Project Guide

How to Start a Chainsaw

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Stabilize the Chainsaw
A gas-powered chainsaw sitting on a log.
  • Place the chainsaw on level ground.
  • Check the fuel supply, chain lubricant and the chain tension.
  • Keep bystanders a safe distance away from the saw.
  • Be sure the bar is away from all obstacles.
  • Place your right foot on the rear handle to keep in stable while starting.
Check the Chain Brake
A person making adjustments to a chainsaw.
  • One of the most important chainsaw safety features is the chain brake, which stops movement of the chain in the event of kickback during operation. Check the owner’s manual for your specific model to ensure you understand the operation of the chain brake.

  • The chain brake is activated when the front hand guard near the saw’s upper handle is pushed forward as a result of the saw being rapidly pushed upward and back toward the operator. When engaged, the chain brake stops the chain from rotating around the saw’s guide bar.

  • Always start your chainsaw with the chain brake engaged so the chain does not move.
Open the Choke
A person using a chainsaw to cut a log.
  • Turn the on/off switch to the "on" position and open the choke, which regulates the air-fuel mix to the engine. 
  • By opening the choke, a richer mix of fuel will be supplied to the engine during starting. 
  • If your chainsaw has a fuel primer, press it several times until fuel can be seen in the bulb. When pressed, the fuel primer creates a vacuum that draws fuel from the tank and into the carburetor.
Pull the Start Cord
A person pulling the start cord on a chainsaw.
  • Hold the saw’s upper handle with one hand and use the other hand to pull up on the start cord. It should be a smooth, quick stroke. 
  • When the engine begins to turn over, push the choke back in halfway and pull the starter cord again. 
  • The engine might require several pulls before starting.
  • Once the engine is running, adjust the choke to the "run" position.
  • Allow the engine to idle for about a minute to get warm. 

Test the operation of the chain brake, just before you’re ready to start cutting. To do this, release the chain brake and allow the chain to turn. Then engage the brake and ensure that the chain stops. If the brake is in working order, get into position, release the brake and begin cutting.

To stop the chainsaw engine, turn the on/off switch to the "off" position.

How to Start an Electric Chainsaw
A battery-powered cordless chainsaw resting on the ground.

Starting an electric chainsaw requires fewer steps than a gas-powered counterpart and the same level of safety precautions are necessary. Additionally, corded and cordless chainsaws require you to press a safety lock button in order to make the switch trigger operational and prevent accidental starting. Check your machine’s operation manual for information specific to your model. 

  • Connect the power cord or the rechargeable battery to the electric chainsaw.
  • Place the chainsaw on the ground, with the bar clear of obstacles and bystanders a safe distance away.
  • Engage the chain brake.
  • Engage the safety switch and simultaneously pull the trigger switch to start the chainsaw motor.
  • Keep holding this trigger switch for continued operation.
  • Check the functionality of the chain brake to ensure that it works as expected.
  • Disengage the chain brake and begin cutting.
  • Releasing the trigger will stop the engine and the chain will ease to a stop.

When you need to use as chainsaw for a one-time project or simply want to reduce costs, consider tool rental. You can rent chainsaws, other tools and trucks to haul away your cut wood from The Home Depot’s Tool and Truck Rental Center.