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what’s the right chain saw for the job?

Post in 'The Gear' started by ketoret, Mar 22, 2008.

  1. ketoret

    ketoret Member

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    not sure this is the right forum, so I'll leave it to the admin to move if necessary.

    i don't know a durned thing about chain saws, what i need, and how to keep it from sawing my head off my neck, for instance. i don't think i'll be sawing down any sequoias out here, probably the biggest stuff we have are eucalyptus. but i do see a need for some kind of sidekick in the car to saw apart nice thick branches by the side of the road, that kind of stuff. Any idears?

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  2. buildingmaint

    buildingmaint Feeling the Heat

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    I have a Stihl 290 with a 16 " bar that works well for any thing I've thrown at it . I just use it around the house and work.
  3. burntime

    burntime New Member

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    I have the same saw with an 18 or 20 inch bar. Have had it for 8+ years and still great! Custs approx 60 cord by now including my wood, neighbors and friends wood! Next time around I would step up to a pro series just to save the wieght. Plus for the extra 100 bucks it really is not that much more per year when you look at it.
  4. ControlFreak

    ControlFreak Feeling the Heat

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    I have a Husqvarna 350, 18" bar. I also have a very small Stihl with a 16" bar that I used for many years and served me faithfully but doesn't want to start any more. I'd never go back to the smaller saw. The time you save will make up for the little bit of extra cost. Interestingly, the Husq 350's about the same weight as the much smaller Stihl, probably because the shrouding on the Husq is a tough plastic, while the Stihl is all die cast aluminum. Both makes are very reliable and popular saws. I'd stay away from the Home Depot saws. HD often forces suppliers to cheapen down their products to get the prices down. So a HD saw may not be the same saw as the same model purchased elsewhere.
  5. CT-Mike

    CT-Mike Minister of Fire

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    The right saw is the one that gets it done. In my case that is a Jonsered 2063 Turbo, only because my lumberjack father-in-law gave it to me when he retired from the business.
  6. gpcollen1

    gpcollen1 Minister of Fire

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    Guys, he's in Israel and talking about cutting up some stuff by the roadside. I have an older small saw with a 12" bar. It does a great job on smaller stuff and can do the larger stuff. One handed action on the smaller stuff is nice.

    I have checked out the smaller Echo and Husq and with the weigh and balance - the 12" bar will cut almost anything you want. Figure out what size stuff you will be cutting - but if small stuff and you need a car companion - get a good model with a short bar and you will ove it.
  7. rob bennett

    rob bennett New Member

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    Get one with an anti kickback brake. I don't know if they are standard equipment now, but it is a great safety device
  8. firefilly

    firefilly New Member

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    I started out with a Husky 141 with a 16" bar. Used it a bunch for 8 years, got comfortable, & loved/love the saw. I still use it (it's light and now the 142), but upgraded by need to a Husky 359 - for a bunch of big trees that needed a 20" bar. Not much weight difference on paper, but noticeable when you're holding it for hours at a time. Same company for both but the feel and THE POWER are not in the same family. I'd make sure to get chaps and good ear/eye protection, so budget that in to your equation. Be careful!
  9. argus66

    argus66 Feeling the Heat

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    im no master cutter but i just got my 1st saw, a used craftsman with 16 inch bar its ok i have to tighten chain after every 3 or 5 cuts but it was only $35 and im not cutting any major trees just logs i find no bigger than 12 inch diamter. my goal is to get a full cord of free wood this spring for next winter so ill only have to but 1 cord and by next yr have all scrounged wood only and buy nothing.
  10. ketoret

    ketoret Member

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    folks, thanks for your comments, and keep them coming. i'm reading, reading, reading.....
  11. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    If you are just cutting small scraps, a small top handle, 12 inch Echo is a tiny and light saw. For a next step up, Stihl MS180 is about 8 lbs with 12 or 14 inch bar. light and tiny and pretty safe, almost as fast on small wood as larger saws.
    I ddon't think you need even 16 inch bar if it just household cleanup. What is the largest likely common task?
    I'll PM you some more info tomorrow.

    k
  12. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    1.) what is the largest wood you are likely to encounter?
    2.) How MUCH wood do you plan to process?
    3.) what TYPE of wood do you plan to process (most likely species)?
    4.) How much $$$ are you looking to spend?
    5.) Is this going to travel with you most of the time?

