Any opions on a top handle saw?

woodmeister Posted By woodmeister, Jan 31, 2010 at 11:35 PM

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  1. woodmeister

    New Member 2.

    Nov 2, 2008
    lower ct. river
    I'm looking for something small for limbing, main saw is a 310 w/20" bar any thoughts?
  2. Gooserider

    Mod Emeritus 2.

    Nov 20, 2006
    Northeastern MA (near Lowell)
    I limb with my 7900, but that is a little bit of overkill for the job... A lot of people argue that top handle saws are excessively dangerous because they encourage one hand use, and even when used two hands they don't give enough leverage to be able to effectively control kickback... They will say a top handle should be saved for pro's only, mostly when doing climbing type work that needs a super light weight saw.

    I find that I like having a decent reach, so my inclination would probably be away from a top handle, and towards a conventional design saw in the 40-50cc range, w/ a 14-16" bar.

  3. bogydave

    Minister of Fire 2.

    Dec 4, 2009
    So Cent ALASKA
    I usually limb with the saw in my hand. The 20" has good reach, less bending over. If the small 14" saw, I use it. 20" is easiest for me.
    Sometimes a axe, but never a hand saw.
    But when climbing a spruce tree while moose hunting, a wyoming saw works & is quiet..
  4. smokinj

    Minister of Fire 2.

    Aug 11, 2008
    Anderson, Indiana
    Top handle saw's are great if your working on trees in the subburbs they just have a hudge number of limbs. If your cutting in woods there not needed.
  5. Stlshrk

    Member 2.

    Mar 4, 2008
    The only one I ever used was an echo. It was a very nice little saw, but I found it to be unbalanced. Maybe because I just wasn't used to it. Or possibly because I didn't feel as safe using it as a conventional set up. If I were to purchase a small saw for limbing, It would have a normal handle configuration. The top handle is probably great for the in tree task it is designed for, though.

    Just my 2 cents.
  6. kevin j

    kevin j
    Minister of Fire 2.

    Jan 21, 2008
    minnesota us
    I am no pro, but I have a little Echo top handle. I think it is a 30 cc. It is way underpowered with the 14 or 16 inch bar and safety chain it came with. I put a 12 inch on it and it is safer and a bit less underpowered. Not a high revver, sluggish to spool up, but cheap and reliable and always starts. About 10 years old now. I think it was $200 new, maybe $300 now.

    Top handle advantages:
    -One hand operation, for trimming in a tree obviously, but I am too old and sore to climb trees.
    -I very rarely limb on the ground with it, just way too small of reach.
    -I use it one handed for cutting oversize pieces to length, for cutting branches or limbs under about 4 inches, usually near the woodpile.
    -I cut up pallets, old 2x4’s or paneling for the garbage can.
    -I use it for landscaping work cutting edging timbers.
    -Fits on a (homemade) lower shelf on my Kelty pack frame modified for trail clearing for motorcycle and canoeing trails. Light and easy to haul around and doesn’t stick out the sides.
    -Very handy and versatile IF you are very careful and experienced.

    Top handle disadvantages:
    -Either one or two handed, there is not as much control. The gripping hands are very close together, and don’t offer much resistance to rotation of a kickback.
    -Using it one handed with that hand on the top handle, the brake is essentially defeated. There is no left hand in position to trip the brake paddle. The inertial is supposed to work, but….
    -Either way, I keep my body off to the left of the line of cut/kickback/thrown chain (SOP with all saws, even more important with top handle).

    -Carrying it is more dangerous. With a rear handle saw, my habit is keep the left hand gripped on the front handle, release the right hand from rear handle and swing the saw around to left side of body with bar to the rear. That puts the right hand/finger off the throttle, and the bar to the rear and farthest from my left leg. (I never carry on right side or bar forward for the same reasons.) In case of a fall, your body is usually away from the bar, and the left hand instinctively grips tighter on the harmless top part of the front handle.
    With top handle, it is usually carried in the right hand, in operating position, moving from use to use. While that is much quicker and efficient when limbing or trimming, it means the bar is forward and more importantly the right finger is still on the trigger. I TRY to keep my trigger finger off the throttle unless actually cutting, but it is much easier said than done. A firearm has the side of the trigger guard for a habitual resting place for the finger until ready to use the weapon. The little saw does not. It’s hard to reach up and lay it along the actual top handle itself. I have had (two months ago most recently) situations of slipping or falling and that bar is way too close to my fall direction. I have many years of guns and motorcycling, both of which are gripped with two separate parts of the hand (three fingers and thumb for hard grip and major motor muscle control, with index finger independently fine motor muscles for clutch/brake/trigger control), and still the human instinct is to grab tighter with all four of those fingers when falling. One of those fingers is likely to be on the throttle and that is not a happy combination.

    Would I buy another top handle? Yes, for sure. Would I recommend one? Given the + and – above, for most people, no. A casual homeowner, especially no.

    In my opinion, way better and safer to get a small 30-40 cc lightweight limbing saw with a 14 inch bar that would do most of the cutting needs with better control. My son’s MS180 keeps up with the bigger saws in anything less than 6 or 8 inches and does just fine in bigger stuff, just slower. It certainly outcuts the top handle echo. Poulans, nope, but little consumer Stihl Husky Dolmar and maybe the Ryobi/Red Max if you can do some detailing and fixing of known problems.

    that's my .02
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