#1
Old 01-23-2012, 05:24 PM
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Need a good cheap chain saw

And I know that cheap is relative.
I now have a fireplace so I want to be able to cut then split my own firewood. What is a good low-cost chainsaw that is also easy and safe for a beginner to use?
Gas or electric?

Last edited by Saint Cad; 01-23-2012 at 05:26 PM.
#2
Old 01-23-2012, 05:48 PM
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I got some excellent advice in this thread:

What do I need to know about buying (and then using) a chainsaw?

In particular, I hired someone to take down a few trees. I'm still not sure what I'll do if some rogue tree (silently?) falls across our driveway. Maybe I'll buy an axe.
#3
Old 01-23-2012, 05:58 PM
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Gas chainsaws have lots of advantages but they are sometimes a pain to start and mix fuel for. One cheap chainsaw that will will give good results is this electric Poulan model. I don't know how much you want to spend but it is only $75 and made by a reputable company.

http://amazon.com/Poulan-PLN3516...7359368&sr=1-5
#4
Old 01-23-2012, 06:02 PM
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If you don't know what you're doing and your work will be one place, by all means get an electric. Gas saws can be brilliant, but they are fussy, expensive and are one of the two things an Alaskan won't let you borrow.

Go to a big-box store, buy an electric with an 18" blade, a spare chain and the longest warranty they'll sell you. Splitting the wood will be way more trouble than cutting it.
#5
Old 01-23-2012, 06:07 PM
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When it comes to chainsaws there's a limit as to how "safe" they can be and still perform their basic task.

I have a small electric chainsaw that I purchased about ten years ago which I use to cut up the occasional fallen tree limb. For taking down or cutting up complete trees I call in a professional, but sometimes you've just got a fallen tree limb to cut up and haul away.

...and I've scared myself silly more than once when the chainsaw "caught" while in the middle of a cut and bucked off in a direction I wasn't anticipating. Might have had to change my pants once or twice.
#6
Old 01-23-2012, 06:25 PM
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Ha! Something else I did when I was a lad!
Saint Cad, what kind of wood are you looking at cutting/splitting and what kind of diameter? Growing up in the Pacific Northwest we did a lot of fir (around 3 feet in diameter IIRC), some slightly smaller cedar, cottonwood and black locust. If you're just doing small pines 6"-1" in diameter you'd probably be ok with an electric and a nice axe. If you're doing the bigger stuff you just can't beat gas for getting the hell through the log. They're a bit of maintenance--bar oil, mixed gas/oil, sharpening--but you can do that in the shop at any time of day. When it's time to cut into rounds you're really going to want to finish with the saw sooner than later. I much preferred my time with the hammer & wedge than I did with the saw.

So my 2 cents: get the saw that will do the job the fastest so you can put it down sooner. You will not regret spending a couple extra hundred bucks 5 years from now, but you will hate yourself after your first day if you go cheap. And go for power--when you saw into a knot you want your RPMs to stay high so it cuts through it instead of binding up on it and leaping for your throat.

ETA: A longer bar is good for monster trees, but it's also more teeth. More teeth means you can cut longer between sharpenings. And that means you will be less tempted to keep cutting when you get dull. And sharper means less likelihhod of bucking & frightening.

Last edited by The Great Sun Jester; 01-23-2012 at 06:28 PM.
#7
Old 01-23-2012, 06:30 PM
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Question about these electric models:

We have a 400' driveway. The likely need for a chainsaw is after a snow or rainstorm. Aren't these going to be useless 50' away from the house? Wouldn't connecting eight extension cords (in the snow) qualify for a Darwin Award?
#8
Old 01-23-2012, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
Aren't these going to be useless 50' away from the house? Wouldn't connecting eight extension cords (in the snow) qualify for a Darwin Award?
Not if you buy a decent 100 foot extension cord and plug it into a properly grounded receptacle. If you need to do your business 400 feet away a gas model is probably a more convenient solution.

