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Can vegetable oil damage a chainsaw?

 
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I'm pretty sure it can. I just got finished fixing an Atlas brand electric chainsaw that I had been using with canola oil since I bought it last year. It is a handy little 18" saw. It saw use in the spring and sat idle through the summer. I tried it this fall, and noticed it was not oiling. After disassembly I found that the worm gear was of course made of plastic and was stripped. The little shaft with the pinion gear was frozen in place. After soaking with some penetrating oil, it eventually freed and turned easily enough. But I was unable to find a replacement worm gear and had to make one from scratch.

I had always believed in "the right tool for the job." Saws are made to run on a specific oil, and that's what I had always used growing up. I wanted to use something more environmentally friendly and tried canola oil. I believe the very expensive Frog Lube gun lubricant is made from canola oil. It is a good lubricant, but its problem is oxidation. That is why I don't cook with the stuff. When it oxidizes it gums up quite tenaciously. I wonder if there is something that can be added to it to keep it from oxidizing. I really wouldn't have expected it to have gummed up so badly in just 3-4 months. I doubt emptying the saw after each use would help, as it would still have oil in the lines and pump. I presume it would have to be flushed with something, probably petroleum based, and I wonder if this is getting to the point of defeating the purpose. Have you seen damage from vegetable oils, or have you seen a way to modify vegetable oils to prevent it?
 
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Personally, I agree that canola oil would damage a saw. Gummed up lines. Inadequate lubrication and cooling of parts. Oxidation and moisture issues. Good saws are not cheap, and neither are parts. I don't think it's worth it.

I wouldn't be surprised if somebody in a lab was working on that.
 
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It would work for a short while.
Then the heat and air would turn it to "plastic".

Best stuff I found for cleaning up oxidized vegetable oil is lye water.

I don't think petroleum solvents will help much.
 
Jordan Holland
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Personally, I agree that canola oil would damage a saw. Gummed up lines. Inadequate lubrication and cooling of parts. Oxidation and moisture issues. Good saws are not cheap, and neither are parts. I don't think it's worth it.

I wouldn't be surprised if somebody in a lab was working on that.



I have seen no issues with lack of lubrication or heat. This saw had a new bar, chain, and sprocket to watch, and I think excess wear would have been easy to spot. It's electric, and lower rpm's seem to prevent the oil slinging off. Canola oil can take high temperatures pretty well as far as natural oils go.

I think for most people's use, the oil is the bulk of the expense of the parts outside the powerhead. A bar, chain, and sprocket should last through many gallons of oil. As high as bar oil has gotten recently, it doesn't take long to add up to more than the cost of the metal parts. If wear is a little faster, one could still come out ahead monetarily, not to mention the bonus of using a renewable resource. My only issue so far is the gumming in the oiler.
 
Jordan Holland
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craig howard wrote:It would work for a short while.
Then the heat and air would turn it to "plastic".

Best stuff I found for cleaning up oxidized vegetable oil is lye water.

I don't think petroleum solvents will help much.



Yes, I can second that lye does take it off of stuff pretty well. I guess even when oxidized it still saponifies?

I'm not sure about petroleum products dissolving oxidized oil, but I meant more for purging the system of the liquid oil after use. I think petroleum products like mineral spirits can mix with natural oils (linseed oil comes to mind), but even if not, they could displace the oil and air and lubricate the parts to prevent them from gumming up.
 
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Hi Jordan:
Its a tough choice.
Prices are crazy high these days.
One gallon of "regular" Husqvarna bar oil is apx $23
One quart of stihl  "bio" oil is $24
This product looked very good but had no price on Amazon "DGP Pro100 Biodegradable Chainsaw Oil"
I think if you only use a saw periodically than a quality biodegradable oil is a good  investment.
If you are running  your saw bunches than  you might consider using the manufacturer's  suggested oil.

