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Advice for firewood saw?

Post in 'The Gear' started by boondockin, Apr 17, 2007.

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  1. boondockin

    boondockin New Member

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    Loc:
    Ontonagon, MI
    Hello,

    I am writing to obtain some advice regarding the purchase of a new saw to make firewood with. You will have to forgive my lack of knowledge. I have owned many saws but they were all junk hand-me-downs from my father. I have never had the pleasure of using a nice rig. This time I would like a saw that starts/operates reliably unlike my Poulan and does not fatigue me like my 20-some pound 1970’s Jonsered.

    Below are some of the selection criteria/requirements that I have developed:

    Brands: Husky, Jonsered or Stihl (due to locality of dealers)
    Cords per season: 10-12
    Diameter: up to 16”
    Type: cordwood (no felling or limbing)
    Options: handwarmers would be nice but not a must
    Budget: $300 max

    I am very torn between the manufacturers listed above for several reasons:
    -I like the fact that Jonsered offers handwarmers on many of their models. Also, I have one that has survived the tests of time.
    -Husky has great brand recognition. All of my friends own them and rave about them. The thing that scares me is that a person will typically rave about something that they have already purchased to save face.
    -Stihl…I am not sure what interest me in them, but I am…

    I am interested in the quick, tool less chain adjustment offered. Is this a reliable mechanism?
    Is there really that much fatigue difference between a 11 lb and 13 lb powerhead?
    What is a suitable bar length and displacement for my needs?
    Do you have any specific recommended models and why?

    Sorry for the ramblings. Your input would be greatly appreciated…

    Thanks,

    Tom
    “West-Central Yooper”

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  2. JayY

    JayY New Member

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    Your price range is going to limit your possibilities. I am only familiar with a couple HUSKY saws that are in your price range. I believe the cheapest Swedish made saw from husky is the 345. The 350 has a lot of nice features, like an adjustable oiler and more power, for just a little bit more. You may be able to get the 350 for around $300 so that would be my choice for a new saw in that price range. These are not pro quality saws but a lot of people say the 350 is a nice workhorse. I think it will do the job. Someone on this site has one so hopefully they will chime in. Both Jonsered and Husy are made by Electrolux so I assume there are equivalent Jonsered models.

    Now for $50-120 more, quite a few professional quality models are available. You may find the extra money is worth it considering the life expectancy of the saws. Do a search of this site and you will find the popular saws on this forum are the Dolmar 5100, Husky 359, Husky 346xp, etc etc. Everyone seems pretty happy.

    Good Luck
  3. MrGriz

    MrGriz New Member

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    Hi boondockin and welcome to hearth.com.

    You're cutting a lot of wood for a $300.00 saw to handle. I have to agree with Jay that you may want to wait until you can spend a bit more and go for a pro model saw. Although many of the homeowner saws look similar to the pro models on paper (displacement, horsepower, etc...) the difference is in the construction. Pro models are made with higher quality components and will outlast a homeowner saw of comparable size. Many of them are also lighter, providing a better horsepower to weight ratio.

    You are on the right track in sticking with a brand that offers you a good local dealer who can maintain and repair the saw for you. Unless you're familiar enough to work on your own saw, that dealer will be the key to keeping it running well and making it last.

    Jay mentioned some very good choices in the Husky and Dolmar line. The 359 provides more torque than the 346xp and may be a better choice for hardwoods. I haven't heard a bad thing about the Dolmar and the 5100s would be a bit lower cost than the Husky. In Dolmar, you may want to look at the 510. It's not a pro saw, but well made and should suite your application. Any of these will easily run an 16" - 18" bar, which will easily handle the wood you describe.

    That's just my .02, I'm sure others will chime in with great advice as well. Good luck.

    Edit: Don't forget your PPE
  4. boondockin

    boondockin New Member

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    Jay & Griz,

    Thanks m uch for the replies. I see your point regarding the pricing. I absolutely want a pro model saw not consumer grade. It is hard to judge what is what based on the catalogs. Can you tell me what the pro/comsumer model division is for Husky?

    Thanks,

    Tom
  5. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    husky pro models are like 346 Xp or 357 xp these are high rpms saws adound 14,500 rpms homeowner saws are 10 /12,000 rpms
    I own the 357 xp boy does it cut fast. The Dolmar 5100 is also a high rpm pro saw That would have been my first choice if the husky were not given to me.

    I also own Stihl saws 30 years and still cuttng my 041 farm boss cuts about as good as the day I bought it. Nothing wron with a shihl 260

    A while back someone mentioned Home depot sells their rentals fairly cheap. These are Makita saws and not bad probably handle your demand

    Makita bough out Domar so basically they are Dolmar saws. scroll down a few post for the info concerning these saws If you get a good one, it may be one of the d best deals for the $$
    you may find
  6. JayY

    JayY New Member

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    Boondockin,

    I am trying not to sound like some sort of expert. I am not. These are just some facts as I found them when I was shopping.

