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16" to 14" bar

Post in 'The Gear' started by sixminus1, Mar 3, 2008.

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  1. sixminus1

    sixminus1 Member

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    I have a cheapo 16" Homelite Ranger chainsaw that was recently purchased on sale. It's been working fine for my purposes (I'm not exactly a lumberjack), but, I've been reading that a shorter bar might be better?

    I'm considering picking up a 14" bar, and the appropriate chain. They look interchangeable, but I wanted to ask here first to make sure I don't waste my money or break the saw.

    Is it as simple as buying the right size bar and a shorter chain?

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  2. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    A shorter bar probably is better. You need to get a bar and chain (and sprocket) that all work together, and on your saw.

    If you can get a shorter version of the same bar that is on your saw and a shorter chain, your current sprocket will work.

    You'll get more power out of a shorter bar, which is usually a good thing with a cheaper saw.
  3. BotetourtSteve

    BotetourtSteve Member

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    14 is awfully small. I believe I would be more inclined to use the 16 and see how it does before going smaller. By the time you buy a new bar and new chain(s), you could have spent the total money invested in the "cheap" saw on buying a "good" 16 or 18 saw.
  4. sixminus1

    sixminus1 Member

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    Thanks for the responses, guys.

    I called Homelite, and found out that I can buy the correct 14" bar/chain at Home Depot -- no sprocket change necessary.

    So, it's an option if I ever need/want to change out the bar.

    I got quite a bit of use out of the saw this past weekend, and didn't run into any problems, except that I'm still learning how to use the tool. Things like top-binds and hitting the dirt with the saw were common (and frustrating!). I started thinking that a shorter bar might make the saw a little easier to handle until I get the hang of it.

    It's a learning experience. I think the old saying goes: "Masters have made every mistake" :)
  5. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Hey 5 (sixminus1),

    If a 14" bar will do the majority of your work, then go with it. You will notice increased performance and probably ease of use. Also, as a hint, keep your chains VERY sharp. This will give you the benefit of using your available HP to throw chips, not saw dust. I have cut MANY cords with an old homelite 240. It mostly sits now, but always did what I asked of it.

    Allow me to stress this again, keep your chains VERY sharp.
  6. BotetourtSteve

    BotetourtSteve Member

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    What Jags said...

    Seriously, sharp chains are a must to avoid working yourself (and your saw, especially bar/chain) to death. Invest in learning how to sharpen chains yourself, or find a reliable and/or affordable friend or business that will sharpen them for you. While I am very experienced with wood cutting, I have always s-cked at sharpening chains, so I rely on the latter. I try to keep 3-5 chains around most of the time so that I know I can switch out when I need to to a sharp one. When you talk about hitting the dirt, it usually only takes doing that once or twice and your chain is dull - seriously.

    And if you are a newbie to saws, please be careful - they can get you good in a heartbeat. Always respect them. Never, ever, ever, ever use the saw without ear and eye protection at a minimum, and chaps, hardhat (when felling trees), etc not bad ideas either.
  7. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    What is the engine size on the Homelite? Essentially the guide that I've seen in several places is 3cc of engine size for each inch of bar length at a minimum, 4cc is even better... On my first small saw, a 36cc Poulan Woodsman, I transformed a saw that was at best a mediocre performer with it's 16" factory bar to a tiny wood eating monster that is great for limbing and small stuff by changing to a 12" bar and chain. A 16" bar was grossly over-barring the saw. A 14" bar would have been slightly to big, but probably would have been OK, the 12" bar is terrific. Look on E-bay and even check with some of the bigger sellers there, I was able to get the bar and chains for my saw for VERY short money, I think the bar was around $15 and the chains were about $8 each...

    Most of the times if the bar is made for the same size chain, and fits on the mounts it should work by using a shorter chain, no need to change the sprockets or do other mods if you use the same size chain as is on the saw at present, which shouldn't be a problem.

    Another thing that can be a big help is to upgrade to a "Pro" style chain... Typically the chains that come on most homeowner grade saws are so-called "safety chains" designed to reduce kickback as much as possible, and which use "bumper links" - IMHO the concepts of "safety" and "chain-saw" mix about as well as "military" and "intelligence" - and any increase in safety from using bumper link chain comes at a cost of decreased performance. I've heard bumper link chain described as "training wheels for chainsaws" ....I like a "full chipper" chain w/o bumper links, it cuts significantly better, at least in the hardwoods (oak and maple) that I get to deal with most often. It does need sharpening more often, but is easy to hand sharpen if one touches it up after every tankful. However this is a change you might want to hold off on until you are used to using a chainsaw.