    These really need to be addressed first before we get into the "this is the best saw of all times" suggestions.

    A Stihl 290 with an 18" bar is a fine saw (for example), but if your looking to buck 12" branches, probably not the right choice.
  13. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

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    How long do you plan to hang onto the saw? If it's more than 3-4 years consider going to a "professional" series Husky, Stihl, Jonsared or Dolmar.

    My picks would be:

    Husky 346XP (New Edition, 50CC)
    Stihl MS260
    Dolmar 5100S
    Jonsared CS2152

    Of the bunch the top performer is the Dolmar by a tiny bit.
  14. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    kketoret
    tried to send you some files, but get errors and crashes, never shows as 'sent messages'
    please advise if received.
    kcj
  15. ketoret

    ketoret Member

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    you ask lot of questions....

    1. largest wood would likely be 16"
    2. quantity - for personal burning, heating. moderate climate. 2200 ft house. watcha think? 3 cords? less?
    3. type of wood...eucalyptus, fruit wood, pine, maybe olive,
    4. money..everything i saved from my junk bonds i put into hedge funds
    5. there's very little wood in my immediate area (we're reforesting here) so any wood i cut i have to travel to get. i don't have a pickup truck (i know, what kinda man doesnt have a pickup truck. do i even belong on this forum?). but i can probably borrow a trailer when needed.

    i have found here the stihl 180 and the husky 240, and a makita dcs 34. prices seem to be very high, like $500 for the stihl or husky. bringing backa chain saw from overseas..well, at least there is no problem about matching electrical current, but security might have an issue with it. i'm sure there are larger saws also, but i dont think i really need anything so big. i'm looking for small and light, i think. in reply to a the question if i'm planning on keeping it long...this is my first experience, and we'll see how it goes. but i know better than to start out with a POS, because i'm sure that will lead nowhere.

    thx for your help!

    ketoret
  16. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Perfect, now we are getting somewhere. Yes, I know its alot of questions, but for good reason. To lead you into any direction we must first know how it will be used.

    Approx. 3 cords (maybe even a little less) is probably a good start. 16" or less is another big piece of the puzzle.

    So, needs to be light, 16" bar max. (maybe 14") and used for moderate cutting.

    Lots of saws will fit that bill. You have named a few. Stihl 200T or the 180, possibly even the 250 model, a Husky 346xp with a 16" bar would be a little beast for sure (plenty of power), and there are a couple of Dolmars that would fit also. The Dolmar 5100 (although a great saw) would more than likely be a little big for this application.

    The above saws are quality for sure. It may come down to what you can get your hands on. I think I have a pretty good idea of how you plan to use it, so my suggestion is to NOT get carried away with size. Check the stihl, husky and Dolmar websites to get weight and HP specs. I do suggest getting an upgrade to a homeowner saw, but reality is.....you could probably go either way and get away with it. But you will notice the difference of a pro saw compared to a homeowner version. Just my take on it.

    Tmonters list is a good one also, although I think the 5100 would be getting on the "Large" size for your application it is a great saw, and that MS260 is a beauty.
  17. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

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    Looks like the 5100s has been phased out in favor of the 5000 now it it has pretty close to the same specs as the Husky 346 and Stihl 260. The Dolmar is at least the quality saw of the Husky/Stihl but a bit less expensive.

    There are some dealers for Dolmar in Israel according to their website.
  18. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    According to a thread over on Arboristsite, the airlines get REALLY nasty about a chainsaw that has ever been fueled, but it is possible to carry a NEW, never been fueled saw in your checked baggage, so that could be a way to get a saw if you travel out of country, or have friends that do.

