So Im toying with the idea of getting a small chainsaw for cutting firewood, a Stihl 171 or similar 14". I used handsaws now which over time can become costly and some of the larger limbs are a real PITA. Good exercise though.
Ive never had one or used one before so I have a few questions:
Brand new or 2nd hand, Stihl or something else, chaps or full trousers, what footwear and gloves, do I go petrol or electric (perhaps even L.Ion)? Etc etc.
Other things - should I consider a course to use it properly, how easy are they to set up and run/maintain and is there anything else I should consider such as having a proper log horse etc?
Depending on what sort of wood you're starting with, have you considered a circular saw? Much harder to hurt yourself with. You can get them with a V for holding the wood and a big blade which makes cross cutting mid-sized limbs very easy. No good for dismantling a whole tree though.
If you do get a chainsaw, I'd strongly suggest going on a course, and also going the whole hog on safety kit.
Yes yes and yes to a course, I don't know where in the UK you are, but I trained with Andrew Morton up in Goole, who is excellent, he teaches everything, tree surgery, pesticides, wood chipping, his company he runs with his wife and one or two other people offer all land management skills related training AFAIK. I had a grey haired woodsman in his 70's doing part of my training, and got taught all kinds of helpful snippets, like most accidents happening after 2pm, and than circa 10 cm width ash trees can break your leg if they split right. I had the natural urge to put my head inline with my saw blade when cross cutting (to see what I was doing) don't - ed out of me, and sometimes get complemented on my tree delimbing technique thanks to the grey haired woodsman, and my copying his approach. There's too much helpful stuff to absorb from a course for it to be not worth going on one, or worth the risk of not going on one perhaps.
Purely for logging I use a Screwfix own brand Titan corded electric chainsaw in a Handy Saw Horse with Chainsaw Support - https://www.thehandy.co.uk/machine/handy-saw-horse-chainsaw-support
Relativly safe and the chainsaw weight is taken by the bench so good for long sessions of logging.
I like the fact that my chainsaw takes some skill to start (Husky 353) and the kids/teenagers can’t do it. Not the same for a li-on battery or mains electric one.
I use Husqvarna saws, either a 435 with a 15” bar for smaller stuff & logging up firewood in the yard, or a 455 Rancher with a 20” bar for smashing around in the woods. Both are top notch kit, and I know if I look after them they’ll last me a long time. I got both from FR Jones, they are very competitive on pricing. I’ve got one of the Oregon metal sawhorses from Screwfix, they are good kit & cheap, and make cutting logs to size much easier & safer.
As far as PPE goes, decent chainsaw trousers & braces (they are heavy!), proper high-leg chainsaw boots & a helmet are essential and the bare minimum. I don’t bother with chainsaw gloves, using soft leather work gloves instead. Get a basic bleed 1st aid kit for your belt too (FFD, clotting agent etc).
A few years back when unemployed I worked on an animal sanctuary in the German countryside. I didnt speak German or know how to use a chainsaw. After a month I was feeling trees like a Monty python wannabe but my German was still way off. looking back at photos I had no safety gear. Gerber chainsaw and a Fiskars axe. Doesn't take much to teach yourself... It's only wood after all. If you get interested then maybe take the course. Most chainsaws come with operating instructions. Maybe Safety gear if you're worried.
My instructor didn't use safety gear except for a pair of earplugs when he was a kid on his family farm, and used chainsaws without training, once he got trained up he looked back and wondered 'How did I survive?'
I’ve got a mate who classes Dickies coveralls, a baseball cap and rigger boots as PPE. He quite regularly trims the trees back on his land whilst stood in the bucket of a tractor 20ft off the floor. The thought of it terrifies me.
Petrol - versatile and reliable; LiIon gets terrible reviews and heavy/short lived; electric only useful at home
Stihl or Husqui
Yes PPE (and wear it)
Only second hand if you know what problems to look for
Sharpening worth learning properly
Thanks Tim. I think l may have found a closer one, a few mins away.
I use a Stihl. Not sure what model, I've had it 5 years. I get it serviced locally every now and then and it is brilliant. Starts easily, light and really great to use. My dad has a Husky and it's much trickier to start. Go with full trousers and always wear them when using your saw. I have Husqvarna gloves at the moment but I get through a pair a year and have had lots of different ones - they are all much of a muchness. As for boots, I wear Arbortec leather boots if I'm moving about a lot or a tough pair of riggers if logging at home. Also I always wear a hard hat, face guard and ear defenders. Get a saw horse with a bar clamp. Our only form of heating is a wood fuelled Rayburn so I spend a lot of time sawing up trees!
