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ARTICLES - Wood - Chainsaw Wisdom

By HearthNet contributor, Donald Jordan (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)):
Qualifying past experiences: He has cut and cleared over 100 house lots and at least 10 plus miles of roads. Has owned 15 chain saws and still has working ones from the 60s

The Huskys Jonserred, and Stihl chainsaws did not start appearing till the early 80s.  I even had a two man saw. My main Chainsaw now is a 1984 Stihl Farm Boss that still cuts as good as the day I purchased it.

First point: Purchase a saw that does the Job at hand.
If one is cutting a couple cords a year of 6” to 14” thick logs, then the cheaper Sears Poulan saws - under $200 with a 14” to 16” blade will do the job quite well. If you are into heavy-duty cutting, one might want to skip shopping at Home Depot and other such places. Even if they carry the commercial name brands, the models are often watered down versions. I have gone that route and repaired my share of power tools and there is a difference! Another source in picking out the right chain saw is to rent one, Not only do you see what stands up to novice abuse but you get to experience using one. For instance, a large 24” bar commercial saw weighs a lot more and can be much harder to control than the economy saw. It’s a lot easier and safer controlling a lighter saw.

Second points: Learn the capabilities of the tool. Keep it sharp and well maintained.

Let the tool do the job it designed to do. Forcing it is dangerous and reduces the life expectancy of the tool.

An Electric 6 ton Splitter will take care of most splitting jobs. Knarly Knuckle logs are always a problem even in large splitters. What I do is cut them up and I do not attempt to split them. There is also a safety concern.  If it takes 30 tons of pressure to split it, I hope you are in a fox hole when splitting, because with that much pressure and something breaks off you will not have time to duck.  The six-ton electric splitter will do 6 cords a year or more. This is not a pro model, but is a decent homeowner tool that gets the job done. As one cuts and splits more and more one will learn safe operations and also the limits of the abilities and tools. You will learn where to make the initial split, and how to handle problematic logs. Just like the learning curve of using your wood stove, your knowledge will help you be more satisfied and safer with your current setup.

I want to address some common Chainsaw questions:

1. Electric chainsaws - I have owned Sears Remington and my current McCulloch all 3 hp with 16”  bars. I probably cut up 3 cords of wood a year and really work them. They cost about $50 and last 3 or more years. They do a decent job of cutting, but a bit slower than even the economy gas chainsaws. For one I do not cut all day, I’ll cut for an hour or two split and stack. If you intend to approach woodcutting this way, an electric saw will work fine. These are not commercial saws. They are lightweight, making them easier to use. They make practically no noise, power up on demand and are relatively cheap.

2. The bar on the chain saw has the most pressure on the bottom where logs are cut.  After a while the bar will actually wear out and form an indentation at the point of most use. Just as one rotates their tires to extend their life expectancy one reverses the bar on the chain saw plus it will help extend the chains life. One needs to learn how to maintain a chainsaw. Keep it sharp, take the bar off and clean the oil ports. Wood chips and sawdust gets everywhere, with a pump a can of compressed air blow out the air cleaner Remember to cover the carburetor I use a plastic bag an a elastic. Keep the fins clean so it runs cool. The gas mixture is also important Keep the chain tension where it should be - too loose and it wears and can fly off - too tight and it will really shorten the life of the chain and bar and possibly blow the clutch.

3. Bar oil: Lubrication is vital to reducing friction to the chain and reducing wear to the bar, especially the sprocket tips. If there are lubricating holes in the sprocket tip be sure to grease them, as a lot of heat builds up there. Straight 30 weight oil is recommended or bar oil. The difference being that bar oil is tacky and clings to the chain better.

Two simple ways to check if the bar is getting proper oiling,
1. The oil reservoir should be just about empty when the saw runs out of gas.
2. Using a news paper full throttle the caw one should see a fine spray of oil and a track on the newspaper. If this is not happening look at the bar has it turned burnt blue? (overheating sign)  chances are your oil ports are clogged both on the saw body and bar ports.

About using used motor oil? Used motor oil has lost much of its lubricating properties, plus it contains metal filings which would accelerate wearing out the bar and chain. Better than no oil but not by much.

Here are other ways to keep your chainsaw performing up to par:

Mix enough gas and 2 cycle oil that will be used in a month, leaving the mixture around to sit, modern unleaded gas with its additives looses its properties. When finished for the day, (if you plan to let sit for as couple of weeks without use), run your Gas tank dry.  If storing it longer than a month, take out the spark plug and add a couple teaspoons of clean oil in the spark plug hole. Pull the starter rope a couple times,and replace the plug.  This lubricates the cylinder and also extends the useful life of the rings and seals. It will smoke a bit when restarted till the oil burns off but there is little harm.  Another tip -  add gas stabilizer in every tank of gas, especially if you know it may sit around a while. It keeps the gas fresher longer and retards the gas from varnishing which it probably the number one reason for rebuilding Carburetors. Should you forget to run the tank dry, stabilizer might just get you by. These simple tasks of storing Gas powered equipment is the reason I have a running 1967 Saw today.

Some don’ts.
  Do not use Starting ether as you risk the chance of blowing the head, use gas to prime the carburetor or carburetor cleaner. When storing it, another tip is to squirt some WD 40 in the carburetor then pull the Starter. This displaces some of the remaining gas plus lubricates the diaphragm, needle valves, and float. Have a spare Spark plug. With oil gas mixture it is real easy to foul a spark plug.  If you have had a hard time starting it after repeated attempts, chances are you flooded the carburetor and fouled the spark plug. Remove the spark plug pull the starter a few times. This flushes out the flooded gas. Replace with new plug and do not choke it down. Try starting with the choke off.

Safety is clearly discussed in your owners manual, but here are some important things to remember - work in a clear area, get a stable footing, and use your head. Think about what you are doing! Chainsaws are the most dangerous tool a homeowner can use. Look around and remove any object that can cause you to trip. You do not want to be jumping around or reaching with a running chain saw. If cutting a standing tree plan an escape path in case something unpredictable happens. Forget the saw - just get the hell out of there as fast as you can. I repeat - use your head and think. If you have any doubt about your own abilities get help, the risk to too great. I can tell you trees do not always fall where they should. But there are ways to increase the likelihood that they will.  Wear proper clothing, EAR AND EYE PROTECTION, LEATHER GLOVES, HEAVY SHOES and POSSIBLY A HARD HAT for when that dead branch decides to let go.

In summary, use the tool that gets the job done AND know how to use it efficiently and safely. Maintain your tools and you’ll get the most for your money over the years.


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