Nearly everything you need to know to understand, run and maintain your saw

Everyone with a woodburner needs a saw to ring up logs, all too often people buy cheap Chinese saws which don’t last. Worryingly, some of these imported saws can be dangerous with questionable compliance to standards. For an infrequent cutter a Makita LXT battery saw will get the job done with minimal maintenance, but if you cut more often you may need more power and a 50 – 70cc petrol saw a more desirable option.

  1. Saws I like and use
  2. Fuel Aspen Vs mixing – whats best for your saw?
  3. Chains Main types
  4. Chains Identification and replacement
  5. Chains Sharpening
  6. Bars Sizing
  7. Bars Oiling
  8. Bars Cleaning
  9. Maintenance WIP

Starting with safety, here’s what I use and reccomend:

  1. Forestry helmet, with ear muffler and flip up visor
  2. Trousers, type A front protection will do, whilst type C offer all round.
  3. Gloves, left hand additional protection is OK providing the right hand saw foot plate protects from chain failure. The yellow Oregon have gloves protection in both hands
  4. Boots or strong leather shoes with steel toe caps
  5. Sleeves provide protection for fore arms
  6. Safety glasses

Saws: here are some great saws I really like:

Dolmar 420 SC or Makita 4300 – £350

A well made, reliable pro build 42cc saw Dolmar is now owned by Makita and the 4300 series is similar. Used with a 13″ or 15″ bar it should fly.

50cc – Husqvarna 346 – 629 Euros

Although replaced by the 550 MkII, the Husqvarna 346xp is one of the best 50cc saws ever made and highly desirable. High revving and cuts well with a 15″, I prefer the Sugi Hara bar as balance improves a fraction as well as being extremely durable. If you find one at a good price, buy it.

70cc – Husqvarna 365 X-Torq – £599

Now were talking! Perfect with a 20” bar and will run a 24″ comfortably, Husqvarna state 28″ max, but I’d say only with a skip chain. It’s a bargain for a robust semi pro saw. 70.7cc of raw power cuts 18” oak with ease. Can be upgraded to 372 performance with an easy mod! May be a tad heavy if used all day but a Sugi Hara pro-lite or other light weight bar bar helps.

90/95cc – Husqvarna 390/395 £1000/£1200

The 88cc 390xp is good but the 95cc 395xp is one of the best saws for big firewood, felling and forestry work which cuts anything with ease, 390 is probably best on 28” b&c whilst a 395 takes up to 42” & both port very well. If you cut a lot, you’ll finish the job sooner. The 395 with it’s outboard clutch and albility to run fairly long bars makes it a good saw for milling. Yes, I’d love either of these two legendary saws, but don’t have enough big wood to justify it.

The latest saws feature new technology usually to improve power. I’m no fan of this, preferring simpler ‘old school’ designs. The Husqvarna 3xx series is the epitome of good solid design, being relatively easy to maintain and repair. Its worth noting that Husqvarnas 346, 355, 357, 365, 372, 390, 395 & 3120 are all highly desirable and some of the best saws ever made.

No Stihl? Sorry but I dont like them, awkward flippy caps that leak or break, EZ chain adjuster never gets the tension right and ergo start I wish I never had are all gimmicks best avoided. I’m not sure what to make of the new fuel injected saws, they cut well but for how long? However their pro saws: MS 241, 260, 461, 660 and 880 remain some of their best.

Echo saws the 620 is excellent but not used them much they are very well made and come with a very good quality bar.

Fuel: good fuel is essential for you and your saw

Due to improvements in oil a 50:1 mix is now the norm, in fact someone told me they run their saws at 100:1 using Amsol oil. The ratio is now higher because modern oil is so much better quality. Whats needed is a good quality semi or fully synthetic oil for mixing. Using more oil weakens the overall mixture which could result in engine wear and sieze.
Petrol has changed for the worse, it contains ethanol which absorbs water and breaks down with age. Using fuel mix older than about 4 weeks may damage a two stroke engine resulting in expensive repairs.

