In response to my bleg for chainsaw advice Richard Calderwood sent this, which I’m reposting with his permission. – LJ
Hey Les –
I’m a Portland city slicker, but I own a couple hundred acres in NE Arizona and have been through more chains than most folks have socks. Here’s my $0.02, for what it’s worth. (About that, I reckon.)
I’ve owned several Stihls, and loved every one of them. Never had any other; never saw any reason to. Wait, no that’s not true; I had some p.o.s. electric(!) chainsaw when I lived in California. Fits, donnit?
If you’re going to cut more than an hour or two in a day, it’s worth it to have a more powerful saw. If you’re going to cut less, it might be better to have a lighter weight saw. Yeah, that sounds counter-intuitive.
The crystal meth heads recently stole my Stihl 046 (might be the same as the MS 460 – Stihl is GOOFY with their naming conventions). It was a bad mutha and murdered hundreds of trees very successfully and without incident. They also got my Stihl MS 200 T “arborist” saw; that one was a little beauty – very nice for overhead work, where the 046 kicks your butt by the end of the day.
Here at the Portland house, I have a Stihl MS 361 and it will cut all day long. Not as powerful as the 046, but also not quite as heavy.
Make sure your saw has the easy chain tightening deal. That’s a time saver.
Buy a LOT of chains. Wasting time on the job, sharpening a chain, is a TERRIBLE investment if you actually figure out the cost per hour. Keep a bunch of spares in the truck. When one gets dull, throw it in the truck, and pay some teenager to sharpen it after you get home. Or just throw it away.
My brother-in-law’s brother is a lumberjack in Alaska, and he showed me a really nifty trick. Tie a piece of good rope between the handle of a 1gal bar oil jug and a 1gal fuel jug, and you have ‘em both on a handle and in the right quantities. I met him when he was en route to hospital after severing a finger tendon on a not-in-use saw when he stumbled. When transporting your saw, keep the bar cover in place.
Set your bar oiler to use a lot of oil. Oil is cheap. Time lost to worn bars and chains is not. Sure, the saw will spit a bit more goo on your clothes over the course of a weekend, but that’s what overalls are for. Or junky work jeans.
Buy a good set of Kevlar chaps, and wear them religiously. Their purpose is to gum up the chain and slow/stop it when (not if) you brush your leg. I only brushed mine a couple times (with the flat side of the bar), and both times it was at the end of a looooong day of cutting at 6,000 feet (and I live at sea level). Physical fatigue leads to mental fatigue, and a moment’s indiscretion with a chainsaw can have life-altering consequences.
With the 361 I bought the dorky-looking (but super practical) Stihl combination helmet / face shield / ear muffs. Looks stupid. Works great.
The screen kind of face shield is FAR better than the plastic windshield kind. The screen is enough to keep the chips and sawdust from getting in your eyes, and it lets your face breathe so you don’t get as hot.
A good chainsaw motor mechanic can tune the motor by sound. When it sounds juuuust right when he burps the throttle, he knows he has the jets set just right.
Get a spare air filter to leave in the truck. Don’t forget to clean the filter out every few hours. The intake is a sawdust magnet.
If you let the chain get too loose, it’s dangerous and can jump the tracks. But if you keep it too tight, it overheats the chain and the bar. If you can easily pull the middle of the chain up, with thumb and index finger, high enough that the teeth exit the bar, it’s too loose.
New chains stretch a lot at first. Keep in mind when you have a new chain on, and stop more frequently to check and adjust the tension.
Don’t forget to screw the bar oil tank and premix fuel tank caps back on (the saw) after you refill, or you’ll spill both alllll down your pants and boots. DAHIK.
Steel-toed boots are a good idea. Loose sleeves etc are not.
I won’t give you any cutting or felling advice except this: stop and clear yourself an exit path often. Don’t stand in a tangle of cut off branches while cutting bigger branches or the trunk. Plan for a good fell, but assume a rotten one. Trees and wind have (evil) minds of their own.
Oh, and one more thing. Scratch the premix ratio into the fuel filler cap with the point of a sharp knife, so you always have it when you need it.