    As to the size, I would agree with the other posters that you probably want something small, on the order of a 12-16" bar, preferably in a Pro-grade model, but given the amount of cutting you are talking about, you probably could get away with a home-owner grade if money is an issue.

    Engine size is an issue to consider, along with bar size - a good rule of thumb is to look for an engine with 3cc of displacement for every inch of bar length - thus 36cc for a 12" bar, 48cc for a 16" bar, etc... However many saws (especially homeowner saws, come "over-barred" with bars that are bigger than they really should have, which hurts their performance. However bars are an easy and not terribly expensive thing to change.

    In theory, you can cut diameters up to twice the bar length, but that is tricky, I think for a beginner you are best off not trying to cut more than about 150% of your bar length. However that still means a 12" bar can cut 18", which is more than you are expecting.

    I saw one mention of a "top-handle" saw - this is probably not a good idea, top-handles are slightly more dangerous as they don't give you the hand spread and leverage to control kickback as easily. Top-handle saws are mostly meant for pros to use while working up in a tree where agility matters. I would get a rear-handle saw, and absolutely insist on a saw with a chain-brake.

    Bottom line, I would probably look for a saw with about a 36cc engine, minimum, and a 12" bar. If an otherwise suitable saw comes with a 16" bar, take it anyway, and keep that bar and chain as a spare, or for use on the unexpected big log. Get a 12" bar, and a couple loops of chain for it, and you will have a nice cutting machine.

    As mentioned, you also DEFINITELY need safety equipment... Minimum is a hard hat / ear-muff / face shield combination, gloves and steel toed boots. If you can afford to, add chain saw chaps, replace the plain steel toe boots with chainsaw rated boots, and get a pair of chainsaw gloves. Any work around trees is likely to get stuff dropped on you sooner or later, and chainsaws throw a lot of dust and make noise levels that are dangerous to hearing. The rest of the gear is intended to help protect you from accidentally cutting yourself with the saw... Keep in mind that a chainsaw is THE most dangerous peice of outdoor power equipment there is, probably the most dangerous hand held tool of any sort, so get the appropriate gear, and USE IT. I would also advise reading the manual carefully and following it religiously until you are very familiar with how to use the saw - if you can get some lessons.

    Gooserider
  19. ketoret

    ketoret Member

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    goose,

    thanks for the detailed, helpful, and experience-based advice. tell you the truth, i'm scared s**tless of chainsaws (as i was of my first circular saw, my first table saw, my first girlfriend), and i suppose that's not unreasonable or even unhealthy, if it makes me careful. if you can think of any other helpful advice, please advise! thanks
  20. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Chainsaws are good things to be scared of - as I've said elsewhere they are arguably the most dangerous handheld power tool there is, however like any other tool it is possible to learn how to use them with reasonable levels of safety - just take it slow and start with the easy stuff. Aside from the protective gear, the biggest thing I would say is learn all you can. If you have access to a course on chainsaw use such as "Game of Logging" or equivalent, take it. Next best is if you can get someone to give you a few lessons. If not, I would suggest reading as much as you can, starting with the manuals and going on from there. Some of the manufacturers also have some good training videos on their websites - look for those and possibly anything put out by other such outfits. Youtube even has some interesting stuff, though a lot of theirs is more in the nature of what NOT to do...

    Gooserider
  21. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    the top handle comment was mine, as it sounded like he was thinking of keeping in the car trunk or as a pack saw. As the story unfolds, I'd totally agree. Not use a top handle for a beginner all around saw.
    A little MS180 with 14 inch bar would be my vote. light, simple, well balanced a bit better with 14 than with 12 inch.

    And, as encouragement, being afraid of the saw can be dangerous in itself. Being seriously respectful of it, (like many things potentially dangerous but we get used to, wild animals, gasoline, and automobile traffic) is a very GOOD thing. And getting comfortable and nonchalant with it as a tool can be the most dangerous of all.

