It is firewood cutting time again. I have such good memories of cutting firewood with my dad when I was younger, and I look forward to this time each year. I’ve assembled a few topics on the matter, below.
The Saw – there are saws out there for all types of jobs, in all price ranges. I grew up using a Stihl 034 AV Super. When I began shopping, I was almost ready to buy a Husqvarna, though. They are lower priced and seem to enjoy a good reputation from those that own and use them. Of course I created a spreadsheet to compare all of the models I was considering. What I discovered was that although the Stihl saws were commanding higher prices, they also had greater power. When you divided the two to arrive at a dollars per horsepower ratio, the Stihl seemed to win every time. Therefore it is worth it to pay more, because you’re getting a more powerful saw. This was true on the older models for which I was searching; I don’t know that this works on new models as I never considered buying a new saw. As with the woodstove and the rototiller, I mirrored my dad’s product selection. I actually have two now, the 036 model and the 034 AV Super. They are the same saw, just different model years and are both part of the 1125 series family, which allows for parts interchangeability. I highly recommend these older saws from the late 1980’s and 1990’s compared to the current models. Things just aren’t made the way they use to be.
Safety – I always wear glasses and earplugs when cutting. I’ve never owned a pair of chainsaw chaps, but a pair is on order. I was sold on them when I read a review saying that one should consider them an $80 insurance bill to protect against a $3500 ER bill or worse. Read the manuals because they tell you a lot about how to safely operate the saw. The manual will also tell you not to lend your saw to anyone who hasn’t also read the manual. This is smart, not only from a personal safety/liability standpoint, but also from a mechanical point of view. The average firewood saw runs at 13,500 rpm, and damage to you and/or the saw can happen in a hurry if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Repair and Maintenance – Regarding the maintenance schedule, you can find that in the saw’s manual. A good alternate reference guide can be found here. Things will go wrong with your saw and you can fix it yourself. Doing so will save you a lot of money. Buy a book called the illustrated parts list to help you identify what parts you need to replace and also to know how things fit together. I buy all of my parts on eBay, used. They are all still in good usable shape and I think are better than the aftermarket Chinese junk. Also, it is a lot cheaper than buying factory replacement parts. One $5 tool you should have if you plan on doing your own maintenance is a piston block which will hold your crankshaft in position to allow you to remove the clutch or flywheel. I have found Arborist Site to be a great resource when searching about how to diagnose a problem or fix something. There’s a lot of useful knowledge on their message boards.
Operations – Use fresh fuel in your saw. I use Wal-Mart brand bar oil to save money, but Stihl brand 2 cycle mix in the fuel. The mix oil is expensive but high quality and is formulated for your machine. Mid or high grade gasoline is purchased in 5 gallon containers and immediately treated with Sta-Bil preservative. The mix is made in a smaller 2.5 gallon can with the oil on an as needed basis. The fuel and mix goes a long way. In our home we almost exclusively heat with wood and only 5 gallons of gasoline and 1 gallon of bar oil were used for the entire season to provide all the wood we needed.
Cutting day – I take a fully stocked tool box to the woods with me. This consists of the following: scrench, extra bar, extra chain, spare bar nuts, fuel, bar oil, tiny screwdriver, round files that fit your chain, an old paintbrush (for brushing away dust before opening oil and fuel tank lids), axe, splitting maul, plastic felling wedges, spare fuel, air and oil filters and also a box of various spare parts. I bring enough parts that I could swap out a clutch in the woods if I had to. I do this because I sometimes drive several miles from home to cut firewood and won’t want to be caught without the ability to make repairs.