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Took a Chainsaw to the Face  RSS feed

 
Travis Johnson
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I guess I am a regular on here, definitely a well experienced logger, yet I had a major logging accident on Tuesday that put me into the hospital for 4 days with many more days of outpatient work to go. In short, I am hoping Homesteaders who use chainsaws can learn from what happened and how to avoid it.

The truth is I am not really sure what happened, it happened so fast I do not remember it. After returning to the scene of the crime so to speak when I got out of the hospital, I went up in the woods and looked over where I got hurt. I had just dropped a tree and was limbing it out when I neared the top. A big limb was underneath and not wanting to cut into a hummock that would dull my saw, kept my saw back to cut off the limb. I can see from the mark on the limb where my saw kicked and came back at me...like a million miles an hour, knocked off my hard hat and went flying. All I remember is hearing the saw rev. I thought the saw had lost the chain off the bar, but when I woke up, I looked down and the snow was covered in blood.

I cut wood alone, and don't have a cell phone, so I looked at my skidder which was hooked to 7 big trees and realized it was not going anywhere fast, so I started running for the log yard; about a half mile away on foot. From fear and exhaustion I passed out about halfway there, woke up again to another big pile of blood and realized if I did not keep going I was going to die.

So when I got to my truck, really the whole run being a blur, I looked in the mirror, but we had an ice storm the night before and it was too icy to see anything. I sped for home and yelled for the wife to call the ambulance. She did, but while we were waiting for the ambulance, I grabbed the phone, called my truckdriver and told him my skidder was up in the woods idling and if he could shut it off. His boy came up and unhooked the skidder, grabbed my saw and hardhat and came back while they were loading me up. He later told me that the chain brake on my saw was off, there was no blood on it, and that it was in the brush idling along with my hard hat.

That is pretty amazing because it means the saw just grazed my face because it was running at full throttle. Grazed is a relative term; it cut straight to my skull, right between the eyebrows and took 20 stitches to close: 10 on the inside near my skull, and 10 on the outside. I did get two black eyes, and my forehead, sinus and jaw is aching from the collision, but they said I did not get any broken bones, nor a concussion. I took a lot of tests and underwent a lot of observation, but was finally released 4 days later, but no one is sure if the impact damaged my pituitary gland which sits right behind the bridge of the nose, right where I got hit.

What contributed to this?

Well normally a person is hurrying, using the wrong tool for the job, or is working in foul weather, but I had none of these issues. The only thing I did note was that I had sharpened my saw that morning and it was incredibly sharp. I had taken down the rakers a bit too much. I mean I have had far worse, but on that morning it was a bit "grabby". Not really bad, but I could feel when making the back cut when felling and the saw would push back some. Was that a contributing cause? I am not sure, it might have kicked anyway. Maybe the way I was trying to sneak in and cut the limb off was just using too much of the tip? Maybe I should have just left it and pulled the tree ahead to the next one before cutting off that limb? Another thing was the saw itself. I have a 76 cc saw and yet anything under 65 cc's is designed to be anti-kickback; anything over 65 cc is not.

Ultimately a person who uses a chainsaw a lot should:

File the saw teeth down to match the rakers if they notice it is a bit too grabby.
Buy a saw that is 65 cc and under. A chainsaw of that caliber is a VERY capable saw
Be careful when limbing. I have been "bitten" three times with a chainsaw and twice while limbing





 
Tyler Ludens
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Holy crap, Travis!  All best wishes for speedy and complete healing!  I don't know what to say, this is so shocking.


Words fail.

 
James Freyr
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Holy crap is right! Glad you're alright, could have been much worse. Things like that really scare me, especially the injured and alone/no phone part. 20 years ago I was bold and confident, in reality more like young and foolish. I slipped on a roof, thankfully the gutter caught me. Now I have a good sense of self preservation. I won't get on a roof if someone else isn't around, I chock automobile wheels and use two jack stands when crawling under them, I run a low kickback chain on my saw. I can try to do everything right, but it's the unexpected that lingers in the back of my mind. I bet you were doing everything right with that saw, and one little thing went wrong. Good to hear you will live to saw another day.
 
