Starting a Chainsaw Between Your Legs. Tips from a Pro


Chainsaws are valuable tools to transform your logs into lumber or to remove some parts of a tree. Many users start a chainsaw by placing it on the ground. And while keeping the chainsaw on the ground with their feed, pull the starter cord. Despite being safe, this method couldn’t be applied to some scenarios, such as while climbing a tree. This blog post will tell you about another method of starting a chainsaw that can be done with ease almost anywhere.

Starting a chainsaw between your legs:

  • Make sure you are wearing suitable protective gear while doing this. Also, engage the chain brake and pull the choke.
  • Grab the top handle of the chainsaw with your left hand.
  • Place the rear handle in between your legs.
  • Hold the starter cable with your right hand and give it a few pulls till the engine pops.
  • Pull it another time till the engine fully starts.

I will explain the procedure in more detail in this blog post. And show some related tips and tricks for starting chainsaws.

What is the Correct Way to Start a Chainsaw between your Legs?

For most beginners, starting a chainsaw seems like an involved task. As they gain experience, they become more confident with using one. It is essential to be in control whenever you are around a chainsaw. The traditional ground start position is the safest and most preferred way of starting chainsaws, particularly for beginners.

However, experienced users tend to dislike this method as one has to bend over to the ground and pull the cord. This technique can also be inconvenient if you want to start and stop your chainsaw constantly. E.g., while sawing a log into pieces. If you’re climbing a tree, it is not even possible to start a chainsaw unless you know the leg-lock method.

Let me demonstrate the correct approach to start a chainsaw with this method. I would recommend that you follow this approach for increased safety and improved technique.

● Step 1. Safety Measures:

Before you go ahead and haphazardly pull your chainsaw’s cord, keep in mind that these machines are renowned for operational mishaps. Leg accidents are amongst the most widely reported injuries caused while using a chainsaw. And if you don’t know how to perform the leg-lock technique correctly, you run the risk of facing one.

Be sure that you are equipped with suitable safety gear, including chainsaw chaps, safety goggles, earbuds, chainsaw gloves, and steel-toed shoes. It is important to invest in durable, cut-resistant chainsaw chaps to safeguard you from any leg injury.

● Step 2. Perform the Pre-requisites:

While starting a chainsaw, certain practices should be incorporated by every user. The observance of these steps draws the line between safe operation and risky operation. These are provided below:

– Activate the chain brake:

The chain brake is a safety lever located at the front of the chainsaw just at the guide bar’s base. Make sure it is engaged by pushing it forward. Keeping the brake engaged prevents the chain from rotating while the engine is turned on.

The chain brake can be pretty valuable for preventing accidents due to kickbacks. If you want to start a chainsaw in a leg-lock position, ensure the chain brake is turned on. Otherwise, you run a serious risk of injuring your legs.

– Pump the primer:

Some chainsaws use a primer bulb to deliver fuel to the carburetor, which aids in combustion. If your chainsaw uses one, be sure to pump it about three, four times.

– Engage the choke:

This step can be ignored if your chainsaw doesn’t have a choke. But in the event of a cold start or a period of long inactivity, engaging the choke can help start the engine more quickly. Pushing the choke supplies more fuel to the engine for effective combustion. To engage the choke, just set the choke screw to full.

● Step 3. Position Your Chainsaw:

Being in a good position to start a chainsaw guarantees extra safety. Let me show you the right technique to start a chainsaw using the leg-lock method.

  • Hold the top handle: Grab the top handle of the chainsaw with your left hand.
  • Place the rear handle between the legs: Simultaneously, hold the rear handle and place it between your legs so the guide bar lies horizontally. Make sure your left arm is perfectly straight while holding the top handle.
  • Pull the cable: Hold the starter cable using your right hand and gradually pull it until you feel some resistance. Give a quick, firm pull to the cable towards your right shoulder once or twice until the engine pops and fires up. When it does, use both hands to grip the chainsaw from the front and rear handles.

Note: Unfortunately for left-handed individuals, starting a chainsaw can be a bit dangerous unless they do it with their right hand. When they pull the cord with the left hand, there’s a risk that the bar hits their mid-section in a kickback event.

If your chainsaw dies just after starting, check whether the fuel tank vents aren’t plugged. This can cause a vapor lock which keeps the engine from running. Also, examine the air and fuel filters and clean them if any dust has accumulated.

Do you Start a Chainsaw with the Brake on?

It is always recommended to start your chainsaw with the chain brake engaged. Doing this safeguards you from kickbacks and keeps you and others around you safe from the chain’s hazards.

For beginner to intermediate users, starting a chainsaw with the brake is a safe practice that must be incorporated into their daily use. If you’re following the leg-lock method of starting, turning the brakes on would act as an additional safety layer for your lower body.

