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Are Homelite chainsaws worth buying or not?

Post in 'The Gear' started by colsmith, Feb 16, 2007.

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  1. colsmith

    colsmith New Member

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    Hello, some time ago I asked about buying a McCulloch gas chainsaw. Thought it was a good brand, was told they went down the tubes some time ago, and are now Chinese junk (not to be confused with the boats!) wringing every last penny out of their former good name. Is that the same general idea about the Homelite saws, they are disposable, not serviceable saws? One is on sale at Menards for $149, hubby said I should ask y'all about it. I think I know what you will say: Stihl or Husky or forget about it. ;-)

    Funny thing, hubby just read an old book about chainsaws, and had me read some parts of it. It said McCulloch was a good brand, but the book was more than 20 years old. By a guy named Barnacle Parp, which didn't sound like a real name to me . . . By the way, our Craftsman electric chainsaw (14") has worked really well for us so far, and I am sure you don't think much of that one either. We have had it about 10 years, but only got serious with it last year. To seize some future opportunities we really need to find a gas chainsaw sometime.

    Our intentions are to burn however much wood is needed to heat our home in chilly Wisconsin for a long time to come. I would say 5-6 cords a year. We scrounge and get free wood, so do lots of hauling, cutting, and splitting.

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  2. precaud

    precaud Minister of Fire

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    For that much wood, methinks you deserve to have a good quality saw. The glory days of McCulloch, Homelite, and their likes are long gone...

    Or Dolmar... for less than $350 you can have a killer saw.
  3. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    To those of us with some chain saw knowledge and experience, it's a no-brainer. But to everyone else, it may be hard to see what all the fuss is about.

    Here's my advice: Take something that you are into--skis, boats, cooking, cars, tools, mountain bikes--you name it. Would you buy the cheapest offbrand [bike or car or set of knives, etc.] that you could find? Or would you spend a little more on one of those things designed for the knowledgeable user?

    Bottom line: Spend a little more on a quality saw and you won't regret it. For a decent firewood saw, I'd draw the line at about $250 for a new saw. Kick it up another $50 and you're really in the zone. I bet Roospike could recommend the perfect saw for you--but not for $150. And it won't say Homelite.
  4. zzr7ky

    zzr7ky Minister of Fire

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    Hi -

    I had 2 decent old McCulloch saws. They cut, and didn't break often, and I could fix them... They were fine for trimming the odd tree, etc... They're not for doing real work. Spend the cash. I have similar needs and use a Dolmar 5100. Amick's had the best price when I was looking last fall. I also came close to buying the Husky 353. I spend a lot less time cutting, and no time fixxing. It sounds silly but the reduced noise vibration time seems to reduce fatigue. I can cut, load and often spilt a trailer load and tha didn't happen before. I ran out of time or energy. The Dolmar 5100 may be the ticket for you. It is light, powerful, and durable.

    Don't forget to get protective gear. I use chaps on the legs, and am shopping for a helmet/faceshield now. Use hearing protection.

    ATB,
    Mike P
  5. carpniels

    carpniels Minister of Fire

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    I have to agree with everyone else. Get a Stihl, Husky, Johnsered or Dolmar.

    Personally, I would advise you to wait another month, save another 50 buck and you can get a Husky 142 for that money. That is a decent saw to start out with. After using that for a few years, you can upgrade to the big boys: 357xp and the like. Disclaimer: I am only recommending Huskies because that is what I have the most experience with. It does not mean that Stihls and the like are not as good or better.

    Carpniels

    PS. I am reading Dave Johnson's wood cutting book and it starts with the safety chapter. One of the things he mentions is the inertial chain brake. He states that Homelite, McCullough and the like do not have those. Some models don't even have a chain brake period. VERY DANGEROUS! All the brands mentioned above have those (IMO, essential brakes).

    PPS. I started with a $150 45 cc Craftsman. When I got more serious about wood cutting (as it appears you are), I upgraded to a Husky 359. You cannot believe the difference. I wish I had done that right from the start. It cut (literally) my cutting time in half or third. Learn from my mistake.
  6. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I am trying to attach a consumer reports print view (needs MS Internet Explorer) of ratings from October 2006
  7. Roospike

    Roospike New Member

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    A LOT of GREAT advise here.

