Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
This blog might seem like a commercial endorsement, but let me explain. First off, here is a short video I made about the Oregon 40-Volt battery powered chainsaw which I’m really impressed with… actually I really love this chainsaw!
(PLEASE NOTE: When using any piece of power equipment, proper protective gear should be worn. For this short video I did not put on my regular equipment mentioned below)
Recently as I was working on an article about living off-grid for MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I got a sense that I should be exploring battery-powered chainsaws. I have an electric chainsaw that I blogged about on my personal website, CamMather.com, that I use a lot. In fact, I try and cut my wood in three log lengths in the bush, then ‘buck it’, or cut it to woodstove-sized lengths with my electric chainsaw. This helps me use up excess electricity in the winter on those cold sunny days and it helps me reduce my carbon footprint.
Heating with wood is ‘carbon neutral.’ The tree used photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide from the air and store it as woody mass, and you release it when you burn it. You’re just speeding up the process. The problem is that most people cut firewood with a chainsaw that uses gasoline (fossil fuels) in a two-stroke motor where you mix the gas and oil, which is one of the most polluting engines you can use. So by using my electric chainsaw I significantly reduce how much gas I burn, but with 150 acres to cut trees I’d need a really, really long extension cord to use it much in the bush.
So I was intrigued with the idea of a battery-powered chainsaw. I have been slow to adopt such a technology, which is surprising considering my positive experience with the lithium battery that powers my bike that gets me to town and back, a 26 km (16 mile) round trip. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t think a battery-powered chainsaw would work, but more a case of inertia, in that my gas-powered chainsaw works and after 16+ years of living off the grid I get tired of constantly adopting new technologies.
So I asked Oregon if they would let me evaluate one of their saws for the article I was writing for MOTHER EARTH NEWS. I have used many Oregon products, namely their chainsaw bars and blades and so it’s a brand I’m familiar with.
The saw is nice and lightweight but has some real torque. Torque is that word they always use in those big honkin’ pickup truck commercials about pulling horrifically big trailers and loads. It’s like, wow, it’s battery-powered and it really cuts wood. So I’m officially impressed. I really love this chainsaw.
It allows me to do two things. First off, I can cut trees in the bush without gas, which saves me money over the long haul and reduces my carbon footprint. I think it’s probably a lot healthier, too. When you use a chainsaw, you are very close to the exhaust of the engine, and gas and oil and who knows what else is being vaporized right beside where you’re breathing. So this wins on a number of fronts.
It also helps me cut wood close to the house, which might be in “extension cord” distance from the house, but if it’s cloudy (no sun) or not windy, I may not want to use my electric chainsaw. And there are times, like taking down a small tree or trimming some branches where I don’t want the hassle of gassing up the chainsaw and getting it started, which can often be an adventure in itself. Starting a gas chainsaw can be a hassle.
This way I can just grab the battery-powered chainsaw and go. And it starts as soon as I hit the button. Plus it has a ‘self-sharpening’ function, which is pretty great. I have to study it more but in principal it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Just so we qualify that this is a properly critical review, there are downsides.
First, this saw does not have the torque of my gas-powered chainsaw. This should not be a surprise, but I state it regardless. I would probably not have tackled that tree with the 3-foot base that was shading the garden that I took down last winter. The upside of this is that it’s much quieter and less intimidating. I actually convinced Michelle to cut with this chainsaw, something she has never done before!
Second is that it’s a battery, and batteries run out. It charges quickly but that can be a hassle. But nothing is perfect so I just accept this. I would probably look at investing in a second battery to reduce this frustration. I did an experiment and started with a charged battery and I cut wood until the battery died and it did a really big pile of wood. It was quite amazing for such a small battery.
You might say, "why have to deal with battery run time? Just go with the gas one." And for the reasons I’ve suggested I’ll probably keep both. In terms of how long I work with the chainsaw now I find I’m using it for shorter periods of time. I read once that most skiers break their legs on the last run of the day, when they’re tired. Since then I’ve been acutely aware of my fatigue level anytime I use the chainsaw. I don’t mind getting overworked in the garden because I have yet to seriously injure myself with my hoe. But a chainsaw on the other hand, a miscalculation is a career decision, or more appropriately a life decision. There is no more lethal tool humans use regularly than a chainsaw. I wear a hardhat with ear and face protection. I wear chainsaw boots and chainsaw pants. I also am fully aware that some unanticipated kickback or other unintended movement can quickly sever an artery or do other similar damage.
My friend Gary told me about a chainsaw accident he had and commented that emergency room doctors and surgeons “HATE” chainsaw injuries. That was enough to convince me of the need for extreme caution when using one to avoid having to enlist their services.
So this Oregon battery-powered chainsaw is a pretty great intermediate step. It’s not good for a full day of cutting, but it’s great for some cutting and performs well once you get used to it. For someone just getting started with a chainsaw it’s perfect. And for someone with a slighter build it is far less intimidating than a gas powered one.
And I’ll be like those business commentators on the PBS Nightly Business Report when they talk about stocks and then declare whether or not they own it. I will be approaching Oregon to see if they will sell me this evaluation chainsaw. If their price is right I will buy it. I am at a stage where I loath to purchase another consumer product unless I feel it has genuine utility for me. This is a product I can see myself using. And, of course when you live off grid, it becomes “a solar powered, battery powered, electric chainsaw” and what could be cooler than that!
And best of all, I don’t need ear protection because it doesn’t have the deafening roar of a gas one. My neighbor Ken will offer to rig me up some speakers and an iPod so I can play the “Deafening Gas-Powered Chainsaw Shrill” song when I use it to feel like a real lumberjack.
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