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Chainsaw bar and chain life expectancy and maintenance

 
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We have had a chainsaw (Husqvarna 445) for 2 years now, and still feel very new to it. I was hoping to get an idea on maintenance and replacing parts from Permies people that want to get the most use out of parts and reduce waste and expense while still being safe with it.

We replaced the chain once before, and the new one was getting blunt before we got the right files, and started sharpening it regularly, but would this be too little, too late, or can we get it back into good condition by sharpening before each use now?

How many hours can we expect to use a chain for cutting hardwoods before needing to replace it, if we are sharpening it often?

We've had to replace the bar after around 1 year of use - we were cutting up a lot of old sawmill waste bits (2x4, 4x4 and similar) and the chainsaw shop said it needed replacing because it was getting buckled from cutting so much small stuff in the same spot of the bar. My husband says we'll need to replace the bar again soon - is 1 year of use normal? He is cutting up firewood for around 2 hours a week. If we got a saw with a smaller bar, would it need replacing this often? Or once our sawmill waste runs out, will we have this problem with our larger bar if cutting up trees instead? We only cut fairly small trees.

Is there a difference in the strain put on the bar when using dry vs green wood?

What is the ideal way to maintain and use a chainsaw for firewood to minimise having to replace parts?
 
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I can't answer all your questions but here's my experience.  I have a "home owner" level Poulan Pro 18" chainsaw.  I cut about 4 cords of wood a year.  Generally green wood.  I've done that for about 6 years and I'm on my first bar.  I'm probably on my fourth or fifth chain since I didn't start sharpening them until recently.  I think I went through about two chains before my "sharpening" was actually helping the situation.  I only sharpen it when the saw chips are more like saw dust than pieces of wood.

Ideally, when you change the chain or otherwise have the bar off, flip it over.  That way the bar gets wear on the other side and you get twice the life.  

I'd be tempted to just use the saw and not bring it in to the shop unless it isn't running well at all.  Don't cut into the ground or dirty bark, keep the air filter clean, keep the chain properly tensioned, use the correct gas/oil mix, put some chain lube in it and don't cut hard with a dull chain and you should be good for a very long time.
 
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The main thing with bars and chains , is keep it out of the dirt. Keep it out of the dirt, keep it out of the dirt, keep it out of the dirt...

I have had to say that many times to people who are using a saw that I own. If they can't internalize that , they must be let go.

Being in demolition , it's also important for me to avoid nails . On farms, fence wire can be a huge problem. I suppose there's a bit of wear and tear from the chain going around the bar. But for me, it's all about avoiding nails, rocks and dirt. Those are the things that have used up most of the chain that I have ever bought . I've gone through hundreds , maybe thousands.

I very seldom put the saw into the dirt . But there are ways to hit a rock much further up. Crotches of old trees can harbor rocks and bottles and other things that have been placed there in the past . So I like to cut around those areas and not directly through them. If I'm using a nice new chain on a tree in the city , I will often switch to an older one for the portion of the tree below 7 feet. The majority of nails and other ordinance are found below this level. Sometimes there has been a tree fort or something else built above that level. If I see evidence of that, that area is handled carefully.
 
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Chainsaw bars, especially for homeowners and homesteaders, should last for years. That may not hold true for people in the forestry industry. I think there’s two things that could be at work here with a bar wearing out fast. Sometimes dull chains can make the operator really push or press the bar onto the wood being cut, which isn’t necessary with a sharp chain. Sharp chains will plow through wood without having to press the bar onto the log or wood. Playing on what Mike mentioned about a sharp chain, is that a good sharp chain will throw flakes and even short ribbons of wood. If what is discharging off the chain resembles dust or powder, that chain is dull. The second thing that comes to mind is if the automatic bar oiler is functioning right. An easy way to test this is to place a sheet of paper on the ground, then run the chainsaw at high rpm’s pointing the bar down at the piece of paper on the ground. Within seconds, oil will sling off the chain as it wraps around the nose of the bar, and leave little droplets on the paper that are easy to see. If this test is done, and no droplets are visible, the first check I would make is removing the bar and making sure the oil hole on the bar and the oil hole on the chainsaw aren’t obstructed with sawdust or dirt. If they’re clear, then the little worm drive oil feeder may not be working properly. Also possible is a little sawdust or dirt may have fallen into the bar oil reservoir and has plugged the feed.

I want to note that bars, and chains, are expendable and do wear out and eventually need replacing. Like Mike mentioned again, flipping a bar over every time it’s removed will extend the life of it. Sorta like rotating the tires on a car :)
 
Kate Downham
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Thank you all for the responses. We do flip the bar over to extend the life, so it sounds as though we are doing something wrong with chain sharpness, or possibly the bar oiler. Hopefully now we have the right tools to keep it sharp the bars will last a lot longer.

Is there any danger in using the same chain for a long time, while keeping it sharpened? One website my husband read said that it's supposed to be replaced after just one sharpening, but that seems really wasteful to me.
 
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Kate Downham wrote:Is there any danger in using the same chain for a long time, while keeping it sharpened? One website my husband read said that it's supposed to be replaced after just one sharpening, but that seems really wasteful to me.