    For cutting a few trees in your yard and some tree trimming is where the low dollar chainsaws comes into play , for firewood as a yearly chore then go with the real chainsaw line as stated.
    Husqvarna, Johnsered, Stihl, Dolmar.


    The smallest Husqvarna you can buy and still be a real Husqvarna is a 340 , anything lower is basicly a Poulan. Husqvarna owns Poulan , Redmax and Johnsered. Johnsered is basically the same saws as Husqvarna just a different color.

    Keep in mind just because you get a top name brand not all sizes are necessarily the right size chainsaw for cutting fire wood.

    For limbing and small trees 32cc - 46 cc is a good size limbing and branch saw.
    For trunk and fire wood a starting size would be a really good PRO saw 45cc - 56cc
    (pro saw under 50cc)
    A good mid size fire wood saw would be 56cc - 65cc
    A good large firewood saw would be 65cc- 88cc

    The better chainsaws will have a metal main body , the homeowner chainsaw will be a plastic body.
  8. Roospike

    Roospike New Member

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    The one i read last year was basic homeowner - cut a few - trim a few trees - saws.
    Not best for the catagory of firewood cutting.
  9. slowzuki

    slowzuki Feeling the Heat

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    The best saw imho is the one with local dealer support. Gas chainsaws aren't like their electric brethren and they need tinkering every so often. I happen to have a Stihl MS260 and my good friend has a Husky 345. That husky isn't quite as pro a saw but it is more ergnomic and the filter stays cleaner longer. His anti-vibe is a bit better too. Mine starts easier. All in all both good saws. We use them for logging about 10-20 cord for sawmilling and for cutting up fire wood.

    There are a number of other good brands such as echo that are out there too. Husqy makes the cheapest high-end saws because you can get them online or in a big box store but those places won't help you when you need a tune-up.
  10. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    That's well put, slowzuki.
  11. KarlP

    KarlP Feeling the Heat

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    Nah there's Dolmar, Echo, Efco, Jonsered, Redmax, Solo, and Tanaka too. :)

    Mac and Homelite used to make good saws. Their current reputation is less than stellar.



    I use Husqvarna myself.
  12. colsmith

    colsmith New Member

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    Thank you for your advice, I kind of knew what it would be! Is there a time or times of year when chainsaws tend to go on sale? Many items have a sort of traditional time for sales, like January for white sales, or around Christmas for electronics, or for chocolates in heart shaped boxes, the day after Valentines Day. It isn't that we don't have the money to buy a good saw, we could buy whatever saw we like, really. It is just that 1) we are very frugal in general; and 2) it is hard to see why one brand is so much better than another when it is two brands that we have never used before! But I have a lot of faith in your experience and opinions on stove and wood related issues, so I will try to convince hubby about this. What we really need to do is start visiting chainsaw dealers, so that he stops looking at the saws at Menards.

    We spend a lot of time at Menards, we have a slightly run down house (my mother didn't believe in maintenance) and 2 rental properties that are each about 100 years old. Since we bought our house it has acquired new shingles, siding, furnace, and attic insulation, and had half the basement walls dug up and reinforced.
  13. precaud

    precaud Minister of Fire

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    I think NOW is that time. My hunch is, prices will follow the temperatures back up. I just bought a Dolmat 5100S because I saw prices plunge.
  14. Roospike

    Roospike New Member

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    We could help you out Marcia.

    Your in southeastern Wisconsin.

    What kind of trees are you looking to be cutting ?

    All scrounge or is there a wood lot / forest your going to ?

    Do you want whatever you can get or do you want to be limited to only smaller trees ?