The best solution for you and your saw is synthetic alkylate petrol such as Aspen or Husqvarna Power 2 (Aspen re-branded). It’s pre-mixed at 50:1 and remains stable for about 2 years.
Whilst Aspen may appear expensive, with long term use it saves. Engines last longer as the mix is always correct, it burns very cleanly preventing build up of harmful carbon deposits, its not aggressive to fuel system rubber pipes and seals which last longer and most importantly it protects your health as the exhaust is much cleaner than petrol mix fumes. Find out more about Aspen

I have used Aspen for over 8 years now with no absolutely no problems

If you mix your own 2 stroke fuel – do this:
Petrol – use 95, 97 or 98 octane higher octane is better it has less ethanol
Don’t use E fuels such as E10 and E95 they contain more ethanol.
Use a semi or better, a fully synthetic oil such as: Stihl HP Super / HP Ultra or HusqvarnaXP
At 13,500 revs your engine needs the very best !

Mix 5 litres of fresh fuel to 100ml oil = 50:1 ratio. Using too much oil is no substitute for low quality oil, which weakens the fuel/air mix
Agitate the fuel before re-filling to prevent separation.
If the fuel is older than 4 weeks put it in your mower tank & mix up some more with fresh fuel.
Don’t leave petrol mix in your saw – run it out or tip in your mower tank.

Chains – Main types:

  1. Standard chain with alternate left/right cutters.
  2. Semi skip chain it has two thirds of the cutters of a standard chain. It is possible to make one of these by grinding flat every third alternate left/right cutter.
  3. A skip chain or ‘fully compensated chain has half the cutters of the standard chain as every other link is missed.
  4. Semi chisel has a less agressive cut and keeps its edge, slightly easier to hand sharpen.
  5. Full chisel cuts faster but is more aggressive & prone to kickback making semi chisel more popular for non pro use.

Consider semi skip chain with bars of 24” or above that, a full skip chain is desirable because it places less load on the saw & also assists with chip clearance over a longer cutting span.

Chains – identify your chain to obtain the correct replacement:

To obtain the correct chain, you need four things:

  1. The number of drive links
  2. The gauge of the chain – this is the width of the drive link .043″ .050” .058” or .063”)
  3. The pitch – ⅜th low pro, 0.325”, ⅜th or 0.404”
  4. Then browse to Chain Saw Bars to order!

These numbers should be stamped into the side of your bar like this:

So in the above example, we have a the bar length of 45cm / 18” the gauge is 1.6mm or 0.063”, the pitch is 0.325” with 74 drive links shown along with the part number for the bar which is handy.

I use Oregon LPX, LGX or Stihl RS, Stihl may be slightly better but at a premium price. Both LPX or LGX are very good – LGX is a slight improvement in cutting over LPX but LPX keeps its edge longer.

Bargain chains? it’s usually false economy. They look good on the shelf but often dont hold their edge in use. Buy your bars and chains from Rob Dyers at Chainsawbars you get good prices and quality. There is also a lot of useful advice on the site as well.

There is a number on the drive link (DL) and a number on the cutter to help identify your chain using the table below:

Cutter number Pitch File Drive link number Gauge
1 ¼” (0.25″) 4.0mm 1 1.1mm / 0.043”
2 0.325” 4.8mm 3 1.3mm / 0.050”
3 ⅜” (0.375″) 5.5mm 5 1.5mm / 0.058”
4 0.404” 5.5mm 6 1.6mm / 0.063”
6 3/8th low pro – picco 4.0mm

No 1 & 6 – ¼” & lo pro generally used on small – up to 40cc saws
No 2 – 0.325″ is a stronger chain generally used for 40-60cc saws.
No 3 – 3/8″ is broader & stronger, its easy to sharpen & generally used on 60 – 95cc saws.
No 4 – 0.404″ is for large 100cc plus saws running 30” or longer bars, 3/8″ is now replacing it on all but the largest as I suspect 3/8″ has improved strength wise over the years.