    So, get some training, the STihl DVD is good, and only about $5. Get the right PPE, even if the 'expert logger buddies' give you lots of grief about it. Keep the chain razor sharp and it is more safe. Be safe, gain confidence, expand your comfort zone, and you will enjoy a new experience.

    k
  22. ketoret

    ketoret Member

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    thanks kevin. i've been tending in the direction of the 180. the stihl dvd is a good idea. i figure there's a 'feel' one develops after a while, when you can sense trouble before it happens, like with many tools and situations. i know before i turn on my table saw, i always step back and think if everything is as it should be. if something doesn't'feel' right, i'll stand there until i can figure out why, or until the heebie-jeebies go away.

    one question: in someplaces, i've read that kickback can happen when the tip of the saw hits something. if i'm cutting a log thicker than my bar, isn't that inevitable?
  23. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    Can't single pass cut a log bigger than the bar with reduced kickback chain.

    Pasting in, didn't type all this now…..

    Kickback was well explained (somewhere I can’t find now) if you visualize the spinning chain turning into a stationary caterpillar track. If the tip of the bar touches something, instead of the chain continuing to move, it stops or slows and the caterpillar, the saw bar, moves instead. It either moves up, or backwards, but opposite the direction of the chain motion.

    Top and bottom running chain that say binds in the cut tends to push the saw in or out. At the tip it is worse, partly due to the direction (up, instead of back) and partly because the kickback can be more violent. The chain sort of opens up as it arcs around the tight nose, and has more chance of snagging something with one tooth instead of cutting with many teeth. Something smaller, branches for example, can be worse because they tent to snag between the cutter and the depth gauge.
    Can’t really describe it well, go to Stihl, Oregon, or Carlton sites for info on chipper/chisel and safety/non safety chains.

    Reduced kickback (‘safety’) chain has same rivet pitch, but longer tie straps between the cutters, that extend to the rear of the rivet, overlapping the cutter link. As they go around the tight curve of the tip, they tent to swing outward and act as a skid so the cutters don’t hit wood.

    Visualize a pickup truck towing a trailer as wide as the truck. On straight road, life is good. Both truck and trailer pass through a narrow alley or tunnel just the size of the truck. However, on a very tight right hand turn, the left front corner of the trailer can sort of swing out and open up and maybe snag the sides of the alley/tunnel. The analogy breaks down here, but when a cutter does that, kickback can happen.

    Now, assume the truck is hauling a 20 foot board, extending out past the rear axle of the truck and over the top of the trailer. On straight road through the tunnel, again no problems. However on that tight right turn, when truck goes right, the end of the board past the rear of the truck swings outward to the left. As it swings outward, it gets beyond the corner of the trailer and protects the trailer from snagging the tunnel wall.

    On the AS or other pro boards, many are VERY derogatory to safety chain. It cuts like crap, throw it out, etc. That may be valid for experienced users, but homeowners IMO should ONLY use reduced kickback (‘safety’) chain on a consumer saw. No questions, no options, safety chain only.

    There are some good reasons why pros don’t like it. Much of it is sold from box stores, and is poor design or metallurgy to sell cheap in the first place. Second reason, people say it cuts way slower. I have tried to find back to back test data with the same cutter design, safety or not, to see if there really is a measurable difference in cutting speed. I suspect it is not nearly as much as most people think. I did run some identical cutters, safety or not, in small wood maybe 12 inch maximum, and I could not see much difference. Some, but not a lot. Big wood might have been different. And of course, big wood can be cut bar buried with non safety chain.

    There is a HUGE difference between chipper/semi-chisel and full square chisel chain, especially in green hardwood or any softwood. Cutting some green ash in the tests referred above, chipper to chisel is maybe 25 to 50% faster cutting.

