Cutting creosoted poles

Advice on cutting (or not cutting) utility poles treated with creosote. June 20, 2000

I cut some cedar utility poles for a job. These huge poles have excellent, dry, western cedar tops. However, the bottom 8 to 10 feet were treated, with creosote I presume. My blade tips quickly matted up with fibers and refused to cut.

Would a different tooth set solve the problem? Frankly, I've told the guy I don't think I can saw them. I hate the smell and am concerned of the health risk.

Forum Responses
Your health is a major concern; do not breathe the saw dust, use a high-quality dust mask.

I read an article where a sawyer made a living buying old telephone poles and turning them into treated lumber. I don't recall any special set or blade lubricant. My advice is to do what I do when I find a heavy pitch pocket or old pithy scar in a log: pour the water to it! Once the pitch, or in your case the creosote, starts to stick to the blade, it just gets worse from there.

Keep the blade wet and you might be able to get through the creosote.

Your best bet is a carbide-toothed chain.

Keep in mind that disposal of the sawdust cannot be legally or safely done by putting it on the ground.

Special handling and disposal is required. If someone finds the site where you left creosote-treated sawdust or scraps, you will be in for big fines and even a prison term. This is a serious hazard. High-temperature incineration (not a stove or fireplace) is acceptable.

I also want to confirm what was said earlier -- this is also a health concern for you! Breathing the vapor, getting it on your skin, etc., whether in dust or liquid form, is unsafe. There are many carcinogens in creosote.

Gene Wengert, forum moderator

I have cut a lot of telephone poles. One of the problems with the butts of the poles is the dirt and sand in the cracks. I'm going to try Suffolk's Impactor blades the next time I saw.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
Add #1 desiel fuel to your bar oil, 50/50. This will allow the bar to still run cool. Also, use a double rack chain with a round nose tooth to clear the wood chip.