Monday, September 5, 2011

Chainsaw Nightmares

Several years ago, I stepped outside to check on our arborist, Michael, who was cutting down a large, storm-shattered tree. Right away, I noticed a new tear in the knee of his jeans. He also had a slightly haunted look in his eyes.

As I approached, Michael spread the tear in his jeans and showed me a fresh Band-aid on his knee. He had just nipped it with the chainsaw. I shuddered. So did he, probably not for the first time. He had come this >-< close to sawing his kneecap in half.

This was a chainsaw expert who had been in the business of trimming trees for two decades. Michael was careful. Many times, I had seen him make a cut in a fallen limb, then glance up into the tree crown to make sure nothing else was about to fall. He could handle a chainsaw as deftly as a butter knife.

And yet, he had just come within a hair of doing severe damage to himself with one of the tools of his trade.

Above, you are looking at disaster with an easy-grip handle...if you don't carry precaution to the level of religion. In the wake of a natural disaster, homeowners aiming to save a buck turn up in hardware stores in droves, snapping up chainsaws. Many have never used one in their lives. But as hospital emergency room personnel can attest, many chainsaw wielders never imagine how much damage the tool can do—and how fast it can happen—until it's too late.

Chainsaws are designed to cut through hardwood. Think about that. A sharp chainsaw blade can slice through a tree limb as big around as you thigh within seconds. Need I say more?

So just a few tips to help save you a trip to the hospital:

—If you have never used a chainsaw, read the instructions carefully...twice. Better yet, apprentice with someone who is experienced.

—Don't use a chainsaw over your head.

—Do use hearing and eye protection.

—For major jobs such as felling a large tree, call an arborist. Sometimes trying to save a buck can result in a substantial medical bill.

(Weatherproofing Your Landscape—the book—contains further chainsaw pointers, as well as pruning tips.)

I'm sure Michael had flashbacks on that too-close-for-comfort chainsaw moment, possibly in his sleep. I certainly did. But I also realized that, in the hands of a less experienced and wary operator, the chainsaw probably would have done much more damage.

So be careful out there! I'd love to hear about your experiences with chainsaws.

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