    Do you have a gas chainsaw now or just the electric Craftsman ?
  15. colsmith

    colsmith New Member

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    Hi, about the firewood we cut up, I realized that I left out an important part about the "5-6 cords a year." We have thus far been quite lucky in obtaining most of our firewood from people that have paid a professional to cut trees down, and we do the hauling away. Sometimes there is significant chainsawing on site to get it into manageable pieces, other times we just load and haul and unload and do the necessary chainsawing in our own yard. And it has all been on city lots (in nearby cities - we live sort of in the country) where we can plug in our saw. Our electric 14" Craftsman saw is the only one we have now. It has been doing fine until just lately, and hubby is about to disassemble it. I think he said the oil isn't coming out like it should, he watches the oil with an eagle eye, and he needs to sharpen the chain.

    Obviously there are times we wish it was bigger/stronger. And we know someone nearby with a forest (37 acres?) and piles of dead trees near the road, and we would like to make an arrangement with them if possible. But there we would need a gas chainsaw, plus for our own yard, most of our trees that should come down are too far away from the house. We have 5 acres, what one might call wooded but not a forest. It is mostly a 50 year old orchard, so many fruit trees on their last legs. Also numerous walnut trees, poplar, birch, maples, box elder, ash, all sorts of trees, although we aren't likely to cut any down unless there is a actual need to (treehuggers!) and some of the weed trees shading out gardens and fruit trees. My family was big on tree planting and letting nature take its course, so birds, wind, and animals planted a lot of trees as well.

    The trees we would completely cut down on our own would be somewhat limited in size, we aren't planning to take down anything that is 3 feet across or something that big. I see lots of pear, apple, and many misc. trees in our future from our own property. Plus craigslist and freecycle provide an ongoing supply to us, evidently not a lot of people in Milwaukee with wood stoves! The biggest thing we cut up so far was about 2.5 feet across at the bottom, it fell in a storm. Just talked on the phone tonight with a guy with a fat apple tree that he wants taken down, I hope we can handle that unless we are afraid of taking out his garage or something.
  16. Roospike

    Roospike New Member

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    Sounds like your best best is not going to be a big chainsaw with the smaller trees and the bigger trees are less dense and not big hard wood trees. If you do end up running across a larger tree just take you time on it but if few and far between then the need isnt there.

    I would look at :

    Husqvarna 359
    Husqvarna 346xp
    Dolmar 5100
    Stihl MS361

    The Husqvarna 359 will run up to a 24" bar and chain and has a wider power band , the other two are more "sports car" style chainsaws and are all great saws. I own the 359 & 346xp so I'm talking from experence and the 5100 gets great reviews assuming you have a local dealer. The Stihl 361 is a good firewood chainsaw , the price is in the upper limits of the group at $600. retail.

    Your burning wood and your in the big time so i would stay away from the home owners saws as they WILL cost you more money in the long run as there not made for full firewood use.
  17. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    That's good advice.

    I think cutting firewood can be tougher on a saw than most logging--especially when you're cutting bigger wood.
  18. slowzuki

    slowzuki Feeling the Heat

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    Limbing is about the worst thing on a saw, the carb has a hard time running between the hi and low jets resulting in lean conditions. Over-reving happens frequently too.

    Firewood bucking with a saw that is too small is hard on a saw for sure, husqy and stihl make rancher or woodboss models that aren't great felling or limbing saws (too heavy) but have the cubic inches to run wide open without getting too hot etc.

    TO THE ORIGINAL POSTER
    Before felling any trees, please get training. There are game-of-logging courses available, there are online materials (www.forestryforum.com) and the owners manuals have information. Buy the correct safety gear. Too many inexperienced chainsaw operators are killed or injured. A 6" diameter tree can easily kill you or hospitalize you.

