Chainsaws - Canola / Vegi Oil vs. Traditional Bar Oil

Steve in VA

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Does anyone use canola or vegetable oil instead of the traditional petroleum based bar oils?

I'm thinking of making the switch, but as an occasional chainsaw user I'm concerned about the canola oil gumming up. In the research I've done thus far, here's the general consensus of what I've learned:
  • Canola is generally the most recommended alternative, at least based on what I've seen
  • Canola is cheaper and obviously more environmentally friendly and safer for the user
  • If not fully used, you should drain the reservoir
  • Canola can gum up and become very sticky if left to sit
For those that have used canola, or any other vegetable oil, what have you found? Any pros or cons that really stand out, especially for someone that doesn't run their saw weekly?
 

Maverick

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Never heard of using an alternative oil. Watching with interest, as I also just use my chainsaw occasionally.
 

Gonzalodqa

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I guess it will depend on the viscosity of the oil. Personally when I have used a chainsaw I usually use petroleum based oil. In the rain forest people used to soak the chain in a bucket of motor oil 😅
 

trc65

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Never heard of alternative either. Maybe in an emergency situation where nothing else was available, but otherwise I personally wouldn't. Canola also seems awfully thin compared to bar oil.

Draining the reservoir would be a first good step, but think of all the residue left in the ports, on the bar, chain, and everything else. Then the saw sits for a month or two......

If I had used some, I think I'd want to flush the system with regular bar oil for a couple of fills, or do a deep cleaning with a solvent before storage.
 

woodtickgreg

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I personally wouldn't use a pure vegetable oil as its very thin. Some bar oils are actually veggie based but they have a tacky additive in them to help keep the oil from being flung off the chain. Another reason I wouldn't use a pure veggie oil is that sometimes if I'm cutting in very cold conditions I will add a little diesel fuel or kerosene to the oil to help keep it flowing and not gell up in my chainsaw mill auxiliary oil tank.. Your not talking about a huge savings of money here over traditional bar oil, and bars, chains, and clutch bearings are expensive if they don't get the proper lube.
I find that tractor supply and other farm stores usually have bar oil very reasonably priced.
 

trc65

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Great article! Had never really thought about environmental concerns with heavy use, but I have experienced the haze on glasses and oil on clothes.

I think the most important thing to note is the article was talking specifically about "Canola based chain and bar oils", and not food grade canola oil.

If canola based oils were available around here, AND were similarly priced to standard oils, I would pobably use them.
 

Karl_TN

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See Stihl BioPlus bar and chain oil. I'd trust this oil from Stihl's product development team over using plain Canola oil in a pro saw.

Personally I use less expensive bar oil from Tractor Supply because I go through several gallons a year. The Stihl bar oil would probably cost 2 to 3 times as much.
 

gman2431

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The only time I have heard of this is for cutting up very large game animals very quickly and still being food friendly. Why would you switch is my question? Your car is gonna do way worse to the environment than your chainsaw ever will.
 

Mr. Peet

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I never used any vegetable oils as bar oils until the mid 1990's. It was for Trout Unlimited building trout habitat in waterways. Also used it when cutting ice, but not sure if any lube is needed. Some say to reduce the chain risk of freezing to the bar, but I argued it would gel before working.

While working with the Forest Service, the left and extreme pushed for bio based bar oil. For some onsite use, water and highly sensitive areas, I see the point. For general use, the point is often mute, as the amount of petroleum used to prep fields, plant rapeseed, harvest, process and refine to Canola has more environmentally damaging effects than harvesting the crude to produce the petro based product. This is a clean air argument. The drilling for crude is another part of the argument as we alter the bedrock.....and so on.

For loggers, tree trimmers and builders that continually use saws with oil ports, it has a place as well as the bio-based bar oils. For weekend warriors and some timers, it does not. Maybe if you cut for a 10-20 hour duration in a 2 or 3 day period it may justify the saw cleaning needed before storage.

Your choice...
 

Steve in VA

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  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #11
For me it's a personal question to limit the oil on clothes, skin, etc. I've never used anything other than traditional petroleum based bar oils, but saw something on YouTube that took me down a rabbit hole.

For the small amount I use a chainsaw, I thought if it worked well, was cleaner, smelled better, and was better for the environment, why not.
 

Mr. Peet

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For me it's a personal question to limit the oil on clothes, skin, etc. I've never used anything other than traditional petroleum based bar oils, but saw something on YouTube that took me down a rabbit hole.

For the small amount I use a chainsaw, I thought if it worked well, was cleaner, smelled better, and was better for the environment, why not.
So, if you use the saw a small amount, sounds like a break-even since the cleaning solvents used to flush the oil reservoir and clean the bar and sprocket are often hazardous (accept Simple Green) to the environment. How to you use the product flushed and the paper towel or rags without adding to the dump. Canola can stain clothes as well, draws mice and many other insects. The small amount of oil on the wood for firewood means nothing, since it is converted to heat with often untraceable detection in the exhausting smoke. Comes down to your time and a sense of well being.
 

Steve in VA

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So, if you use the saw a small amount, sounds like a break-even since the cleaning solvents used to flush the oil reservoir and clean the bar and sprocket are often hazardous (accept Simple Green) to the environment. How to you use the product flushed and the paper towel or rags without adding to the dump. Canola can stain clothes as well, draws mice and many other insects. The small amount of oil on the wood for firewood means nothing, since it is converted to heat with often untraceable detection in the exhausting smoke. Comes down to your time and a sense of well being.
All good questions Mr. Peet, which is why I was asking as well. It just sounded like an interesting concept, so I thought I'd see if anyone here has gone that route and what the pros and cons might be.
 

David Hill

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Interesting thread.
The food use oils (excepting mineral oil)will go rancid. So not sure if I want that in my Stihl Reservoir. BLO does go rancid too.
I ‘ve been using Tractor supply bar/chain oil— like it.
 
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