People + Process = Performance

Thoughts on the Ergonomics of Chainsaws

Using a chainsaw is not part of my day job but recently became of part of my “weekend job”. I normally wouldn’t even comment on chainsaws except for the fact that this Spring my husband and I had a few dead/dying trees to cut down as well as a large patch of buckthorn to try to remove.  We thought it would be more efficient if we worked on the trees together in which he would make the large cuts and I would do the limbing and bucking of the trees.  This meant we would need to purchase another chainsaw since the one we had was a large size Husqvarna chainsaw that was a few years old.  My husband is able to use it easily but it’s a bit too heavy for me to use for any length of time.  So we went shopping for a chainsaw. 

Naturally, as an ergonomist, my criteria in a chainsaw dealt with ease of use.  I wanted a chainsaw that was relatively light weight, well balanced for weight and handle placement, little vibration, simple chain tightening and, perhaps most importantly, a quick and easy start.  I could never start the Husqvarna when it cold and struggled when it was hot which meant I had to ask my husband to start it each time.  If we were to effectively tackle the trees together it meant that I needed to be able to start the chainsaw by myself each and every time.

With this mind we researched different saws on the market.  On advice from a few friends who work for a local tree service company we focused on Stihl and Husqvarna chainsaws.  The number of options decreased even further when priority was given to easy start and light weight.  In the end we went with the Stihl 180 with easy start and 14” bar chainsaw.  I quickly realized it was the perfect chainsaw for me.  The “Easy Start” by Stihl was definitely that—it started up like a dream with minimal pull force and speed needed.  Then I made my first cuts—the weight and balance were great and I felt little vibration.  The next test of the chainsaw came when I needed to tighten the chain.  This model has an easy tightening system which doesn’t require a screwdriver.   Again, it was easy to do.  I was really pleased after limbing for a couple hours because my arms and body were not exhausted.  I was still pretty fresh—a huge benefit compared to using the other saw in which I got tired after 20 minutes.

It was also easy to use on the buckthorn patch where the diameter of them varies from ~1” to 5”.  Before having this chainsaw I would use a hand saw which is much more time consuming.  The chainsaw made cutting down the patch easy.  It still took time but I could accomplish a lot more in the same period of time compared to manually cutting.


I realize this saw is not made for large cuts and everyday use but it fits me, my body size and strength, and how often we use it very well.  It has good ergonomics and human factors which is apparent in it’s easy use and intuitive features.  It definitely improved my chainsaw performance!