Thursday, July 8, 2021

One Hand Sawing

One Hand Sawing

A Tim’s Tips YouTube Episode

By Tim Ard - Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Quite often I am asked this question…

Are Top handle chainsaws, or lighter weight chainsaws, designed to be operated with one hand? My answer is usually this - No manufacturer sells a one handed chainsaw.  

Now days however, there are several small pruning chainsaws with a rotating saw chain that are effectively for one handed operation. I guess in my thoughts they can be very useful, low cost tools, as long as the operator understands the risks. Without proper position of body parts these tools can produce major surgery. 

In other terms - if you put your hand in front or beside the tool while you’re cutting (holding a limb to be cut) you increase your chances of coming in contact. It does appear that most of them have added guards or deflectors in the kick-back and push-back areas of the rotating chain. That’s good news…

However position of your body parts is the key to maintaining a safe work environment with these tools.

The chainsaw for most common cutting work required in Tree Care, Logging, Storm Debris and Firewood for example, the equipment is much different. It’s heavier, more powerful and is designed for two handed operation/stability.

For many years the highest laceration incidents with chainsaws were effecting the left hand. The left leg was second in cuts reported. Some were from reactive forces causing loss of control but it’s my theory that many were from position, or lack there of, and probably a mix of fatigue thrown in.  The operator is tired/fatigued and comes in contact with his or her arm, hand, leg, foot, head or torso. 

When you hold a chainsaw one handed it’s just a matter of time, in my experience, before the incident occurs….  Why do they have a top handle then, it fits your hand perfectly it seems? 

One story from a professional friend who had an incident with a top handle professional saw. It was right at a 100 degree day. He was working out of a bucket truck removing a limb from a large pine tree. He admits he was tired and yes, he admits he was one handing the chainsaw, in his right hand, to reach a higher limb. His position was extended, the saw bar tip contacted the limb, it kicked back, or the limb rebounded against the saw bar and rotated the saw in his one hand allowing the saw bar and chain to come back over his right arm. Cutting it deeply to the bone.

The design concepts of top versus long rear handle is this. When you place your hands on a long handle saw the weight when lifted, almost entirely, goes to the left hand holding the front handle. 

Because of the balance points of the top handle versions two handle positions, the weight load is very evenly applied to both arms/hands when its lifted. This configuration still allows reach of your extended arms but maintains better control for less arm and body fatigue.

S0, for years manufacturers (and I ) have been preaching the importance of two handed operation of chainsaws. I hear just about every week at training workshops the effects of one handed or loss of control operator incidents. Stories of past incidents of their person, family or coworker come up in conversations often.

My challenge to you - homeowner, firewood, arborist or logger. If you operate a chainsaw with two handles, USE BOTH HANDS.

Accidents are Un-Planned Events folks. It can happen to any of us if we are not constantly planning!

My final and very important finish to this ONE HAND SAWING monolog is this….

I see chainsaw operators on Social Media and TV all the time using chainsaws one handed. (and without proper Personal Protective Equipment - PPE) Maybe you are a seasoned operator and have done it right many, many times. But those watching and learning from your experience in the media may not have the same skill set. We are all teachers. Future saw operator/operations are picking up techniques from you that can change their lives - positively and negatively. 

Please take the time for important planning and show others correctly. 

There is a fine line between production and safety. Let’s consider the fine line….of one handed sawing.

Tim Ard is President and Instructor of Forest Applications Training, Inc. Rome, GA  email comments to 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

More Time?

More Time?
by Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

During workshops, as we begin hands on saw work, I am often asked what to do if a mistake happens…what do you do then? Can you cut it again? Repair your mistake? Sometimes the answer is yes but usually I explain it this way. Does it take more time to be precise or does it take more time to do something poorly?

We tend to think it’s faster and more productive to do things without taking a lot of time. We hesitate  to step back and form a plan or study a subject or situation before we start. I have found that not doing this, and not being precise, usually ends in a poorly accomplished result and quite often a lot more time to complete the task.