Last edited by The Great Sun Jester; 01-23-2012 at 06:37 PM.
#9
Old 01-23-2012, 06:37 PM
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double post

Last edited by The Great Sun Jester; 01-23-2012 at 06:37 PM.
#10
Old 01-23-2012, 06:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhythmdvl View Post
Question about these electric models:

We have a 400' driveway. The likely need for a chainsaw is after a snow or rainstorm. Aren't these going to be useless 50' away from the house? Wouldn't connecting eight extension cords (in the snow) qualify for a Darwin Award?
This question really depends on how much money you want to save. 100 ft extension cords add to the cost as well. If you can reasonably afford it, the standard answer is to get an 18 inch Stihl or Husqvarna gas model. You can get those for a few hundred dollars and they will last for years with few problems.

No chainsaw is perfectly safe or problem free however. Get someone to show you how to use safely and effectively no matter which one you get. Most beginners get the chain bound into the the wood fairly often by making poor cutting decisions and that is a pain get it free at best and really dangerous at worst. DO NOT ever cut anything over your head like a limb. That is a quick way to the emergency room or morgue. Today's chain saws don't tend to kick back as often as they once did but it can still happen in the blink of an eye.

You need to know how to sharpen a chain as well. New chains cost about $20 and you can dull or destroy one in just a few seconds by hitting dirt or an embedded obstruction like a nail. Even in the best case, your chain won't stay sharp for more than a couple of hours of cutting before it gets dangerous and ineffective. You have to learn how to take the saw apart and use a special file to sharpen it. If you get a gas model, you have to learn how to mix gas and start it too. They are usually two-stroke and sometimes require a starting procedure more complicated than a jet fighter.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 01-23-2012 at 06:57 PM.
#11
Old 01-23-2012, 07:36 PM
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The issue with a 400' driveway is going to be line drop. You simply won't get the voltage at the end of the run, and your saw won't be able to deliver its rated power.

You need to factor in what your expected use of the saw is. Domestic quality saws are often only rated for 50 hours use. Really. For people that use them to cut the odd fallen branch and do a bit of trimming these will still last a lifetime. If you are going to be using the saw on a weekly basis through the winter every year you need a higher rated saw. I think Sthil call these their "farm" range. You will note that you don't seem to get any more saw for the money, same size bar, same power. But important things, such as the bearings, strength of crankcase, are all uprated.

If you can, do a chainsaw safety training course. These will take you through how to tear down, sharpen, and generally care for your saw, as well as take you through the safe use. There are simple rules that need to be drilled into your brain.

They are not all that hard to look after, but if you neglect them they can become a real problem. I sharpen the chain once per tank of fuel. It takes a few minutes with a file, and you get pretty slick at it. Every few tanks I flip the bar. If the chain is still not ripping into wood the guides probably need levelling. Maybe do those once a year. A very typical issue with inexperienced users is to persevere when the chain is not sharp (not really blunt, just not sharp) and to push down on the saw. A sharp chain will cut with nothing more than the weight of the saw on it.

Starting is like any two stroke - environmental rules are making four strokes more available so this may be becoming less of an issue. The usual problem with starting a two stroke is to flood the engine. I find at most three starter pulls with the choke engaged, turn the choke off and then pull again, usually starts very quickly. Only engage the choke for a few pulls if it doesn't tart after about ten more pulls. Don't do this and you will understand why two strokes are considered the spawn of Satan.

Of any power tool, a chainsaw requires the greatest care in all respects. But they are not ridiculous. In the modern world where we expect everything to work first time and stay working with no effort on our part they are an outlier. But they are not out of the capability of anyone who can take the are needed.
#12
Old 01-23-2012, 08:07 PM
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I heat with wood, and thus own two chainsaws - both Stihl - that see frequent use. My comments:

Any regular use more than 50' from a properly wired outlet strongly argues for a gas chainsaw.

There are few tools where "emphasize quality over low price" is better advice than for a chainsaw.

Unless you're at least average in mechanical ability, judgement of forces and angles, and general handiness, serious chainsawing may not be a wise choice of pastime.

Felling trees is really dangerous. Limbing and bucking a fallen tree are not dramatically less so.