    Chipper chain is a rounded corner, looking like the numeral 2 when viewed from the front. Full chisel chain is very sharp square cornered, like the numeral 7. Go to the web sites and understand how a cutter tooth works, and it will be obvious both the differences and where a tooth needs to be sharp to cut. Most beginners check the top plate and that isn’t the critical place. The side plate is what shears the cross grain, the top plate lifts the chip out. Because of the curved shape of the chipper corner, it is better supported for stresses, but cuts less efficiently.

    Now, since Stihl dealers usually sell only chipper (semi chisel) tooth in safety, and the ‘pro’ non safety chain is full chisel, I think the big difference is because of tooth design between them, not the safety bars. Sure, more friction through the wood, but I don’t think that accounts for the performance differences. Dealer here says Stihl does not make a safety chisel chain. Haven’t checked the website, I would think they do. But I have used Oregon safety chisel and I love it.

    When full chisel is ground or filed with the proper square wheel or files, it holds an edge pretty well. When ground with a rounded wheel, or round filed, the resulting unsupported hook shaped point tends to dull faster when exposed to dirt and dust in and on the wood. And of course metal or rock takes if immediately.

    ran out of space....

    k
  24. kevin j

    kevin j Minister of Fire

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    con't

    I am moving back to chipper/semi-chisel because most of what I do is firewood in and around farms and towns. There is much more dust and dirt actually grown into the wood, and more nails, wire, and garbage. Metal takes any chain, and it has to be changed immediately, but at least it can be sharpened out. I have just found that the Stihl chromed chipper chain is best for me. Way more money, but seems to go several tanks of gas before touchup. Generally I touch up chain every two tanks or so.

    Pro loggers cutting clean wood in the forests, with a lot of trigger time during a day, gain way more production. Firewood people, or loggers on the landings with dirt or mud on the logs, I think it’s just less hassle with chipper. I don’t have as much saw time, more of the day is spend moving and hauling and splitting, so the production is not as important to me. Maybe it is laziness…. Though there is something very exhilarating when cutting through some green wood with a razor sharp precision, chisel chain….

    Back to original question. Since the tie straps swing out and prevent snagging, they are by definition preventing cutting at the tip. Safety chains cannot bore with the tip, and cannot just go through a log with bar buried. As it cuts through, the uncut spot at the tip causes the tip to slowly move towards you, sort of making a ramp angle sliding along the uncut wood. Don’t do it.

    Start only with smaller stuff you can cut single pass with a couple inches of bar exposed at tip. Get some feel and skill and preferably some training first.

    However, most do almost 2x bar length simply by cutting around the log. I have longer bars than the motor should support, but it is so I can cut from one side. I start with saw motor on top of log, dog in, and cut the far side of the log until the bar is almost vertical but NOT touching dirt out the bottom. About the time the tip is close to entering wood, then hold the tip in that spot and pull the saw motor towards me and down around, cutting with the chain closest to the motor, not the tip of the bar. (Moving the motor is also the fastest cutting in logs smaller than bar size, but small stuff it is not worth the extra work. Not racing saws here.) Cut down as far as possible and roll the log to continue. I don’t get within 3 inches of dirt. I was taught if it even TOUCHES dirt, stop and file it a couple licks. Rock or steel, file or change it. And I agree totally.

    Reduced kickback bars are more curved on top and bottom and the tip diameter is slightly smaller. Most small saws already have that design. There are some drawbacks, but very minor, won’t go there now.



    k
  25. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    "Safety Chain" is training wheels for chain saws. - Good for learning on, though it can teach bad habbits - after a couple chains though it is quite reasonable to take the training wheels off, and get chain that will cut properly all the way around the bar... I used to use chipper style safety chain, but now that I've learned how to hand file and used a full chisel chain (on the same saw that I was using the chipper chain on), I'm never going back, wouldn't take a chipper chain as a gift... This is cutting in suburbia, and bucking up yard trees that I get from a tree service, but hand sharpening after every tank - gives a nice break from swinging the saw.

    Gooserider

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