I got an oregon li ion following a recommendation from ukc a couple of years ago and it's great for collecting wood, but for chopping a lot a plug in electric is more useful. In exchange for a charitable donation a ukcer also donated full safety gear which is reassuring to wear
I have an electric corded chainsaw that I got when I bought the entire contents of the old pig sty in the garden of my house. It's no famous brand but I put a Stihl chain on it and made a 50m extension cable out of some 2.5mm2 flex. I can use it almost anywhere around the garden, great for chopping up trees I've taken down by hand.
Compared with petrol it seems much safer and lighter. Eventually I'll get battery one when I start replacing my petrol tools.
I wouldn't ever use a corded saw up a tree, but it was fine for working at ground level taking out 70 or so leylandii.
You. Were. Fecking. Lucky
Look at short courses run near Melton Mowbray by Brooksby college or Riseholme just north of Lincoln. Think that's reasonably close for you. Not sure Brackenhurst does them any more
Stihl 261's are good, they have a good power to weight ratio, but there's possibly something which they didn't get quite right to do with the bearing/sprocket area, IIRC it's not a problem if you have a spur sprocket rather than a rim sprocket, but don't quote me on that. I'll message the person I know who's 261 was sorted free of charge by Stihl when out of warranty (which made him ponder whether Stihl know they've got a weak spot there), and see if it's spur sprockets which sort the issue - if one exists.
A chainsaw course may be worthwhile, depends if you are a "hands on sort of person".
Key points of chainsaw maintenance:
Learn how to sharpen your chain and keep it sharp, blunt chains cause you and the saw to work harder and are potentially hazardous. Maintain the chain tension, and check tension before you start the saw.
Once the saw is running, check chain brake works and the chain doesnt creep i.e rotates around the bar with no throttle.
One of the key hazards with saw use is kick back, which is probably described better elsewhere. Kick back happens, always keep a safe distance between your body and the bar and chain so to allow for the risk of kick back.
Like climbing, using a saw is managing risk and doing all you can to minimise it.
> One of the key hazards with saw use is kick back, which is probably described better elsewhere. Kick back happens, always keep a safe distance between your body and the bar and chain so to allow for the risk of kick back.
Which I came to realise was why I kept being told to not put my head inline with the running saw while the brake was off to see what I was doing while sawing away. Chainbrake on, have a look, move back again and carry on sawing.
> Like climbing, using a saw is managing risk and doing all you can to minimise it.
We had it drummed into us to not saw alone. I've come across cellox granules since I passed, which are the nearest thing to a wonder clotting agent that's been created so far. I read about a guy in a tree who sawed into his jugular, and was only saved (it's thought) because the ambulance crew who turned up had some cellox granules.
I've find sewing up holes and/or repairing them with super glue quite handy for a pair of chainsaw gloves which have sentimental value btw, to whoever goes through them a lot. I'm 'too Yorkshire' to buy new gloves of any kind before trying that.
I've got a corded Black and Decker one inherited from my Grandpa. Was handy for chopping down some laylandii at my old house, but probably a bit under powered for the bigger logs I'd like to chop up here.
I've never done a training course or worn much more PPE than my old leather walking boots and goggles - I would probably look into both before I use it much again, but, like anything, treat it with respect and you should be ok. Don't let anyone stand in front of you is a good starting point.
One thing I have found is to avoid getting the blade anywhere near anything that isn't actually wood - I've run the tip into soil by accident and it's a very effective way of blunting the blade.
For home use theres not point getting into the stihl vs husky debate, they're both fine as are dolmar and jonsered but you wont find many enthusiasts for those in the uk.
I got a second hand husky a few years ago which has been fine, wasn't running properly but was cheap and like 99% of small engines just needed a clean and she was as good as new.
I did a two day cross cut course, it was good but it was a one day course squeezed into two days imo and the maintainance part of it was a little slow for anyone vaguely familiary with engines. I find most of these types of courses cover the same ground, risk assessments, pewer legislation, how an engine works etc. so if you've got a decent head on your shoulders and can look after yourself you can probably learn it from just reading the booklet but if you prefer learning from a person or are going to be using your saw a lot then it might be worth it.
PPE is cheap, boots and trousers don't use chaps. I mostly just use it for fire wood cutting on the ground so Ioften use head phones and goggles instead of a helmet if it's not messy, there's no risk of anything falling on my head and if the saw comes flying towards me the last thing I'll be worried about is whether I've got my plastic helmet onor not.
If you're cutting scrap wood instead of raw timber then you might find that a good reciprocating saw with a wood/metal blade might be better. If you've not got clean wood you'll end up spending most ofyour time sharpening your chain.