An astonishing number of people don't wear ear protection, which is far beyond stupid.
#13
Old 01-23-2012, 08:21 PM
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I came across a gas chain saw at an auction at a wooden boat show. Since everyone there was into boats that were hand-made, preferably with hand tools, a buzz-kill gas guzzling oil smoking screeezzzming machine was not popular. The only bid was mine ($5). It has been working nicely for me.
#14
Old 01-23-2012, 09:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xema View Post
I heat with wood, and thus own two chainsaws - both Stihl - that see frequent use. My comments:

Any regular use more than 50' from a properly wired outlet strongly argues for a gas chainsaw.

There are few tools where "emphasize quality over low price" is better advice than for a chainsaw.

Unless you're at least average in mechanical ability, judgement of forces and angles, and general handiness, serious chainsawing may not be a wise choice of pastime.

Felling trees is really dangerous. Limbing and bucking a fallen tree are not dramatically less so.

An astonishing number of people don't wear ear protection, which is far beyond stupid.
All true. Chainsaws are basically the in the same category as guns except much more unpredictable and dangerous. As long as you follow a few basic safety rules every single time without questioning them, you likely will never be hurt. If you get overconfident and slack off, you may get lucky a few times but you are at risk of serious injury. I know a whole bunch of people that have been hurt by chainsaws. I never have despite felling hundreds of trees but that is only because you have to follow the rules that will protect you even when you THINK you can push it just a little farther. You just have to stop, take a break, and rethink the whole thing when you get tired and frustrated. Every person that I know that got injured by one did not do that.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 01-23-2012 at 09:08 PM.
#15
Old 01-23-2012, 09:33 PM
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Don't buy a Poulan "Wild Thing" (gas powered). If you get a gas model, spring for a Stihl.

Last edited by california jobcase; 01-23-2012 at 09:35 PM.
#16
Old 01-23-2012, 09:38 PM
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If it's just an ambiance or a 'sometimes' thing [having a fire], you may be better off and safer to just buy cords of wood, you might even be able to buy large rounds of uncured wood or find slash piles already cut by a fuels crew in your area that would save you some money and still let you get your inner lumberjack on by splitting them when you get home. Sometimes you might be able to arrange to clean up after a tree-trimming services and you would be able to take some nicely sized and bucked logs and not even have to drive off into the forest for them.

If you are trying to heat solely with a wood burning stove I think you should probably think about how much wood you are planning on using and how much time you want to invest in it.

Not to shit on your plans, but taking enough wood to heat a reasonably-sized house is no minor work: you'll have to be bucking reasonable sized trees, possibly felling some dead and standing timber depending on your location, many truckloads and Saturdays doing it, plus maintenance and permits etc. Definitely it becomes more economical the more you are doing it, but one trip to the ER or ICU will munch your savings in no time.

If you're still game to go whole hog, you can't go wrong with a Husqvarna or a Stihl. I have 2 Stihls for personal use, one 24" bar and one 36" bar. You almost have to have 2 because if one goes down when you're an hour+ from the house you don't want to waste the whole day. The 'Farm' models and up are good for near continual use. Learn to break it down and clean it each day after you use it, sharpen it at least every truckload (I keep multiple chains and just swap out then do a major sharpening when needed). Like others have said, a chainsaw should cut easily without any downward pressure from the operator. You'll know you've mastered chain sharpening when you are getting 4-6 inch shavings. Expect to pay 150-200 for a quality saw that can handle this kind of use.

Make sure you take the training class from a local chainsaw shop to learn the basics of operation and safety and they should have some way of getting you in touch with people who can show you the basics of bucking and felling if you're planning on doing any of that. Never (Never, Never, Never) go out in the forest by yourself to cut wood, unless you have a desire to preform an emergency leg-ectomy on yourself with that nice new chainsaw you just purchased. Downing and bucking trees is far more dangerous and difficult than it first appears. Safety equipment should be considered mandatory.

Honestly, I can't see hardly any use for an electric chainsaw, don't waste your money.

