Here’s Why They Turn Chainsaw Bars Upside Down

If you’ve ever passed through logging country, you might have seen loggers using a chainsaw with all of the logos and words on the chainsaw bar upside down. It might seem odd to turn the chainsaw bar upside down, but this is done deliberately to increase the efficiency of the machine. 

Professional loggers and home renovators flip the chainsaw bar upside down on their chainsaw for several reasons: 

  • To ensure that the wear on the bar remains even
  • To extend the bar’s lifespan
  • To maximize the efficiency of the chainsaw as it operates

Understanding how a chainsaw bar works is a fundamental element in efficient chainsaw operation.  While they look simple, chainsaw bars are a piece of well-engineered machinery.  A chainsaw bar requires some rather fine tolerances, and when the metal of the bar begins to wear, these tolerances allow movement that can keep the chainsaw blade from making cuts. 

What are the Different Parts of a Chainsaw Bar?

Although it looks like a simple part of the overall mechanism of a chainsaw, there’s a lot of engineering that goes into chainsaw guide bars. Even though it is relatively simple in design, each part of a chainsaw bar is explicitly designed to maximize the chainsaw’s efficiency and safety. 

Here are the different components involved: 

  • Nose – The rounded tip of the chainsaw bar is called the nose.  Many guide bar noses are designed with a small sprocket inside the chainsaw bar to help guide the chainsaw blade as it makes the turn around the nose.
  • Heel – The heel of the chainsaw fits inside the motor body of the chainsaw.  Slots machined into the chainsaw bar on this end allow bolts or nuts to be tightened against the chainsaw bar, and this, in turn, holds the tension on the blade.  The drive sprocket on the chainsaw sits immediately behind the chainsaw bar when it is attached.
  • Chainsaw bar rails – Chainsaw bar rails are a slot or groove around the perimeter of the chainsaw bar where the saw chain itself rides while the saw is in operation.  These grooves or slots are where chainsaw bars show the most wear since they are subjected to metal-on-metal friction.

Trouble Spots on the Chainsaw Bar

Chainsaw blades operate at more than fifty miles an hour, so you can imagine the amount of wear and tear that a chainsaw endures throughout its lifespan. Even though all chainsaws have an oiling system to provide lubrication for the slot and chain, wear is inevitable. 

Here are some of the areas of a chainsaw bar that should be inspected for wear and tear: 

  • Bar rails: Most of the wear on a chainsaw bar occurs on the top of the bar rails and the surfaces inside of the rails.
  • Machining plug: The machining plug towards the nose of the chainsaw bar may eventually work loose and fall out.
  • Heel: Wear can occur at the heel of the chainsaw bar if the operator runs the chainsaw blade too loose on the bar rails.
  • Bending: Chainsaw bars can become bent over time from stress caused by hardwoods being cut and the force of the logger pushing on the bar. 

For safety, a chainsaw bar must be regularly inspected for wear or damage and replaced when it does begin to become tattered. Worn or damaged chainsaw bars are much more likely to throw a chainsaw blade, which can cause several dangerous or frustrating situations: 

  • A thrown blade during cutting can cause the bar of the chainsaw to become lodged in the cut to the point it can’t be extracted, ruining the chainsaw.
  • The chainsaw blade may break, whipping back to strike and injure or kill the operator.
  • The chainsaw blade may bind up in the drive sprocket and damage the drive mechanism of the chainsaw, causing it to either be repaired or scrapped.
  • The bar may be damaged beyond repair by the blade. 

Since a chainsaw accident is potentially deadly, chainsaw operators must scrutinize their chainsaw before every operation to ensure that no part of the chainsaw is worn or damaged and in need of attention. 

Chainsaw Bar Flipping

Flipping the chainsaw bar regularly is one of the best ways to even out the wear on the bar and extend its life. This changes the stress and wear points on the chainsaw bar caused by the forces that act on the bar while you’re cutting.  

When to Flip Your Chainsaw Bar

Opinions vary among professional loggers on what kind of schedule should be kept for changing or flipping a chainsaw bar. Here are a few suggested schedules: 

  • At the end of every day of use when the chainsaw is cleaned
  • Every time a chainsaw blade is changed

One helpful hint to figure out when to flip your chainsaw bar is to mark an arrow pointing up on the chainsaw with a permanent marker. This will help you remember the direction of the bar once the paint and logos have begun to wear off. (Source: Homesteading Today)

What to Look for When Inspecting Your Chainsaw Bar

There are often visual indicators of wear or damage that tell you when it’s time to flip the bar on your chainsaw or replace it. Here are some inspection points to consider: 

  • Check the rails. The top edge of the rails should be square with the sides of the chainsaw bar. 
  • Check the slot or groove. The inside of the slot or groove should have walls that are parallel with each other, not splayed or opened.  Wear will eventually cause the grooves to have a
    V-shaped appearance.
  • Check for flares on the outside of the bar edges. These flares will appear as a wire-like edge along the length of the bar.  You can remove these carefully with a flat-file.  These flares on the outside of the bar can eventually lead to binding and chainsaw kickback.

(Source: Husqvarna)

Making the Most of Your Chainsaw

While turning your chainsaw bar occasionally does help to preserve it, your chainsaw needs more than just the occasional new blade and a bar flip.  Here are a few necessary steps you should take to make sure that your chainsaw is in top running order each time you need it:

  • Clean the chainsaw after every use. You should remove the chain and bar and clean the drive sprocket as well as everything under the chainsaw housing.  Wood chips and oil can build up over time, which eventually can cause overheating and possibly even a fire as the temperatures of the parts rise during use.
  • Check the sprocket for unusual wear. A worn drive sprocket can indicate problems with the bar or the tensioning of the chain.  A worn sprocket may be due to a worn bar, improper blade tension, or a worn blade tension device.
  • Lubricate the saw. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions in the user manual to lubricate all the parts of your chainsaw to ensure smooth operation.
  • Pay special attention to the cooling fins. The top of the cylinder has cooling fins to dissipate the heat of the two-cycle engine as it runs.  Oil and wood chips can clog these cooling fins and cause the engine to overheat, shortening the life of the engine considerably.
  • Fill the tanks. This is especially important if you are planning on storing your chainsaw for any significant length of time between uses.  Fill the gas tank with fresh gasoline and oil mixed to the proper proportions.  A full tank prevents water condensation in the gas tank.  Fill the bar oil reservoir as well. 
  • Perform the manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance. Every manufacturer includes a schedule of routine maintenance for the chainsaws they produce.  To ensure the most extended life and best performance of your chainsaw, make sure you follow these schedules and recommendations.

(Source: Tractor Supply)

Final Thoughts

No matter whether you are a professional operator using a chainsaw every day or just an occasional user who cuts a few limbs or firewood, regular inspection and maintenance can make your tool last longer and cut cleaner.  Flipping your chainsaw bar can keep your entire chainsaw operating better and longer. 

Peter Toth

Hi! I'm Peter, the owner of BackyardGadget. Working around the house has always been a big part of my life. I've created this site to share my experience, and to help people choose the right tools for the job. Thank you for stopping by!

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