Start Your Chainsaw Safely

The ground start is best for beginners.
The leg-lock method is the safety
standard for experienced chainsaw users.

One of the primary principles of safe chainsaw operation is to have control of the saw at all times, including while starting the saw. Because one of your hands must be pulling the starter cord rather than controlling the saw, there are really only two methods for safely starting a saw, the ground start or the leg-lock method. Many folks have learned the traditional “drop start,” with the left hand on the handlebar and the right on the pull cord, which offers no control over a rotation of the saw back toward the user.  Even more dangerous is the full throttle start, where the saw is pushed away with a grip on the throttle while pulling the cord with the other hand. In the course of this type of start, the saw can then swing back toward the user at full throttle. Both of these starting procedures leave the user dangerously out of control of the saw.

There are two much safer methods for starting a saw.

Wearing your personal protective equipment, first engage the chain brake, which will prevent the chain from rotating around the guide bar.

If you are new to using a saw or have limited arm strength, use the ground start. Place the saw on firm, level ground, with the brake engaged. Then put the toe of your right boot in the rear hand guard, pressing the guard firmly to the ground. Then place your left hand on the handlebar, and wrap your thumb firmly around it. Use your right hand to pull the starter handle straight up.

For the leg lock method, hold the saw with your left hand on the handlebar, with the brake engaged, and lock the rear handguard firmly between your legs just above the knees. Then use your right hand to grip the starter handle and pull the cord. Pull the cord up towards your right shoulder, not straight up, to avoid pulling the saw out of your knees and up into your groin.

With both methods, always keep hold of the starter handle as it retracts. If the choke is on, pull repeatedly until the saw catches and dies, then turn the choke off. It should start again on the next pull. Once the saw is running, pick it up with your left hand on the handlebar and your right on the rear handle, and with the chain brake still engaged, pull the throttle quickly to return the saw to normal (slower) RPM.

Having safely started the saw, you are now ready to get to work. For more information, check the operator’s safety manual that came with your saw.

Carl Demrow is a trail consultant and carpenter when he’s not busy tending his woodlot in Washington, Vermont.


No discussion as of yet.

Join the discussion

To ensure a respectful dialogue, please refrain from posting content that is unlawful, harassing, discriminatory, libelous, obscene, or inflammatory. Northern Woodlands assumes no responsibility or liability arising from forum postings and reserves the right to edit all postings. Thanks for joining the discussion.

Please help us reduce spam by spelling out the answer to this math question
three plus three adds up to (3 characters required)