Cutting down a tree, Falling on the West Coast and Felling on the East, is deemed to be a task that requires some knowledge, a little experience and a good plan to accomplish it safely and successfully. This is very true. When it comes to a tree cutting operation at home or on the job, I often hear that one says they will contact a professional company (which is very smart) or they say we don’t really do the dangerous stuff, we don’t cut them down, we just cut them up after they fall. Both of these tasks still rely on some planning and a decision to call someone or don’t attempt it.

I hear stories weekly of saw use, whether cutting down a tree or cutting one up, that didn’t sound like it went too well. Something was damaged or someone was injured involving a chainsaw. 

How important is being precise or poor with cuts made with a chainsaw? Why is it so important our notch cuts meet, our back cuts are on the right level, the hinge is sufficient and our position or escape plans are in the right place or direction? Does it take more time to be precise or at least have our actions follow a recognized plan/technique? 

I listen to saw operators tell me they have to hurry, the boss expects me to be quick, I don’t have time to slow down and look at everything, sharpen every time it’s dull, or clean the chainsaw every time I finish a job. If I did, I would never get anything done. It’s sad people fall or grow into this poor attitude. 

Does it take more time to be precise — do things right? What if we practiced doing things right, correctly. Would we get faster at it, more efficient at doing things precise?  In accomplishing this we do need a baseline for our efforts, something to measure against. That’s where training comes into the picture.

We have all been trained by someone or trained through our own experiences, the seat of our pants so to speak. Soren Eriksson use to say that experience is our best teacher but we have to realize there are two types of it — Good and Bad. Better to learn the good on your own and the bad from someone else, it’s often less painful that way.

So, what’s the problem with learning correctly and practicing it, forming experience from it, and getting better at being precise? Does it take longer to make two cuts meet, to cut straight and level. If we learn the way to best approach the task and practice, it will become our ability — our experience.
In closing…

Over the years I have asked groups to raise their hand to these three questions.

  1. How many of you have used a chainsaw in the past few months?
  2. How many of you have had any type of hands on training in chainsaw  operation?
  3. How many have read an owners manual from your chainsaw manufacturer?

It’s my opinion that the key to being productive and maintain safety is to have a good base to build upon.

Except for question number 1, I rarely see a hand go up. What this illustrates is many times operators haven’t been exposed to the easiest, most productive and safest techniques. What  are you practicing?

Tim Ard is president and lead instructor of Forest Applications Training, Inc. A training company specializing in chainsaw operations and safety. For more information visit or to discuss available training.

© 2019 Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Keep an Eye on the Notch

Keep an Eye on the Notch….
by Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

In baseball they say to keep your eye on the ball. In shooting sports and hunting you keep an eye on the target. These are focus areas of importance to succeed in the endeavor. Well, in chainsawing, whether felling a tree or working up storm damage, the trick is keeping your eye focused on the Notch…

A couple definitions….
The Notch is a face cut on a tree trunk to directionally fell it or a relief cut made in a log or limb to control weight or movement when removing debris. It could be simply a bar width cut or kerf made as a relief cut or it could be a 140 degree pie opening. We usually try to open the Notch 45 to 70 degrees. The Notch allows the hinge wood to flex and control without breaking, pulling or splitting fiber. 

The hinge wood is a predetermined strip of fiber [not just cutting till something moves] left behind the Notch attaching the two sections of wood together, i.e., the tree to the stump or the limb to the trunk during movement. 

Now that some definitions are established, let’s discuss the issues of keeping an eye on the right place. In real-estate they say location, location. In sawing it’s position, position, position! If you don’t put yourself in the right position when approaching the tree or work it’s impossible to see what you want to cut, or maybe it’s really you cant see what you want to leave. 

Any time you are planning to control the tree, stem or limb, you must have a clear plan before you begin a cut. You should have a plan configured of Hazards/Obstacles, Leans, Escape, Hinge and your determined back cut and tools to use. The similar is true with cutting storm damage or debris, focusing on weight, pressure and binds by identifying Hazards, Side, Up or Down, Back or Forward  and select a technique to control it. 