I'm guessing that was the website of a company that sells chain. No, you should get far more than one sharpening out of one chain. I work in an industry where your bar tends to wind up in the dirt a lot more often than one would like (wildland firefighting) which results in having to sharpen more aggressively and more frequently. Even we get at least 10-15 sharpenings from each chain.
 
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Im not very good with mechines so i try to have other people use them while i do grunt work. Do yall have a favorite chainsaw you would recommend? super durrable and safe recommends are prefered.
 
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The short answer is, I get about 1 day of logging for every chain sharpening which is about 10 cords of hardwood. About every other saw filing I take down the rakers. For a bar, I get about 150-200 cords before it needs replacing. I get a new chainsaw about every year.

Most of the time I start my mornings filing my chainsaw chain. If the wood is dirty, sometimes I have to file at lunch time, but I go to incredible lengths to NEVER get my saw in the dirt. EVER!

It is also key to know that I do not file my saw often, not because I run a dull saw, but because I never get the saw in the dirt to get dull. In fact, no one should EVER let their saw run dull. It wears the logger out, but also ruins the saw. That is because a dull saw chain heats up, and that heat gets transferred to the bar. The bar bolts to the saw at the worst possible spot, right near where the crankshaft bearings are. So if you run a saw dull, you’ll take years off the life of the chainsaw.

I could get more longevity out of my bars if I ran good oil. I do not. I run anything I can get for free. That is because bar and chain oil is super expensive, and gets you nowhere, the chain and bar still wears out. So consider the math. Bar and chain oil costs $10 per gallon, and I use about ¼ of a gallon per day. So every 4 days I would be spending $10.  A saw chain though, only costs $14, so even though I might go through more chains, its cheaper to buy more chains, then expensive oil. In short, bar and chain oil is just not worth it.

This also applies to bars. I can get 150 cords on a bar before I have to replace it. Yes, I go through more because I do not use good oil, but does it really matter? Hardwood pays about $70 per cord, and as stated, I cut over 1 cord per hour. That means the very first hour I work, I have completely paid for a new chain and bar for my saw. In the first hour!! Yet I will go weeks before I need a new bar and chain.

The short of it is this; a chainsaw is probably one of the best investments a person can make. In the first hour of use, the amount of wood cut in value exceeds what a new bar and chain costs brand new. And in the first day of use, the entire chainsaw has been paid for. (My saws cost me about $1200). The cost of wear items for a chainsaw is so low, and really the cost of the saw too, that it is almost incidental. I track my spending for tax purposes, but its hardly anything compared to how much money is made with the wood that is sawn.

As for the chainsaw itself: I buy one for $1200, run it for a year, trade it in for $600, and buy a new saw…rinse and repeat. I tried doing that with a Husqvarna 562 Chainsaw, but its pure junk, so I have had to go back to Stihl’s.



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Favorite Chainsaw with my favorite Lumber Jill
 
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Dale Hodgins wrote:The main thing with bars and chains , is keep it out of the dirt. Keep it out of the dirt, keep it out of the dirt, keep it out of the dirt...



I have a question about bars. Now, y'all don't laugh, please. But I have a little 12" Black & Decker 40V battery-operated chainsaw. I have taken down the equivalent (based on what tree services estimated) $2,000 of smaller trees on my property, mostly sweetgums. I've also cut up some large fellings when I basically got someone with a bigger saw and more experience to just drop it for me, leaving the cleanup to me to manage. Takes longer than with a bigger saw, but I'm under 5' and feel much safer with my little 12" "Needle."

I know all about keeping a chainsaw out of the dirt. Also not hitting fencing wire buried/grown into a tree trunk! But what else can affect the condition of the bar? Pinching? Yeah, been there, done that...and wondering if my bar is screwed up now because the chain keeps jumping off the bar and I don't think it's safe to use now. Is this something you'd take it in for servicing, or would just getting a new bar be the wise course? To be honest, I didn't realize until I started reading this thread that bars wear out and sometimes need replacing.

 
James Freyr
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Diane Kistner wrote:. .and wondering if my bar is screwed up now because the chain keeps jumping off the bar and I don't think it's safe to use now. Is this something you'd take it in for servicing, or would just getting a new bar be the wise course?



Chain tension is adjustable, and chain jumping off a bar means it needs adjustment. Most every chain saw can be adjusted the same way. Loosen the two bolts holding the bar on the saw. Somewhere, possibly in the front of the saw next to the bar, will be a screw, and turning this screw will move the bar back closer to the engine or out further away from the engine. You'll even see the bar slowly slide one direction or the other. Adjust until you can pull up (or down) on the chain and see the little guide teeth that run in the bar but not see those guide teeth come completely out of the track. If there are vague adjectives to use, I would say the chain needs to be somewhat snug but not tight. I hope I described this well enough and it's not too confusing
 
Will Meginley
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Diane Kistner wrote:I know all about keeping a chainsaw out of the dirt. Also not hitting fencing wire buried/grown into a tree trunk! But what else can affect the condition of the bar? Pinching? Yeah, been there, done that...and wondering if my bar is screwed up now because the chain keeps jumping off the bar and I don't think it's safe to use now. Is this something you'd take it in for servicing, or would just getting a new bar be the wise course? To be honest, I didn't realize until I started reading this thread that bars wear out and sometimes need replacing.



