Here are some expert tips on how to buy the best gas chainsaw. If you are heating with wood and have access to your own supply of firewood to cut into cords, you should seriously consider investing in a good quality saw.
This is an important decision because using a gas chainsaw to cut your own firewood is a lot of hard work, plus a good one costs quite a bit of money. Cutting wood is also hard work any way you approach it.
What size gas chainsaw do you need?
If you buy a heavy saw, for example, you will quickly tire from holding it. On the other hand, if you buy an undersized saw, made primarily for cutting small branches, you will never be able to cut the large hardwood logs needed to heat your hom
Electric chain saws are great for backyard pruning and such, but are not designed for cutting firewood. You need a well made, durable, reliable tough gas chainsaw to do the job right. There are many great saws available and with some education you can make a good choice.
Don’t forget the accessories
You don’t need to become a full-fledged lumberjack to cut your own firewood, but you do need an adequate saw and a few accessories. Besides the saw, you need some kind of hearing protection, a chain sharpening file, good gloves, boots, gas and oil. You can get leg protection chaps and hard hat and other safety accessories, but they are not essential.
Quality gas chainsaw companies
Husqvarna makes a very good gas chainsaw that will work very well for years to come. They have medium use saws, such as the 440 e-series, 435, 240 e-series, 235 e-series for the average homeowner. If you are just using your saw seasonally, these are a great homeowner’s choice.
If you are seriously cutting a lot of wood, you should step up to the Husqvarna 359 or 353G-ETech. These saws are heavy duty, serious workhorses that can cut up a tree in no time at all. They also cost quite a bit more though.
Stihl gas chainsaws are very popular and have a great reputation for dependability and performance. They are the largest manufacturer of chainsaws in the world. The Stihl MS 270 Wood Boss is very popular with homeowners who cut their own firewood.
If you are cutting hardwoods, such as oak, maple, beech, birch, cherry, apple or hickory, the Stihl MS 280 chainsaw has the features of a professional saw, but is designed for the wood heating homeowner.
Poulan has basic homeowner gas chainsaws that are moderately priced and work well for the seasonal user. The P4018 and P4018WT are both quite popular saws that have a 40cc 3 2 Cycle gas engine. These saws are available with an 18-inch bar, which is adequate for almost all wood cutting.
Other saws that homeowners typically use are the Jonsered, McCulloch, Homelite, and Echo. Sometimes it is hard to tell just who made which saw because some manufacturers use other brands and just change the name.
First point: Purchase a saw that does the Job at hand.
If one is cutting a couple cords a year of 6″ to 14″ thick logs, then the cheaper Sears Poulan saws – under $200 with a 14″ to 16″ blade will do the job quite well. If you are into heavy-duty cutting, one might want to skip shopping at Home Depot and other such places. Even if they carry the commercial name brands, the models are often watered down versions. I have gone that route and repaired my share of power tools and there is a difference! Another source in picking out the right chain saw is to rent one, Not only do you see what stands up to novice abuse but you get to experience using one. For instance, a large 24″ bar commercial saw weighs a lot more and can be much harder to control than the economy saw. It’s a lot easier and safer controlling a lighter saw.
Second points: Learn the capabilities of the tool. Keep it sharp and well maintained.
Let the tool do the job it designed to do. Forcing it is dangerous and reduces the life expectancy of the tool.
An Electric 6 ton Splitter will take care of most splitting jobs. Knarly Knuckle logs are always a problem even in large splitters. What I do is cut them up and I do not attempt to split them. There is also a safety concern. If it takes 30 tons of pressure to split it, I hope you are in a fox hole when splitting, because with that much pressure and something breaks off you will not have time to duck. The six-ton electric splitter will do 6 cords a year or more. This is not a pro model, but is a decent homeowner tool that gets the job done. As one cuts and splits more and more one will learn safe operations and also the limits of the abilities and tools. You will learn where to make the initial split, and how to handle problematic logs. Just like the learning curve of using your wood stove, your knowledge will help you be more satisfied and safer with your current setup.
I want to address some common Chainsaw questions:
1. Electric chainsaws – I have owned Sears Remington and my current McCulloch all 3 hp with 16″ bars. I probably cut up 3 cords of wood a year and really work them. They cost about $50 and last 3 or more years. They do a decent job of cutting, but a bit slower than even the economy gas chainsaws. For one I do not cut all day, I’ll cut for an hour or two split and stack. If you intend to approach woodcutting this way, an electric saw will work fine. These are not commercial saws. They are lightweight, making them easier to use. They make practically no noise, power up on demand and are relatively cheap.
