Monday, April 6, 2009

Chainsaw Considerations

After much thought, I recognise the utility of the chainsaw. But I still don't like the fuckin' things.

It's not the actual usage of them. It's all the aroundgerfucken you have to go through first. Find the eye-protection. And the ear-protection. Get the fuel. Oh, the 2-stroke container hasn't been returned by the last person who borrowed it? Who was that, anyway? Damned if I can remember. Well, it's gone. Never mind: I've got a spare unleaded container. Bit of work with a permanent marker, now it's a 2-stroke jerrycan.

Add five litres of unleaded. Umm. Okay, at 40-1 that calls for 125ml of 2-stroke oil. Oh, but Andrew always used 25-1, and if anybody knew this shit backwards, it was him. He said it protected the machine more effectively. Fine. Make it 200ml of 2-stroke oil.

Okay, great. Now I need bar lube. Got just enough left. Have to remember to get some more. Now, set the saw on the bench, get out the file, and sharpen the thing. Make sure to get the angles right on all the teeth. Pull the chain through and around to get all of them. Hmm. Chain's a bit loose there. Okay. Better tighten it.

That means undoing the two hex nuts on the side of the bar. That'll take a socket spanner. Where's the socket set? Upstairs in the shed. Okay, fetch it. Looks like a 3/4 will do the job. Loosen the hex nuts. Now, clean the grub screw that governs the extension of the bar. Grab a screwdriver, tighten the grub screw. Check the chain again. Good, that feels better. Tighten the hex nuts. Put the files and the screwdriver and the socket set and the bar lube and the 2-stroke oil and the petrol and the 2-stroke fuel away. Whoops! Get the 2-stroke fuel back out. Put fuel into the chainsaw.

Set the choke. Set the throttle. Check the air-filter -- been a while since I fired this thing up. Yank the cord a half-dozen times. Cough, cough, grrrrrr.... oh, wait. What's the fucking dog doing? Why is it dancing around and barking? Oh. The chainsaw motor is freaking it out. Well, screw you dog. Wait until I do... this. (Set the throttle to go. Yank the cord.) Brrrrrrrrrrrr-RRRRRRR!

Pursued by the dementedly dancing and yapping dog, I go to the big pile of hardwood flooring -- all that's left of the shed that came down about six months ago. Enough wood there to see us through most of winter. Start cutting it up... and lo! After about five minutes, the chain comes off.

Great. I did something stupid. Oh well - never mind.

Back under the shed, in the workzone. Chainsaw on bench. Get the socket set back out. Remove hex nuts. Remove bar shield. Adjust bar to give enough slack on the chain so I can put the chain back on the drive sprocket. Thread chain over groove in bar. Hold bar precariously in position while the bar shield goes back in place. Whups! Bar has slipped, chain is off. Repeat threading of chain, etc. This time apply more care and force to bar shield. Hex nut goes in place: screw it down. Second hex nut in place. Finger-tighten it as well.

Now check chain tension again. Not quite right. Adjust grub screw with screwdriver. Use socket spanner to tighten hex nuts seriously. Put away socket set. Put away screwdriver.

Restart chainsaw. Return to wood heap. Cut for half an hour: notice that it's time to go and fetch kids. Oh well -- the chain was getting dull again anyway.

Time spent cutting: about half an hour. Time spent fragging around with the stupid fucking machine and all the peripherals: probably forty minutes.

Frankly, I'm not convinced that axes are as obsolete as everyone thinks.


  1. Shite, how frustrating was that? The things scare me to death - I've been on my own for years and do pretty much everything in the way of house repairs, car maintenance and fixing stuff myself but there's no way I'll ever use a chainsaw. Be careful!!

  2. Oh, I'm always careful. I forgot to put "locate appropriate footwear" on that list, didn't I? Anyone who knows me will tell you how rare that is... and yet it's true. I won't use a chainsaw barefoot.

    And for people who work with the things daily, I'm sure it's not so bad. My mate Andrew kept a toolkit specifically for his saw, with the right files and the screwdrivers and the spanners he needed. They lived in that bag, and never did any other jobs.

    I use the chainsaw infrequently. I don't have a dedicated toolkit. The chainsaw shares maintenance tools with everything else around the place. And so, getting all the bits together to do the routine maintenance necessary to use the machine properly is a stupid, time-wasting chore.