Pinching can affect the longevity of your bar, as can the way you hold the saw while cutting. If you take the bar off the saw and sight down it you'll notice that the bar resembles a very tall, skinny letter "H" with a very thick center bar. Pinching your bar can cause the guide rails to splay inward, which causes friction with the chain drivers like hitting the brakes on your car. This heats up the bar, causing it to wear out faster, and puts unnecessary strain on the saw motor, causing it to require repair sooner. Inward splay can be fixed by running a large-ish flat head screwdriver down the channel until it's back where it's supposed to be.

They can also be splayed outward. This is usually caused by an inexperienced person getting a bar pinched and then torquing on it while trying to yank it out of the tree by brute force. If the outward splay isn't corrected, it allows the chain to flop side to side in the channel. The drivers dig into the sides of the channel and wear them thin. As you've found, it's also easier to throw your chain if you don't have it tightened properly. Outward splay can be fixed by putting the affected area in a vice and gently clamping it back to the proper width.

Both sides should be even in height. If one side is higher than the other it generally means you haven't been rotating your bar evenly. If you're sawing at an angle - such as making a face cut while dropping a tree, or cutting things off at ground level without getting the saw completely horizontal - one side of the chain strikes the tree before the other (for me at least it's usually the left as you look down the saw) this results in extra wear on that side. Every time you rotate the bar what was the left side becomes the right side so the wear evens out. If you never do, the one side gets all the extra wear - allowing the chain to flop to that side and wearing out the other side wall. You fix this by filing them even again. You can try to eyeball it, but it's easier to just get a bar dressing tool such as this one which is basically just a plastic jig that holds a flat file exactly perpendicular to the bar. They're pretty cheap - usually 10 to 15 USD - and unless you get into forestry or logging you'll probably never even need to buy replacement files for it. You can file the bar back to square a few times before the channel gets shallower than the driver length (at which point, throw the bar away).

If you pinch the saw in a really big tree, the weight can also cause the bar to warp. If you sight down the top of the bar and it doesn't appear straight, test it with a straight edge. You can fix slight warps (no more than 3/4 inch or so) by putting the bar in a vice and gently straightening it back out. For a major warp, I'd probably just ditch the bar.
 
Travis Johnson
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A person can extend the life of the bar in a few ways too. I have salvaged pinched bars by running a flat headed screwdriver down the slot and wedging the pinched area of the bar back open again. A person should do this occasionally anyway as the groove can get impacted with crap and plug up the oiling holes.

Another thing I often do is run a flat file down the bar without the chain on it to file off the burrs that show up from uneven wear. Obviously you want to file both the top and bottom part of the bar. Most of the time the bar is pretty close to be shot at this point, but it can be done to get a few more cord out of the bar.

Another trick is to keep a spare bar and chain handy when you are out in the woods, that way if you pinch a bar, just take the chainsaw head off, put on the spare bar and chain, and then cut the tree in another spot to free the first bar and chain without wrestling with it.
 
Diane Kistner
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James Freyr wrote:Chain tension is adjustable, and chain jumping off a bar means it needs adjustment.



I thought I did have it properly tensioned, but maybe I didn't. I usually check it frequently when working, but the day I was having trouble with it, I might not have checked it frequently enough. Thanks for the explanation and reminder!
 
Diane Kistner
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Will Meginley wrote:

Diane Kistner wrote:I know all about keeping a chainsaw out of the dirt. Also not hitting fencing wire buried/grown into a tree trunk! But what else can affect the condition of the bar? Pinching? Yeah, been there, done that...and wondering if my bar is screwed up now because the chain keeps jumping off the bar and I don't think it's safe to use now. Is this something you'd take it in for servicing, or would just getting a new bar be the wise course? To be honest, I didn't realize until I started reading this thread that bars wear out and sometimes need replacing.



Pinching can affect the longevity of your bar, as can the way you hold the saw while cutting. If you take the bar off the saw and sight down it you'll notice that the bar resembles a very tall, skinny letter "H" with a very thick center bar. Pinching your bar can cause the guide rails to splay inward, which causes friction with the chain drivers like hitting the brakes on your car. This heats up the bar, causing it to wear out faster, and puts unnecessary strain on the saw motor, causing it to require repair sooner. Inward splay can be fixed by running a large-ish flat head screwdriver down the channel until it's back where it's supposed to be.

They can also be splayed outward. This is usually caused by an inexperienced person getting a bar pinched and then torquing on it while trying to yank it out of the tree by brute force. If the outward splay isn't corrected, it allows the chain to flop side to side in the channel. The drivers dig into the sides of the channel and wear them thin. As you've found, it's also easier to throw your chain if you don't have it tightened properly. Outward splay can be fixed by putting the affected area in a vice and gently clamping it back to the proper width.