These brakes were initially designed as an anti-kickback feature. Kickbacks can occur when the upper tip of the chainsaw bar is thrust upwards upon hitting a hard object. The guide bar can even strike the operator’s head if the kickback is strong enough with a fast-rotating chain. With the chain brake present, one can push its lever forward in the event of a kickback, and the chain would stop rotating.

● Hold the top handle with your left hand:

I would always recommend that you hold the top handle with your left hand with your fingers over the handle the thumb underneath it. This type of handling allows you to quickly access the chain brake using your fingers in any kickback incident.

Apart from its protection against kickbacks, it is also standard in most user manuals to turn the brakes on while starting. Experienced users who feel comfortable with their saws usually tend to ignore the brakes while starting. There aren’t any widely reported accidents as far as starting a chainsaw without brakes on is concerned.  However, I’d say that it’s better to stay by the book as the risk of unfortunate incidents lingers always.

Why shouldn’t you Drop Start a Chainsaw?

Drop starting a chainsaw can be dangerous as there’s a lack of bracing that could hold the chainsaw from striking back and hitting yourself or somebody else.

Drop starting means holding the chainsaw in one hand and using the other hand to pull the starter cable. This can be quite an unsafe practice as the lack of any bracing (such as leg support or boot) makes it highly likely for the bar to hit the vulnerable parts of your body.

Most experienced users argue in favor of drop starting that it’s almost unavoidable when you are climbing a tree, and it’s difficult to have any ground or leg support. Also, while activating the chain brake, you can prevent yourself from any possible hazards that might exist due to drop starting.

● Why I think you should not drop start a Chainsaw:

However, I believe that it still isn’t the proper practice, to begin with, due to specific reasons. First, drop starting a cold chainsaw that’s been sitting for a while won’t help you start it. It might need several pulls before the engine could be running. Most users end up stretching their shoulder muscles while pulling the cord when there’s no support bracing the chainsaw.

Secondly, if you drop start a chainsaw without activating the chain brake, there’s a high chance that the guide bar might hit you in the mid to lower section. This is quite true for lighter chainsaws with high compression that are jumpy when you start them.

It is much safer to start your chainsaw locked in between legs instead of drop starting it when the risks are also high. Also, it wouldn’t be a good trend to recommend that beginners drop starting their chainsaws when they aren’t adept at handling one.

To conclude, you should avoid drop starting your chainsaw and prefer the leg-lock alternative instead for safety reasons.

How do you Start a Stubborn Chainsaw?

If your chainsaw doesn’t start or doesn’t keep running after starting, the following could be the reasons:

  • Clogged carburetor
  • Vapor lock in the fuel tank
  • Dirty air and fuel filters
  • Defective spark plug
  • Faulty ignition coil

Three factors play a major role in keeping a small engine running. These include the fuel delivery system, ignition, and cylinder compression. The first two are of key importance and main reasons behind engine hitches.

● How do you Start a Stubborn Chainsaw: Carburetor

Carburetor getting plugged with the debris is a fairly common occurrence due to the fuel used these days. The deposits clog the carburetor jets, which affects the air-fuel ratio’s composition. This upset in the ratio of air-fuel charge can cause engine problems.

Fix: To fix the issue, you should use a carburetor cleaner to clean the carburetor’s jets. Also, make sure you clean the air and fuel filters from dust and debris deposits.

● How do you Start a Stubborn Chainsaw: Ignition system

The ignition system consists of the ignition coil and the spark plug. After continued use, the spark plug’s electrodes wear out, which affects the spark quality during combustion.

Fix: To fix the issue, you should check and see if your electrodes are in good shape or not. In that case, replacing the spark plug is the best option. If this still doesn’t solve the problem, your ignition coil will likely be faulty and need replacement.

How many Pulls should it take to Start a Chainsaw?

A cold chainsaw with a choke on should take around 3 to a maximum of 6 pulls to start. A hot chainsaw with half or no choke may take 1-3 pulls to start.

The exact number of pulls depends on many factors such as the carburetor’s tuning, fuel quality, engine’s temperature, overall condition, etc. At low temperatures, it is difficult to start a chainsaw since the engine is cold. To aid this process, the choke is pulled, which enriches the mixture with fuel. A rich fuel mixture raises the temperature and helps start a cold engine.

It may take you around 3-6 pulls to start a cold engine with a choke on. Newer engines that are kept well-maintained may take lesser pulls. E.g., Stihl’s MS model chainsaws can take a maximum of 2-3 pulls while cold starting with choke on.

If you want to reduce the number of pulls required, you should loosen the carburetor’s low-speed adjustment screw (L). Try loosening the screw by 1/4 to 1/8 of a turn, as it makes the mixture richer with fuel. Making this adjustment often helps users reduce their number of pulls by two or three.

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