Determining the Direction of a Chain Saw Blade

A chain saw is a powerful tool that's useful around the yard for cutting large limbs and other projects where normal pruning tools aren't up to the job. Chain saws make cutting, trimming and pruning chores quicker and less backbreaking. Creative woodcutters even use chain saws to sculpt large logs. Keep your chain saw manual handy as a reference for general operation and safety tips as well as for regular maintenance recommendations.

Chainsaw on fallen tree
credit: Jupiterimages/ Images
The cutting teeth on the chain all point in the same direction.

Cutting Edge

If you look carefully at the chain, you will see that each cutting link is shaped with a tooth, and only one edge of each tooth is sharpened. When you hold the chainsaw in the operating position -- with the tip of the bar away from you -- the sharp edges of the chain that lie along the top of the bar should also point away from you.

Chain Links

A chain saw chain is a continuous loop of links with the cutting edges around the outside of the loop. The cutting edges of the chain move from the drive sprocket at the base of the bar across the top of the bar and around its tip, returning across the underside of the bar to the drive sprocket. This setup allows the chain to cut "away" from you, meaning that wood chips are propelled downward instead of up towards your face and chest. This direction of movement is also safer in the event the chain snaps during a cut.

Safety Checks

When replacing the chain on your chain saw, make sure the teeth point in the correct direction. Make it a habit to check the chain with each step as you mount the chain on the bar, set the drive links in the bar groove, install the chain around the drive sprocket, adjust the bar, and adjust the chain tension.

Personal Safety

When operating a chain saw it's important to keep you and your body parts safe. Always wear protective eyewear to keep flying shards of wood from damaging your eyes. Make sure you wear clothing that fits and isn't loose that can get caught in the chain, wear long sleeved shirts, long plants and closed-toe shoes. If cutting large branches, keep children and pets out of the area and work with another person.