Both sides should be even in height. If one side is higher than the other it generally means you haven't been rotating your bar evenly. If you're sawing at an angle - such as making a face cut while dropping a tree, or cutting things off at ground level without getting the saw completely horizontal - one side of the chain strikes the tree before the other (for me at least it's usually the left as you look down the saw) this results in extra wear on that side. Every time you rotate the bar what was the left side becomes the right side so the wear evens out. If you never do, the one side gets all the extra wear - allowing the chain to flop to that side and wearing out the other side wall. You fix this by filing them even again. You can try to eyeball it, but it's easier to just get a bar dressing tool such as this one which is basically just a plastic jig that holds a flat file exactly perpendicular to the bar. They're pretty cheap - usually 10 to 15 USD - and unless you get into forestry or logging you'll probably never even need to buy replacement files for it. You can file the bar back to square a few times before the channel gets shallower than the driver length (at which point, throw the bar away).

If you pinch the saw in a really big tree, the weight can also cause the bar to warp. If you sight down the top of the bar and it doesn't appear straight, test it with a straight edge. You can fix slight warps (no more than 3/4 inch or so) by putting the bar in a vice and gently straightening it back out. For a major warp, I'd probably just ditch the bar.



Wow, this is VERY helpful information! I didn't even know you're supposed to rotate your bar or why. Now I need to figure out how to give you some pie.

 
Diane Kistner
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Travis Johnson wrote:Another trick is to keep a spare bar and chain handy when you are out in the woods, that way if you pinch a bar, just take the chainsaw head off, put on the spare bar and chain, and then cut the tree in another spot to free the first bar and chain without wrestling with it.



Great tip!
 
Will Meginley
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Diane Kistner wrote:

James Freyr wrote:Chain tension is adjustable, and chain jumping off a bar means it needs adjustment.



I thought I did have it properly tensioned, but maybe I didn't. I usually check it frequently when working, but the day I was having trouble with it, I might not have checked it frequently enough. Thanks for the explanation and reminder!



Another potential cause could be feathering the throttle, particularly when cutting small stuff like brush and limbs. You should always have the chain running at full throttle before touching it to anything.

Diane Kistner wrote:Wow, this is VERY helpful information! I didn't even know you're supposed to rotate your bar or why. Now I need to figure out how to give you some pie.



Glad you found it useful. I like pie. Especially cherry and pumpkin.
 
Will Meginley
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connor burke wrote:Im not very good with mechines so i try to have other people use them while i do grunt work. Do yall have a favorite chainsaw you would recommend? super durrable and safe recommends are prefered.



This thread from a while back had some pretty good recommendations. I'm sure there are probably others in the gear forum.
 
Travis Johnson
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STIHL

Drop the mic. Walk away. Elvis Has Left the building...

Yeah that strong of a statement.

Like most chainsaw brands, Stihl has two lines, the homeowner versions and professional versions. At one time the Stihl professional versions had white undercarriages, but I am not sure if that holds true, but you want to ask. And you can ask because Stihl only sells through dealerships, unlike other chainsaw dealers that sell their Home/Smaller saws in big box stores. Either way, you can get a smaller sized CC chainsaw, but it will hold up if it is the professional smaller sized saw versus that of a homeowners saw.

The reason you want to go with Stihl is that they put two piston rings on their saws instead of one. In an earlier reply I stated that a dull chain heats up the crankshaft bearings and ruins a saw, well two piston rings limits the blow-by and reduces the heat in the lower crankcase. Other saws like Husqvarna just do not last as long because they run hotter with only one piston ring.

Two piston rings is significant. It adds drag of course, so the Stihl turns up much slower, but has more torque since its getting less blow-by. Other saws like Husqvarna use only one, and so the turn up much faster. But they both cut the same speed, and here is why. The Stihl has more lower end torque so it hogs through wood, where as the Husqvarna's have less torque but speed through the wood. They are the same because the Stihl goes from point a to point b with a bigger chip made slower than Husqvarna that makes a lot more smaller chips faster. I prefer the Stihl's ability to hog through wood, and their longevity.

One thing too to note, is that some chainsaws are "Brands". Husqvarna and Jonsered and BRANDS. They are the exact same saw, so much so that the parts are interchangeable because they are owned by the same parent corporation and come off the same assembly line and factory. Some claim that Jonsered is the best saw ever, and so much better then Husqvarna, but it is the exact same saw, just a different brand name.

I have run both Husqvarna and Stihl, and both being big professional saws, and I can just not get any life out of the Husqvarna's. In fact my dealer calls them good "disposable saws." By that I mean, I run them for a year, cut 300-400 cord, and then trade the saw in for a new one. I have had some professional Husqvarna saws not even make it a full year before the crankshaft bearings went. I had one 72 cc saw that lasted 9 months. The same 72 cc Stihl chainsaw lasted 22 years.

The difference of course is price. A 72 cc Stihl will cost $1200, and the same Husqvarna will only cost $850.