    I think the high grade consumer models, like the 350, are nice saws. These are definitely a step up from the throw away $100 specials you find at home depot, wal mart, etc They are capable of cutting a lot of wood for many years. A friend of mine runs a Husky 455. Could it be nicer? Absolutely. does it make big logs into firewood. Absolutely and its been doing it for several years with no problems.

    The majority of saws that are considered Pro grade have metal (magnesium) crank cases which make them more durable and easier to service. They also provide easy access to the air filter and plugs. The husky saws that are considered pro level by most users are all the XP models plus the 359 and 353.

    Good Luck,
    Jay

    Full disclosure: I am running a Dolmar 5100s
  7. zzr7ky

    zzr7ky Minister of Fire

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    Hi -

    I started with the same criteria last year w/out the handwarmer. Ended up with Dolmar 5100s It's fantastic. The Husky 353 and 359 were close seconds. Local support might sway some folks. I do my own work so it wasn't an issue. Seach on Amick's - Tony took pretty good care of me.

    ATB,
    Mike P
  8. tradergordo

    tradergordo Minister of Fire

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    I started with a cheapie saw, then a friend bought a Husqvarna 350 from Lowes, it cut twice as fast as my saw, I knew instantly I needed to upgrade. I bought a Husqvarna 455 Rancher - it is a great saw, but still not a pro model. Its heavier than the 350, and seems to perform about the same. If I was to start all over, I would buy the 359 - which is a pro model, more power and slightly lighter than the 455. You can find a 359 new for $350, if you want to save some money, look for a used one. Sometimes the more expensive deals can be a better value if they include a bunch of chains for example.

    I might go with the 20" bar if I was buying now as well (I have an 18" bar) although different people say different things about this - many seem to prefer shorter bar (better performance with shorter bar?)

    p.s. There is a used 346xp up on ebay right now you may be interested in.
  9. carpniels

    carpniels Minister of Fire

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    Rome, NY, USA
    Hi Boon,

    Considering the large amount of wood you cut (is that full or face cords?), I would definitely look at pro models. I only know Huskies, and I would suggest a 346xp with a 16 inch bar.

    Yes, It is about $100 dollars more than you are budgeting, but I suggest saving a little more for a few months. This saw will last you forever with proper care and will do the job you ask it to do perfectly.

    I am getting one myself this week.

    Carpniels
  10. Corie

    Corie Minister of Fire

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    I have a low end pro level saw, the Stihl 260 pro. I am very satisfied with its use with the 16" bar equipped. I think the cost of even this low level stihl saw though, might be out of your price range. I picked it up used with a bunch of accessories for about $300, but I assume you want to buy new.

    If you have some budies with saws, try every saw you possibly can out. It should help you weed out the lame ducks and the ones you think you really like.
  11. MrGriz

    MrGriz New Member

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    Elk made a good point with the Makita saws that Home Depot sells out of their rental service. They are Dolmars in Makita colors. I did a little investigation into this with a guy I know in the tool rental department of the local HD.

    They keep their rental saws in service for two years and then sell the big Makitas, with the 20" bar and chain for $205.00. You can ask them to pull up the rental history of each individual saw. This will show you how many times and for how many total days it was rented. It will also show how many days it was out of service for repair and the total amount spent on repairs. If you can cherry pick one that has very little rental use, I think this would be a great deal.

    Their Makita rental saw is the Dolmar 6400 in Makita cloths. This saw has the same bottom end as the larger Dolmar 7900. All you need to do to essentially make it into a 7900 is swap the piston and jug, boosting it to a 90.0cc saw. I believe the parts to do this run about $200.00.

    At the start you will have a fantastic $205.00 saw and worst case, if it does need to be rebuilt you will have the equivalent of a 7900 for $405.00.

    I'm thinking that's the route I'm going to go.
  12. boondockin

    boondockin New Member

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    The problem with Home Depot for me is that the nearest one is over 2 hours away. You gotta love living in the sticks! LOL

    Thank all of you for the great information and please keep it coming. During lunch, I researched the Dolmar 5100s. That appears to be a very good value. I like the fact that you can get a magnesium cased saw for under $400.
  13. MrGriz

    MrGriz New Member

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    I was all set to buy the 5100s and then got wind of this rental thing. That 5100s seems to be a fantastic value.

    I still may buy the 5100s and also pick up an ex-rental. At my local HD, they don't have one that will hit the two year mark until September.
  14. boondockin

    boondockin New Member

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    Griz,

    Does HD automatically put these saws on a sale disply once their 2-year service mark is reached? Or would the shopper ask them to check whether or not they had one of that vintage available to pull from the rental pool? The pricing that you were given on that saw is awesome. I would definetely make the drive for that savings.

