Advice on Buying a Chainsaw and Chainsaw Maintenance

Shopping for, buying, maintaining and using the woodcutter's friend all require employing this advice, rebuilding, use and maintenance tips.

| September/October 1984

  • buying a chainsaw - illustration of a chainsaw
    Information and the knowledge to use it are vital whether you're buying a chainsaw or attempting basic chainsaw maintenance.
    Illustration by Fotolia/renatas76
  • buying a chainsaw - beatitudes of a chainsaw repair shop
    Just a few things to do if you want to keep your chainsaw repairman in business.
  • buying a chainsaw - compression gauge
    When shopping for a used or rebuilt chain saw, probably the must important check you can make is a compression test. Look for a minimum of 100 pounds of compression, with 120 pounds or more indicating an engine with plenty of life left in it. Don't overlook this test!
  • buying a chainsaw - drive teeth and cutting teeth of a chain
    Inspect the chain for general condition, tightness of links, and wear on the cutting teeth. (This chain needs to be retired from the service.)

  • buying a chainsaw - illustration of a chainsaw
  • buying a chainsaw - beatitudes of a chainsaw repair shop
  • buying a chainsaw - compression gauge
  • buying a chainsaw - drive teeth and cutting teeth of a chain

If you read MOTHER EARTH NEWS, chances are that you either use wood as a fuel already, or are trying to get into a situation where you can. In either case, you should be thinking about cutting wood and woodcutting tools right about now, with fall already in the air and winter just around the bend. And that means buy a chainsaw if you don’t have one, or applying proper chainsaw maintenance practices if you do.

Of course, you could cut your wood by hand, as I did for several years while I was living in a tepee. But the only really practical approach to stockpiling a winter's supply of firewood is to use a chainsaw.

The chainsaw is fast and efficient. I can leave my house in the morning and be back home in time for lunch with a cord of pinon in the back of the truck (we westerners don't have the ready access to the good hardwoods that folks in the East enjoy). That load of wood costs me only a gallon of two-cycle oil/gas mix and a quart of chain-and-bar oil for the saw. And that morning's cutting will provide me with cooking and heating wood for a month, or around $100 in cash if I sell it — which I usually do, since woodcutting is how I make most of my living.

The remainder of my income comes from the small chainsaw repair shop out behind my house, where I work on saws when the snow's too deep or the weather's too ugly to head out into the woods. Most of the tools I repair are similar in size to the ones I own and use as a professional firewood cutter: the mid-sizers of 50 to 60 cubic centimeters or so (3.0 to 3.5 cubic inches, with 1 cubic inch equaling approximately 1 horsepower).

No matter what size saw you may already own or may be considering buying soon, you should expect the same service from it that I do from mine: It should cut wood all day long without giving a speck of trouble. I have learned to hate being stranded out in the woods, miles from home, with only half a load of wood cut and a saw that won't run. In fact, I won't stand for it. Which brings me to you.

If you're shopping for a new chainsaw and you have plenty of money, this article probably isn't for you; just go out and buy whatever you want. But if, as with most of us, your financial situation is delicate and you need to get the best deal you possibly can, then there are several options to consider, and I think I can help you. Likewise, if you already own a good saw and know how to maintain it and keep it running, then you need read no further. On the other hand, if you own a funky old saw that tends to be cantankerous, stick around awhile.

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