The last time I drove over my Stihl with a Skidder, I bought a 565 Husqvarna for $750 and it has been absolute JUNK! I hate that saw and not so affectionately call it my Forever-Crank, or My Rattle Box. Yes, it was only $750, but I do not think it is even worth that. No power, rattles bolts out of it, is very hard to start...but my dealer was right. It is a disposable saw! (This is a 65 cc saw so it is professional grade and not small).



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Katie Holding My Forever-Crank Disposable 565 Husqvarna Chainsaw
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks for the great info Travis!  My pawn shop regularly has a decent selection of used Stihl saws.  Do the pro and homeowner saws share the same number?  IE, can a 261 be in either product line?  

If I'm going to be cutting 5 cord of firewood a year and maybe dabbling in an Alaska Sawmill for a couple 24" white pines (truly just a couple, not turning that into an ongoing hobby), which Stihl size should I get?
 
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Mike Jay wrote:Thanks for the great info Travis!  My pawn shop regularly has a decent selection of used Stihl saws.  Do the pro and homeowner saws share the same number?  IE, can a 261 be in either product line?  

If I'm going to be cutting 5 cord of firewood a year and maybe dabbling in an Alaska Sawmill for a couple 24" white pines (truly just a couple, not turning that into an ongoing hobby), which Stihl size should I get?



I don't think they have the same numbers. You can check the Stihl Website out for sure. It used to be that the homeowners saws were orange with black trim, and the professional saws were organge with white trim, the "trim" being the color of the rear handle. Comparing the two will readily show what I mean, but am not sure if that still holds true.

If you look up images of Stihl Chainsaws you will see where the 028 Chainsaw was orange and white and a professional saw, and the 029 was orange and black and a homeowners chainsaw, even though both were the same cc in power. The difference is more than just color, the professional ones are really robust.

As for a chainsaw sawmill, I hope I can convince you otherwise.

I built a homemade one and really disliked it. I joked that I would "start cutting a board today, and finish it tomorrow." It really was pretty slow. The 3/8 kerf also consumed a lot of good lumber as well. A bandsaw will turn one board out of 16 into sawdust, but a chainsaw sawmill will turn one board out of three into sawdust. Logging is too much work to produce so much sawdust, and that is with big logs, with smaller sized logs (and every tree no matter how big at the butt, has a small logs at the top), is even worse.

But the ultimate reason is that a chainsaw mill is so expensive for the huge amount of waste they produce.

I had a fairly substantial 72 cc Stihl 046 driving mine, and it was WAY underpowered. That is a $1200 chainsaw. It really needs a 066 or 088 sized saw to power it, and that is a $1800 chainsaw. Now granted that is a NEW saw and not used, but for $2000 a person can buy a Harbor Freight sawmill and get all the benefits of a bandsaw sawmill. Adding in the cost of the Alaskan Mill part to go on the chainsaw and it is actually more expensive then the Harbor Freight bandsaw mill.

I do not have one, as I have a Norwood Bandsaw Sawmill, but that will soon be leaving (they are junk anyway, and mine is all worn out). I intend to buy a Harbor Freight sawmill and mount it onto my homemade chainsaw sawmill. In this case, my homemade track is better than my Norwood sawmill, but the Harbor Freight sawmill gets great reviews, but the track is said to be lackluster. As far as I can tell, marrying the Harbor Freight sawmill onto my homemade sawmill will be the best of both worlds.

If you disagree with all of this, at least know this: with a chainsaw sawmill you MUST use a ripping chain.
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Wornout Norwood Bandsaw Sawmill
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks again Travis!  I just have two white pines that I need to cut down.  They're in a swampy area that is a pain to get at.  I figured with a chainsaw mill I could cut the boards off in place and carry them out.  I don't have the equipment to pull the logs out of where they'll fall.  I could turn them into firewood but it seems like more of a waste.  And I have a buddy with an Alaska mill rig that I can borrow.  Just need a saw for it.  

I'm still not sure I'll attempt that and knowing that I need a huge saw for that and a normal saw for firewood makes it even more of a question mark...
 
Will Meginley
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Mike Jay wrote:I'm still not sure I'll attempt that and knowing that I need a huge saw for that and a normal saw for firewood makes it even more of a question mark...



It's a long shot, but if you have an equipment rental place nearby they might have a suitable sized saw. (You'd still need to purchase the ripping chain.)

A saw big enough for milling is ridiculously overkill for firewood, though.
 
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Mike Jay wrote:Thanks again Travis!  I just have two white pines that I need to cut down.  They're in a swampy area that is a pain to get at.  I figured with a chainsaw mill I could cut the boards off in place and carry them out.  I don't have the equipment to pull the logs out of where they'll fall.  I could turn them into firewood but it seems like more of a waste.  And I have a buddy with an Alaska mill rig that I can borrow.  Just need a saw for it.  

I'm still not sure I'll attempt that and knowing that I need a huge saw for that and a normal saw for firewood makes it even more of a question mark...



Hey apologies Mike...I never thought about log transport. I could see where that would factor in to an Alaskan Mill working for a person or not.