    When I was looking to upgrade and get a second larger saw (a 12" bar DOES restrict the size you can cut...) I started by deciding I wanted a 20" bar at a minimum, which set my minimum saw size at 60cc, and that I would like to occasionally use a bigger bar. I ended up getting a Dolmar 7900, which is an 80cc saw, and that I'm really enjoying - with the 20" bar, it has 4cc / inch and it screams through logs like they aren't even there. It's rated to use a 32" bar by Dolmar, but I think that's a bit large, and only have a 28" bar which is slightly less than 3cc / inch, but it's close - haven't found any wood to use the big bar on yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

    Gooserider
  8. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    for a new learner I would definitily stay with the safety chain for a while. Yes it cuts a small amunt slower, but the danger of kickback with a newbie is IMO way too high. Even though 16 is fairly short, until you get that sense of where the tip is all the time, subconsciously in your peripheral vision, I'd stay with the REDUCED (not eliminated) kickback chain. You will lkely have one situation where you bump the tip and realize how easy it can happen. Don't let it scare you off, just learn.

    goose: I see a huge difference between chipper rounded chain and chisel square corner, so I think that is way more difference than safety v. non safety. Cutting green ash, elm, or oak I use the chisel because it is faster nticeably. But if the bark is dusty or dirty, or dead hard dry wood, I go back to chipper becasue the chisel doesn't hold the edge as long.

    I would also strongly recommend learning to touch up file the chain. Even couple tanks on chsel in hardwood, maybe 3 or 4 tanks on chipper. Even by changing chain often, you will be running much of the time on chain that is not really dull but is no longer razor sharp. Filing is not that tough, get a guide, the right diameter, see the angles of the tooth and understand what part works how. Get a depth gauge also to check the rakers/depth gauges occasionally.

    I run quite long bars on small saws, (lot of limbing, whre the 026 20 inch shines) way over the 'rules of thumb', but I keep the chain razor sharp. Hit the dirt, stop and file it two or three strokes. Touch steel or rock, change the chain and have it ground. I want it pulling into the wood on its own and with weight of saw. if I have to force it even a small amount, the chain is dull. Yu will feel the difference the instant the tooth hits the wood.

    A razor sharp chain also slightly reduced the chance of kickback-it can bite and cut even on the tip. Not a reason to be sloppy but it helps.


    and personally, I'd run the 16, save the money. The difference is slightly important in power, and it is cheap enough to try for learning purposes or for your comfort level, but I'd put the money to PPE or the savings fund. At some point, you will want a larger saw, 50-60-70cc (or all of the above!)

    sure it is a cheap homeowner saw, but even that is SO much better than what most of started out with, in speed, dafety, reliability, weight, and cost. I would have loved to have your saw when I started cutting.... I think at times the cheaper saws get ridiculed too much by bigger saws and even bigger egos.

    utlimate, personal preferences, welcome aboard.

    I really like the tagline f a guy on AS: Always remember your ltools are out to get you.
    Not from fear, but healthy respect.

    k
  9. Ken45

    Ken45 Minister of Fire

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    <<<And if you are a newbie to saws, please be careful - they can get you good in a heartbeat. Always respect them. >>>>

    How very true! Years ago when I was a volunteer EMT, we had a call where a chain saw kicked back and got the guy in the face....nasty....

    Also, one of our own people managed to cut himself in the thigh! Fortunately, he missed the femoral artery or he probably would have been dead real quick! These things can happen in a split second!

    Ken
  10. colebrookman

    colebrookman Minister of Fire

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    http://www.baileysonline.com/itemdetail.asp?item=15810&catID=164
    One of the best tools to keep your saw chain off the ground. Just takes a minute to use, lifts the tree for cutting and helps to save your back. Don't get complacent. Get a good pair of chaps and always use them. I've cut mine but my legs are still fine. Steel toe boots and a good helmit even if your just cutting firewood to size. Don't work if you have a lot on your mind. You should not be afraid of the saw but you darn better respect it or it will bite you. If your working in the woods alone know the basics of first aid. There are plenty of gory stories but common sense still rules.
  11. crazy_dan

    crazy_dan New Member

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    I cut close to home and usually hit the chain with a file every load. yes it might wear my chain a little faster but at least I always have a sharp chain. I also use a full chipper chain. A little common sense goes a long way in the opposite direction of the ER.
    Keep the chain sharp
    if your bar has a nose sprocket get the grease gun for it or a needle for your regular grease gun and give the nose sprocket a squirt or 2 every load as the needle bearings in there do not get lubed by bar and chain oil.
  12. Ken45

    Ken45 Minister of Fire

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    Looks interesting, but how big of a tree will that lift? It's hard to tell the size from the picture.
  13. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I also grease my sprocket nose, however I have seen SOME folks argue that you should never grease it as that can push contaminants into the bearings, which do get some lube from the chain oil, though not much... The key thing that both sides say is that once you start lubricating it, you should not stop... I hit my bar with the grease gun as part of my saw prep drill for every tank - usually 2-3 squirts each time, or until I get grease coming out around the chain.