    As a side note, free trees aren't always what they are cracked up to be. Trees close to houses are very risky to cut, leave them to pro's with insurance. The owner may be your best friend but their insurance company has no problems suing you.
    Beware the owner wanting their yard restored to perfect condition.
    Trees weigh a lot. Think about how you will remove the tree.
  19. colsmith

    colsmith New Member

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    Hi, original poster here. Thanks for your advice and concern. In the past 2 years I have read a great deal about how to cut trees down, depending on their size, angle of lean if any, distribution of limbs, neighboring obstructions, etc. As a former physics teacher I can follow all that part pretty well, I understand the vectors and forces and things to look out for. The best wood stove/woodcutting book we read before getting the stove I read again cover to cover last year after we had some burning experience and more cutting experience, because then it made more sense and I could absorb more of it. We did have the chainsaw for some years and had cut a few trees in our former yard down. But my best safety factor is that hubby is slightly paranoid about things, is the kind of guy who always reads the directions, and gazillions of books about everything, and always takes lots of precautions when chainsawing. He is an Eagle Scout who worked at Boy Scout camps in northern WI for many years, and had a lot of chainsawing and cutting down tree experience. So I am more the lovely (yet capable) assistant, although I am the one who bought our chainsaw for us as an anniversary present years ago.

    In January we visited my sister in FL, and her boyfriend was overseeing the removal of a large sycamore tree in her yard. Hubby said he would help, but after observing the other fellow's methods, he couldn't stand to be involved or even watch. He went over to my mother's house instead, she lives very close to my sister. If you knew my mother and my husband, you'd know how strange this was! The boyfriend was going up the tree with ropes and then chainsawing with one hand over his head, without any PPE whatsoever. And not saying anything to my sister below when limbs were about to fall, etc. I tried to get him to wear safety goggles later, but he declined them.

    As for the apple tree we were hoping to take down, we got a photo of the setup and hubby emailed the guy that it appears we cannot take the tree out safety, so we have declined his offer to cut and remove it for firewood. Too bad, I am the wood splitter (hubby cracked his ribs in Dec.) and apple splits so easily and burns so well. Tallest apple tree I have ever seen in my life, at least 40 feet. Too many electric wires and garages and things nearby, on a small city lot. Last summer we rejected a much larger tree in a more open area that a good friend wanted taken down. So we are proceeding with due caution.
  20. Roospike

    Roospike New Member

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    Good call on the tree ..........there are many time to just walk away.
  21. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    Roo,

    I have the 16" Husky 345 and it's made in Sweden......I paid $228 for it 2 years ago (no tax, free shipping and 2 free chains) and now I think it's $248. For $271 you can get the 345e and for both saws, I think $10 more gets you the 18" bar.
  22. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    I started with a 16" Homelite about 6 or 7 yrs ago, and cut about 2 cord a year with it with no real issue. Then last season it pretty much just gave up. It was an excuse to buy a Stihl, so I didn't put much into it.

    I guess my point is just an alternative view - cutting 2 cord was decent work, cutting 5 to 6 is a lot if you have a day job besides. You may find it's beyond your time or interest. I beat the Homelite down for a while, made sure I was actually going to be doing a moderate amount of cutting routinely, then went for the big saw. On a side note, also acquired (used) a little echo limb saw (maybe a 12" blade) that runs like a champ and beats the hell out of swinging the big saw around to clean off the brush.

    Steve
  23. zzr7ky

    zzr7ky Minister of Fire

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    Hi -

    I think steve's point is well taken. Weekend warriors of the woods. I like the quick and easy power ot the larger saws, Husky 353 or better or Dolmar 5100. They make quick work of cutting so I can get to loading... I do keep an old Mac handy for brush, and cutting the last bit in crotch if it looks like it could cost me a chain.

    One's saw should easily and quickly do the job at hand. A good one lasts a long time. Also good saws bring good money if one gets the hots for another one! Big box specials aren't in high demand used.

    ATB,
    Mike P
  24. colsmith

    colsmith New Member

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    Actually we aren't just weekend warriors. We can and do put a lot of time into our scrounging and carrying and cutting and splitting. We ditched our day jobs some years ago. Because we are really frugal, we were able to do that, so we have time for all the wood cutting we need to do to heat our home. Thus although we can buy a more expensive saw, of course (being frugal) we were examining the cheaper options first. Looks like Husqvarna is what it will be, a 35? most likely, not sure what the ? number is yet. Still looking and pondering. Plus need the darn snow to melt so we can go out and cut some standing dead wood. Thanks for all the advice!
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