I sound stupid saying this, but I have logged my whole life so I never gave moving logs a thought. I prefer my log loader because I can get the log up off the ground, but sometimes I forget I have many other ways to move logs; skidder, bulldozer, tractor and winch, tractor and log trailer, my favorite lumber jill hefting them out of the swamp upon her back. Okay, so I made the last one up, but the ability to move logs is important.

For you, I would suggest a USED bigger saw. If you have a friend with an Alaskan Mill at the ready, then getting a bigger saw makes sense. Like Will says, kind of overkill for firewood, but there is no replacement, for displacement. A USED saw lasts a long time, and I think far more homeowners would be ahead of the game buying a bigger, used professional saw then an underpowered homeowners saw new. Same price, but a huge difference in longevity.

I would not be afraid of sawing your own lumber though. I have a Homestead Mantra here that says, "Do as much for myself as I can." It really is not false bravado, or a Computer Cowboy at work in saying that. A lot of things seem scary, until you do them. You'll be fine!

Edited to say while laughing at myself: "Says the guy who took a Stihl 461 between the eyes at full throttle, and spent 4 days in the hospital because of it."
 
Mike Jay
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Good point, I am in timber country so I might be able to borrow one too.  But who'd loan their saw to someone for this kind of work...  Or I could get one off of Craigslist, do the job, and then sell it for what I paid...
 
Mike Jay
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Sorry Travis, your post appeared just after I replied to Will.  Yeah, I probably know someone somewhere with the right gear to get it out but it would make a mess of my back yard as well.  

Just found this one on Craigslist.  I'm not ready to buy but it's the kind of thing available within an hour of me: https://northernwi.craigslist.org/tls/d/pelican-lake-chainsaw-660-mg-stihl/6904536470.html
 
Travis Johnson
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I would let you borrow mine, but my Husqvarna 565 does not have the ponies to saw lumber. It can barely cut a limb off! (I really, really, really hate that saw). My 461 Stihl would still be underpowered, and unfortunately met its demise when I ran over it with my skidder. I said bad words when that happened.

I did sell my Cat Grapple Skidder last week though.

The two best days of a mans life are:

1) The day he marries his beautiful bride
2) The day he watches his skidder go down the road on a lowbed now belonging to some other guy! (bulldozers are really close as well though as well).
 
Mike Jay
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I always heard the best and second best days were a toss up between when you buy the boat and when you sell the boat.
 
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Mike, I would be hesitant to get a craigslist saw. Around here they tend to be ragged out, and since there is no hour meter, you don't know what you are getting. You need to check the compression with any saw you buy, and run it a while to see how it performs hot. There may be a saw shop around that takes trades. If they are ethical they should be able to tell you what the compression is on the cylinder.

Travis, you are an evil genius. I never did the math on the bar oil.

On the sharpening rate, I flush cut trees normally, because I don't have a good way of removing the roots and I am moving the chickens through pretty soon after clearing. I can't avoid some dirt, but you can spare your chain a little by using the top of the bar for cutting the bark away. This sends the chips away from the saw, and decreases the dirt run around the chain, especially into the sprocket. Once you have a clean place to cut, you can use the bottom of the bar which is safer from a kickback perspective.

Kate looks like she fell off, but for cutting up small dimensional lumber, a chainsaw seems like a big tool. I use a reciprocating saw. A corded one is maybe $15, and blades are cheap. I upgraded to a cordless one in 2006, lithium 18V, and still have and use the same saw and battery.
 
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Alright, warning; Travis Johnson is about to go completely off regarding boats, and this is coming from a guy who worked in two different shipyards, had inlaws that owned a Lobster Pound, and worked aboard Tugboats...

Why anyone would buy a boat (other than the US Navy) is beyond me, especially here in Maine.

The first hard and fast rule of boats is, maintenance is 10% o the cost of the boat new. I worked building yachts, and so a 20 million dollar boat would cost $200,000 in yearly up-keep. That is insane. Yet this principal is as accurate for a dingy as it is for a lobster boats as it is for a US Navy Destroyer (which by the way, costs about 1-7 billion dollars). No that was BILLION and not Million.

But in Maine, it is even more silly to own a boat because we get about 12 weekends a year where you can use it. Now take out a few weekends because of rain, then a few more because someone in the family will inevitably have a wedding, maybe a family day over the summer here and there as well, etc. So now we are down to about 6 weekends a year you can use the thing. Now apply the first principal of maintence. So say we have spent $20,000 on a boat, that means every outing the boat owner has spent $333 just to have the thing in the water. Then add in fuel, food, and beer, and you are looking at a $500 weekend. That is not counting fishing gear, bait and other crap needed for the boat, or the number of times family and friends borrow your boat when you cannot use it because you are at some family function.

Oh, but it gets worse. You cannot pull a boat and trailer with a Ford Focus. Nope, you need a truck, and one that is big enough to tow, so now you have a monthly truck payment of $500 just to move said boat around.