    And the routine maintenance is indeed necessary. If you use a chainsaw but don't know how to sharpen it, tension it, replace the bar, replace (or lengthen or shorten) the chain, you'll get about half an hour of decent cutting out of it. Then the chain will be blunt, and you'll be cutting badly and slowly, and then the chain will stretch, and after that it's all downhill.

    Chainsaws are irritating, finicky bits of gear.

  3. You using a Stihl?. See the newer ones have got a piss easy thing for tightening and removing the chain.

    They've got like a circular crank thingo that pops out the side. You loosen that by a few turns then fiddle with the little black thumb for tightening and loosening. Undo the circular crank thingo completely, remove the housing (it just comes off) and just pop the chain and bar off. Piss easy. Wroth looking at.

    The tightness and sharpening the chain is trickiest bit but not too bad when you've got an idea. Don't forget the depth gauges on the chain when you're doing the teeth. That takes the time.

    Did forestry when I was younger in Un Zud. Did everything from splicing seedlings right through to felling and EVERYTHING in between.

    I'm saving for some new chaps now. lol. Love it. Love Stihls.

    There's like 5 saws with that easy function. Tool free dude.

  4. Incidentally, when I tried to come here just now I got:

    "Content Warning. The blog that you are about to view may contain content only suitable for adults. In general, Google does not review nor do we endorse the content of this or any blog."


    I'm sure I've told my story involving an angle grinder being used at height, and footwear, specifically Dunlop Volleys. When they some into contact one realises why there are steelcapped Volleys these days ;)

  5. you'll appreciate that work the first fire, lucky bastard

  6. hardwood flooring? Drop saw mate. Much easier. Plug the bugger in and off you go.

    It really does pay to have the separate toolkit. G-Man has all the chainsaw shite in one place, which is very handy if the little woman (moi) needs to use it. Stillm like the garbage, sharpening the bastard is definitely a boy job.

    Oh, and always, always have a jump back position.

  7. You know the saying...if she doesn't find you handsome at least she find you handy...well you don't need to worry on either count but may I remind you that a big arse sawzall will make light of all this labour and maintainence. Just sayin'.....

    Oh yeah...Andrew...he would've known.

    and're shitting me right? Steep-capped volleys...OMFG

  8. I assumed he meant some brand of workboot, but after googling Dunlop Volleys, that comment became pretty funny.

    My recent bathroom renovations make me regret not ever getting around to buying a Sawzall. I have a chainsaw, but that would've just made a bigger mess.

  9. Nat, the way I understand how it happened is this:

    * Volleys are the #1 most popular footwear for roofers and roof painters, for obvious reasons
    * OH&S laws require workers on building sites to wear steel cap shoes
    * where a demand exists, there are those who know how to fill it, and might even be capable of convincing a monster like Pacific Brands of its marketability.

    I've yet to properly investigate, and I'm actually still gardening in the old pair of Volleys with the angle-grinder damage.

  10. Yep. It's a Stihl. Old, but it runs well.

    No way to put the flooring on a dropsaw, Hughesy. It's come out in slabs roughly four metres long by three wide, still attached to the under-floor beams. I'm just running the saw down between the beams, then cutting each beam into segments with a few short chunks of floorboard still attached.

    Damiano: the Adult warning is there because there are coneheads in this world who can't read my introductory paragraph at the top and reach the conclusion that this blog may include adult speech and concepts. It's tragic, but true.

    NatV: what's a "sawzall"?

  11. The old man puts all his saw stuff including gloves, google, ear protection, fuel, chain lube and tools into a milk crate. Need to cut anything just throw the crate and the saw in the back of the Landrover and off you go. He always has a spare professionally sharpened chain as well, just in case.

  12. "Now I need bar lube"...hehehe you said lube.

    Baroque Technology would be one way to describe it, like the space shuttle.

  13. Just got one word for you mate.....Primacord

  14. Lube, for his BAR. lollolololololololo

  15. Nautilus: your dad's chainsaw got google? Man, nothing is new on earth...

  16. mate..25 or 30:1 is fine, as you would, up to a point more oil, which LUBRICATES is not a bad thing..TOOO much and plugs start to gum up.

    There is no FINER sound than in the crisp clear morning, than a chain saw, ripping up the quiet.

    Dangerous..hell yes, the old man used to cut and sell wood up home, that and every other bastard who needed it as well. BUT< they seemed to be family and we were always out doing it. Forgot how many trailer and truck loads we cut. Only one thing more dangerous than a chain saw in that world, and thats a saw bench / swing saw....NASTY, gotta be on the ball flat out.