Types of cutter – the main two are semi chisel or full chisel which cuts faster but more aggressive & prone to kickback. Whilst semi chisel doesn’t cut quite quiet as fast, it’s easier to hand sharpen.

Further chain info from Oregon

Chains – Sharpening
A sharp chain is essential for efficient safe cutting, particularly when using longer bars it reduces engine load. I hand sharpen my chains & find the ‘Vallorbe’ brand Swiss files are very good, make sure your file is sharp.

Dont wait until your chain is blunt – little & often keeps a good edge. I don’t use a grinder, they remove too much from the cutter & can cause inballance sending the saw off line when cutting.

I use a Husqvarna filing gauge which has a hole the same size as the correct file, so you can check you have the right file for your chain.

Check the rakers – the rakers are set in front of the cutter to ensure correct depth of cut. If the rakers are too high your chain wont cut. I set mine by eye looking along the bar from the front, probably not the best method it works for me, but it’s best to use a gauge. So check your chain after each use & sharpen if necessary.

Periodically I send my chains for a professional inspection & re-grind including rakers to FR Jones they come back factory sharp like brand new, with the rakers set at correct height.

Bars – sizing
To select the correct bar length I use the formulaes:

  1. Engine cc divide by 3 = maximum bar length in inches
  2. Engine cc divide by 4 = minimum bar length in inches

This a good guide, I find shorter bars cut better for example my 71.7cc 365 runs a 20” bar well with lots of power in the cut.

Often ‘entry level’ saws are supplied with bars too long, slowing in the cut. For example 18″ is too long for a 43cc saw. A 13″ or 15″ is a better choice.

A short bar provides faster cutting with less load on the engine. Whilst in the cut it will be less likely to ‘bog down’ theres also less teeth to sharpen afterwards.

Brands to look out for: Sugihara and Tsumura guide bars are probably the best, Husqvarna are the same as Oregon – a bit soft, Stihl are not bad but priced as so, Total Bars by Tsumura are good value – find them at chainsawbars.

Sugihara and Tsumura are extremely hard wearing & some have replaceable roller tips. A 20” ‘light pro’ is 450 grammes lighter than standard bar which makes a difference after a full days cutting. The Pro Laminated bars are cheaper than Stihl so worth considering. Anything that doesn’t last is just false economy.

Bars – Oil
Please don’t use old engine oil, it is carcinogenic and goes everywhere and not good for you or your bar and chain. Look for a specification of 150 (the Tackiness index) such as Total MST 150 is 13 euros here. Husqvarna 5L for 16 euros and Stihl 5L for 21 euros, both are good but at a premium price.

If you want to go bio consider Rapeseed oil or Stihl bio super some bio oils can gum up the clutch, theres lots of info on the net. However if you use Rapeseed oil you must keep your saw somewhere rodent free as they will gnaw through the tank to get to it.

Bars – Clean & dress
If I remove the bar, I clean the gunk that builds up around the mount & in the grooves. Check the oiler holes into the bar & supply gallery on the saw are clear, for good oil flow.

To clean the detritus out of the chain groove, I use a small screwdriver there is a special tool – but a small piece of rigid plastic or edge of a scraper will do so long as it fits the bar rail. If there is a grease hole for the roller tip, apply grease – a simple push gun is perfect.

Inspect the bar rail in good light & if it needs dressing then there is a tool but you can draw file if done with care. You tube has plenty. Take care as the burrs make evil splinters.

The side casing, clutch & sections around the bar mount get very gummed up so give them a good clean, check the bar oil holes clear. Check the spur drive or rim sprocket for wear before re-assembly.

If you remove the clutch drum – usually held in with a circlip for inboard clutches, clean out and check the bearing is good, apply light grease to the bearing taking care not to contaminate the drum with grease – avoid over greasing as the bearing will skate around the spindle and wear prematurely.

Other useful things to do or look out for

If I fit a new chain I soak it in oil before fitting, it makes a difference, if your oiler is adjustable then consider increasing oil flow for the first tankful of fuel, just to help the initial break in.