In fact I once knew a guy who had sucky credit, but had to buy a new truck because he owned a boat and loved to fish. He wanted a payment of $350, but trucks are insanely expensive, so he ended up with a lease...of $450. As if the lease was not bad enough, getting screwed both when he leased the truck since they dictated what he would pay for it, then also told him what they would give him for a trade in when he sold it back, it was $100 more than what he wanted to spend anyway. Now he needed full coverage insurance for his new truck to boot, so he was well over $500. But he was overextended on other payments that he had to make which explained the bad credit and high interst on the loan he had to pay. So he had to work overtime. Because of that, he could not even enjoy his boat because he had to work overtime for his new truck payment which was required to pull his boat and trailer, that he did not have time to take to the lake anyway.

That is a 100% true story and makes absolutely no sense. I mean 100% NO SENSE!

Me? I do not have a boat, truck or trailer, but I get some really nice fish...at the grocery store. Considering the high cost of fishing, owning a boat, having a truck to pull it, etc...buying fish at the story is really, really cheap.



 
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Kate looks like she fell off...



Do you mean, she looked like she fell off the skidder, or fell off the wagon in terms of working out?

If you meant the former, nah...she hates my skidder. It has a screaming 453 Detroit in it and has an ear piercing sound. She will ride on it once and awhile, but is not a big fan of that skidder at all.  If you meant the latter, well kind of a personal question, but her weight does go up and down. I cannot fault her for that though; she posed with my chainsaw in a pleated miniskirt and high heels, which is more than some wives would do.

Tj Jefferson wrote:but for cutting up small dimensional lumber, a chainsaw seems like a big tool.



I took it to mean he was using it as a sawmill, but admit I use my chainsaw to whack off the occassional 2x6 or sheet of plywood. The nails are hard on the sawchain, but this chainsaw carpenter...yours truly... has put in more than one window with a chainsaw!

Edited to say: I did not sell the skidder in which Katie is posing. I sold a Caterpillar Grapple Skidder. It was too big for my use.

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I think he meant Kate Downham the OP may have fallen off the conversation since we've gone a bit past the original topic.
 
Will Meginley
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Mike Jay wrote:Thanks for the great info Travis!  My pawn shop regularly has a decent selection of used Stihl saws.  Do the pro and homeowner saws share the same number?  IE, can a 261 be in either product line?  

If I'm going to be cutting 5 cord of firewood a year and maybe dabbling in an Alaska Sawmill for a couple 24" white pines (truly just a couple, not turning that into an ongoing hobby), which Stihl size should I get?



Except for the 880, all of Stihl's professional grade saws end in either 61 or 62. 62 is the newest, but they still sell the 61 series. If it has the suffix "C" it has a computerized self-adjusting carburetor that is probably more homeowner friendly, but more expensive to repair. For older used saws you'd be looking for 026, 036, 046 or 066.

Taking milling out of the equation, an 036/361/362 is probably good enough for most any homesteading task. With a 20 inch bar, a sharp chain, and the appropriate skill level that will handle hardwoods up to about 20 inches and softwoods up to about 28 inches.

I bought myself a new 362 last year. I anticipate needing to replace it about the time my toddler gives me my first grandbaby. By that time there won't be any original parts on it, of course, other than a handful of bolts and maybe the gas tank. The 046 I run at work was purchased in the 1990s. And for what it's worth, we have a Husqvarna 272 that's older than I am (I'm in my mid 30s). We just had to replace its chain tensioner assembly (a ten dollar parts kit and a five minute repair job), but otherwise it runs fine.
 
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Mike Jay wrote:I think he meant Kate Downham the OP may have fallen off the conversation since we've gone a bit past the original topic.



Oh yes, Kate versus Katie, that makes a lot more sense.

I am not one to get offended though, so I answered the age old Homesteading Question: Does this chainsaw make me look fat? The answer of course is; "NO! If you are holding a chainsaw, I would be so excited I would have no problem fathering your sixth child Katie! :-)




 
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[quote=Tj Jefferson]Kate looks like she fell off, but for cutting up small dimensional lumber, a chainsaw seems like a big tool. I use a reciprocating saw. A corded one is maybe $15, and blades are cheap. I upgraded to a cordless one in 2006, lithium 18V, and still have and use the same saw and battery. [/quote]
Still here, just quietly learning. There's so much helpful information here.

Thank you. We would have to get a cordless one, so I'll have a look around and figure out if it's worth it, as we're using trees felled last year for about half of our firewood now, moving towards more of this and less of the sawmill scraps. Can one of these also be used to cut 6" trees into firewood logs?
 
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Will brought up a good point; bar length.

If you note my replies I always refer to power by CC and not bar length. That is because crappy chainsaw makers will slap a 20 inch bar on a 52 cc chainsaw and make you think you got a big saw. Well that would be like a big farm tractor having a 26 hp engine...it just does not work well except for sales by deception.