If it is just for logging then I'd suggest getting a saw horse like the one already suggested https://www.thehandy.co.uk/machine/handy-saw-horse-chainsaw-support and a cabled electric chainsaw so that you won't be tempted to start taking it into the woods and felling trees. For logging you don't really need a course or all of the PPE. (A two day course and full set of PPE will cost quite a lot more than a few handsaws if you are concerned about cost). Learn how to sharpen and tension the chain and like any tool how to use it and look after it.
If it is not just for logging remember: ACCIDENTS WITH CHAINSAWS ARE SELDOM TRIVIAL
Ive just called my local training instructors and for the usage that I have suggested i.e. home use cross cutting/logging and perhaps, very, very occasionally the felling of the odd small tree where it can be done completely safely ( e.g. there's a 30' rowan which is dying in the scout field across from me which is about 12-15" at the base which the scout master has said I can have if I can deal with it safely - Ive has two smaller trunks from the same tree which died some time ago. The tree is split at the base into about 4-5 main trunks and the other two were easy to remove).
They have suggested a 5 day course at the cost of £550 inc vat plus £250 if I want the C&G qualification/assessment as well.
Seems a bit overkill for what I need. Im very careful and not accident prone but this is taking me out of the home hobbyist to the trained semi-pro, which isnt what I want.
> Seems a bit overkill for what I need. Im very careful and not accident prone but this is taking me out of the home hobbyist to the trained semi-pro, which isnt what I want.
I'm sure that training courses are very useful, but I do think that people tend to get a bit carried away with the risks and difficulty involved. A chainsaw is just a powertool, and like all powertools there are general principles as well as very specific risks. For domestic use (cutting logs and felling small trees) where you aren't cutting anything wider than the bar, then using basic precautions and following the operating instructions carefully will keep you safe enough.
I've been using small petrol chainsaws for over 20 years, and have never felt the need for formal training although I was very careful, when starting out, to inform myself on how to operate the thing safely; it really isn't very complicated. All power tools scare me, but using my circular saw or table saw scares me a lot more than my chainsaw.
Nah, chainsaws are dangerous, even professionals get hurt, wear all the safety gear, look where the chain will fly off if it comes loose, always stand out if the line of the saw I.e at 90 degrees to it, always brake the saw once you’ve finished the cut (very important with powerful saws as the torque will keep the chain moving even though you’ve taken your finger of the trigger), make sure you are stable and in balance before making a cut (don’t climb a tree or do rope work to use a chainsaw unless you are a tree surgeon), never cut wood on the ground (always raise it up) to prevent the chain coming into contact with the ground, check wood for nails/staples/wire that’s been overgrown - if you’re not certain, use a bow saw and muscle, Don’t do small jobs with the saw as you’ll be tempted to not bother with the safety gear (so have a decent pile of logs for chopping), fill the petrol tank - fill the oil reservoir - sharpen and tension the chain at the same time if it needs it. Keep a couple of spare chains - they’re cheap enough and change them fairly regularly. For tidiness sake try and put a tarpaulin down and cut on top of it to help catch the saw dust - makes it easier to clear up after yourself.
Dont take wood that isn’t yours for your logs - it’s theft by finding.
If I didn’t own woodland I wouldn’t go near a chain saw, they’re flipping dangerous.
> Jonsered were used by my trainer due to them being robust enough to cope with learners using them and them being 'fiddled about with'.
Years ago the differences were greater, now they are more similar. Handle angle differs, some air filters.. but generally they are almost the same. Although jonsered are a little cheaper.
> Dont take wood that isn’t yours for your logs - it’s theft by finding.
That can be a grey area. If it's wind blown wood from trees which would otherwise rot down, rather than wood which has been sawed and stacked and left to dry out, I don't think that's stealing to take anymore than picking black berries is (though the impact one is having needs to be thought about) . I've read columns by woodland rangers who point out that there is no legal right to the wood which they cut down and leave next to paths, and that it can technically be stealing, but also, it's a very convenient way for them to not have to deal with processing any wood they don't wish too, if they chop it up and leave it in convenient heaps close to footpaths.
I never take chopped up logs, but I do take windblown wood and saw it up for my stove, to add to my other firewood.
Are you saying that walking through the woodlands and finding 'a nice stick' as children do would also be theft?
Legally, if you own the tree on your land you own the wood. The rise in popularity of wood burners and people “just collecting fallen wood” has focussed attention on this and its very clear, if you are picking up fallen logs for your stove, you are taking something with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it - theft.
I hope you'll tell any grandchildren not to take any cool sticks from private woodland. ;-)
I have not had training but served a reasonable apprenticeship under an expert with much bigger saws. I am not sure how confident I would feel felling anything other than the very smallest.