Fred King
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That so sucks! Saws don't make a cut like a knife. Each tooth makes its own cut and tears out its own chunk. I am so glad you are recovering. I was once cutting the top off a pine after liming it when a horsefly bit my right arm.
Just as the saw cut threw I let go with my left hand to swat the horsefly and tip hit a piece of limb under what I had cut. The saw kicked back but thank god only hit my hand. It took over 60 stitches and a few months to repair that. When someone sees the scars I tell them it was from a horsefly bite.
  The best advise I can give someone running a saw is to make sure all the safety devices are working and always keep your left thumb around the handle to help control a kick back but sometimes when cutting a limb off the bottom you are in a position with your left hand down on the side of the saw and you don't the leverage to control it and your hand won't hit the chainbrake if it kicks. That may have been what happened to you. Good luck and be careful!!  Fred
 
Rebecca Norman
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Oh, I'm so sorry to hear about that! I've been noticing and appreciating your good posts on Permies. It is just horrible to hear this happened to you. So glad to hear it wasn't worse than this though.
 
Judith Browning
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Wishing you all the best healing and recovery from this...we live around a lot of folks who are in the woods as you are and there are many who have had accidents no matter how careful they are.... someone we knew long ago carried the facial scar from a similar accident to yours.  From your other posts I think it sounds as though you will have wonderful support from family and friends as you recover.   Maybe even more writing time for awhile?
 
Maureen Atsali
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Reading this brought tears to my eyes.  I am so glad you are okay and recovering.  My husband works with a powersaw doing tree and timber work.  I always have that fear in the back of my mind as I really don't feel like he and his workmates have enough respect for the machine they are using... And I have too often observed them using it wrong, with no safety equipment... So to hear how a safety conscious, mature, seasoned user still got hurt in a serious way... makes my blood run cold.  It is only by the grace of God that my husband and his friends have made it thus far without serious injury... Be well, and heal!
 
s. ayalp
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What the hell man! I'm so sorry to hear that! I hope you get well soon!

My following words are not for you Travis, but someone who is just reading thru.  I want to say two things, as someone who had more than half a dozen serious accidents on construction duties:
-Never! Never! Never work alone with heavy machinery! Once, while there was no one around at the time, I got drilled thru my hand. It happened too fast. It is really hard to dial the emergency number on a touchscreen with all that blood. I couldn't. They found me 40-45 mins later, fainted. Lucky, it missed main veins.
-Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Murphy's law. Basics. "Yeah that is really unlikely to happen, I'm too .... for that" My personal testing of this principle ended with 3 weeks in hospital, 4 months of treatment when I was 24.. There are things worse than physical scars..

All best wishes to you Travis. Get well soon!

 
r ranson
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That is so scary.  Very glad you're still with us.

Sending good thoughts for a speedy recovery!
 
Walt Chase
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Glad that you are on the mend.  The good Lord was looking out for you that day, it could've been much much worse.  I've been running a chainsaw personally and in a semi-professional manner since I was just a teen (I'm 52 now).  I've come to one conclusion on chainsaws.  They are the single most dangerous tool you will ever pick up.  Without being there, but having had near misses such as yours on more than one occasion, I would say the tip of the saw is what caused your mishap.  Having the rakers filed too short could have attributed, but that tip is most likely the primary culprit. Cutting with the tip will cause kick back quicker than any other cutting method.  One suggestion, get one of those hardhats with the chip screen.  It may not have prevented you getting cut, but would've been an extra layer of prevention that may have made a difference.
 
Liz Hoxie
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I think 2 things are true:a) your wife prays A LOT while you're working and b) she is now thanking Jesus that you're still here.
My husband says that you are VERY lucky. It was more than luck that kept you here.
 
Travis Johnson
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Oh Liz, I am a believer, and believe too that the deceiver throws fiery darts to try to knock a person off their game. Considering how active my wife and I am in various church activities, I am in complete agreement with you! But it is merely a bump in the road...building and battling, that is what we do.