On my saws, either 65 cc or 72 cc, which are fairly big chainsaws, I have the dealer remove the 20 inch bar and put on 18 inch bars. Since you can cross cut and fell twice the width of the bar length, tell me...how often do I fell or buck up 36 inch diameter trees? Well I can tell you...NOT VERY OFTEN. Even on the Stihl website they address this question and state that most people wayyyyy over estimate the tree size they are working with. An 18 inch tree is a pretty darn big tree. And just for the record, I just admitted my wife has a weight issues sometimes, so I have proved that I tell the truth! :)

I like a 18 inch bar and chain because it is a whole lot less teeth to file, and the bar and chain are cheaper to buy. The biggest reason though is, I get far more power. I have 6 inches of less drag on a 18 inch bar over that of a 20 inch bar, (2 inches longer on the top, bottom and nose to make 6 inches) so I get more power to the chain to cut through wood. Again I so seldom cut massive trees so having more power 99% of the time makes up for the few times I have to...wait for it...cross to the other side of the log and finish the cut. Oh the horrors of that! (insert sarcasm here)

Despite man's obsession with chainsaws and long bar lengths, I am quite content with my shorter length.

Incidentally, this is me felling a 42" Veneer Rock Maple log. Yep I had to cross over to the other side to fell and buck it, but I took pictures of it for a reason...I do not cut trees this size often.







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Travis Johnson
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[quote=Kate Downham]Thank you. We would have to get a cordless one, so I'll have a look around and figure out if it's worth it, as we're using trees felled last year for about half of our firewood now, moving towards more of this and less of the sawmill scraps. Can one of these also be used to cut 6" trees into firewood logs?[/quote]

Oh for sure, more than adequate.

But in keeping up with this threads Kate/Katie theme, we will expect you to put on a short cropped top, pleated miniskirt and 4 inch high heels while using it! (I am just teasing you)
 
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Will Meginley wrote:

Mike Jay wrote:Thanks for the great info Travis!  My pawn shop regularly has a decent selection of used Stihl saws.  Do the pro and homeowner saws share the same number?  IE, can a 261 be in either product line?  

If I'm going to be cutting 5 cord of firewood a year and maybe dabbling in an Alaska Sawmill for a couple 24" white pines (truly just a couple, not turning that into an ongoing hobby), which Stihl size should I get?



Except for the 880, all of Stihl's professional grade saws end in either 61 or 62. 62 is the newest, but they still sell the 61 series. If it has the suffix "C" it has a computerized self-adjusting carburetor that is probably more homeowner friendly, but more expensive to repair. For older used saws you'd be looking for 026, 036, 046 or 066.

Taking milling out of the equation, an 036/361/362 is probably good enough for most any homesteading task. With a 20 inch bar, a sharp chain, and the appropriate skill level that will handle hardwoods up to about 20 inches and softwoods up to about 28 inches.

I bought myself a new 362 last year. I anticipate needing to replace it about the time my toddler gives me my first grandbaby. By that time there won't be any original parts on it, of course, other than a handful of bolts and maybe the gas tank. The 046 I run at work was purchased in the 1990s. And for what it's worth, we have a Husqvarna 272 that's older than I am (I'm in my mid 30s). We just had to replace its chain tensioner assembly (a ten dollar parts kit and a five minute repair job), but otherwise it runs fine.



Stihl already has in production, but not available for sale yet, a Stihl 500 which is now a fully fuel injected chainsaw. No automatic adjusting carburetor, a fully fuel injected chainsaw. It is because of that, that I am putting up with my crappy Husky chainsaw for now. I would REALLY like to have that saw when it becomes available.



 
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Travis Johnson wrote:
Despite man's obsession with chainsaws and long bar lengths, I am quite content with my shorter length.



LOL
 
Will Meginley
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Kate Downham wrote:What is the ideal way to maintain and use a chainsaw for firewood to minimise having to replace parts?



Back to the original question: Having to go get more gas today reminded me of a couple items that hadn't been brought up yet.

Most "gasoline" sold in the United States has 10-15% ethanol content. Leaving out the fact that current technology requires 1.25 gallons of gasoline to produce 1 gallon of ethanol, it's really bad for your saw. It gums up your carburetor and erodes plastic fuel lines. If you're trying to limit repair needs, use only non-ethanol gasoline in chainsaws - and other gas powered equipment. It can be hard to find. The nearest station from me that sells it is 45 minutes away so I always take a jerry can and grab five gallons at a time to limit the amount of driving involved. Often, if a station has it, only the premium grade fuel will be non-ethanol. Near the coast it's often labeled as "boat fuel" or "recreation fuel." If you don't know of a station near you, you can try pure-gas.org. If worst comes to absolute worst, most saw shops sell a product called "TRUFUEL" that's pre-mixed 50:1 non-ethanol gasoline. It's a colossal rip-off though - usually costs about 20 bucks a gallon.

Along the same lines, if you're going to store your chainsaw for more than a handful of days before the next use, purge it of fuel. Pure gasoline will also erode fuel lines over time, just not as fast as ethanol. The less you have gas in the fuel lines, the longer that will take. Gasoline with additives can also evaporate and leave residue in the carburetor. Some of the tubes in a chainsaw carburetor are only the width of a human hair, so they don't take much to gunk up. To purge the saw: use a funnel to empty the contents of the fuel tank into your spare fuel container. Then start the saw and let it run until it dies. This shouldn't take more than a few seconds.
 
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