Maintenance – basic stuff:

As well as sharpening the chain, I periodically:

  1. Check chain tension and adjust if necessary but not too tight.
  2. Inspect the spark arresting screen (if fitted) in the exhuast box and clean if necessary.
  3. Check the air filter and clean or replace if necessary
  4. Clean out any gunk that builds up as it may affect cooling
  5. Check the drive sprocket/rim for wear, apply a small amount of grease to the clutch bearing – this only spins when saw is idling.
  6. If your bar has a roller tip grease hole, clean out and apply grease IAW manufacturers reccomendations. But dont over do it!

Windows 10, spyware as a service?

No thanks to be honest, even Vista and ME were gems compared to this steaming pile of excrement. In Windows 10 Microsoft delivers the reality of 1984 of mass surveillance, controlling updates that can brick your PC with an inconsistent user interface spewing un-wanted irrelevant adverts. Unfortunately Microsoft has suffered at the hands of two very poor leaders, whose sorry eyes are just focussed on bottom line. Any other software this bad would, to be honest deleted without a thought.

As privacy concerns over Windows 10 increase, it becomes ever more important to avoid anything from ad-slinging, data-slurping companies. I’m extremely dissapointed Microsoft have chosen this as their business model in W10, but there’s plenty more I really do not like:

  1. Stop spying on users:  people don’t like telemetry and spyware which wastes Internet bandwidth. Microsofts terms and conditions state: “We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to.” WTF? This is so very wrong it’s a serious security breech masquerading as theft and gross invasion of privacy. If you must use W10, protect your privacy with DoNotSpy 10
  2. Forced updates: Just when you are busy the ‘effing thing updates itself without consent. Updates can take hours to complete, then bork because of inadequate testing. You, Microsoft are supposed to be the testers, not us – This has to stop. The other joy (not) of forced updates is; if you get your PC to a state where everything actually works, it’s only a matter of time before the next opus magnum of unwanted bloatware forces itself onto your computer wrecking your set-up and the only option is to fix things that previously worked perfectly well, what utter wankers?
  3. Adverts: No one wants adverts injected into the operating system, I block them by all ways possible: by DNS, hosts file modification and the Adblocker Ultimate extension to FireFox. Will I ever accept adverts in an operating system? No, No and NO! They can be controlled see here
  4. Device drivers: One day Microsoft will realise the crappy, useless way they handle device drivers really must be changed. With each version of Windows driver installation gets worse, they really have lost the plot here.
  5. Stop decieving people: When they turn off data slurping, Microsoft turns it on again at the next update. No respect for users choices Off means off.
  6. Installing Windows 10 should carry a warning: No matter how good you think this is or how much you think you need it, in reality it’s a really bad idea. No matter how powerfull your multi core processor is with a terrabyte of ram and array of NVMe blades – it will be reduced to that of a Pentium 233 with an IDE drive and 640K of ram within weeks of installing it.
  7. Stop dissing perfectly good software: If it’s not subscription or trendy cloud based, such as Office360 subscription service over paid for Office. They are more or less the same thing, yet misleading MS adverts make you think otherwise.
  8. Oh-er, they’re leaking again… users deserve better than this.

Get rid of the following:

  1. Edge & Internet Explorer: – Microsoft will never be a broswer company and having failed dismally with Edge, proved they cannot produce a ‘secure by design’ web browser. IE is usually top of an attackers list with many zero day exploits. Third party browsers such as FireFox & Opera are more secure which can be enhanced with add-ons.
  2. The Microsoft store –  with aplications that rip you off, get rid.
  3. X-Box everything: – Steam does it so much better
  4. Versions of your operating system: Home, Professional, Ultimate, Professional for Workstations, Enterprise – why? Just one that works will do.
  5. Fire who ever came up with the idea to stop testing software.
  6. Shills regurgitating your daily bile, sorry they don’t convice anyone anymore.
  7. Patch Tuesday: – it’s a joke, providing hackers the entire weekend to exploit before your possibly botched update arrives. If you have a patch to issue (and its been fully tested) then issue it, don’t wait.
  8. Unreliable surface hardware. People who buy expensive hardware consider Apple as a value option because it lasts for many years, not something with the life span of an anorexic mayfly that borks after 18 months or so. If you’re going to do hardware, do it properly or not at all.