    Also, I'm actually not convinced that touching the chain up with a file after every tank actually does make it wear faster... I just do 2-3 strokes with the file on each cutter, which removes a tiny amount of metal. When I was using the grinder, even with a light touch, I was taking off considerably more, so the question is how they balance out. Either way, having a properly sharpenned chain is well worth it.

    The other issue is having the chain tension properly set... If it's too loose, you'll have problems with the chain getting thrown, but if it's too tight, you get increased wear on the bar, chain and sprocket, plus spend to much saw power just moving the chain around the bar... It's a delicate balance. What I've been seeing advised over on arboristsite is the "No Sag / No Drag" method - With the chain loose, see how much drag you get pulling the chain around the bar, should be very little. Loosten the bar nuts a little and lift the nose of the bar, then tighten the chain with the adjuster until you have "No Sag", then tighten the nuts, rear one first, and verify that the side straps on the chain are pulled up to touch the bottom of the bar (No Sag) and that the effort needed to pull the chain around the bar (in the correct direction) is about the same as when it was loose (No Drag). As a verification, if you pull gently on the center of the chain run, you shouldn't be able to pull the chain away from the bar by more than about 1/2 the depth of the drive links. It is also important that the tension be set with the adjuster, which must be pushing the bar out, as the nuts will not keep the adjustment unless the tensioner peg is working correctly.

    Gooserider
  14. colebrookman

    colebrookman Minister of Fire

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    The handle is 3.5' so it can handle fairly large diameter trees (24/30'). You still would have to cut a large tree into sections because you could not lift it by hand, but for smaller trees it's great. Just limb the branches to firewood length, then all you have left on the ground is the now much lighter trunk. Just one nick on a rock or sand is enough to dull the chain. Boy I know from experience. Course if you enjoy filing chains. :cheese:
  15. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    I had one of the Northern Timberjacks like that and it tended to roll the log as lifted. If it was long, or had branches or forks, it was really hard to use. I modified my cant hook and added a 6 inch high leg just like the timberjac, except it pivots freely at the point of attachment to the handle. Pics posted earlier, or maybe on AS site. That works a lot better to lift, but I have to throw a block under it once lifted. The timberjack did work great as a stand to hold log up if it could be rolled far enoguh to go past center. Since most of what I do has lot of branches or forks, and can't be easily rolled, the pivoting foot works better even though it requires kicking a block under there.

    k
  16. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I have the metal version of one of those Timberjacks that I got from Northern, and found it is a real peice of chit... I've had pretzels with fewer bends! It also didn't seem to dig into logs very well, at least not the oak and maple that I was using it on. It would usually hold if there was a knot or branch stub that I could hook behind, but it would slip more often than not if I was just trying to grab a smooth section of bark. Even when I did manage to get a tree up with it, I could only get one or two rounds before I'd need to reposition. A lot of time I found the foot would mostly just drive into the ground and get stuck more than it lifted the log.

    I've found what tends to work better for me is to cut as far through the log as I can - about 3/4 of the way if it's on the ground, or until it just starts to close if it isn't. If there is enough clearance that I can get through the log I either go through or try to come up from beneath to finish the cut with the top of the bar... I do this at my stove length intervals all the way down the log, cutting through when I can, or just partially cutting where I can't. I will try to leave some strategic branches on as well, and when I get to the end, roll the sections over, either with the branches, or possibly a lever of some sort, possibly even that Northern crap-jack (without the foot) and finish the cuts. Less effort than trying to get the log jack to work...

    However I am thinking about trying to get a cant hook later, I just don't see much advantage to the lifting foot. If I did go for the foot, I'd say get one that only lifts 2-3" as that's all you need for bar clearance, and the less lifting the easier it will be to use.

    Gooserider
  17. Ken45

    Ken45 Minister of Fire

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    But bucking the LARGE sections is when I'd need it the most. But I guess it would be useful for small sections too.

    Thanks for the first hand report.

    Ken
  18. colebrookman

    colebrookman Minister of Fire

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    You have to find what works best for you and your resources. If I have a large trunk,24"+, I'll hitch my tractor bucket and lift the trunk high enough to throw some wood under to keep from cutting on the ground. If it's quicker I'll just cut almost through, wedge it if needed, and then role it with the timberjack to finish cutting. Or if I can I'll just lift it off the ground with the jack and cut or again through wood under.Up here rocks and chains love to meet. Yesterday I was cutting in a foot of snow, Can't use the jack and of course I nicked a rock. Life in the woods! I think someone on the forum has said that part of the joy cutting wood is the ability (excuse) to buy toys that make your work a little easier, a lot safer and even more fun. Today a timberjack, then the back up saw, a splitter, pick-up, tractor, and on and on. But we're saving money burning wood and helping the environment. ;-)
    Be Safe have fun
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