CS30.1.08: Sharpening The Chain

This section, CS30.1.08, is one of those potential stumbling blocks, as being able to sharpen the chain properly can be quite a lengthy process when you first start doing it. Accuracy is important, as is removing all previous damage.

CS30.1.08 consists of both practical tasks and questions, so it's worth making sure that you're happy with it. Find out more after the jump...

It should be really easy - just grab a file of the right size and use it at the right angle across the chain cutters; sort the depth gauges out and away you go. Sounds simple, but in practice it taxes a lot of people and even within the industry there's a fair amount of debate as to why people can't seem to sharpen their chains properly!

Along with having to be happy about your chain sharpening, you'll also need to answer a couple of questions about sharpening and maintaining the chain. Make sure you're OK with the effects of incorrect depth gauges, wrong angles and different cutter lengths. For the exact lowdown on the actual activities and criteria that go with section, listen to the audio...

CS30.1.07: Replacing The Chain

CS30.1.07 deals with the information needed to select a replacement chain for a given saw. One of the common (and valid) answers when asked 'How do you ensure you get the right chain?", is to provide the guide bar length. This is not necessarily the best way, find out more after the jump...

The problem with chain length is that it is not just specific to the guide bar length; the make of chainsaw will also have a bearing.

This means that if you ask for a chain to fit an 18" guide bar, you might get the right length, or you might not. An 18" bar on a Stihl chainsaw will likely need a different length chain to the 18" bar fitted to Husqvarna, and that's where the problem starts. Anyway, listen to the assessment activity and relevant criteria for this section...

CS30.1.06: Chain Components

CS30.1.06 covers chain components and their function. The criteria shown for this activity does not actually supply all the information needed to answer the questions you're likely to get. So what's missing? Find out more after the jump...

Although not mentioned in the assessment schedule, you will need to demonstrate knowledge that you know the different types of cutter profile, their uses and (dis)advantages - on top that asked for in the criteria. Let's start with the criteria first...

For more information on the chain components, check out this previous post: Chain Components.

CS30.1.05: Chainsaw Safety Features

CS30.1.05 covers the safety features of the chainsaw; you'll need to identify and provide a short explanation of those safety features. There are ten listed features and a number of optional extras that could be fitted, but you're really only interested in those main features. Find out more after the jump...

So, optional 'safety' features such as heated handles, easy-start systems or manual oilers can be forgotten about for the purposes of the assessment. For the full list of the criteria, listen to the audio...

CS30.1.04: Advantages Of A Workshop

CS30.1.04 asks you to demonstrate your knowledge of the advantages of carrying out chainsaw maintenance in a workshop. Find out more after the jump...

This is a pretty simple question, and you should be able to get this one without any other input - with better heating and lighting in a workshop, it's a more comfortable environment to be in.

But, more than that, you've probably got better access to tools and spares in your workshop than you would have in the field. Access to a vice means that you can hold the saw securely whilst you sharpen it, making sharpening more accurate. Anyway, here's the audio...

CS30.1.03: Emergency Planning

CS30.1.03 covers emergency planning details. This is a very important part when you're out working, and especially on a new site; knowing what to do, who to call and where to go in the event of an accident could mean the difference between life and death. When you've got a seriously injureed casualty laying on the ground, it's no time to start looking up in the A-Z Guide to find out where the nearest hospital is. Find out more after the jump...

Emergency planning then is critical, and just jotting down a few pieces of information can make all the difference in an emergency situation - but as well as the items listed in the assessment schedule, make sure that everyone knows where the first aid kit actually is, where the keys to vehicles / gates are and that the vehicle you may have to use is not blocked in and is facing the right way - reversing the van with a trailer / chipper attached to it in an emergency is not easy, so face it the right way round as soon as you get on site.

CS30.1.02: Risk Assessments

CS30.1.02 covers risk assessments, and you will be asked about what goes in to making a risk assessment and the areas that it should cover. Find out more after the jump...

You will not be expected to create, or complete, a risk assessment form; but you will be expected to demonstrate your knowledge of risk assessments, mentioning that they should be relevant to the...

  • Site

  • Task

  • Machine

CS30.1.01: PPE

The assessment is broken up in to two main parts - the maintenance aspects are covered in Part 1, and crosscutting / site preparation is covered in Part 2.

Starting at the beginning then, we'll go through the 18 activities included in Part 1. Find out more after the jump...

Part 1 (CS30.1) starts with you 'observing safety precautions and wearing appropriate PPE'. Remember this just refers to the maintenance aspects, rather than actually using a saw, so things like wearing gloves when handling a chain are covered here.

Introducing The Activities

The main bulk of the assessment schedule is broken down in to a whole heap of assessment activities and their relevant criteria; against which you will be assessed. Find out more after the jump...

There are 18 activities for part 1 of the assessment and a further 17 for part 2. Sounds kinda daunting put like that, but in reality, due to the split of practical tasks and questions, it's not that bad.

There's no writing involved in the assessment, so there's no need to worry if your writing looks like a drunk spider crawling over a page, or your spolling is bid spelling is bad. It's just not an issue.