To accomplish the task to plan-the hinge is your friend. So, whether simply cutting from the back or bore cutting to establish the hinge, your focus, your eye, must be aligned with the Notch to make sure you parallel it to maintain your planned hinge. Move your position to make sure you can Keep an Eye on the Notch!

Tim Ard is President and Instructor of Forest Applications Training, Inc. Visit our website at or email for more information.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Maybe It's Me...

Maybe It’s Me….
by Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever noticed that humans tend to gravitate toward stuff? We concentrate on technique and tools more than why they were invented? We form opinions as to how things and why things are better without knowing all the options…

In a recent workshop I was told. “I think this notch works better” by a participant. He was referring to what’s called the common notch. “It’s always worked good for me” he says. Now the tree he picked to cut was a fairly large oak leaning over a road. (We were taking these down to daylight the road so it would dry out. It was shaded and wet most of the time.) It had about 3ft of forward/head lean and had about 6ft of right side lean. The notch he placed was about 45 degrees open and didn’t have any by-pass or Dutchman at the apex of the notch. A well established common notch. He back cut the tree and left a reasonable amount of hinge/holding wood attaching the fall. He then retreated to his escape path. The tree moved forward about 3ft and then rolled over right and missed the target he had placed by about 10ft. When I asked the group what do you think happened to make it miss so far? Someone quickly said, “Well, I knew that tree would need to have a rope in it to go there.” Referring to the proposed landing target.

Was the issue a problem with tools or technique or a mechanical malfunction? I feel it was a planning misunderstanding that was caused by a mechanical limit. Yes, there was not a rope in the plan but that wasn’t the missing link. A mechanical limit was reached, the notch closed before weight could be redirected and the hinge/holding wood was compromised, broken and the tree took off into its weighted lean. You see the notch allows the hinge to work its control of the situation. So, it was an opinion that turned into a learning about planning to select a technique.

The issue began with a lack of planning to understand the leans of the tree. We grab the rope, tool or machine because that’s the way to do it. Where did that experience come from? From someone else? Probably it was not formed by your plan on that specific tree project.

My goal with training workshops is to standardize the planning process. Whether falling trees or cleaning up storm damage, there are simple plans that can work for any situation and any chainsaw operator. A plan can require special tools and special experience in many applications. However, the plan is the key and should be the key to continuing with a task or project. 

Having a knowledge of a planning process is as important as speaking the same language in a work team. A good example of the importance of standardizing the planning process… A past workshop participant shared with me that he only wants to work around operators who have completed one of our workshops. I asked what he meant by that statement. Let me paraphrase what he said in reply. 

Let’s say you and another person pulled up on a down tree across the road after a storm. You didn’t have any large equipment on site, just two chainsaws and hand tools. You had no idea of each other’s experience or training. The other operator begins cutting limbs and brush around the site to get to the main trunk of the tree. When he cleared to the tree he stops and stares at the situation. Shakes his head and wonders where to begin. He plans to just cut it. 

You look at the situation at the point he plans to cut and quickly formulate what your plan would be. 1. There are no over head or ground hazards. 2. It could have side movement/roll toward me. 3. The compression side is on top, it’s going to move down toward the ground as I relieve the fiber from the bottom. 4. There is a high potential for back pressure to stick my saw bar as I undercut. 5. I plan to use a notch on the top side of about 60 degrees to allow the hinge of about .5” to control the weight to the ground before I sever all the fiber to complete the cut. You continue to the next 10 cuts. 

The other operator makes his first cut. The tree trunk starts to go down closing the kerf and pinching his saw. He borrows your saw to cut out his saw. The tree rolls toward him but he frees his saw and is on to the next cut. No hurt, no foul I guess but, he proceeds to repeat  the same situation four more times. “Next time I will wait on the back hoe to get here”… he says.

Which operator would you want assisting your project? Is a planning process important?

The author Tim Ard is president and lead instructor of Forest Applications Training, Inc. For more information on chainsaw application plans and workshops visit our website at or email us at

® Copyright 2018 Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Bore-ing Back-cut…

The Bore-ing Back-cut…
by Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Once you have completed the first four areas of information on your felling plan it is time to choose a back cut to fall the tree. You may choose to simply start from the back of the tree and cut to your holding wood/hinge or you might bore-cut through the tree, set up your hinge then cut backwards to release the tree. Yes, there are several other configurations of cuts that could be made to conclude the process. You could cut the good side, then the bad side, from back to hinge or hinge to back. You could bore and circle the tree with the back cut. But, what is or are the advantage(s) of a bore-cut over the simple back cut?