I put in over 1,000 hours on a saw over 2 seasons on hand and fuels crews and I'm still considered a relative novice. Saws are great tools and can be used safely, but be very cognizant of your limits and safety unless you want a nickname like 'Lefty', '1 Thumb' or 'Peg-Foot'. I don't work for the forest service anymore, and I'm happy that we have a nice gas furnace and fireplace in our new house, although I do miss the smell of a wood burning stove sometimes, just not the work that goes with it.
#17
Old 01-26-2012, 08:14 PM
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Is there anything that can be done to make using a chainsaw safe, like a suit of chainmail armor? I just saw a TV show about meat-packing, and the people who cut up steaks wear chainmail vests and gloves. I wonder if it would stop a chainsaw.
#18
Old 01-26-2012, 08:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thirdname View Post
Is there anything that can be done to make using a chainsaw safe, like a suit of chainmail armor? I just saw a TV show about meat-packing, and the people who cut up steaks wear chainmail vests and gloves. I wonder if it would stop a chainsaw.
Any small motors dealer will sell protective clothing for use with chainsaws. Chaps are the most common, because almost all saw injuries are to the legs, but you can get clothing for any body part.

Chainsaw PPE is basically a quilted garment, with the layers stuffed with a very, very loose weave of Kevlar or similar fibres. When the chain hits, it tears the outer covering and rips out the Kevlar fibres, The fibres then choke the chain and the saw stops almost instantly.

ETA: I highly, highly. highly recommend the use of chaps to anyone using a saw. They aren't that expensive, and the injuries form a saw can be horrific and happen very fast. The chaps are well worth the price and discomfort in hot weather..

Last edited by Blake; 01-26-2012 at 08:23 PM.
#19
Old 01-26-2012, 10:20 PM
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Listen to Xema.

When it comes to chain saws, Murphy's Law rules.

A cheap chain saw is a cheap chain saw. Buying a quality saw is a lot cheaper than an unnecessary accident.

Buy a Stihl or a Husqvarna (or something of comparable quality). That doesn't mean you have to buy the largest saw they have to offer. You are not a lumberjack. Just stick with their quality, ease of use and safety features.

Chain saws on logs are not to be trifled with. If it's just branches of about an inch, well then, have at it. If you can't feel comfortable using it, hire someone. There are far too many chain saw accidents. When there is an accident it is usually nasty.
#20
Old 01-26-2012, 10:49 PM
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Don't laugh, but what about 20 volt lithium-ion electric battery chainsaw. For example a black and decker 20 volt? Gas chainsaws are a little intimidating as I've never used on before (and I'm on anti-coagulation medicine that means I would really bleed out).

I've got a couple of big logs (3' diameter) and lots of scrap wood. The 3' piece I'd kinda like to cut into a makeshift table for the backyard, and the remainder for firewood.

I also have English laurel hedges. Your basic electric hedge trimmer can cut maybe 1/2 inch diameter hedge but I have some nasty stuff that hasn't been hacked back in years. I don't think a gas trimmer could take it down through the thick stuff. I think I need a chainsaw to take the upper level down a few feet (I would be cutting parallel and not overhand).
#21
Old 01-26-2012, 11:18 PM
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Originally Posted by China Guy View Post
Don't laugh, but what about 20 volt lithium-ion electric battery chainsaw. For example a black and decker 20 volt? Gas chainsaws are a little intimidating as I've never used on before (and I'm on anti-coagulation medicine that means I would really bleed out).

I've got a couple of big logs (3' diameter) and lots of scrap wood. The 3' piece I'd kinda like to cut into a makeshift table for the backyard, and the remainder for firewood.

I also have English laurel hedges. Your basic electric hedge trimmer can cut maybe 1/2 inch diameter hedge but I have some nasty stuff that hasn't been hacked back in years. I don't think a gas trimmer could take it down through the thick stuff. I think I need a chainsaw to take the upper level down a few feet (I would be cutting parallel and not overhand).
I will give you a reply with disclaimer. I take no responsibility and anybody that refutes what I say is will not insult me in the least. So here goes:

The new Li-On tools in the 18-20 volt range are pretty impressive. They are far better than what we have come to expect from electrical rechargeable tools. While I have seen such chain saws advertised, I take all such advertisements with a degree of skepticism. Never used one so I am not offering an evaluation.