The remaining audio sections, as we work through this series, just list the assessment activities and criteria as they appear in the schedule itself. I've made a separate audio recording for each activity so that you can just refer back to the one or two where you might be weaker - rather than sit through the entire lot.

If all goes according to plan, when it's all over, I'll try making the whole lot easily accessible from the front page of this site. And so, to get the ball rolling:

CS30 Assessment Schedule: 'Small Print'

As well as listing what you are expected to achieve in the assessment, there's also the obligatory small print, and you might just be interested in one particular snippet. Find out more after the jump...

The five recordings below cover the general introduction to the schedule, safe practices, the complaints and appeal process, objectives (learning outcomes) and assessment / site requirements. The bit you may be really interested in appears in the safe practice bit - but more of that when we come to it..

Introduction to the assessment schedule:

The safe practice section from the assessment schedule lists what might be an important point, and one that might just put your mind at rest for the assessment... item 13 tells you that you can refer to the chainsaw operators manual and/or appropriate training publications.

If, for some reason, you are not happy with the assessment, NPTC do have a formal procedure for dealing with complaints and appeals. This information is shown in the schedule; or you can listen to it here...

The learning outcomes, or objectives, of the assessment (and therefore also of any training you receive to help you achieve success in your CS30 assessment) are listed in this next recording.

Finally, the assessment and site requirements are also listed in the 'small' print of the schedule, before we get to the real nitty-gritty of the assessment activities and criteria.

In the next post we'll start our journey through these assessment activities and criteria, taking a quick look at each one as we go.

CS30 Assessment Schedule: Welcome!

So here's the deal - I recently had a student that was unable to read the assessment schedule before their CS30 assessment. I felt very aware that this student was at a disadvantage to the others on the course, as it meant that any revision was going to be very difficult. I mulled over a solution in my head and then asked the student whether they thought an audio version of the assessment schedule would be useful; find out more after the jump...

Well, the general feeling was that it might be useful and so I've created a whole series of audio (MP3) podcasts that cover the entire NPTC CS30 assessment schedule.

Now, I realise that this may not be the most exciting broadcast you've ever listened to, but if it helps a couple of people then I'll be happy! I'll be adding more to this post, but initially I just want to make sure everything is all setup correctly.

Congratulations to...

I'd just like to congratulate the latest students that passed their NPTC CS30 assessment last week.

And so, a "Well done" goes to...

  • Gary

  • Alan

  • Simon

  • Jason

  • Kevin (take care in those woods of yours!)

  • and last, but by no means least, Suzanne (the assessor was well impressed with your answers to the questions).

Hopefully, I'll see some of you back on the CS31 small fell course at some point in the future!

Starting From Cold

Following the new video about starting your chainsaw, I mentioned that we'd have a look at a couple of things brought up in the video. So, to begin, here's a few pointers to watch out for when starting the saw. Find out more after the jump...

The sequence used for cold starting should include those safety checks:

  1. Chain Oiling: make sure the chain is being lubricated.

  2. Chain Brake: the chain brake must work properly before you use the saw.

  3. Chain Creep: the chain should remain stationary whilst the chain brake is off and the engine is idling.

  4. On / Off Switch: ensure that the off switch really does kill the engine

But, we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves here, as I want to take a quick look at positioning and how to hold the chainsaw.

To my knowledge, there are no left-handed chainsaws which means that whether you're left-handed, or right-handed, the hold on the saw is the same - left hand on the front handle, right hand on the rear (or top) handle. This mean that when you start the saw, it's probably easier to keep hold of the front handle and use your right hand to pull the starter cord. Get your right heel on the rear hand guard and either adopt the 'crouching' or the 'kneeling' position. Try to put a little bit of weight on the saw just to stabilise it whilst you pull the starter cord.

Naturally, you could start the saw in the standing position, which you might want to do if the ground conditions prevent you from getting down on the floor. In this case, make sure that you've got a firm grip on the rear handle by using your legs to hold it in place.

For many occasions however, starting on the floor will be the easiest and most comfortable option. Make sure that you don't start the saw right next to your stash of fuel - keep that well away from the saw unless you're refuelling. Try to choose level ground, clear of any debris that the chain could flick up whilst you do the safety checks; and ideally maintain a safe working distance of 5 metres during the startup procedure.

Once the saw has been started, you'll hear that it is essentially idling very high, but as the chain brake should will be on, it'll also sound a bit strained too. You need to give a quick squeeze on the throttle in order to get the idling down to normal levels. However, if you're still in the 'correct' position, then you'll find that you can't your hand to the throttle as your foot is in the way; use this as a prompt to take up position behind the saw. You can crouch down, or kneel down, but if you elect to kneel only do it with one knee; having both knees on the ground will restrict your movement in the event that you need to get out of the way.

So, where are we in the proceedings? Well, the saw is ticking over nicely and you've adopted a comfortable position behind the saw; try to keep your head out of the line of the bar. You're ready to do the safety checks, so in the next post we'll take a closer look at the chain lubrication.