vegetable oil from your local supermarket not only works well for
a bar/chain lubricant, it is less expensive than
petroleum based oils and safer for the operator
Conventional wisdom says that one must use a
bar/chain specific oil in their chainsaw. The underlying reason
stems from an additive called tac that supposedly causes the oil
to cling to the chain. This is good in theory but in reality, at
13,000+ RPM’s, little oil stays on the chain, tac or not.
Chainsaws use what is known as a Total Loss
Lubricating System. This means that regardless of oil type used,
100% of it is lost directly to the environment during use. The oil
is simply flung off the bar tip and this is why many environmentally
aware European countries inhibit the use of petroleum-based lubricants
in chainsaws. And though not as widespread, there are also areas
in North America restricting its use and agencies adapting to vegi-based
oils including Denali and Point Reyes National Parks.
Why are vegetable oils safer for the
operator? A Total Loss Lubricating System + 13,000 RPM’s
= oil misting. Inevitably, some of that oil gets inside the body
by inhalation and or dermal absorption. In this regard, studies
have shown vegetable oils to be safer than petroleum based oils.
Why not vegetable-based bar/chain specific
oils? By all accounts, these would seem better than petroleum
based lubricants. However, not only do these specialty oils cost
3-5 times that of straight vegetable oils, they contain unknown
additives. Remember. These oils are only “vegetable-based”.
Will straight off-the-shelf vegetable
oil harm the chainsaw? Some of the original veggie oil
advocates are professionals who have run their saws on a daily basis
for years and report no adverse effects. From my perspective, the
only negatives I have to report is when using in saws without adjustable
oilers. Vegetable oils have lower viscosities than the bar/chain
lubricants therefor flow more readily. In a saw with no adjustable
oiler, this equates to refilling more often and a bigger mess with
more oil being sprayed about. The other downside is the mess veggie
oil can make if not regularly cleaned off the saw. While fine inside
the saw, where the air can not get to and oxidize it, as soon as
the oil leaves the saw, some of it inevitably gets in every nook
and cranny eventually turning into a sticky and gooey mess that
is extremely diffiucult to remove without the aid of powerful degreasers/solevents.
For a professionals opinion on using vegetable oil, contact the
Additional tips & considerations:
oils versitileness. Not
only can you use it for lubrication & cooking, veggie
oils moisturize dry skin & are as effective at cleaning
greasy hands as any specialty hand cleaner. Just pour a little
on; rub then wipe off with a rag. Your freshly cleaned hands
will thank you.
moisturize, & clean...don't try that with conventional
- Any vegetable oil works. However, considering
your saws Total Loss Lubricating System, it would make sense to
use the least expensive stuff you can find. Just be aware that
some Europeans have reportedly experienced health related issues
while using rapeseed oil, an oil with a high level of erucic acid.
Canola, a low erucic acid rapeseed, is inexpensive and readily
avialable in America.
- Vegetable oils often times contain preservatives.
Considering misting, an oil containing a natural preservative
may be better. Wearing a good fitting particulate mask is also
wise. Wiser yet is a respirator capable of handling the chainsaws
emissions. It would also be prudent to pick windy days to cut,
if you can, and staying on the upwind side whenever possible.
And, if you're lucky enough to live in a country where a non-benzene
alkylate fuel can be purchased, use it (unfortunately,
the U.S. regulatory figures don't put a premium on health).