How Does a Chainsaw Work? A Beginner’s Guide

Every year, 36,000 people are injured in chainsaw accidents. They’re powerful, but dangerous machines that can cause catastrophic damage to your body if you’re not careful.

One of the reasons people get injured around chainsaws is a lack of knowledge. If you’ve ever found yourself asking “how does a chainsaw work?” while using one, you probably have a greater risk of injury.

In this brief post, we’ll provide a rundown of the mechanics of a chainsaw in the hopes that this knowledge will make you safer.

How Does a Chainsaw Work? A Simple Guide

In many ways, a chainsaw works just like a car or any other gas-powered vehicle. Now, there are some electric chainsaws out there, but for the sake of this article, we’ll be focusing on gas-powered models.

The Fuel Tank

Like a car, a chainsaw uses gas as its source of energy. The fuel tank is where the gas (containing chemical energy) is housed.

The Carburetor

Also like a car, the gas from the fuel tank is fed through the carburetor. This is a chamber that opens and closes to allow air in, which mixes with the gas. When you pull on the ripcord of a chainsaw, the carburetor opens up, allowing air in and sucking in a bit of gas as well to create an “air-fuel mixture.”

The Cylinder

This air-fuel mixture is then pulled into the cylinder, where it meets an ignited spark plug. This spark plug ignites the gas, creating a small explosion. This explosion gives the piston inside the cylinder to begin moving open and down.

This all happens at the same moment when you pull the ripcord of the chainsaw.

The Connecting Rod & Drive Shaft

The piston is attached to a connecting rod and drive shaft that turn in a clockwise motion with each pump of the piston. Because of the rapid firing of the piston, this part of the engine is turning very quickly.

The driveshaft, while spinning transfers power to the “clutch.”

The Clutch & Sprocket

The clutch is essentially a metal plate that can connect or disconnect from the sprocket of the chainsaw, which is what eventually spins to cause the actual “chain” of the chainsaw to spin and cut up wood or whatever else you put in front of it.

The engine of a chainsaw is always firing, but it isn’t until the clutch is engaged that the chain actually begins to move.

The Chain & Guide Bar

The guide bar is the long steel plate that the chain runs along. When the engine is giving power to this element of the chainsaw, it can successfully cut through nearly anything!

Looking to Learn More About Chainsaws?

Hopefully, this post has successfully answered the question “How does a chainsaw work?” It’s a scary-looking device, but its mechanics are quite simple.

If you’d like to learn more about how to best use a chainsaw, check out our guide on how to properly mix chainsaw fuel.

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