2. The bar on the chain saw has the most pressure on the bottom where logs are cut. After a while the bar will actually wear out and form an indentation at the point of most use. Just as one rotates their tires to extend their life expectancy one reverses the bar on the chain saw plus it will help extend the chains life. One needs to learn how to maintain a chainsaw. Keep it sharp, take the bar off and clean the oil ports. Wood chips and sawdust gets everywhere, with a pump a can of compressed air blow out the air cleaner Remember to cover the carburetor I use a plastic bag an a elastic. Keep the fins clean so it runs cool. The gas mixture is also important Keep the chain tension where it should be – too loose and it wears and can fly off – too tight and it will really shorten the life of the chain and bar and possibly blow the clutch.
3. Bar oil: Lubrication is vital to reducing friction to the chain and reducing wear to the bar, especially the sprocket tips. If there are lubricating holes in the sprocket tip be sure to grease them, as a lot of heat builds up there. Straight 30 weight oil is recommended or bar oil. The difference being that bar oil is tacky and clings to the chain better.
Two simple ways to check if the bar is getting proper oiling,
1. The oil reservoir should be just about empty when the saw runs out of gas.
2. Using a news paper full throttle the caw one should see a fine spray of oil and a track on the newspaper. If this is not happening look at the bar has it turned burnt blue? (overheating sign) chances are your oil ports are clogged both on the saw body and bar ports.
About using used motor oil? Used motor oil has lost much of its lubricating properties, plus it contains metal filings which would accelerate wearing out the bar and chain. Better than no oil but not by much.
Here are other ways to keep your chainsaw performing up to par:
Mix enough gas and 2 cycle oil that will be used in a month, leaving the mixture around to sit, modern unleaded gas with its additives looses its properties. When finished for the day, (if you plan to let sit for as couple of weeks without use), run your Gas tank dry. If storing it longer than a month, take out the spark plug and add a couple teaspoons of clean oil in the spark plug hole. Pull the starter rope a couple times,and replace the plug. This lubricates the cylinder and also extends the useful life of the rings and seals. It will smoke a bit when restarted till the oil burns off but there is little harm. Another tip – add gas stabilizer in every tank of gas, especially if you know it may sit around a while. It keeps the gas fresher longer and retards the gas from varnishing which it probably the number one reason for rebuilding Carburetors. Should you forget to run the tank dry, stabilizer might just get you by. These simple tasks of storing Gas powered equipment is the reason I have a running 1967 Saw today.
Some donts. Do not use Starting ether as you risk the chance of blowing the head, use gas to prime the carburetor or carburetor cleaner. When storing it, another tip is to squirt some WD 40 in the carburetor then pull the Starter. This displaces some of the remaining gas plus lubricates the diaphragm, needle valves, and float. Have a spare Spark plug. With oil gas mixture it is real easy to foul a spark plug. If you have had a hard time starting it after repeated attempts, chances are you flooded the carburetor and fouled the spark plug. Remove the spark plug pull the starter a few times. This flushes out the flooded gas. Replace with new plug and do not choke it down. Try starting with the choke off.
Safety is clearly discussed in your owners manual, but here are some important things to remember – work in a clear area, get a stable footing, and use your head. Think about what you are doing! Chainsaws are the most dangerous tool a homeowner can use. Look around and remove any object that can cause you to trip. You do not want to be jumping around or reaching with a running chain saw. If cutting a standing tree plan an escape path in case something unpredictable happens. Forget the saw – just get the hell out of there as fast as you can. I repeat – use your head and think. If you have any doubt about your own abilities get help, the risk to too great. I can tell you trees do not always fall where they should. But there are ways to increase the likelihood that they will. Wear proper clothing, EAR AND EYE PROTECTION, LEATHER GLOVES, HEAVY SHOES and POSSIBLY A HARD HAT for when that dead branch decides to let go.
In summary, use the tool that gets the job done AND know how to use it efficiently and safely. Maintain your tools and you’ll get the most for your money over the years.
Do your homework before buying a gas chainsaw
To get the best chainsaw for home use, check out the actual saws at a dealer. You can ask advice and try out the saw before you buy. You also need some accessories in order to get the job done.
Chainsaw Chains—Buying And Sharpening
For the homeowner who is heating with wood and cutting his own firewood, it is critical to have the right gas chain saw and chainsaw chains. Wood heat can save you money and is very pleasant, but, if you do not have the right equipment, it can cause you a lot of extra grief.
For starters, if you have an efficient cast iron or heavy gage steel wood stove you are one step ahead. An older, inefficient stove will simply use too much wood to make it worthwhile. A good stove, such as a Jotul, Vermont Castings, Lopi or Morso will give you years of satisfaction and almost become part of the family.
