wood heat [4]: chainsaws

In the previous installment we went through tips on determining how much wood? This time we’ll talk about how all chainsaws are not the same.

When it comes to cutting firewood, the old way is not the best.  Its hard on your back and arms using any kind of new stihl chainsawhand saw.  Chainsaws are a wonderful tool for those who choose or must heat their home with wood.  All chainsaws are not equal as we’ve found through experience over the years.  It seems that we wasted, or overworked ourselves the first 5 or so years with my ignorance in this topic.

In our early experience, it took a long time to cut Fir and Spruce logs that were more than 6″ in diameter.  This was probably due to two factors; the chain sharpness and the chainsaw type.  Yes, I did know that the chain needed sharpening once and a while, it’s just that I never really mastered this skill.  Looking back I’m sure that my attempts at sharpening did little to help.

We once had a former logger help with some drywall work.  Joseph saw me pull out the trusty McCullough consumer chainsaw for sharpening.   He offered to show me how while he sharpened the chain.   The results were amazing!  That saw went through wood better than when it was new.  I was ever so careful to never hit dirt or anything that would wear that “edge” off the chain.  Here is where I learned the real value of having a sharp tool to minimize the motor and my work when cutting wood.

consumer saws

The first few years we used 16″ and later 20″ consumer type saws.  First was the McCullough and later a Poluan.  No terrible complaints here, because I didn’t know any better.   I suffered through slow cutting from consumer grade saws that spin my dull chain at slower speeds.  (I thought this was what wood cutting was all about)

Professional saws

One day a friend from church Don, said that I might be interested in an older Stihl machine he saw in town in the pawn shop window.   Don said he knew these machines well and offered to go in and negoiate on my behalf for a good deal.  Sure, why not, time for a new one anyway.  Little did I know Don used to run a small motor repair shop.   We got this older Stihl 028 AV Super with electronic ignition.

stihl super

Older but still great!

I’m far from a professional logger, but this little baby was the real deal when Don tuned it up and gave it to me.  This would slice through 12-15″ fir logs like sliced bread.  It was  a totally different wood cutting experience.  Apparently the chain speed rotating around the bar is about 2.5 times faster with the professional class machine.    This chain speed and a sharpened chain work together to take this part of the wood cutting chore to a whole new level that I didn’t know about.

keep it sharp

Tmy stihl sawhere is a real art to getting the angles right when sharpening your chainsaw chain.  I’ve gotten better at it over the years, but still lack decent results.  I found it easy to keep two chains.  I get them both machine sharpened to start out.  Keep you saw from hitting dirt or anything other than wood if you want a sharp blade.  At about $8 to sharpen each chain, I find that mastering the wood is more important than the chain.


So the lesson I’ve learned about chainsaws is this:  Don’t scrimp and get a professional class machine like a Stihl or Huskavarna over the consumer oriented McCullough or Poluan.  It will pay off in time and money in the long run.  Also, keep your chainsaw properly sharpened!  A dull chain on a Stihl  is like using my old McCullogh machine.  Keep it out of the dirt too.

[safety note:  Read all instructions carefully and if possible get some experienced help to learn the safe way to handle these powerful and potentially dangerous machines.}

What is your favorite chainsaw?  What makes it a good fit you your use?  Do you agree with my assessment?  Why or why not?  Tell us in the comments below!

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6 Responses to wood heat [4]: chainsaws
  1. David Ponsonby
    September 17, 2010 | 9:46 pm

    Hi Marshall, Out here I own and use 2 off Electric
    Stihl chain saws, 20 inch bars, keep at least 6 spare chains fully sharpened with me when I go cutting any fire wood…The saws are 240 volt, and I have my 8KVA generating unit mounted on the trailer and away I go, I live in an all electric cottage, but
    I used to cut some firewood as gifts to less able to or poorer people in this area, that sadly has to stop now being now nearly 80 and had my last heart bother…Marshall I dislike money making Red Tape and laws, to cut wood on a farm out here in Tasmania, you have to pass an exam at a cost of $300-
    when you use a petrol powered chain saw, NOT so with an electric, so I have 2 electric units, take an electric kettle with me and the makings of a cuppa for any drink stops and rests…So far a 49 inch tree trunk diameter is the largest I have cut down, and the electric units are far quieter on a guy’s ears…Y’know Marshall, soon I’ll be only cutting up small limb wood, 2 inch diameter by 8 inches long for my wood-gas unit, I may change back to a 16 inch bar then with 1 of the saws, frankly Marshall, when I’m confined to a wheel chair I’m-a-Going-to-Fret darn it all, hi hi…
    David, 2 legged Tassie Devil…

    • marshall
      September 17, 2010 | 10:51 pm

      Wow! The government in Tasmania not only regulates where you can cut wood (assumption) but it also regulates the operator qualifications for gas chainsaws? Sounds like you found a workable solution with the large electric saws. Very resourceful ….

  2. Rusty
    December 7, 2010 | 5:08 am

    I’ve only ever used the Stihl & Husky saws. Huskar was my first saw & I stayed with them until about 10 years ago when I purchased a small Stihl MS170 to use for cutting out door plates & window & door plywood coverings in residential framing. I still have & use that same small saw, almost daily, for light duty firewood. But you just can’t beat the older “O” models for felling, limbing & blocking up the larger trees. A lot of thought & consideration went into the design of these saws to make them easier on the man having to yield one for hours each day.
    Rusty´s last [type] ..I Have My Own Domain name

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    Bonny´s last [type] ..Bonny

  4. Jaunita
    July 7, 2014 | 10:19 am

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