I did revisit the scene of the crime again, this time with my wife and with a camera and it was a Spring Pole that got me. I was unable to pull the Spring Pole down and touch the two ends together as depicted by the two arrows in the first photo, which kind of shows how much pressure was on that sapling when I cut through it. You could see the saw marks on the Spring Pole where it pushed the saw up, and then into my face.

On the second photo it can be seen where the limb I was trying to cut off was pushed up out of the cut. The Red arrow shows where I started to cut, then as the Spring Pole was cut through, sent the saw upwards towards the blue arrow, then just grazed the main part of the tree where the green arrow is. You can see that it just scratched the bark here and why I had bark in the gash in my forehead...it was the last thing it cut.

Now as I say all this, keep in mind this happened in a hundredth of a second.



Spring-Pole.JPG
[Thumbnail for Spring-Pole.JPG]
Last-Cut.JPG
[Thumbnail for Last-Cut.JPG]
 
David Livingston
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Wow lucky escape glad to see you are ok ish. This sort of thing is why I never cut alone there is always someone within 100m .

David 
 
Laurie Dyer
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Oh my gosh! So glad you will be okay. And I have to say I'm totally impressed that you ran the 800 meters to your truck! That takes a lot of focus!
 
Matthew Lewis
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Man that is scary. Will definitely be extra careful in the future with a chainsaw.

I had something similar happen to me though much less severe. I am a roofing repair guy and in the winter one of the main things I do is cut in extra vents to improve attic ventilation. I use a skill saw to cut through the roof sheathing and sometimes it kicks back which is no big deal since I'm expecting it.

For some reason about a month ago it kicked back and my thumb of the hand that holds the upper handle without the trigger ended up under the blade. The weird thing is that it cut me on the pad of the thumb rather then the back of the thumb. I was lucky and no nerve damage or anything but it could have been alot worse. I had gloves on which save me a bit.

I'm still trying to figure out how my hand ended up in that position since if my hand slipped off and ended under the saw it should have cut me on the back of the hand.

The only thing I can alter is to hang on a bit tighter since I don't think I did anything wrong and have performed that task hundreds of times.
 
Travis Johnson
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I finally went back to cutting wood today, one week to the hour of when my accident happened. I did not go crazy or anything, just cut a few cords of wood, but it felt good to be out in the woods again. I guess if you fall off your horse, at some point you gotta get back up on it and ride again.
 
Matthew Lewis
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Glad to hear that you are back at it Travis.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Phew!  Travis, brother, I'm sure glad you had your hardhat on! -so glad that you are safe now and have the sense to hash out the details now to figure it out.  You would not be around to tell the story if you hadn't had that lid on. Thank you for sharing this!  It's so important for people to read of such things.

Yo People, wear your PPE (personal protective equipment)!  It saves lives.

I'm relatively bush savvy, but relatively inexperienced with chainsaws considering my upbringing in logging camps and communities, and perhaps relative to you.

That said, I have actually used chainsaws for many years, and I do know that this exact injury is relatively common (I've met a few guys with telling scars).

While helping clear some massive poplars and getting firewood of the large birch for a friend, my other friend who was working with me and who also took a mandatory chainsaw course for his work saw me holding the saw (while limbing) with a loose (bent) lead arm. 

He gave me a pointer so that I don't eat the bar and chain myself:  The primary thing that he says that is necessary to prevent this particular injury situation, is to ALWAYS keep your lead arm straight (elbow locked).  With the elbow locked, if the saw grabs or kicks, the bar and chain are only hinged at your wrist and shoulder.  Unless your wrist is really weak or gave out somehow (which is unlikely and you would feel the strain/sprain on the tendons), this keeps the kicking saw in an arc guided by the shoulder rotation, and thus is well over your head.  It's the only prevention for this besides trying to avoid tip cutting with an aggressively filed saw.  Just sayin' .  Glad you are safe and recovering.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Glad you are healing without major damages Travis, Your story reminds me of why I always turn a log when bucking limbs, I have had a couple of close calls myself.

I consider bucking to be as scary a situation as taking down widow makers, I look them over from all the angles before I even start to make the first cut. So far, it has kept me from a boo-boo.

Sawyers will get in sticky situations, I know I have. Good to know your angels were on duty my friend.

Redhawk
 
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