EDIT)  I just located the DGP oil.
Home depot will  sell a case of 12 qts  for $110
Or I found it for sale at $20 for individual quarts.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Jordan Holland wrote:I have seen no issues with lack of lubrication or heat. This saw had a new bar, chain, and sprocket to watch, and I think excess wear would have been easy to spot. It's electric, and lower rpm's seem to prevent the oil slinging off.


Ah! I missed the "electric" part. (I always think chainsaw = gas.) Lower rpm makes a difference. Interesting observations!

It would be interesting to see what a saw designed for vegetable oil would look like. I also wonder if alcohol might be used as a thinner or solvent.
 
Jordan Holland
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Those are crazy prices, Thomas! I'm sure it's gone up recently, but last I looked here a while back, bar oil was about $10 and the canola less than half that per gallon. Since the tornados, I imagine bar oil might be hard to find here, too. There's lots of stuff out there, but price is definitely the issue. We can add Frog Lube at $293 a gallon and Ballistol at $125.

In addition to a preservative, I wonder what the chemical is they add to bar oil to give it its "stringiness." Olefin copolymer maybe? I tried mixing some oil treatment made with it and some canola oil, but they didn't seem compatible. Or maybe there's something different that would work with natural oils?
 
Jordan Holland
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:

Jordan Holland wrote:I have seen no issues with lack of lubrication or heat. This saw had a new bar, chain, and sprocket to watch, and I think excess wear would have been easy to spot. It's electric, and lower rpm's seem to prevent the oil slinging off.


Ah! I missed the "electric" part. (I always think chainsaw = gas.) Lower rpm makes a difference. Interesting observations!

It would be interesting to see what a saw designed for vegetable oil would look like. I also wonder if alcohol might be used as a thinner or solvent.



I've also been using it in a 54cc Dolmar with no ill effects so far. It's fairly torquey, and I prefer keeping the depth gages low and taking a deep bite rather than high rpm's anyway.

I don't know about alcohol. If a tiny bit could stabilize the vegetable oil, that would be good. I would't want to make the oil any thinner as it's a bit on the thin side to begin with.
 
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I have used canola oil for 3 years now in a ryobi 40v saw.  We use it a couple times a week. I have found that it must be drained and filled with petroleum oil when we are going to let it set.  Most natural oils are hydroscopic and get filled full of moister rapidly.  They also oxidize and get thick.  Once an oil pumps suction is plugged the poor little things smoke.  If you use biodiesel that the glycerin has been removed the viscosity is much better.  The glycerin is sugar and makes my bars turn brownish.  Biodiesel is next to try on my list.

 
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Its my understanding that old engine oil can be used as bar oil.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Jordan Holland wrote:I don't know about alcohol. If a tiny bit could stabilize the vegetable oil, that would be good. I would't want to make the oil any thinner as it's a bit on the thin side to begin with.



Actually I was pondering whether alcohol could be used to purge the saw's pump and lines for storage, or periodically clean the system. It's certainly a great grease/oil remover in my shop.
 
Christopher Shepherd
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Using alcohol to clean up veggie oils seems to work the best.  Ethanol is better than methanol for cleaning fuel tanks with biodiesel in them.  Kerosene or diesel doesn't seem to phase it once it has been oxidized.  I have forgot to empty fuel tanks with bio in them for the winter and had a gummy mess on my hands in the spring.  

Edit: Here is a thread with some interesting info from the past.

https://permies.com/t/123576/#988062
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Good link. I need to look up the arborsite threads it refers to.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Side note: I was in the grocery store yesterday and was shocked by the price of canola oil. It's jumped by at least 33%. I guess that's a result of the crop failures we saw this year.
 
Jordan Holland
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Douglas Alpenstock wrote:Side note: I was in the grocery store yesterday and was shocked by the price of canola oil. It's jumped by at least 33%. I guess that's a result of the crop failures we saw this year.



I happened to check on the price of bar oil and it was almost $13. Just about everything is going up. I work in retail, and one of my main jobs now is replacing labels every week for the new prices. I'm seeing stuff go up anywhere from 10% to 90% in the past year.
 
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