    I too utilise a Milk crate and a single multipurpose socket / screw driver in one...fucker keeps growing legs but..16 or 13 year old legs.

  17. Havock: I once wanted to hold off and get a table saw and a radial arm saw once finance and space allowed. Instead, a few years ago now I got a Trition Workcentre, which is easy to store and sort of does the job of both. Jigs are more complex than they'd be for a normal table saw and are limited in scale, and while the crosscut mode is sort of like an arm saw, there are severe limits on the width of the stock and the angle of the cut.

    But yeah... one of these days I'll have fixed up the storage space under the house, so I can move all the junk out of the shed and turn it (back) into a workshop, and start out along the serious equipment acquisition road. I can certainly see needing a drill press, and there are pretty cheap ones these days. And a band saw - lot of stuff that just can't be done without a band saw. And a thickness planer, you need one of those. Oh, and I haven't even started building the yacht in the driveway yet...

  18. DAMIAN..LMAO..Thuickneser..HELL YES, Drill press..mmm, I always wanted a RAMSET gun. NO real need, but explosive powered tools have a certain attraction. The Swing saw the old man had, was hooked up to the tractor, big old canvas belt drive set up. Cut up 4ft long logs, up to about a good 600mm or better in diameter..YUM, an fucking noisy too.

  19. Christ, the testosterone in here is so thick you practically need a chainsaw to cut through it!

  20. Ah yes. My grandad didn't have any of the really cool attachments for his tractor, just a couple of ancient ploughs and a timber topped sprung trailer for manually distributing hay to hungry moos.

    Swing saw sounds terrifying :). Though it sounds useful for turning maximal amounts of wood into sawdust, which is the real motivation behind much of the stuff I do if I'm honest.

    That said - hand tools are often beautiful and can do most everything power tools can, just slower and with more pies. When the oil runs out, we'll be making the stuff that is now made from plastics out of wood again. Well wood, leather, all the good stuff.

  21. Its .... Different, thats putting it Mildly at best, if you fell forward, the blade would impale itself in your chest, saw baldes are BBQ plates..large fuckers, with big god dam teeth, set left and right of the blade. I don't think you would walk away from kissing one.

    Then I imagine a Lathe is top o the about turn wood into dust. But when you jam the lathe chisel in to hard, it bites and get thrown across the fucking shed, along with pieces of wood as well in normal circumstances. the old man has a wood lathe, its one of the few items i stay the fuck away from.

    Other than that one, which readily comes to mind, any motorised item it built to be used and ran at max revs. I do love my paslode nail gun though

  22. cmon Flinty, i'm waiting with bated breath for your take on the bradband network

  23. What is worng with you people? What is wrong about using chemical power that is not translated via a crude cutting tool? Hmm I ask you?

    I worry about you lot sometimes

  24. Chaz, when I talk about using the chemical potential in a pie to turn wood into sawdust, far from crude cutting tools I'm talking about things like bull-nosed rabbet planes, fine Japanese ryobas and duzukis, and recognising that you can get a better finish with a well maintained cabinet scraper than with infinitely fine grit sandpaper.

    Actually one of these days I'll finish the double-compound-mitre dovetail box project I started in 1999. Not blind dovetails like a coffin, though I'd like to get proficient with that too one day.

    Havock: I actually have an idea I'd like to get a metalwork lathe one day, and not for making bong parts. Well not just for that...

  25. Damian, you are clearly a craftsman. I on the otherhand take the easy route and believe in the holy trinity of Thermite, primacord and Plastique. Whilst i will never be able to construct a french dresser i can clear the land you'll need to build your new workshop on so you can. :))

  26. Dirk, not sure if it was ever answered....a Sawzall is, quite frankly, awesome. It's the kind of tool that a fire department would use if they had to get into a school quickly, and the doors were blocked. I believe the Sawzall name is owned by Milwaukee Electric Tool, but it's become generic (like Scotch tape) for any reciprocating saber saw that you hold like a sawed-off shotgun (as opposed to a standard saber saw that you use to cut a plank of wood laying flat). Sawzalls can often be seen in those massive home improvement shows where you have to cut through a lot of shit to fix a room, or if you're opening a wall to another room. Or, you're a T800 and Sarah Connor is on the other side of a particular wall (obviously a T1000 would just melt and go through an air duct).

    If there was such a thing as tool porn, the Sawzall would be the money shot. It beats out the pneumatic nail gun by nature of being primarily for destruction (not counting Lethal Weapon 2, of course).