Chainsaw chaps? Check. Chainsaw boots? Check. Chainsaw… gloves? Yes, chainsaw gloves. Perhaps the newest addition to the chainsaw protective ensemble, chainsaw gloves purport to offer a protection to your hands as you cut with your saw, and some claim they are just as important for your OSHA-Inspired wardrobe than any other piece of safety gear. But are chainsaw gloves really necessary? Do they even work the way they are supposed to? I bought a pair to put them to the test, and the experience opened my eyes to both the effectiveness of these gloves and ultimately why they are probably pointless. While they do protect against certain types of saw injuries, chainsaw gloves likely won’t offer any additional protection if your chainsaw comes equipped with a chain brake. While we will discuss these details at length here, you can watch my test and discussion below:
Let’s begin here by looking at the gloves I actually put to the test.
The Chainsaw Gloves I Tested
I’ll repeat that because it is crucial to understand what exactly these gloves do: The only protective material these gloves have is over the back of the left hand. If you look at the photo above, you can see that square stitch, which is where the fabric is located.
When wearing the glove, this gives you protection on the back of the hand and knuckles, but absolutely no protection on the fingers or side of the hand.
When your hands are situated on the saw, this plate of protection is on the hand holding the front bar and pointed at the chain, acting (in theory) like a shield. Now Let’s put that theory to the test.
For the test, I stuck the glove on a piece of firewood stuck firmly in the pile. Though the product does claim to stop chains instantly, I decided to put it through a realistic scenario. I would rev the saw up and gently tap the glove to simulate a quick moment of contact. From there, it would be judged on whether the saw was able to penetrate the protective fabric and what, if any, protection would have been offered to the user.
After a brief moment of contact (and honestly to my surprise), the saw was unable to to penetrate the glove. A hand inside would have been completely protected.
However, there was one notable problem: The piece of wood the glove was placed on was completely ripped out of the pile, and I could feel the tug as I hit the glove. That brings up a real concern with the concept of chainsaw gloves themselves. If a chainsaw hits a pair of chaps or boots, these pieces of gear are situated on a firm and stable part of the body. Hands are not so. If my hand were to come in contact with a chain wearing these gloves, there is a very real chance that instead of protecting me, my hand would get pulled in by the top of the chain, potentially putting my arms or shoulder at more risk.
That said, If I knew the back of my hand was going to meet a chain, would I rather be wearing these gloves than not? Probably.
The question may be irrelevant, though. In reality, it is difficult for me to imagine a situation where my hands are ever at risk when I am using a saw properly and safely.
The Reality: Chainsaw Gloves Are Superfluous
As stated earlier, the protective material on the chainsaw gloves is designed to work as a sort of shield, but the chainsaw brake already does that, and it does it far more effectively. With the hands properly situated on the bar (that is, the thumb firmly under the bar), it is highly unlikely the left hand will ever come in contact with the chain. However, in the unlikely event it does due to a loose and improper grip or reckless handling, there is a fairly high probability the hand will hit the chain brake lever and engage it first, bringing the chain to an instant halt.
A proper grip and chain brake together offer far superior protection than chainsaw gloves ever could, so they really are superfluous and unnecessary.
Is the Left Hand a Common Location of Chainsaw Injury?
Despite the seeming improbability of an injury to the left hand, statistics do show that is is a common location of chainsaw injuries… Well, sort of.
This diagram comes from a widely-cited report from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and is used as a basis to justify the logic behind chainsaw gloves. As you can see, the left hand appears to get sliced often. However, this data has a problem: It is old. This report came out in 1994 at a time when chain brakes were still relatively new, and many chainsaws in circulation did not have them.
If these stats were updated and recompiled, we would likely see a large reduction (if not elimination) of injuries to the left hand due to the near total retirement since then of saws without chainbrakes.
The Situations When Chainsaw Gloves Are Necessary
That having been said, there is one crucial time when wearing chainsaw gloves are an excellent idea: When you are operating a chainsaw that does not have a chain brake. Ideally, I strongly encourage you to not operate these saws, as I adamantly believe they are the most important safety feature of a chainsaw, but if you must, pick yourself up a pair of these gloves.
Luckily, very few chainsaws come without a brake, so this problem is limited to vintage saws and certain electric chainsaws.
Simple Rules to Keep You Safe
So do these gloves work? Yeah. Should you use them? Probably not. More so than any glove ever could, these rules can keep your hands safe and at a near-zero risk of chainsaw injury:
- When holding the chainsaw, keep you thumb wrapped under the bar and keep a firm grip. Avoid wearing slick and over-sized gloves.
- Before taking either the left or right hand off of the chainsaw, always engage the chain brake. Disengage the brake only when you are ready to cut with two hands on the saw and stationary.
Chainsaws are extremely dangerous (even deadly) tools, and one should treat their operation with the utmost respect, and the fact that you have read this far means I likely don’t have to tell you that. Always wear your chaps, always wear face and eye protection, and specialty Chainsaw boots are an excellent idea too, but you can leave the gloves on the rack. Of course, regular work gloves are never a bad idea. Even at rest, those chains are still sharp!