Student Kristan Kelly cuts a log with a chainsaw while steadying it with her foot in Saturday's Introduction to Chainsaws for Women class at The Folk School. Cheryl Upshaw/News-Miner

When Elizabeth Irving learned her female friends had never used a chainsaw and wanted to, she made it happen. Irving taught The Folk School’s first class on using a chainsaw for women to a group of six women Saturday. All six walked out having created firewood out of logs and with enough basic knowledge to safely use a chainsaw at home.

Irving has taught several different courses for the Folk School in the past. When she told others that she would be teaching an introductory chainsaw class for women, she says women looked excited and interested and men looked worried. Irving knew they shouldn’t be concerned — with a little training, practice and knowledge of safety protocol, almost anyone can use a chainsaw.

As most chainsaws used in homes weigh only 10 pounds, they are “perfectly handleable for women,” Irving said. More than that, they are practical tools for Alaskans, who may need to move lumber off their roads and driveways and don’t always have time to wait for someone to come help.

Her female friends indicated a need to learn a skill such as using a chainsaw, the Folk School was looking for someone to teach such a course and Irving, an experienced teacher, often cuts the firewood for her own family, just like her own mother did. Introduction to Chainsaws for Women was born.


Instructor Elizabeth Irving explains basic chainsaw maintenance during Saturday's, Sept. 28, 2019, Introduction to Chainsaws for Women class at The Folk School. Cheryl Upshaw/News-Miner

The class was offered for the first time Saturday. The second class is Monday. It was such a popular idea that class registration filled up in just one day, which Irving said was a Folk School first. Six women showed up to The Folk School’s workshop Saturday afternoon, ready to learn and bearing ear protection.

“What I saw today is that these women are competent, intelligent and hardworking, and everybody who is that can chainsaw easily without fear of injury,” Irving said, “with proper safety protocols and training.”

The women learned everything a person cutting her own firewood might want to know: how to purchase, maintain and use a chainsaw, the different parts of a chainsaw and how to use one safely. They then applied their knowledge, first starting a chainsaw and then cutting a log with it.

Irving emphasized safety in her class. She told students not to use the tip of the chainsaw blade, how to hold a chainsaw, how to stand while operating a chainsaw and how to move it to avoid injury. She went over a list of necessary equipment: ear protection, safety glasses, long sleeves, chainsaw chaps and leather gloves.

To operate a chainsaw safely, Irving suggests that users make sure they have all the proper safety gear, try not to chainsaw alone, if possible, know their chainsaws and make sure the machine is in proper working order before use.


Student Nicole Misarti uses a chainsaw to cut a log in Saturday's Introduction to Chainsaws for Women class at The Folk School. Cheryl Upshaw/News-Miner

Students were satisfied with the experience. One student, Jen Cerovski, said she was glad to learn about the different parts of a chainsaw and how to maintain one.

Kristan Kelly came to class because she hopes to learn to make her own cabin. She’s taking The Folk School’s Log Cabin class early next year, and learning to use a chainsaw is a prerequisite. Before Saturday’s class, Kelly had never used a chainsaw before.

“I thought it was fantastic. I feel like I can go home and practice now,” she said.

She recently purchased a chainsaw, and Irving even walked her through putting it together out of the box.

“I was a little intimidated by it,” Kelly said. “I feel better now.”

Contact Cheryl Upshaw at 459-7572 or find her on Twitter: @FDNMcity.