If you are a complete novice would defiantly get someone who knows what they are doing to show you, bit like learning to lead trad really, it can go very wrong.
There is no grey area, just varying levels of leniency. Not many forest owners or managers would be likely to tell you specifically to go ahead even if they didn't mind. These days using a chainsaw on someone else's land requires massive amount of paperwork, PPE, signage and qualifications are a must. HSE are currently zoned in on hand cutting in forests and anyone without the correct documentation for handcutting operations will be up the creek. Obviously it applies slightly differently to non-commercial operations but you are quite unlikely to be given permission by anyone
Realistically I doubt anyone would care if those regulations weren't in place
Mine can have as many as they like - so can yours as long as they ask nicely and are well behaved.
I was more thinking about people walking along and taking a log back to the boot of their car, but you're right that it's not about grey areas, but leniency.
I use chainsaws for work - I'm a hedgelayer.
However for cutting firewood at home I have a corded chainsaw I bought second hand. I always use this at home because it needs virtually no maintenance, it is quiet so you won't annoy the neighbours and it is far easier to use as its much lighter than petrol ones and you don't have any problems starting it either, or restarting it - unlike some chainsaws which can be a bit temperamental.
I think of it in the same way as lighting fires when you're out camping, 50 years ago when the numbers of people going into the countryside were smaller it didn't matter if you scavenged some wood for a fire while you were camping. There's so many people enjoying the outdoors now that if I have a fire outdoors I generally take my own wood with me and i make sure I leave the place as I found it, wood and all. If it's a popular spot and I don't have wood with me I wont light a fire. When you go to popular areas you have to think about the impact it has if everyone acts the same way.
I live a few meters away from a large forestry commision woods and if everyone scavenged fallen or felled wood from the forest then it would be barren. I'd rather leave it for the wildlife. There are plenty people that don't agree and if you see recent felling in the woods then anything carry-away-able will be gone in a few days. It's £20 notes lying on the ground and people pick it up. Every man and his dog has a wood burner these days so the lay of the land has to change to account for the rising cost and it's not really acceptable to take wood from someone elses property any more. No one minds if your kids bring a stick back but if you put a decent sized branch in your boot you've just saved yourself £10. If you're taking a saw onto someone elses land then you're not really doing anything different than going and syphoning off their oil tank.
I have a woodburner that runs my central heating and hot water and I go through lots of wood in the winter, it would be unfeasable to collect enough wood to run it anyway and I buy from sustainable producers at a pretty hefty cost, any supplementary wood I cut is with permission and generally the wood is just payment in kind. If someone's running a wood burner as an addition to their other heating sources then they can afford to buy it as well.
It feels less scary than I imagined it to when watching a ton of YouTube to get safety tips. I hardly ever run the throttle more than half, the battery lasts longer and if I hit a hard bit the chain just stops as it doesn't have enough torque to go through it. Is this common with electric saws or does petrol do it too? Either way I kinda like that it does that, as I can reassess the cut without anything dramatic happening.
> So Im toying with the idea of getting a small chainsaw for cutting firewood, a Stihl 171 or similar 14". I used handsaws now which over time can become costly and some of the larger limbs are a real PITA. Good exercise though.
> Ive never had one or used one before so I have a few questions:
> Brand new or 2nd hand, Stihl or something else, chaps or full trousers, what footwear and gloves, do I go petrol or electric (perhaps even L.Ion)? Etc etc.
> Other things - should I consider a course to use it properly, how easy are they to set up and run/maintain and is there anything else I should consider such as having a proper log horse etc?
Have you looked at pole saws? They would less capable of tacking big trees but do a pretty good job on many branches. You get more reach and as the end that takes no prisoners is a few feet away from you they are potentially less dangerous - just got to make sure you aren't under a branch when it falls!
> Legally or morally speaking?
> Are you saying that walking through the woodlands and finding 'a nice stick' as children do would also be theft?
Did I really post the above? I come across as an arsehole.
Was it Jim?
> I like the fact that my chainsaw takes some skill to start (Husky 353) and the kids/teenagers can’t do it. Not the same for a li-on battery or mains electric one.
I hate my f***ing Husky as it's such a pig to start...
Having googled Jim and chainsaw assessors, it potentially might be Jim Chatton, but my memory is of it being somebody with shorter hair than in the picture which pops up. If Jim is a softly spoken chap who likes Husky chainsaws and the greener sort of oil and fuel (Aspen?), and seems generally quite wise, it might be the same bloke. I thought he was surprisingly strong and nimble for a bloke of his age - compared to many, like chainsawing and assessing had kept him in good shape. The guy I met was somebody who assessed instructors to make sure they were doing everything properly.
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