The most essential safety equipment you can wear when using a chainsaw is chap pants. This is coming from someone who, early in their career, was ignorant of the importance of chaps and managed to cut themselves. Now I won't use a saw without them. So let's find out how chaps actually work.
Chainsaw chaps work by jamming the chainsaw with layers of thick Kevlar threads. On impact, the threads plug the saw, stopping it immediately. The jamming of the saw happens before the saw passes through all layers of the chap pants. This protects the user's leg from harm.
To help you understand things further, I'll go into a little more detail about how this process actually works. There'll even be a video of someone testing some chaps. I'll then compare some different varieties of chaps and give some information on protecting other parts of your body.
How Do Chainsaw Chaps Actually Work?
The material used to make the protective layer of chaps is like Kevlar. It contains many long fibers, which will help jam the chainsaw.
To help protect the user's leg, many layers of this material are sewn together. The more layers, the better. These layers will form a nice cushion around the wearer's leg.
When cut, the Kevlar will jam chainsaws. This is because all those fibers in the material will get tangled in the saw. The saw will get so tangled, the chain won't be able to spin.
Chainsaws work by spinning a chain around a bar very fast. How fast? On average, almost 90ft per second. Knowing this, we can understand how quick the saw jams, protecting our leg.
Once those threads get caught in the chain, the chain will take the threads right to the sprocket, causing it to jam. This happens in milliseconds.
Want to see someone test some chaps? Check out this video below.
See how quick the saw stopped?
Can You Use Chaps After They’ve Been Cut?
If cut, the Kevlar will be too damaged to fix. The saw will tear most layers of the Kevlar apart. Luckily there are many layers, so your leg shouldn't get touched.
Unfortunately, you won't be able to use chaps that have been cut. Instead, you will need to get rid of them and get a new pair. There's just no way anyway could stitch all those fibers back together.
Quality chaps can be pretty pricey, so throwing them away can be frustrating. But it's much cheaper than the hospital bill after cutting your leg.
Can You Use a Chainsaw After It’s Been Jammed by Chaps?
The good news is you can still use your chainsaw after it's cut through chaps. You'll need to remove all the fibers, but this isn't too hard.
To clean your saw, you will need to take it apart. First, focus on the sprocket, making sure you remove every last thread. Then you can check over the bar and the rest of the saw. Take your time with this; you don't want to miss any threads.
Once clean, you can put your saw back together. Then, your saw will be good to go!
Comparing Different Types of Chaps
Chaps range in quality and style. Let's take a look at some of the different types of chaps.
Cheap vs Expensive Chaps
In general, if you can, it is best to spend more on safety equipment, and chaps are no exception.
Higher quality brands use better material, and they use more of it. As a result, more expensive pants are much thicker on average.
As I said earlier, the more layers you have, the better. A saw will cut through multiple layers, so the more layers you have, the less likely you will get cut.
Lower-quality pants won't have the same amount of protection. They will still stop the saw, though. But you could end up with a scratch or a small cut. So low-quality chaps are still much better than nothing at all.
If you use saws at all, consider investing in a quality pair of chaps. It doesn't take long for a saw to kick back into your leg, only milliseconds.
I was lucky when I cut myself. I managed to get away with a small cut on the top of my thigh, requiring five stitches. The femoral artery is in your thigh, and if that gets cut, it will be disastrous.
If you're looking for the best types of chaps, check out this article: What Are the Best Chainsaw Trousers? Hear From an Arborist
Trousers vs Clip On Chaps
For me, chap trousers vs the clip-on chaps come down to convenience. But, if you want a more detailed look at the difference between trouser and chaps, check out this article: Are Chainsaw Chaps or Pants Better? The Pros & Cons of Each
Being an Arborist, I am cutting all throughout the day, so I find chaps in trousers work best. Trousers are still bulky and heavier than regular pants, but they're convenient. I don't need to put them on and take them off every time I use a saw.
Most professionals opt for trousers over chaps. Having to wear them all day is the main reason for this.
Chap trousers are more expensive than clip-on. But, if you are using them for hours a day, you'll get your money's worth.
One thing to note with chap trousers is their longevity. Chap trousers last approximately one year before you need to get a new pair. This is because the Kevlar material slides down the trouser leg. After a while, there will be little Kevlar protecting your legs. All the Kevlar will bunch up at the bottom of the trousers.
Your pants will be no good after the Kevlar slips; you'll need to get a new pair. Make sure you check for bunching if you are buying a second-hand pair.
For chainsaw pants to be effective, proper care needs to be undertaken. To learn how to wash your pants properly, check out this article.
The more traditional clip-on chaps are perfect for backyard chainsaw users. As the name suggests, you clip them on as needed.
If you store these chaps in a cool, dry place, away from the sun, these chaps should last a long time.
If you buy quality, you will get excellent protection with either trousers or clip-on chaps.
Are There Chaps For Other Parts of Your Body?
You can cut more than your leg when you use a saw. Luckily, there's other cut-resistant clothing you can wear.
If you are using a small saw, consider wearing gloves to protect your hands from the saw. Big saws need two hands to operate, lowering the risk of you cutting, or the saw kicking back into your hand.
Using a small saw you can hold in one hand increases the temptation to cut and hold.
Cutting and holding is when you have the branch in one hand (for control) and cut with the other hand. This method isn't recommended, as it's easy to lose focus and start grabbing at branches.
Chainsaw gloves work like chaps. This is because the glove has Kevlar inside, which jams the saw if cut. These gloves are an excellent layer of protection for anyone working with a saw near their hands.
Forearm sleeves protect your forearms for a similar reason to gloves. Using a smaller saw, people tend to cut and hold, increasing the risk of forearm and hand injury.
These sleeves are perfect for people climbers or people workout out of a cherry picker.
The forearm sleeve isn't too common in the professional world. But, my workplace issues sleeves to everyone who uses a cherry picker.
Chainsaw boots are like regular steel-toed boots. The only difference is Kevlar. The Kevlar covers the boot, working the same way as other chaps.
Chainsaw boots provide excellent protection when cutting anything on the ground. When standing over anything you're cutting, there's a small risk of cutting into your foot. Or, the chainsaw could kick back into your foot. The risk is small, but regular boots wouldn't be enough to protect you if it were to happen.
One downside to chainsaw boots is how big and clunky they are. These boots tend to be uncomfortable to wear, so they can become a pain when working in them all day.
Another negative is how hot your feet can get wearing them. This isn't too much of a problem in Winter, but the Summer months will cause quite a lot of discomfort.
Now you know how chainsaw chaps work. I hope you will consider them when pruning next. But, if you still need convincing, check out this article.
If you're new to pruning, you might need to fix some previous mistakes. If that's the case, check out this article: How to Fix a Badly Pruned Tree: Learn From an Arborist