When asked the question of the advantages of the bore-cut I usually explain that the only negative to the bore-cut, if it is one, is the understanding of the reactive forces, especially the one of kickback. Really, if you understand that reaction, there are no negatives, only positives. Knowing how to begin the cut with the lower portion of the bar tip and quickly burying the tip in the process, eliminates the issue when you think about it. So, let’s list some positives…

  1. It reduces the chances of the tree trunk barber-chairing in heavy forward lean.
  2. Allows for a planned hinge/holding wood dimension to be better achieved. 
  3. Makes it possible to cut larger trees with multiple position (side to side) cuts.
  4. Improves capabilities of using a shorter saw bar length on larger trees.
  5. In smaller back leaning trees it gives the ability to place wedges before setback.
  6. Controls the release of the tree when there may be widow makers or broken tops.
  7. Gives more escape time from trees with vine issues.
  8. Offers better footing and escape from trees in steep or slippery terrain.
  9. Reduces fiber pull on the stump by allowing more accurate hinge completion.
  10. It offers the ability to locate hollows and rot areas in the tree trunk.
  11. Enables better controlled release of the tree should there be traffic or people issues.
  12. Eliminates some issues with tops swaying or wind effecting the release of a tree.

There are probably more as I sit and think and there are also several advantages working with bore-cuts on horizontal storm damaged trees. The Bore-Cut is not so boring… but very useful and productive.

Check out other articles on and And if you are interested in finding out more of having Forest Applications Training, Inc. take part in your chainsaw training programs or presentations contact us at .

Copyright 2018 Forest Applications Training, Inc.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Saw Savvy...

Saw Savvy
By Tim Ard, Forest Applications Training, Inc. 

In workshops all across the country one thing seems to be similar.  Participants at some point in the workshop always say “My saw doesn’t start and run like yours”. 
Over the years I have operated many model saws and other two-cycle machines of several brands. I can honestly say in my findings that all of them, if understood and maintained properly, usually will outwork this operator. I’ve learned most issues arise from operator controls and maintenance or lack there of.  It’s not to say the operator causes every issue but most of the time a lack of attention and or understanding is a major contributor. 

I have a workshop available that covers some of these aspects in a unique tear down and inspection process.  I want to highlight a few of the very important areas with this writing. 

A two-cycle engine is simply an air pump. It needs air flow to mix with fuel, compression and spark to convert this mixture to usable energy. The air filter is important in maintaining this air flow. Fuel mixed properly, gasoline with lubrication, adjusted to the right amount of air is critical to efficient run, power and longevity. Engine compression creates power by manipulating the air and fuel flow. Compressing, squeezing and confining to make sure the power is harnessed and carried to the crankshaft and on to the crankshaft attachment. Ignition spark divides the intake from the exhaust. Exploding at the perfect time to turn fuel and air into burned gases. Efficient combustion is the by product of a well designed and tuned engine. If the operator doesn’t have a basic understanding of these principles it’s difficult to maintain and operate to the equipment’s potential. 

So in the Troubleshooting Workshop we look at how the air filter may restrict air flow. How proper fuel mix can make or break an engine. How lubrication is utilized and how the carburetor is adjusted and is susceptible to dirt, water and too much oil. What causes an engine to seize up.  What external attachments like bar and saw chain can effect.  How can starting procedures effect the run and life of the equipment. What is a fast idle position? 

The workshop can be accomplished at your location. Open to16 participants and requires 4hours of class time. It is all hands-on for the attendees, intertwined with lecture. A chainsaw operator with a little Saw Savvy from a Trouble Shooting Workshop will be an operator with less equipment issues, better safety awareness and improved productivity. 

