Suryan Levi, MSc

An Evaluation of the Performance of Chainsaw Lubricants

volume: 41, issue:

Chainsaws require lubrication of the guide bar and saw chain to function properly. Many oils are commercially available to provide this lubrication. Economical and more recently environmental concerns are increasingly compelling consideration of the best type of oil to use. Several published scientific studies provide some guidance, but additional information is needed for operators to make informed and effective choices in lubricating oil selection. The work presented in this paper contributes to providing this guidance by comparing the performance of economy and premium versions of three commonly-used types of lubricating oils: petroleum-based bar-and-chain oil, biodegradable bar-and-chain oil, and petroleum-based motor oil. Testing was conducted on a laboratory chainsaw test apparatus used in prior published scientific studies of chainsaw performance. Testing consisted of free running (i.e. chain traveling about the bar at cutting speed but not cutting) for a prescribed time period, while lubricating oil was applied to the guide bar and saw chain in the usual manner and at typical flow rates. Based on the correlations between wear, friction, and temperature, the mean guide bar temperature was used as the measure of performance of each oil. Results showed that, while each oil type performed adequately, the petroleum-based bar-and-chain oil performed best and the biodegradable-based oil performed worst with the petroleum-based motor oil providing intermediate performance. No consistent correlation was found between either the unit cost of each oil and its performance or the perceived quality of each oil (economy versus premium) of each oil and its performance. Tribological properties of flash point, viscosity, and four-ball wear were measured. A weak correlation was found between flash point values and performance. A possible Stribeck relationship was found for viscosity implying a possible transition from mixed and hydrodynamic lubrication. No correlations were found between performance and four-ball wear test results. These results support chainsaw operator observations and other published scientific findings that a variety of oils can be effectively used as lubricants. The lack of correlation of performance with some commonly-measured tribological properties suggests lubricating-oil providers should consider the use of a dedicated saw chain testing apparatus in product development.


Web of Science Impact factor (2022): 3.200
Five-years impact factor: 3.000

Quartile: Q1 - Forestry

Subject area

Agricultural and Biological Sciences