How to know which chainsaw chains to buy
Once your original chainsaw chains wear out and cannot take another sharpening, you have to get a new one. The easiest way is to take your old one to a good hardware store or outdoor equipment store and buy the exact same thing.
All you really need to know is the length of your bar, the pitch and the gauge. The numbers are usually engraved right into the bar or written on the saw, so you can just use the numbers listed.
The length of the bar is how long it is from the end of the saw body to the tip of the bar. The pitch is the distance from one saw tooth to the next. The gauge (gage) is the width of the slot in the bar where the chainsaw chain rides.
How to measure the pitch on chainsaw chains pitch
To measure the pitch make sure you measure from the beginning of one tooth to the beginning of the next one. You can measure from the beginning or end or even the middle, just make sure you measure to the exact same spot on the next tooth.
Not every manufacturer has chains that are interchangeable with other brands. For example: a Husqvarna chain may not fit a Stihl or a Homelite probably will not fit an Echo saw. This information is written on the package of the chain, or a good supplier can look it up for you.
You can save a lot of money by buying locally from somebody who knows what they are doing. In fact, he may even be able to make just about any kind you need, though these types of men are more and more a rarity.
How to sharpen chainsaw chains
Sharpening your chain can be done with a simple round file. This takes a bit of practice to do it correctly and, from my experience, most people are not very good at it. They do not understand the geometry of the cutting edge, don’t know that the file only cuts in one direction, and do not have the patience to make each tooth the same.
A file guide is very helpful to keep the angle correct and is not difficult to use. One such tool is the Oregon Sure Sharp Chain Saw Manual Filing/Sharpening Guide. Sharpening a chainsaw takes a bit of practice, but, in time you can master it.
There are other, more complicated fixtures available that work well, such as the Oregon Sure Sharp 12 Volt Electric Chainsaw Chains Sharpener. This is a handy little device that sells for around $35.00.
A sharp chain leaves nice, big wood chips, instead of little sawdust type chips. You will be cutting your firewood cords faster than ever and your firewood shed will be full of wood for next year.
Even if you get the best chainsaw chains in the world, eventually it will need to be sharpened. Sharpening a chainsaw is not complicated but does require some basic knowledge and skill. This is basic knowledge, if you are heating with wood.
Tips for sharpening a chainsaw
You can easily tell when your chain needs sharpening because it takes longer to cut and the chips look more like sawdust than chips. Most people tend to keep on sawing anyway, hoping somehow that it will just go away and cut like before.
Once the chain reaches a certain point, you really need to have it sharpened mechanically by a grinding machine made just for this purpose. It is well worth the money to have this done, but you can certainly do it yourself, using a file, before the chain becomes that dull and worn.
The simplest, but not necessarily the best, way for sharpening a chainsaw is to simply use a round file. If you are skilled enough to do this without a guide, it certainly works. Most people, however, just don’t do it often enough to get that good at it, and need to at least use a file guide.
Even with a good file guide, you must understand the basic geometry of the cutting edge. If the angle is too steep, the saw will cut too fast and be hard to control. If the angle is too shallow, the saw will have a hard time cutting and you will quickly tire.
The guide helps to keep each tooth approximately equal, which is very important. If the teeth vary greatly, the saw will be hard to manage and tend to vibrate and grab into the wood. Not only is this a bother, but it is dangerous as well.
One simple method is to take the same number of strokes on each tooth. This works OK, assuming that each stroke removes the same amount of metal. Rotating the file occasionally helps to keep the file cutting. Sharpening a chainsaw is not hard, but it takes practice.
Kits for sharpening chainsaw
A good file guide is the Granberg Bar Mount Chain Saw Sharpener, which sells for about $30.00. It is somewhat of an industry standard and has been in use for over 35 years. Another simpler tool is the Oregon Sure Sharp Chain Saw Manual Filing/Sharpening Guide. This tool is easy to use and quite common.
For the professional, there are several very good grinders that do an excellent job, very quickly and accurately. The Oregon Bench Mount Chainsaw Chain Sharpener is a portable tool that is precise and very compact. It sells for around $200.00.
Another professional grade sharpener is the Oregon Bench Mount Chain Sharpener- Model 511A. It cuts up to a 12 in. pitch chain size, is 110 volt and costs around $300.00.
It is always a good idea to have at least one extra chain on hand when cutting firewood. You can have a sharpened one on hand in order to keep things moving along. If you have a helper, he can be sharpening the dull one and getting it ready for the next go around.
Get the right accessories for heating with wood
Gas chain saws are amazing tools that can do a tremendous amount of work. It is important to have the right wood stove accessories to make your life easier and your work more efficient.
Your firewood shed will soon be full of nice seasoned hardwood, just waiting for your new or used cast iron wood stove to keep you and your family cozy all winter.