Here’s the best piece of advice about trimming trees: hire a professional. As much of a macho-man bubble burst that may be, it’s the unsexy, honest truth. The risk in climbing a tree with a chainsaw dangling at your hip is, we hope, apparent. That said, if you want to spend some time fantasizing about what it’s like to be a pro, or if you want a better education on how the pros you paid a premium will be doing the job, we asked a true professional — Mark Chisholm, a New Jersey Certified Tree Expert, 21-time state-champion tree climber and three-time champion at the ISA International Tree Climbing Championship. Along with his dad and brother, he runs Aspen Tree Expert Co. of Jackson, NJ and serves as President Elect of the NJ Arborists Chapter. He walked us through how to properly prune your tree this fall, as winter storms roll in and those foreboding branches start looming a bit closer to the living room.
Chisholm goes with Stihl products (he’s an ambassador for the brand). He showed us proper chainsaw operation on the Stihl MS 251 Wood Boss, a 45.6cc gas-powered chainsaw that’s a great utility option for homeowners (it fells small trees and is sized right for cutting firewood). For in-tree work, Chisholm uses the MS 150, which is smaller, lighter and more ergonomically friendly when you’re bending and potentially reaching for branches. The process for starting is the same for both saws.
1. Make sure the chain brake is locked. Chisholm compares the chain brake to an emergency brake for the chainsaw. With this locked, the chain won’t move.
2. Move the Master Control lever to cold start mode (if you are restarting the chainsaw, move the Master Control lever to the half-throttle position).
3. Leg lock the chainsaw (while standing, lock the end of the chainsaw between your legs), holding the handlebar with the left hand, and the starter rope with the right. This is the most important part: getting a secure position to fire up the chainsaw. Make sure the whole machine is stable before starting the engine.
4. Pull the starter rope. Once the engine fires up, immediately pull the throttle, once.
5. Deactivate the chain brake by pulling the bar toward you, then get on the throttle again.
6. Maintain stable positioning whenever using the chainsaw. Chisholm emphasizes keeping two hands on the saw at all times and wrapping the thumbs. Never overextend when cutting, and keep the saw in control at all times.