws are great for removing branches, cutting down small trees, and are light weight and portable. Depending on the task, these saws may be more practical than using an axe such as cutting down a sapling. Lastly, the take-down and folding saws can easily fit inside a backpack.
Felling/bucking wedge – When felling a tree or cutting a log, you are cutting the wood into two pieces. The two pieces want to sit down or press against each other, which causes the wood to pinch down on your chainsaw bar or saw blade. This weight caused by this pinch can be so great that your chainsaw or saw will no longer work. A felling/bucking wedge reduces the pinch caused by the tree’s weight against the chainsaw bar or saw, and also aids in falling the tree in the correct direction. We recommend plastic wedges since they will not dull your saw blade if they come in contact with the blade.
Tape measure – A tape measure is used to measure the length of a log, whether cutting it to the appropriate firewood length, or cutting logs into sections for further wood processing (making boards). There are forestry tape measures, but any tape measure will do. It is a good idea to invest in a large tape measure, say 100’ or more, which can be used for many different tasks. When measuring firewood, a tape measure alternative can be as simple as a branch cut to length.
Recovery gear can be used to move a vehicle from a ditch, or in this case, to move a log from one point to another. The terrain is usually your enemy when working with heavy logs. Logs may need to be moved several feet to fifty feet, to a safe working location; up/down a hill or through wooded areas. Recovery gear makes this process a lot easier, and reduces physical strain on your body. While these items are optional, they are recommended for many reasons, and their usefulness extends beyond logging and debris removal. While this guide focuses on advanced equipment and equipment that is not in the standard inventory, you cannot rule out items such as wheel barrows, carts/trailers, or other items used to move items.
Winch – Vehicle or ATV mounted. A winch is an invaluable tool when logging, since most fresh cut trees can weigh in excess of 100 lbs.
Come-a-long – A come-a-long, or power puller, is a hand operated winch. A come-a-long is a low cost alternative to battery powered winches, and does not require any electricity for use.
Chain | tow straps – Chain and/or tow straps are commonly used for recovery operations, but also serve a place in logging.
D-ring – Allows easy connection of chain and tow straps, and can be used if your vehicle/ATV has a hitch receiver.
D-Ring Hitch Receiver – D-ring hitch receivers provide quick mounting locations of chain/tow straps to your vehicle.
Snatch Block – Provides a mechanical advantage by increasing the amount of weight a winch can pull. Additionally, it can be used to change the pulling direction.
There are many additional items that can be included in your chainsaw and debris removal toolkit. The intent of this guide was to provide equipment that is not located in the standard garage, and items that will be invaluable if you had to clean up debris or move heavy objects on your own. The key point to take away from this guide is the importance of safety equipment. Safety equipment is a force multiplier since injuries may reduce your effectiveness an/or leave you stranded. And, if injured while using a chainsaw you can be instantly thrown into a survival situation. Have the appropriate gear and safety items to conduct a given task, and the required medical items and knowledge to patch you up until you are able to receive proper medical care.
Don't forget to check out Surefire Woodsman two excellent DVDs on the subject (The Informed Woodsman and Timber Felling: Pro Tips)