The author is President and Lead Instructor for Forest Applications Training Inc. a company specializing in safety, education and applications of the ChainSaw. More information can be acquired at or email  We would appreciate the opportunity to present to you and your organization.

©️2018 Forest Applications Training Inc.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Training Difference...

Training Difference...
By Tim Ard - Forest Applications Training, Inc.

If you were to ask people what is the difference in experience and formal training, they would probably say, “Experience is the best training you can have.” Getting out and doing it is definitely going to teach you things about the task at hand. Soren Eriksson always said that “experience is the best teacher.” However he always finished that statement with,”experience is a good teacher but you have to remember there are two types of experience, good and bad. You want to learn the good on your own and the bad from someone else. It’s usually a lot less painful that way.”

When it comes to storm cleanup involving chainsaws, and some other chainsaw operations too, it is important we approach it with a basic knowledge or awareness and add to our experience level as we approach the task. To do this safely and successfully any activity should start with a plan.

So let’s break this thought process into segments. Knowledge and training....

It’s my theory that knowledge is acquired over time. It’s the level of experience that you are holding on any given subject. It could be to a level of understanding or it could be in application. I may have a full understanding of how to fly a plane but I’ve never tried to take off or land. Once I apply that knowledge/understanding then I can consider myself a pilot. That’s where training comes in to play.

My thoughts here are that training is the process you go through to obtain and master knowledge. It could be the time lapsed between a known desire, the formulated plan, and the eventual execution of the plan to achieve success in the project. In other thoughts, training is often a process that begins with a plan and then continues until the plan is successful. I need to consider myself training until I can do a task without finishing below my planned expectations or success. Training is often where a teacher or mentor is brought in to speed up the process. Someone or something to offer a better or clearer understanding of the knowledge and can guide us through the application process to limit errors in the trial. Without a guide of some form we are learning through trial and error.

In equipment operations like the use of a chainsaw, regulations promote that the first form of training you should have is reading, understanding and applying, the manufacturer’s operators manual. The manufacturer has compiled this information for the operator for an understanding of design, application and safety. This provided manual should be your first knowledge training.

I ask groups about every week in chainsaw workshops to raise their hand if they have seen and read an owners manual for the equipment they run. I often never get a raised hand. Why do you think this is? Some say they don’t know where the manual is but most, as with many things, feel we already know that information. We have been using or have observed someone using the tool and that’s the best training we can get.

The next step might be to acquire a supervisor or mentor to help us achieve a clearer picture of the applications of the tool. Oh, that’s expensive.... so we need to get that part of training actually doing a job with the tool. The supervisor or mentor can overlook the job and correct and apply the tool properly in the task. This training process doesn’t cost extra... less expensive. Or is it?

Off the job training- are there any advantages?

Formalized or off the job training for equipment operators can have its advantages. It enables a planned focus and direction of the knowledge information for the hands on application. The environment is created instead of trying to learn in a situation requiring meeting a deadline or satisfy a customer or supervisor.

Let’s think again about the reasons that people don’t read the operators manual from the manufacturer. Maybe some don’t like to take time to read. They’re busy with lots of work today. Next it could be there is a lot of information they feel doesn’t apply. Their knowledge is deemed to be above the information in the manual. Some just find it boring. Finally, some people are just not interested in being an equipment operator. They are uncomfortable with the equipment or have no desire to use it at home or on the job.

With many topics relating to adult learning, I believe a 99 to 1 ratio in the presentation may be an important part in obtaining useable results. It breaks down to 99 percent motivation and 1 percent technique. Often the presenter or supervisor just doesn’t impress the student. A lack of common sense approach by the instructor will turn a student off quickly. Then there’s always the presenter or supervisor that is a know it all. Their way or the highway.... As Jerry Clower used to say, “I can tell they are educated above their intelligence.”

I’d like to discuss with you a program for you or your equipment operators. Forest Applications Training, Inc. has workshops formatted for results in chainsaw applications, zero turn mower applications, saw chain maintenance and very unique program in two cycle troubleshooting for the operator of handheld power equipment.

Contact us today at or call 770-543-9862 to discuss your training program.

Copyright 2017 Tim Ard Forest Applications Training, Inc.

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