  15. MrGriz

    MrGriz New Member

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    I'm not sure if they post a sign when something is up for sale from rental. I would call the closest HDs and ask when they have saws coming out of rental. If you check the history, it's a hard deal to pass up.
  16. Bill

    Bill Minister of Fire

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    Because you do a lot of cutting, I would watch the weight of the saw you purchase. Makes a big difference after a few hours. I run three saws, only use the big guns when I need to, and then drop down to the lightest saw I own.

    Everyone I know that owns Stihls love em, eveyone I know that has Husky, love em. There are many good saws to choose from.

    I have my orginal Homelight Xl, its 35 years old, runs excellent, never gave me one problem in all those years. Never touched the carb, clutch, nothin. Just plugs, chains, bars, and air cleaners.
  17. boondockin

    boondockin New Member

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    Weight is a concern of mine also. That is one reason I am leaning toward a 18" bar. Since I am 6' tall I wonder if a 20" bar would lead to less back ache from bending though.

  18. zzr7ky

    zzr7ky Minister of Fire

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    I have an 18" bar on the Dolmar 5100. It's a hair long. Nice for felling fat trees but really just a bit long. The wieght and length is there all the time. I'm likely to buy a 16" bar for the 5100 some time. Folks who saw a lot will tend to have 16 or 18" bars on the saw that's in their hands the most.

    In my experience 16 or 18 is ideal.

    ATB,
    Mike P
  19. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

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    First off Boon...Welcome to the forum:
    Keep your eyes open for a "used Stihl 036" (or maybe even an old 044)...(used)should be around your price range (new is about 6 & 1/2...$650), rugged and reliable...if you know what you're looking at/for...you will make out fine. I hear what you are saying about "honest opinions"...I own a few saws, both Husky and Stihl...having said that...If I had to "get rid of them one by one"...the 036...would be the last to go...Nuff' Said??? :)
  20. MustBurn

    MustBurn New Member

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    I have been using a Stihl Ms 290 "Farmboss" with the upgraded 18" bar. I beleive it is in the $300 range and has been BULLET PROOF for me. I burn 7 cords a year, and I get my wood where I can. The saw will not let you down.

    MB
  21. river rat

    river rat New Member

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    I have a Husky 359 which cuts great. I do not like plastic handle/gas tank. I cracked mine when spilt hit it. It is my opion that plastic is very cheap. New part was $100.00
  22. brownie

    brownie New Member

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    I like my Stihl MS310 . I also have a 1966 sears 14'' that I use for limbs and brush.
  23. tuolumne

    tuolumne New Member

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    Also make sure protective gear is in the budget...Chaps, visor/earmuffs and steel toe boots. I've put 6-700 hours on a Stihl 029 Farm Boss with 18" bar. This is slightly out of the price range mentioned, but well worth it. Also, my 2 cents....don't spend the money on gimmicky things like easy adjust bar, hand warmers, shock absorbing starter cords etc. Most of your time is not spent starting, adjusting etc, but cutting wood; a powerful saw will reduce that time far more than a quick adjust on the bar. A lightweight saw will reduce fatigue significantly. Keeping a sharp chain handy is well worth it. Wood cutting is hard work, and for me cold hands have never been an issue. I cut nearly all my wood in the winter, and look foward to cold days as to not overheat. Good luck.
  24. boondockin

    boondockin New Member

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    From what I have learned here as well as from local dealers, I have increased my saw budget to $400. I have been looking at the Stihl 280 as well as the Husky 460. I need to get to my Jonsered dealerto see what he has comparible.

    So far, these are the specs I have decided upon:
    $400-ish
    20" bar
    12-13 lbs head weight
    55-60cc displacement
    3.5bhp+

  25. boondockin

    boondockin New Member

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    After much consideration on horsepower, weight, bar size and pro vs. consumer grades, I came to a few decisions/conclusions:

    1) There is no substitute for BHP. Go as big as your budget allows.
    2) Modern machines are WAY lighter than the junk I have been running. This greatly reduces fatigue.
    3) A 16-18” bar size is good for most. For taller folks (6’+) a 20” may be preferred to reduce bending.
    4) If you can afford to, purchase a professional grade machine. They are manufactured from better parts, with more conventional designs. Some of the consumer grade units are built as component saws, where several components may be integrated into 1 part. They problem with this is that when that 1 part breaks, you essentially pay to replace the set.

    Based on this I made my purchase last week: eBay Makita

    It will be here in a couple of days. I will let you know my impression.

    Makita DCS6401-20
    Engine (cu.in.) 3.9
    Displacement (cc.) 64
    Max. Engine speed (RPM) 13,500
    Power Rating (kW/BHP) 3.5/4.7
    Fuel Tank Capacity (oz.) 30
    Oil Tank Capacity (oz.) 13.5
    Standard Guide Bar 20"
    Optional guide bar 24", 28", 32"
    Chain Pitch/Gauge 3/8" / .050"
    Net Weight (lbs. dry w/o bar & chain) 13.6
    Shipping Weight (lbs.) 20.1
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