3" or less, you are probably OK. It's logs that are a different story. The problem with chain saws is that you are usually working in conditions that are somewhat unpredictable. It's not like that table saw (which is plenty dangerous) that is sitting on stable ground and doesn't move. Chain saws get used in bad weather, on ground that is not level and on wood and branches that can be unpredictable. (Anecdote: I once cut a tree and managed to hit the one nail that was on the other side of the trunk. The odds were unfathomable. It's what I said earlier about Murphy's Law.)

Personally, I wouldn't buy Black & Decker. Back in the day they used to produce top quality power tools but with changes in ownership, they just became a cheap Wal-Mart brand. Maybe they have improved but my skepticism persists.

Talk to people and do research. If you are just trimming a formidable hedge you may be fine with a Li-On saw. Just realize it's limitations and don't push it. It's when you try to do something for which you and your tools are ill-equipped that accidents happen.
#22
Old 01-26-2012, 11:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by China Guy View Post
I'm on anti-coagulation medicine that means I would really bleed out.
Note that even an electric chainsaw will effortlessly cut human flesh.


Quote:
The 3' piece I'd kinda like to cut into a makeshift table for the backyard...
That's a tall order for a cordless electric saw.


Quote:
I also have English laurel hedges.
Chainsaws don't do a great job on hedge-density growth - the chain is designed to take repeated 5mm gouges out of more or less solid wood. You probably need a hedge trimmer. Though not really the right tool for hedges, you might get by with a brush-cutter.

If you want to take out a hedge at ground level, an electric chainsaw would probably do a decent job.
#23
Old 01-26-2012, 11:31 PM
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You should get an electric chainsaw. It is useful to keep around for cutting large lumber, trimming a section of stockade fencing, pruning bushes and trees. But for cutting down and cutting up trees you need a Husky or a Stihl. Anything else is a waste of money.


Hey look at that, cutting down trees and cutting up trees aren't opposites.
#24
Old 01-26-2012, 11:38 PM
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Need a good cheap chain saw.... need answer quick!
#25
Old 01-27-2012, 12:05 AM
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For 3’ logs I wouldn’t use anything smaller than the Stihl 280 or the comparable Husqvarna model. The 360 would probably be a proper saw for the job. Use a safety chain and all the other safety equipment and take a class.

Chainsaws are great for clearing brush but it is a lot more dangerous and the final product is not very pretty to look at. You don’t really want to be doing it at heights above your waste for any length of time, tired arms make for bad injuries.
#26
Old 01-27-2012, 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by sitchensis View Post
Chainsaws are great for clearing brush but it is a lot more dangerous and the final product is not very pretty to look at. You donít really want to be doing it at heights above your waste for any length of time, tired arms make for bad injuries.
That's kind of inconvenient, I leave my waste on the ground.
#27
Old 01-27-2012, 12:53 AM
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Tiny chainsaw.
#28
Old 01-27-2012, 09:31 AM
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Stihl or a Husqvarna.

I had a Husky. It was a good saw. Ended up giving it to my Brother. I upgraded to a Stihl and could not be happier with it. You get what you pay for.

Itís never given me problems starting even at 11,000 feet in snow and cold. I used to heat with wood exclusively so the saw got quite a work out.

Another thing about corded saws would be the cord getting in your way.
Wrapping around stuff and generally being a pain. No thanks.

And as has been said, wear ear protection.
#29
Old 01-27-2012, 10:26 AM
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Another reputable brand is Jonsered. But I have no plans ever to give up my Stihl saws.
#30
Old 01-28-2012, 08:07 AM
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I've never used a chain saw, but was considering getting one to have around in case a tree fell in a storm that endanged my house. The discussion in this thread of safety issues with chain saws give me pause. Would a reciprocating saw be better for my use? As in once every few years at most?
#31
Old 01-28-2012, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Typo Knig View Post
...in case a tree fell in a storm that endanged my house.
Once the tree falls, the danger is mostly over - it either hit and damaged your house, or it missed. At that point a saw doesn't much change the danger - though it could allow you to clear a blocked driveway.