Things you need to do:

  1. TRUST – all trust in Microsoft is gone, you must do much better to win it back which is going to be very hard.
  2. TEST – test, test. Software testing is expensive and painful.  It means a boat load of people don’t hate your company for eternity because you borked their key business functionality resulting in a heap of people sitting on their hands for hours.
  3. PATCH THE OUTLOOK VULNERABILITY – You know the one you stated you wouldn’t patch that gives users credentials away?
  4. Mobile – Currently being wound down yet another abject failure. Bad decision, you need to lead the pack here and stop destroying Nokia.
  5. Support Windows 7  Issue SP3 for Windows 7 It remains the operating system of choice for businesses and many people prefer it.
  6. Give people choice: If they want a start menu or panes aka Win 8.0 or a Windows XP desktop or if they don’t want the brain damaged, derranged Ribbon thing in office and prefer traditional menus, let them choose.
  7. Concentrate on your operating system Make your OS sleek, fast and above all consistent and elegant. Concentrate on security, allow a choice for updates, support older versions and maintain interface consistency and by the way it should be:  ‘familiar ways to do new tasks’ not new ways to do familiar tasks.
  8. Stop thinking you know better, your current thinking is derranged and contorted, it makes Diane Abbott look like Einstein by comparison. Your operating system is not fit for modern business with it’s stupid lack of control of updates. Only a derranged idiot would use Windows 10 in a business environment in it’s current form. David Cutler summed up your thinking, when he punched through a partition wall to open the door from the other side.

Archery – My first steps…

For several years I have wanted to take up archery, probably as rifle shooting has become far too controlled. I used to enjoy a variety of shooting upto full bore .308 Winchester magnum at 1000 metres which takes great discipline and control so perhaps there’s some transferable skills to archery?

After a bit of research I eventually decided on a Mandarin Duck Black Hunter bow with a 30 lbs pull back. I decided on this for a number of reasons being:

1. The company representative was very helpful in answering pre-sale questions
2. Sponsored You Tubers provide a lot of helpful, practical information
3. A ‘take down’ bow is easy to dismantle for transport and re-assemble for use.
4. Stronger limbs are available if/when I need a bit more power for longer range shooting
5. The price was pretty good value, this is for recreational shooting in our lower field & no need for an expensive ILF target bow .

It’s desirable to begin with a lower weight bow and around 25-30 lbs is a start point for adult males. An easier draw weight enables more control and thus better accuracy. Archery is a technique sport so brute force isn’t necessarily the right approach.

A 30 lbs bow will still shoot about 60 metres so you might need additional material in your backstop with a more powerful bow and a lot more space.

Next, some arrows…
I chose carbon arrows with feathered fletchings as I shoot ‘off the shelf’ of the bow and found some at a reasonable price on Amazon. There is a bewildering choice of carbon, fibre glass, alloy or wood and your arrow must match the draw length of the bow and be stiff enough so it doesn’t flex excessively when fired, mine are 31″ and rated 500 flex wise.
I also added a three fingered glove and an arm protector.

The bow was easy to assemble as there’s just one fair sized allen bolt and washer to hold each limb which slots into a peg on the riser for location. The correct size Allen key is provided and the limbs are handed so you can’t go wrong. Stringing the bow is a bit of a fiddle so I have a bow stringer on order but once again there are plenty of ‘how to’ on You tube.

So here it is:

All pictures double click to enlarge

In use:

The bow shoots really very well. I’m impressed, theres a surprising amount of power for it’s rating and it’s going to take practise to get reasonable but I find shooting with a bow an enjoyable challenge. Below is one of my better targets shot from 18 metres. My objective is to gain confidence and technique at a reasonably close range then start moving back as I progress and improve.