Some of the problems involved in cutting up a tree are a function of the tree itself, and not the saw. And a recip saw is likely to be much less effective than a chainsaw. Best advice is either to get a chainsaw and some instruction & practice, or line up someone who can be called on to do the sawing for you.
#32
Old 05-25-2012, 04:20 AM
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Originally Posted by andyleonard View Post
one of the two things an Alaskan won't let you borrow.
I can't believe everyone else let this go... what's the other thing?!?!
#33
Old 05-25-2012, 05:43 AM
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If you aren't good with tools, hire a neighbor who is.
Chainsaws are not for the dexterity-impaired.
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#34
Old 05-25-2012, 05:50 AM
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Quote:
in case a tree fell in a storm that endanged my house.
Don't underestimate the danger inherent is cutting up a fallen tree irrespective of the saw's dangers. Unless you have some idea what you are doing you have a good chance of injuring yourself with the tree itself.

You would really want to work out the odds of having to deal with a fallen tree in your lifetime versus the cost of tying money up in a saw that has no other purpose and the risk of personal injury through inexperience versus having it cleaned up professionally.

I can't really complain, I own a good chain saw, use it a lot, and have had to deal with two large fallen trees on my property plus twice had to clear large fallen branches off my driveway. However when it came to deal with the tree over the drive properly, I was more than happy to have professionals do the work. (It needed a cherry picker and three guys for half a day.)
My main reason for owning a chain saw is for firewood. It has paid for itself many times over. We pay over $300 a tonne for red gum. My saw is an Alpina P 450, which is a farm level machine, 45cc, and 18" bar. It has been exemplary, and never given any trouble.
#35
Old 05-25-2012, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by DWMarch View Post
I can't believe everyone else let this go... what's the other thing?!?!
Wife?

No, that's not it.

I dunno.
#36
Old 05-25-2012, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor View Post
Chainsaws are not for the dexterity-impaired.
They are however remarkably good at creating the dexterity impaired.
#37
Old 05-25-2012, 10:59 AM
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Good, cheap, safe chain saw. Pick two.

If have a husky 51 with a twenty inch bar. I cut two to three cords of wood a year and never had a serious problem with the saw in the ten years since I bought it.

They make chaps that are filled with nylon threads that you wear in case the saw does get near your leg.
#38
Old 05-25-2012, 11:11 AM
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My wife has a Black and Decker Alligator which is like a cross between hedge clippers and a chainsaw. She loves it. It will go through a 3" branch pretty easily but that's about as big around as you'd want to cut. It's much safer than a chainsaw although you could probably still hurt yourself with it if you really put your back into it. Ours is corded. They make a rechargeable one but I have no idea how well it would work.

No love for Echo in this thread? I've been very happy with my 20" Echo.

Last edited by Nars Glinley; 05-25-2012 at 11:11 AM.
#39
Old 05-25-2012, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by enipla View Post
Stihl or a Husqvarna.
That's what I came to recommend. My current saw is a Stihl. I love it (as much as one can really love a chainsaw).

Starts right up even after prolonged disuse. Kick back chain brake. A bit weighty, but hey.

My one safety tip is to use it no longer than two tanks of gas without taking a break. My only close calls have been due to overworking.
#40
Old 05-25-2012, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
My one safety tip is to use it no longer than two tanks of gas without taking a break. My only close calls have been due to overworking.
My usual rule is to do a quick sharpening pass over the chain every tank, and to flip the bar every three tanks. Sitting down to do this is a good way of forcing yourself to take some time out, and keeps the saw working well. Battling a blunt chain is a good way to have an accident too. But the moment you catch yourself not paying 100% attention to the job, stop right there.
#41
Old 05-25-2012, 11:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Francis Vaughan View Post
My usual rule is to do a quick sharpening pass over the chain every tank, and to flip the bar every three tanks. Sitting down to do this is a good way of forcing yourself to take some time out, and keeps the saw working well. Battling a blunt chain is a good way to have an accident too. But the moment you catch yourself not paying 100% attention to the job, stop right there.
Excellent advice. I'll take it if you don't mind.
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